Strawberry season is in full swing! I actually planted some strawberries last month and was so eager to use my little harvest in my bakes but as soon as those sweet little berries turned red, a creature of some sort had a feast. So while I couldn’t use my homegrown strawberries this time around, it didn’t stop me from heading to the store to get some fresh berries for the Strawberry Shortcake Layer Cake I’ve been dreaming of. I decided to whip it up as a Father’s Day treat for my husband and it was a total hit!
This Strawberry Shortcake Layer cake is so easy to throw together for a Summer dessert. It starts with an extra fluffy white cake that is a delicious treat all on its own. Add to that layers of homemade whipped cream, fresh sweetened strawberry slices, and the tastiest shortbread crumbs ever (inspired by the one and only Milk Bar). This cake is so light and refreshing, the perfect amount of sweet, and so pretty to look at!
For the strawberry filling, you’ll be slicing fresh strawberries and tossing them with a little strawberry jam and granulated sugar. It’s best to let them sit for about 20 minutes to bring out the fresh strawberry juices before you start piling them in between your layers. The key here is fresh strawberries – frozen berries can technically be used but will add a lot more liquid to the filling. If you want it to look pretty, use fresh berries.
The homemade whipped cream frosting is stabilized, aka uses the addition of gelatin to make it sturdier for piping and upholding the weight of the cake layers and fillings. I piped shells with it using Wilton Tip 6B, but any piping tip and style would look beautiful. For best results, you’ll want to make sure to use very cold whipped cream, a cold mixing bowl, and the whisk attachment on your stand mixer. Just pop the bowl of your stand mixer into the refrigerator for about 20 minutes beforehand and make sure your heavy whipping cream is straight from the fridge as well.
If you’ve ever had a Milk Bar cake, you know all about the shortbread crumbs I added to this cake. It was my husband’s idea to add them in between layers, and I think they really take the cake beyond. The shortbread crumbs only take a handful of ingredients you’ll already have on deck for the cake layers, and they’ll add a great pop of flavor and texture. If you’re short on time or want a more traditional Strawberry Shortcake Layer Cake, you can totally skip the shortbread crumbs if you need to. Between the sweetened strawberries and homemade whipped cream frosting, this cake will still taste amazing.
For an extra little bit of fun, I added some cute little chamomile flowers to accent the cake. You can usually find these in late Spring/early Summer in the floral department of your local grocery store (Portland favorites are Trader Joe’s or New Seasons). You can feel free to omit this part if you want, but I think they make the cake look so dainty and sweet when paired with those fresh strawberries. Chamomile is completely edible, although bitter, so these little blooms are really more for looks than taste.
While you can technically make this cake a day or two before serving it, it will look prettiest if you make it the day of. Since the cake layers are unfrosted, they will dry out in the refrigerator unless you wrap the cake in plastic wrap, which will most likely mess up some of the piped details. Be sure to check out the make ahead tips in the recipe notes below to help you plan out your baking and assembly. Whatever occasion this cake is for, I hope it’s as much of a hit with you and your loved ones as it was with mine!
Strawberry Shortcake Layer Cake
- 2 1/2 Cups (265g) sifted cake flour
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 1/2 Cups (300g) granulated sugar
- 1/2 Cup (113g) unsalted butter, room temperature
- 4 large egg whites, room temperature
- 1/2 Cup (120ml) vegetable oil
- 1 Tbsp pure vanilla extract
- 1 1/4 Cups (300ml) full-fat buttermilk*, room temperature DIY recipe in notes
Baked Shortbread Crumbs
- 3/4 Cups (90g) cake flour
- 2 1/2 Tbsp (32g) granulated sugar
- 1/8 tsp baking powder
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 3 Tbsp (42g) unsalted butter, melted
- 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
- 3 Cups (480g) sliced fresh strawberries
- 2 Tbsp (40g) strawberry jam
- 1 Tbsp (13g) granulated sugar
Whipped Cream Frosting
- 1 tsp unflavored gelatin
- 1 1/2 Tbsp cold water
- 1 1/2 Cups (360ml) heavy whipping cream, cold
- 1/2 Cup (60g) powdered sugar
- 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
Make the White Cake
- Preheat the oven to 350°F/177°C and prepare three 6-inch or two 8-inch cake pans by spraying the sides with baking spray and fitting a parchment paper circle to the bottom of each pan.
