Strawberry Forest Cake (adapted from Allrecipes.com)
- 2 1/8 c. all-purpose flour
- 2 1/2 c. white sugar, divided
- 3/4 c. unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
- 3/4 tsp. baking soda
- 3/4 tsp. salt
- 3 eggs
- 1 c. milk
- 1/2 c. canola oil
- 2 Tbl. vanilla extract, divided
- 1 c. strawberry liqueur, divided
- 16 oz. frozen strawberries
- 16 oz. fresh strawberries
- 1/4 c. cornstarch
- 4 c. heavy whipping cream
- 1/3 to 1/2 c. powdered sugar
Combine flour, 2 c. white sugar, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. Stir in eggs, milk, oil, and 1 Tbl. vanilla extract just until blended. Grease two 9-in. cake pans and "flour" using cocoa powder. Divide batter evenly between the two pans. Bake for ~30 min at 350 degrees (check earlier if your oven runs hot!). Cool in pans for 10 minutes, then remove to cooling racks to cool completely.
While the cake is baking, make the strawberry filling. Wash and quarter the fresh strawberries. Put them in a large saucepan with 1/2 c. white sugar (add a little more or a little less depending on how sweet your strawberries are) and frozen strawberries. Whisk cornstarch together with 1/2 c. strawberry liqueur until smooth, then add to the pan with strawberries and stir to combine everything. Heat to boiling, and boil a couple minutes, or until filling thickens. Remove from heat, and cool completely.
Whip the cream until it starts to thicken, then add powdered sugar and vanilla to taste (I used closer to 4 tsp. vanilla because I LOVE vanilla). Continue beating until the cream holds stiff peaks.
To assemble cake:
Level the cake layers, then split each in two. Take one of the (flat) bottom layers, and put it cut-side up on serving plate (hint: put waxed paper under the very edges of the cake so that it keeps the serving plate clean). Brush generously with 2 Tbl. strawberry liqueur. Spread with a layer of whipped cream, then top with 1/4 of the strawberry filling. Top with the next layer of cake. Brush with liqueur, then top with whipped cream and strawberry filling. Repeat once more (you should now have 3 layers completed). Take the last bottom layer and put it, cut side down, on top of the cake. Brush with 2 Tbl. liqueur. Frost the sides of the cake with remaining whipped cream, and pipe a "fence" of rosettes around the top of the cake using the whipped cream (it doesn't pipe well, but that's ok). Top the cake with the last 1/4 of the strawberry filling.
Enjoy! Like I said, it tasted better than it looked!