Strawberry Not-Quite-Short Cake

The best people possess a feeling for beauty, the courage to take risks, the discipline to tell the truth, the capacity for sacrifice. Ironically, their virtues make them vulnerable; they are often wounded, sometimes destroyed.
— Ernest Hemingway

Each week I have challenged myself to make something new in my kitchen. It was part of the original reason for starting A Common Kitchen, if you were wondering. I used to have a list of about five desserts that I rotated through whenever I needed to bring something to a family dinner, event, or just for a weeknight dessert. As you may have guessed, I got bored of those same five desserts. They were delicious, don't get me wrong. They just weren't satisfying something inside me. I'm convinced that I had a hunger for creativity that desperately needed to be satisfied. 

I did feel a little restless each week, never feeling like I truly accomplished anything, big or small. I knew that I truly enjoyed being in the kitchen. Whether it was to cook a quick breakfast or spend three hours on a layer cake, I wanted to be in the kitchen. I also wanted to create new things. I am a creative person. I have always loved to cook and bake, draw, paint, sew, and so many other things that one might consider 'artistic'. 

When I finally purchased my  domain name, A Common Kitchen, I was sitting at work on my iPhone, and typed it in and it was available. I was so excited! I had been trying to think of a website name for over a year by that point and had almost given up. I immediately whipped out my credit card and bought it. After that night, I spent another month exploring my new website and trying to get everything perfect; the layout, the font, the colors . And it's still not perfect. I don't know that it will ever be perfect, but it is mine

It has taken a lot of time, money, and discipline to keep up with A Common Kitchen but I have loved every minute of it. I have faith that I will keep doing this until I am physically unable to do so. I know that I will never stop baking and I know that I will always have a hunger for creativity. 

Now on to this weeks recipe: Strawberry Not-Quite-Short Cake.  I called it this because it is modeled after a classic Strawberry Shortcake but is also very different from it. It contains all of the classic flavors but has a few additions that I thought would make for a delicious summer dessert.

Before I tell you about the separate layers and flavors of this cake, I need to go over the design/structure of the cake. This cake is made to look like a Milk bar  cake. It is one of my favorite ways to build cakes lately because I love being able to see all of the layers of the cake and I find that you don't use as much frosting using this method. You do need some special equipment (I will link to all of the products below) but I promise that it is not hard to do! It is actually really fun and interesting. Basically, you use a 6" cake ring lined with clear acetate to build the cake. You layer in your ingredients and let it chill overnight and take off the cake ring and peel off the clear acetate lining and you have a beautifully exposed cake. 

Now on to the separate components of the cake:

 Instead of biscuit-like shortcakes,  I made  moist vanilla cake layers. It is a really simple batter that is quick to make and bakes in one 9x13" sheet pan. You then use a 6" cake ring to cut individual layers of cake out. You get two perfect rounds, then use scraps to create the bottom layer of the cake. Each layer of cake is drizzled with a homemade strawberry milk to keep them moist and infuse a little bit of strawberry flavor into them. Because of the milk soak, the cake really does stay moist for over a week (yes, I have eaten it seven days later.) It also stays moist even after freezing and defrosting the cake!

This recipe also uses a combination of store bought strawberry preserves and macerated strawberries for a mixture of textures. I just bought organic strawberry preserves from Trader Joe's. You will need a full 15 ounce jar. Macerated strawberries are just quartered strawberries that are tossed in some sugar and left to rest of 30 minutes to an hour. This pulls out the natural juices from the strawberries and softens them. You certainly can use frozen strawberries if you prefer. Just defrost them-- no need to macerate them in sugar!

 The best part of this cake though, in my opinion, is the strawberry cake crumbs. These are crunchy little nuggets that give the cake amazing texture. They are just a mixture of flour, sugar, ground freeze dried strawberries, salt, and some oil. They are bake in the oven and become crunchy and delicious! This is a genius idea really and I can't believe every cake doesn't have a crunchy component to it. These don't take very long to make and the cake just isn't the same without them. Instead of whipped cream, I made a vanilla bean cream cheese buttercream. It is slightly sweet, slightly tangy, and absolutely delicious. Need I say more? 

 Thanks for reading/visiting the blog this week everyone! I sincerely appreciate it and I love sharing a new recipe each week with you. I hope you give this one a try and please let me know if you do! 