- In a medium bowl, add the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Whisk together and set aside.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter at high speed until creamy, about 2 minutes. Add the sugar and cream it together with the butter at medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes, scraping the bowl and paddle at the halfway point. Turn the mixer to low and add the egg whites one at a time, mixing until they are just combined and scraping down the bowl and paddle as needed. Add the vegetable oil and vanilla, increase the mixer speed to high and beat for 1 minute.
- Turn the mixer off and add the flour mixture all at once. Mix the ingredients on low speed until just combined, then slowly pour in the buttermilk. Continue mixing at low speed for about 30 seconds, until the batter is uniform and combined. The batter will be slightly thin.
- Divide the batter evenly between the prepared cake pans and bake for 28 to 32 minutes. They’re done when they spring back to the touch and a toothpick inserted into the centers comes out clean or with just a few moist crumbs on it. Let the cakes cool in their pans for 5 minutes, then remove them from the pans and allow them to cool completely on a wire rack.
Make the Shortbread Crumbs
- Preheat the oven to 250°F/121ºC and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a medium bowl, whisk together the cake flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.
- Add the melted butter and vanilla extract. Mix with a rubber spatula until the mixture begins to form small clusters, then press the ingredients together with your hands to form even more clusters. Spread the clusters onto the prepared baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes. Cooling the crumbs completely before using in the cake assembly.
Make the Strawberries
- In a medium bowl, mix together the sliced strawberries, strawberry jam, and granulated sugar. Let sit at room temperature or in the refrigerator while you make the whipped cream frosting.
Make the Whipped Cream Frosting
- Chill the metal bowl of your stand mixer for 15-20 minutes in the refrigerator or freezer. Sprinkle the gelatin into a small glass measuring cup or microwave safe dish. Add the cold water and whisk until the gelatin is dissolved. Set the mixture aside for 5 minutes to let the gelatin set.
- While the gelatin is setting, add the heavy whipping cream, powdered sugar, and vanilla extract into the chilled metal bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and mix on low speed to combine. Turn the mixer to high speed and beat until the mixture is thickened, stopping just shy of reaching soft peaks, about 1 min.
- At this point, the gelatin should be solidified. If so, pop it into the microwave for 5-10 seconds, until the mixture has re-liquified but is still cool to the touch. Use a whisk to briefly stir the gelatin mixture together to make sure it's smooth.
- With the mixer on low speed, drizzle the liquid gelatin into the cream. Slowly increase the speed to medium-high and continue to beat until you have reached stiff, fluffy peaks, about 2 minutes. Use immediately to ensure the best consistency for piping.
- Once the White Cake layers are cooled, level them to your desired height. Add the first layer onto a cardboard cake round on your turntable or cake stand. Add some of the strawberry juice onto the cake layer as a soak.
- Fit a piping bag with Wilton Tip 6B and fill it with the Whipped Cream Frosting before piping shells along the outer edge of the cake layer. The shells should begin at the edge of the cake layer and end with the tail pointed toward the center of the cake layer. Pipe a second row of shells to fill in the center of the cake layer. Top with about 1/3 Cup of the strawberries and sprinkle a handful of shortbread crumbs on top.
- Place the next cake layer on top and repeat the process of adding the strawberry juice soak, piping the Whipped Cream Frosting shells, topping with strawberries, and sprinkling shortbread crumbs. Repeat the filling and stacking process for any additional layers, then garnish with chamomile flowers if desired.
- The white cake layers can be made ahead and stored at room temperature, covered tightly in plastic wrap, for up to two days. Alternatively, you can cover with plastic wrap and store in the freezer for up to two months before thawing to room temperature.
- The shortbread crumbs can be baked ahead and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to one month.
- The strawberries can be made one day ahead and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
- The whipped cream frosting cannot be made ahead. It must be made right before you plan on piping with it.
- The assembled cake or leftovers can be stored for 1-3 days in the refrigerator, wrapped in plastic wrap to keep the cake from drying out. For best results, assemble the cake on the day you plan on serving it and store it in the refrigerator, uncovered, until you’re ready to serve it.
Did you make this Strawberry Shortcake Layer Cake? I want to know how it went! Let me know in the comments below and feel free to tag @sugarandsparrowco on Instagram to show me. I love to see what you create with my recipes!