Valentine’s Day is just around the corner! California Strawberries asked me to created a classic, decadent chocolate layer cake that was bursting with fresh berries. How could I say no to that? If you’re looking for a showstopper, look no further. This cake isn’t just perfect for February 14th. It’s perfect all year round for chocolate and strawberry lovers. Think birthdays, Christmas, Anniversaries… you name it.
I’ve also shared this recipe on the CA Strawberries Heart of Farmer’s blog. If you head over there, you can check out the video I made for this cake and also enter the fun contest they’re hosting! Two winners will receive a Nordic Ware Scallop Heart Bundt Cake Pan & Williams Sonoma Red Velvet Bundt Cake Mix Gift Set. Be sure to check it out!
- I’ve realized over time that less is more when it comes to greasing the sides of the cake pan. Barely dust the sides with baking spray or butter. If you accidentally overdo it, just wipe away any excess with a paper towel. If the sides of the pan are too greasy, it will cause the cake to pull away on an angle (since the bottom won’t pull away as much). This will create uneven sides. It’s not a big deal if this happens; the cake will still taste great and, as one of my coworkers used to say, “icing hides a multitude of sins.” Ultimately, it’s better to have the cake stick just slightly, because you can always run an offset spatula or knife gently around the edges to detach it. If you look closely at the photo below, you’ll be able to see that I slightly over-greased the top side of one of the cake pans but not the other. Can you guess which one?
- Long time readers of my site know that I’m an Italian meringue buttercream loyalist. When it comes to cakes and cupcakes, I almost never stray. Buttercreams that mainly use confectioners’ sugar + butter are 100 times heavier and more cloying than meringue-based buttercreams. It’s worth the effort to me. If you’d prefer to save some time and effort, or if you’re a novice baker and would prefer something less advanced, feel free to substitute your favorite buttercream recipe.
- Any fruit liqueur will work with the macerated strawberries. I love the combination of strawberries and orange liqueur, so it’s usually my go-to. Use what you have!
- 7 ounces (1½ cups) all-purpose flour
- 2 ounces (8 tablespoons) unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- 1½ teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- optional: 1 tablespoon espresso powder
- 6 ounces (12 tablespoons) unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1½ cups granulated sugar
- 4 large eggs, room temperature
- 1 cup + 3 tablespoons half-and-half
- 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
- 4 cups California Strawberries, hulled and sliced
- ¼ cup granulated sugar
- optional: 3 tablespoons Grand Marnier (Cointreau or Chambord would be a great choices as well)
- 3 large egg whites
- ¾ cup granulated sugar
- 3 tablespoons water
- 8 ounces (16 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cubed and at room temperature
- 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
- 2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and place an oven rack on the center shelf. Lightly grease 2 8-inch cake pans with baking spray and line with parchment paper. Place on a baking sheet and set aside.
- In a medium-sized bowl, sift the cocoa powder into the flour. Whisk in the cornstarch, baking powder, salt, and espresso powder, if using.
- In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, 5-7 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. With the mixer on low speed, add the eggs one at a time, allowing each egg to fully incorporate before adding the next. Scrape down the bowl after the 2nd and 4th egg. Combine the half-and-half and vanilla. With the mixer on medium-low, swiftly alternate between adding the dry and liquid ingredients until just combined. Scrape down the bowl and then turn the mixer on again briefly to make sure there are no more dry patches. Turn the mixer back medium for approximately 15-30 seconds.
- Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans, leveling out the top with a spatula. Bake for 33-35 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out of the center clean. Allow to cool completely.
- While the cake is in the oven, prepare the strawberries. In a medium bowl, combine the strawberries, sugar, and Grand Marnier, if using. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, stirring periodically.
- Place the egg whites in a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat on medium-high speed to form a soft peak.
- Meanwhile, place the sugar and water in a small saucepan. Cover, and turn the heat to medium-high. Remove the cover once steam has formed, and cook until the sugar syrup reaches the soft-boil stage, 235-240 degrees F.
- Carefully and slowly pour the syrup down the side of the mixing bowl so that it incorporates into the egg whites as they mix. Then turn the mixer up to high speed. Continue mixing until the meringue reaches room temperature, approximately 15 minutes.
- Once the meringue has cooled, turn the mixer to medium. Slowly add the butter, one piece at a time, periodically scraping down the the bowl. Next, add the vanilla extract. Drizzle in the melted chocolate.
- Briefly drain the macerated strawberries (reserve the liquid). Spread a generous amount of buttercream on top of a cake layer, followed by approximately ⅓ of the berries (this will prevent the cake from becoming saturated with liquid). Top with the second cake layer and cover generously with frosting. Top the cake with the remaining strawberries. Drizzle slices with the macerated strawberry liquid. Serve cake at room temperature.
I like to bake the cakes the night before frosting. I leave them in the pans and let them come to room temperature overnight on the counter.
Italian meringue buttercream creates a light, wonderful chocolate frosting. It’s worth the extra effort, in my opinion. However, any chocolate buttercream with work with this cake. Feel free to substitute your favorite recipe.
This post is sponsored by California Strawberries. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Savory Simple!