Strawberry Not-Quite-Short Cake

Makes one 6" Three Layer Cake. Makes 8-10 slices of cake

Special equipment needed for this cake is listed below with links

Recipe Adapted from Milk Bar


For the Cake

  • 2 Cups All Purpose Flour

  • 1 ½ Teaspoon Baking Powder

  • ½ Teaspoon Diamond Kosher Salt

  • ½ Cup Buttermilk

  • ⅓ Cup Neutral Oil (Grapeseed, Canola, Vegetable)

  • 2 Teaspoons Vanilla Extract

  • 1 ¼ Cups Granulated White Sugar

  • 3 Tablespoons Brown Sugar

  • ⅓ Cup Vegetable Shortening

  • 4 Tablespoons Butter, softened

  • 3 Large Eggs 

For the Strawberry Cake Crumbs

  • ¾ Cups All Purpose Flour

  • ½ Cup White Sugar

  • 2 Tablespoons Brown Sugar

  • 2 Tablespoons Almond Meal **see note

  • 2 Tablespoons Freeze Dried Strawberries ***see note

  • ½ Teaspoon Diamond Kosher Salt

  • ½ Teaspoon Baking Powder

  • ¼ Cup Neutral Oil, plus more if needed (grapeseed, canola, vegetable)

  • 1 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract

 For the Macerated Strawberries

  • ½ Pint (about 1 Cup) Fresh Strawberries, cut into quarters

  • ¼ Cup White Sugar

  • Zest from half a lemon (about 2 Teaspoons)

For the Vanilla Buttercream

  • 8 Tablespoons Butter, softened

  • ¼ Vegetable Shorteninng

  • 4 Tablespoons Cream Cheese, softened

  • 2 Tablespoons Light Corn Syrup

  • ½ Teaspoon Diamond Kosher Salt

  • 2 Teaspoons Lemon Juice

  • 2 Teaspoons Vanilla Extract

  • 1 ¼ Cups Powdered Sugar

For the Milk Soak

  • ¼ Cup Milk (any percentage will do but I use Whole Milk)

  • 2 Tablespoons of Freeze Dried Strawberries, finely ground *see note

Other Ingredients:

  • One 15 Ounce Jar of Strawberry Preserves or Jam



Make the Cake:

  1. Preheat oven to 350ºf and grease and line with parchment paper a 9x13" baking sheet. Set aside. 

  2. In a bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, and salt until fully combined. In a measuring cup, whisk together the buttermilk, oil, and vanilla until fully combined. Set both aside.

  3. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream together the butter, shortening, white, sugar, and brown sugar together on medium speed until light a fluffy, about 5 minutes.  Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl. With the mixer on low, add in the eggs, one at a time, mixing well in between each. Once all of the eggs are added turn the speed up to medium and mix until the batter has about doubled in volume, about 1-2 minutes. 

  4. With the mixer on low, slowly drizzle in the buttermilk + oil mixture. Once it all has been added, stop the mixer and dump in all of the dry ingredients. Mix on low just until combined (do NOT over mix!!). 

  5. Pour the batter in the prepared baking sheet and bake for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Let the cake cool in the pan completely.

  6. Place a piece of parchment paper on the counter. Invert the cake onto it and peel off the parchment from the bottom of the cake. Use the 6" cake ring to cut out two perfect circles from the cake (these are your top 2 cake layers). The bottom layer will be made of remaining cake scraps put together like a puzzle for the bottom layer of the cake. Set aside while you prepare the Strawberry Cake Crumbs.

Make the Strawberry Cake Crumbs: 

  1. Preheat oven to 350ºf and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Set aside.

  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, add the flour, sugars, baking powder, salt, almond meal, and crushed freeze dried strawberries. Mix on low speed until fully combined. 

  3. In a measuring cup, whisk together the oil and vanilla. With the mixer on low, slowly drizzle in the oil. Mix until lumps start to form. If the mixture looks a little dry and doesn’t hold in lumps, add another teaspoon of oil and mix again. Pour all of crumbs on to the baking sheet and break up any big lumps so they are all about 3/4 inch in diameter. You want a mix of small and large crumbs so just use your judgement on the sizing. 

  4. Bake for 10-12 minutes of until the crumbs are slightly golden brown and are hard. Let cool completely while you prepare the Macerated Strawberries.

