Taking some store shortcuts, this strawberry lemonade cake is a special spring treat. You can chill yours so the filling doesn’t run all over tarnation, but who cares if it does? It’s all going to the same place anyway! Your belly.
Last week we were coming up our driveway and as we drove past a few of our cows who were having some hay by the fence, my husband locked it up. “Oh waaaait a minute…” he said as he rolled down his window and stuck his head out. The kids did the same from the back seat.
I craned my neck to look for a problem–was there a dog chasing the cows? Was someone sick? I scanned the pasture and didn’t notice a thing.
“What?” I asked.
“Look at 42 right there.”
So I said the next most logical thing: “Where? Which one?”
After ten years with these cows I’m no better than when we got them. They are ALL BLACK. How am I supposed to know which one is number 42? They lost their ear tags a decade ago. We have this same issue every time there’s a problem. I call my husband to report the issue and he asks which one it is. I say it’s the black one and laugh.
When I finally get my eyes on the right cow, I see it.
“Look at that milk sack… She’s gonna calve any day. You’d better keep an eye on her tomorrow.” said my husband. Now I’m supposed to add cow midwife to my skills list I guess.
And she did calve. Two days later. We spotted her away from the herd, swishing her tail. All was well and we have our first of several calves to come this spring. It’s a nice time of year on the farm. The grass gets green. The bees fly. And we don’t have to feed hay every morning. It’s a good time.
Tips for your Strawberry Lemonade Cake’s Success
And I thought this Strawberry Lemonade Cake was going to be a good time too. And it is. But the original recipe (which I adapted severely) came from Southern Living Magazine. While I love the recipes, they stay true to their “use every dish and electric appliance in your house” style. That drives me nuts. You should have seen the mess I had–and I didn’t even do it all from scratch.
So to make this easier for you, you will see that there are several substitutions included for using prepackaged ingredients if you don’t want to make it all from the ground up. Also, make sure to use fresh lemons–none of that bottled stuff if you want the best flavor.
And if three tall cake layers is too much, feel free to trim them down a bit before stacking–they’ll be less likely to slide around. OR fill the pans less and use the leftover batter to make an 8×8 cake you can freeze for another day.
Strawberry Lemonade Cake
For the cake:
- 2, 15.25 ounce boxes vanilla or butter cake mix plus ingredients to prepare the mixes
- 2 tablespoons grated lemon zest
- 1/2 cup lemon juice
- 1/4 teaspoon vanilla
For the strawberry filling:
- 1 cup strawberry preserves at room temperature
For the frosting:
- 8 ounces cream cheese softened
- 2/3 cup sugar divided
- 1 drop pink food coloring
- 2/3 cup chopped fresh strawberries
- 1 1/2 cups heavy cream OR 16 tub cool whip topping*
- 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Make the cake:
- Grease and flour three 9 inch round cake pans and preheat the oven to the temperature specified by your mix.
- Prepare the mixes according to the directions, then add the vanilla, lemon juice and zest and mix well.
- Divide the batter between the three pans and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean--about 18-20 minutes or so. Cool in pans 10 minutes then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
Make the frosting:
- Beat the cream cheese and 1/3 cup sugar until combined.
- Add the chopped strawberries and food coloring and mix well.
- In a separate bowl, beat the lemon juice, cream and 1/3 cup more sugar to stiff peaks.
- Fold half of the cream into the cream cheese; mix well.
- Fold in the last half of the cream keeping as much air as possible in.
- Refrigerate until ready to use.
Assemble the cake:
- When the cake is cool, level the cakes by cutting off any domes or raised tops.
- Place the first layer on a stand or plate.
- Empty the strawberry preserves into a bowl and stir them well to loosen any lumps and smooth it slightly.
- Spread 1/2 cup of the preserves over the center of the first layer, leaving a 1/2 inch border.
- Transfer 1 cup of frosting to a zip top bag and cut a small hole in one corner. Pipe a ring of frosting around the edge of the preserves.
- Add second cake layer and repeat preserves and frosting ring.
- Add top layer and frost entire cake, top and sides.
How to store the cake:
- Store at room temperature 1-2 days or in the fridge. Best if you can let the assembled cake sit a day or so before eating.