Layers of fresh strawberry cake paired with strawberry buttercream filling and lemon buttercream topping that tastes just like summer.
Start by pureeing 3/4 lbs of fresh strawberries with a food processor. Afterwards, you should be left with about 1 cup of puree. Place the strawberry puree into a saucepan over medium-low heat and simmer for 20-25 minutes, stirring occasionally. When you’re done with the reduction, you should have about 1/2 cup (if you have more, keep cooking!). Place the reduced puree into an airtight container and refrigerate it for at least 30 minutes, or until it reaches room temperature. Then, whisk it together with the whole milk and set aside.
Preheat the oven to 350ºF and prepare three 6-inch or two 9-inch cake pans by spraying the sides with cooking spray and fitting the bottoms with wax or parchment paper circles. In a medium sized bowl, place the sifted cake flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt and whisk to combine.
In the bowl of your stand mixer with the paddle attachment, whip the butter on high for one minute. Scrape down the paddle and bowl, add the granulated sugar, and beat on high for another 2 minutes. Turn the mixer to low and add the eggs one at a time, making sure each one is incorporated before adding the next, then turn the mixer to high and beat for 1 minute.
Turn the mixer to low and add the vanilla and sour cream until incorporated. Keeping the mixer on low, add all of the dry ingredients at once until just combined, then add the strawberry milk mixture and pink food coloring (if using) until just combined, about 30 seconds. Give the batter a few stirs by hand to make sure everything is incorporated without over-mixing. Pour the batter into the prepared cake pans, about 2/3 full.
Bake the cakes for 30-35 minutes, until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool the cakes in the pan for five minutes, after which you can turn them out and continue to cool them on a wire rack or sheet pan for several hours.
With a food processor, grind freeze dried strawberries into a fine powder and set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, whip the butter on high until light in color and creamy, about 5 minutes. Add the freeze dried strawberry powder, whole milk, and vanilla, and continue to beat on medium for 1 minute.
Add the powdered sugar a cup at a time, scraping down the bowl and paddle after each addition. Add the salt and continue to mix on low for another 30 seconds.
In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, whip the butter on high until creamy and light in color, about 5 minutes. Add the powdered sugar in two additions, mixing thoroughly for a minute and scraping down the bowl and paddle after each addition. Zest the lemons right into the bowl, then add the lemon juice, whole milk and salt and mix on high for 2 minutes.
Torte the strawberry cake layers to desired height. Using a piping bag with about ½ inch opening, pipe a circle with lemon buttercream on the outer edge of the first cake layer and fill the middle with strawberry buttercream. Place the next layer of strawberry cake on top of the first, then repeat the process of piping a lemon buttercream dam and filling the center with strawberry buttercream. Place the third layer of strawberry cake on top, upside down so that the bottom of the cake layer serves as the top of the cake. Crumb coat the cake with lemon buttercream and place in the refrigerator for at least 20 minutes.
If you wish to replicate the design I’ve created, you’ll need to color the lemon buttercream three different shades (yellow, pink, and orange). To do this, reserve about 1 ½ cups of lemon buttercream and color it with a few drops of yellow food color gel. Color the remainder of the lemon buttercream with a few drops of pink food color gel, then use a third bowl to mix about ¼ cup of the yellow buttercream with about ¼ cup of the pink buttercream to make the orange shade.
For the final coat of lemon buttercream, use a spatula to apply the pink buttercream around the bottom of the cake, the orange buttercream around the middle, and the yellow buttercream onto the top third of the cake. Smooth with a bench scraper and angled spatula until you have a pretty buttercream ombrè. Using a piping bag with your favorite piping tip attached (I’ve used Wilton tip 1M), create swirls around the top edge of the cake. Sprinkle generously with SprinklePop Pink Lemonade sprinkles.
Make ahead tips: You can reduce the strawberry puree up to two days before using in the cake recipe and store in the refrigerator until you're ready to make the cake. Just bring it back to room temperature by letting it sit on the counter for at least an hour.
The cake layers can be made ahead and stored at room temperature, wrapped in plastic wrap, for up to two days. Alternatively, you can wrap them and store in the freezer for up to two months before thawing and decorating.
Both buttercreams can be made ahead and stored in airtight containers in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. When you're ready to use them, bring them back to room temperature and re-whip with your stand mixer to bring them back to the right consistency.