For the Macerated Strawberries: 

  1. In a small bowl, toss together the fresh strawberries, sugar, and lemon zest. Let the strawberries sit at room temperature for 30 minutes to 1 hour. Drain the juice from the strawberries and keep in a container until ready to use while you prepare the frosting.

For the Frosting:

  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together the butter, shortening, and cream cheese on medium-high speed until pale in color and fluffy, about five minutes.

  2. Add in the corn syrup, vanilla, lemon juice, and salt and mix on medium speed until combined.

  3. Add in the powdered sugar and mix on medium speed until fully combined. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl. Turn the mixer on medium-high a whip the frosting again until fluffy, 1-2 minutes. Cover with plastic wrap until ready to use while you prepare the Strawberry Milk Soak.

For the Strawberry Milk Soak:

  1. In a small bowl, combine the milk and ground freeze dried strawberries and whisk until fully combined. Transfer to a small squeeze bottle.  Keep refrigerated until ready to use. ****see note 


To Assemble the Cake: 

The First and Second Layer: 

  1. Clean the cake ring and place it in the center of a 8" cake board. Line the inside of the cake ring with the clear acetate lining. Let the acetate overlap by about one inch. Tape the outside of the acetate together to hold it in place.

  2. Using the extra scraps of the sheet cake, create the bottom layer of the cake by smooshing them together inside the ring. Use your fingers to tamp the scraps together into a flat even layer.

  3. Drizzle the bottom layer of cake with the strawberry milk soak with 1/3 of the milk. Alternatively, you can use a pastry brush to brush on the milk soak. 

  4. Spoon on 1/3 of the strawberry jam/preserves on top of the milk soak. Use the the back of a spoon to evenly distribute it on top of the cake until you have a flat, even layer.

  5. Evenly distribute half of the macerated strawberries on top of the preserves.

  6. Use the back of a spoon to spread 1/3 of the frosting in an even layer over the strawberries.

  7. Sprinkle 1/3 of the strawberry cake crumbs evenly over the frosting. Use the back of your hand to gently press them down to keep them in place.

  8. Repeat this same process for the second layer of the cake. (You won't have to piece together the cake layer since you have two beautiful full rounds! Yay!)

The Top Layer:

  1. Gently place the last cake round on top of the second layer.

  2. Drizzle on the remaining third of strawberry milk soak.

  3. Evenly spoon on the last portion of strawberry preserves (no macerated strawberries go on this layer).

  4. Cover the top of the cake with the remaining frosting and use the back of a spoon create a flat even layer.

  5. Top the cake with the remaining strawberry cake crumbs and some crushed freeze dried strawberries. I like to set aside the biggest crumbs before I start assembling the cake and place those around the edge of the top of the cake and then sprinkle on the extra little crumbs around those and then sprinkle on some of the coarsely ground freeze dried strawberries. However, you really can decorate the top however you would like.

  6. Transfer the cake to the freezer and freeze overnight. 

  7. At least 3 hours before you are ready to serve the cake, pull the cake out of the freezer. Gently slide the cake ring up and off the cake. Gently cut the tape with a paring knife and peel off the acetate. Transfer the cake to a plate or cake stand. Let it defrost in the fridge for a minimum of 3 hours. 

  8. Slice the cake and enjoy. 

 * The cake can be kept in the fridge for up to five days, just wrap tightly in plastic wrap. You also can freeze this cake for up to three months. 


Bakers Notes:

*To get ground freeze dried strawberries, place about half a cup of the freeze dried strawberries into a small food processor and pulse until finely ground. Run the freeze dried strawberry grounds through a fine mesh sieve to take out any big lumps. Measure out as much as you need.

**Almond Meal is basically just very finely ground almonds. It sometimes is called 'almond flour'. Bob's Red Mill is my favorite! If you don't want to use it, that's totally fine. It won't change the flavor of the crumbs, I just like it. Just replace with equal amounts of flour if you don’t want to use it.

***If you don't have a squeeze bottle, you can apply the milk soak with a pastry brush. 

Special Equipment: 

  • 6 Inch Cake ring

  • Clear Acetate Lining (You can also go to a local art store and buy a pad of Duralar and tape a couple sheets together. It's the same as acetate just slightly thinner.) 

  • 8 Inch Cake Board

  • Freeze Dried Strawberries  -- I buy these at my local Trader Joe's. They are about $3.99 for a bag and you will use the whole bag for this recipe. You can find freeze dried strawberries at almost any grocery store now.