- 1¾ cups sugar
- ¾ cup (1½ sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
- 2 tablespoons grated lemon peel
- 3 extra-large eggs
- ¼ cup fresh lemon juice
- 3 cups cake flour
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1½ cups buttermilk
- 2 quarts mashed fresh strawberries
- 1 cup sugar
- Note: out of season, substitute frozen:
- 1 (16-ounce) package frozen local strawberries, sliced and thawed
- 8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
- ¾ cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
- 5 cups powdered sugar, divided
- 5 tablespoons fresh-squeezed lemon juice, strained
- 4 tablespoons finely grated lemon peel
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- milk or cream to thin, as needed
- Several nice-sized strawberries, hulled and sliced, for decoration
For the cake
Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 350°.
Butter and flour three 9-inch-diameter cake pans with 1½-inch-high sides. Place a round of parchment paper on the bottom of each pan. This is a little extra work but it very worth it.
Beat butter well, then add sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Add lemon peel and beat. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in lemon juice.
Sift flour, baking soda and salt into medium bowl. Stir dry ingredients into butter mixture alternately with buttermilk, beginning and ending with dry ingredients. Beat well for 1 minute to make sure all is incorporated. If you are using the deep bowl of a stand mixer, scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl with a spatula to make sure everything is being beaten in properly.
Divide batter among prepared pans. Bake until tester inserted into center of cakes comes out clean, about 30 minutes. Transfer pans to racks and cool 15 minutes. Turn out cakes onto racks and cool completely. Can be prepared 1 day ahead. Wrap tightly in plastic and store at room temperature.
For the filling
Place berries and sugar in a saucepan over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Boil for 1 minute and then reduce heat to low and cook, stirring often, for 20 minutes. Mixture will begin to get syrupy. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.
For the frosting
Beat cream cheese and butter in large bowl until light and fluffy. Gradually add 2 cups of the powdered sugar and beat until smooth. Beat in lemon juice, lemon peel, salt and then vanilla.
Remove 1½ cups of frosting to a small bowl. This will be a thinner mix for the “crumb” frosting.
Add in remaining 3 cups of powdered sugar. You may need to add a tiny bit of milk or cream at the very end to make it workable as a decorative frosting. Place 3 cups of the mixture into a pastry bag, and use a small round tip first.
Place the first layer on its round onto a lazy Susan or onto your cake stand or plate. Frost with a very thin layer of the thin frosting, coating the top and sides. Then, using the pastry bag, make one thick line of frosting just inside the top edge, all around the cake. This will serve as the dam to hold the filling in.
Using a cup measure, place half of the strawberry mixture within the dam and spread it evenly across the cake. Place the second layer of cake on top and repeat all the steps. Follow with the top layer.
Use the remaining thin icing to create a thin, even coat that keeps the crumbs in check and fills in any holes or uneven places.
Using the thicker frosting, frost the top and the sides of the cake. A long spatula or knife can be warmed under hot water, wiped dry, and used to go around a couple of final times to make a very smooth coat. Or, you can make a beautiful design with the frosting, put on some berries and be done.
Take your pastry bag and replace the tip with the star-making tip. Using the thicker frosting, make stars all around the sides of the cake. These are very easy to do and look quite elegant. Using the same tip you can finish by doing a border at the top edge, and along the bottom edge of the cake. You can swirl, or make shells, which give a nice finished look. Always try your decorations on a nearby plate so you can test your tips and your skill, and you can reuse that frosting if you need to.
Once your cake is decorated, cover with a cake dome and refrigerate for at least an hour. Let the cake sit out at room temperature again for at least 15 minutes before you begin to cut it. This cake stores well and is delicious on the second day, but it becomes a little more pudding-like as it sits, due to its high moisture content.
About this recipe
Assembly and decoration
Here are some helpful tips and supplies:
Cardboard cake rounds have a coating on them that doesn’t stick to the cake. Get some, or cut your own. When you turn the cakes out of the pan, put them directly on the rounds. This makes them very portable.
Two plastic or vinyl icing bags and tips. You can buy these or make them out of household items like plastic bags and parchment paper. The tips are fun to have because you can do so much with them! The tips I used are a 5 star and 10 round.
An icing or offset spatula is useful for spreading. I have two of different sizes and use them both. I also keep several wet towels near for wiping hands, and a coffee cup for scraping used or “crumby” icing off the spatula as I work.
A lazy Susan helps enormously in the turning of the cake while you decorate it, but someone can help turn it for you, making this a fun activity with children. The sense of accomplishment when you stand back and look at your creation is wonderful!