We don’t pull the blinds on summer nights. From bed, we watch the fireflies float out of the fields. Morning light wakes us up, more gently than any alarm clock but just as persuasively. And full moons—they cast illuminating shadows long after the sunset. This past Friday’s full moon was The Strawberry Moon, not named thus by any 21st century marketer but rather by every single Algonquin Indian tribe in the Eastern half of the United States. They knew, way before European settlers even arrived, that strawberries define June.
And I will tell you the truth: the best way to eat June berries is just the same way that the Algonquins did–right from the stem. On chilly mornings, the berries are cool bursts of sweetness; on sunny afternoons, the warm juiciness of them explodes on your tongue. There is no better treat. But there are treats that come close.
My mom’s show stopping Strawberry Whipped Cream Cake comes close. This cake is easy. This cake is beautiful. (Did I say that this cake is easy?) It is a box-mix white cake layered with strawberries and an AMAZINGLY light, not-too-sweet whipped cream frosting. I am not a frosting girl (gasp) because I do not like cloyingly sweet, but this frosting… If the Algonquins had known about it, they would have named that sun and the stars after strawberries too. The whole June solar system would have “strawberry” somehow attached to its name and there would be pictographs of strawberries and whipped cream and cake carved into sandstone ledges from the Atlantic to Lake Superior… OK, maybe not.
But please make this cake. Please. Please. Please. And please set a bowl of frosting and strawberries aside and invite your people into the kitchen for a little strawberry dipping. Next to strawberries from the field, Strawberry Whipped Cream Cake might be the most delicious thing you’ve ever eaten.
You will need fresh strawberries. I think you could easily make this cake with 2 quarts. I had four in front of me, but I also had helpers, who dipped a lot of strawberries in a bowl of frosting. This dipping part really plays a very important role in the creation of this cake. Do not skip it.
Make sure your strawberries are clean and dry. Slice them thickly and evenly.
For the Cake:
Prepare a white box cake of your choice. I baked mine in 9 inch round pans because I wanted to make a layer cake. There is much more of a wow factor. However, you can make this cake as a single layer in a 9×13 cake pan. It’s much easier and works well for picnics.
Make sure the cake is cooled completely before frosting. I actually made my cakes a few days ahead of time because I had a few minutes and then threw them in the freezer. I defrosted them a bit before frosting, but not all the way.
For the Frosting:
6 oz cream cheese
2 T. milk
4 C. chilled whipping cream
1 1/3 C. powdered sugar
The trick: chill the bowl and the mixer attachments before making this frosting. You can take your cream cheese out to soften, but make sure that the whipping cream itself is really, really cold.
Start by beating the cream cheese and milk on low speed until smooth. Beat in the whipping cream and powdered sugar. Beat on high speed, scraping the bowl occasionally, until stiff peaks form.
Put the first layer of cake on your cake plate and top with a generous layer of frosting. Cover with sliced strawberries and top with the second layer of cake.
Frost the top, again generously. Arrange strawberries on top, as decoratively as you wish.
Fill the extra spaces between the two layers with frosting before you frost the sides. This will help your cake appear even and smooth. I was making a fancy cake for Father’s Day, so I piped the frosting up the sides of the cake with an extra large star tip, but you do not have to do this. You can just frost the sides with a regular old spatula. It will be just as good.
Note: You must refrigerate Strawberry Whipped Cream Cake. It will come apart in the heat. This is a light frosting and it is not super stable, so you have to be gentle with it, especially if you make it as a layer cake. Take it out right before serving.
We really do have wonderful berries this year. Our U-pick hours are based on availability, so make sure to check the website before you come out if you want to pick; we always have pre-picked berries available in the market. Remember, berry season is relatively short. You do not want to miss it!
See You at the Market!