My father-in law just celebrated his 70th birthday and since his wife isn't the best cook and certainly isn't the baker, I volunteered to make him a cake. Knowing that he loves strawberries, and knowing that I had been wanting an occasion to try out a particular recipe, I got to work. A few months ago, I bought a cookbook written by Johnnie Gabriel. Johnnie has a lovely cafe in Atlanta and her name has become popular for couple of reasons: her food is pretty tasty AND she is Paula Deen's cousin. First of all, Paula Deen doesn't do much for me....her food does even less. I just don't think she portrays the typical southern cook and most of her recipes are just mediocre. When I glanced through Johnnie's cookbook for the first time, I noticed the recipes were a bit more elegant...maybe a mixture of Paula Deen and the Barefoot Contessa. Here's a picture of the cookbook.
I will say that the photography is excellent and I would recommend the book for the dessert recipes alone. The first recipe I tried was a rather involved strawberry layer cake with cream cheese icing. My first mistake was not listening to my momma. Throughout the years, momma has told me on numerous occasions that a boxed cake mix simply cannot be improved upon. Momma was right. This cake involved sifting, creaming, adding cream, milk and buttermilk, butter AND shortening and beaten egg whites. I'm afraid the end result tasted eggy and was too delicate. The layers fell apart on me. I'm not going to give you the recipe to the cake because I honestly think you would be better off to use a regular yellow cake mix and add 3/4 cup of chopped fresh strawberries to the batter and bake as directed. As long as you end up with three nine inch layers, you will be good to go. I am, however, going to give you the recipe for the cream cheese icing because it was among the best I've ever had.
1 1/2 sticks of softened butter, salted
1 1/2 packages of cream cheese
3 lbs of powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla
3/4 cup of chopped fresh strawberries.
Make sure you cream cheese and butter are softened and whip together. Slowly add powdered sugar and combine. Add vanilla and combine. Gently add strawberries and fold them in. When I first gathered the ingredients for the icing, I thought the ratio between the butter/cream cheese and powdered sugar was off. Do not fear, the icing will be thicker than normal, BUT the extra liquid from the strawberries will thin the icing. You need to start off with a super thick icing to get the right consistency. This will give you enough icing for a 3 layer nine inch cake (and lots of taste testing!).
It really is divine. The recipe also called for brushing each layer of the cake with simple syrup. I think that would be an especially good addition on a boxed cake mix layer. To make a simple syrup, simply combine one cup of sugar with one cup of water. Heat to a boil in a heavy saucepan and boil for three minutes. Allow to cool before brushing onto your layers. Ice the cake and enjoy. Below is a pic of the finished, floppy product. You can't really tell in the picture, but the back of the cake was a mess.....completely fell apart. What did I do...I served the cake anyway. Just like life, perfection is overrated and the cake was still pretty tasty.