Rampant Pinkness

Christine Ennulat

straberry cake feat

Or, more specifically, that appalling strawberry birthday cake recipe I can’t hold onto and have to torment my dear mother-in-law about at every birthday because I married into a family in which everyone loves this cake and wants this cake for their birthday, I don’t know why.

Or I do know why: because it’s really good—moist, sweet but not too sweet, a little tart, and it has just the right amount of body. You ask, if it’s so wonderful, why do I describe it as appalling? Honestly, I’m not completely sure. Maybe I’m a cake snob, even though I don’t really eat much cake, unless it’s something like this or this (have I mentioned I’m a big fan of Orangette?)—rarely from a mix. Maybe I have some kind of Catholic cake guilt and subconsciously think I should suffer more for something this tasty. I do remember feeling queasy the first time I made the icing, which comprises a box of confectioner’s sugar, a stick of butter and a half-cup of thawed strawberries. Of course, I now know that this over-the-top sugar-butter combo is far from unheard-of in the realm of cake icing, but from the standpoint of my limited scratch-baking experience at that time, I was taken aback.

So. We had a birthday in the Virginia Living food blog test kitchen yesterday, and of course the birthday child (a teenage boy, by the way) wanted the strawberry cake. Because of work and the daily family drama, I had to get started at 6:30 a.m., and I was not about to call my mother-in-law at that time of day. (Please do not talk to me about foresight. I live in the moment. And at least I’d gotten the ingredients.) Because I’ve made it so many times now, I’ve tried to fly solo a few times before, but with varying success—one time I forgot the water and ended up with a slab; another time, I misremembered the oven temperature and ended up with a charred soufflé (the second attempt worked fine). This time I think I got it just right—although something happened while it was cooling: Either a child poked it when I wasn’t looking, the cat stepped on it, or it fell. Maybe I don’t want to know.

(But Mom? Let me know how I did. Thanks.)

The From-Memory Strawberry Cake


The cake

1 box white cake mix
1 box strawberry Jell-O
1 cup vegetable oil
4 eggs
½ cup frozen strawberries, thawed*
⅓ cup water

Preheat oven to 350. Grease whatever baking pan you like. Dump all ingredients into a mixing bowl, and mix on low for 30 seconds, to blend. Then mix at medium or medium-high for two minutes (batter will be lumpy). Pour into prepared pan and bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean—anywhere from 35 minutes to an hour (it varies according to type of pan).

The icing

1 box confectioner's sugar
1 stick butter, at room temperature
½ cup frozen strawberries**

Mix on low until blended, then on high until blended and smooth (except for the strawberry bits). Apply to cake. Eat.

*Why not fresh strawberries? I suppose you could do that, but frozen-and-then-thawed strawberries are basically mush and as such will fall apart nicely in the mixing .

**If you're tempted to add more, to intensify the strawberry flavor, don't—in fact, err on the side of too little rather than too much. That is, if you want your icing to remain on your cake.
christine ennulat
Virginia Living’s Associate Editor
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