If you could only eat one thing for the rest of your life, what would it be?
For me, it's strawberries. Amazingly, I have never gotten tired of eating strawberries; fresh, plump, ruby red strawberries. My favorite way to eat them is fresh from the field. Hot from the summer sun, sticky on my fingers, and juicing down my chin when the plump berries burst in my mouth. Stained in berry blood, I would still reach for more, and more, and more. To say I love strawberries is probably an understatement - it's an obsession.
ANYTHING with strawberries I'm in on it - salad, salsa, waffles, muffins, tarts, pies, and...cake! Except. No one has seemed to make a strawberry cake that tastes like fresh strawberries. Except. Sprinkles Cupcakes. Long before I went vegan, at the height of the cupcake craze, someone bought me a Strawberry cupcake from Sprinkles Cupcakes because they knew I loved strawberries. Even though I had no hope left in me that a strawberry cake / cupcake would taste like strawberries, I politely took a taste. WHAT? The impossible was possible, the cupcake did taste like strawberries and I was hooked.
I tried and tried and tried to make them at home, but no matter what recipe guru claimed to have the recipe for these cupcakes, and no matter the tips and tricks I attempted, the results were never, ever the same (not even close). Years of frustrating results and now, as a vegan, years without even the option of buying them from the source (Sprinkles Cupcakes, if by some miracle you would see these words, please make more vegan versions!).
When a pallet (yes, a pallet) of strawberries arrived from my loving and amazing husband in my kitchen, I wasn't stingy with my berries and I started creating. One creation was this cake (after some failures) and the secret to a great fresh strawberry cake was making the strawberry cake vegan. No, seriously. Turns out, applesauce (what I used to replace the eggs and bind my cake) enhances the natural flavor of the strawberry puree. Yep, because it offers extra sweetness that allows the flavor of the berry to shine through the rest of the cake ingredients. I was astonished, thrilled and did a Rocky dance in my kitchen. Victory!
Sustainability Spotlight: Singular sustainability efforts are often less effective than if you enhance the sustainability effort with another sustainability effort. Together, the efforts are stronger and more impactful; just like my strawberries with applesauce in the cake.
Here's an example for you: let's say you switch your plastic water bottle for a reusable one. Great! However, now you are washing that bottle in the sink every night letting the water run while you rinse the soap over under, around and through your bottle. Your aren't thinking about all the water usage you are now engaging every day for your sustainability swap; washing your reusable cup. What if, though, you also thought about your water use plus using the reusable cup. You don't need to clean the entire bottle every day, just the parts that touch your mouth. And while you are scrubbing those parts with soap, you don't need to keep the water running. Small, but significant actions.
If you combine thoughtful sustainability efforts together, in a chain or in a group; heck, even in just a pair, you can make a more impactful difference. Each pairing builds to making a stronger commitment to the environment, and the stronger commitments we can make now, today, the better for the planet's future. If, like me, you want that future to include strawberries, we have to consider how our actions precipitate climate shift and how climate shift are impacting the berries. As my Seasonal Spotlight: Strawberries discusses, strawberries are sensitive to climate shift. If we do not attempt to change how we approach our resources and our lives on this planet soon, it is not out of the realm that strawberries may disappear.
My littlest loves strawberries as much as I do, and when he's 30, I hope he can still enjoy the berries with me. Will you help us save the berries? I hope so. Make small changes but pair them together and always remember that every action we take can have an equally positive OR negative action. Making more impactful choices like baking / cooking vegan while also changing our habits are the only way we make changes.
Pair making this vegan cake with another small sustainability habit, and start making a chain of change.
Fresh Strawberry Cake:
1 1/4 cup (~1/2 pint) of fresh (almost overripe is preferred!) strawberries - puree; reserve 2 tbsp of puree in a small bowl for your frosting later.
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup avocado oil
1/4 cup applesauce
1 cup oat milk (I used Oatly Original)
1 tbsp cider vinegar
Strawberry Scented Frosting:
4 oz vegan cream cheese (cold)
6 tbsp vegan butter (I used Melt brand)
2 tbsp (your reserved) fresh strawberry puree
3 cups powdered sugar
scant 1/2 tsp salt - yes, you want this!
Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F.
Whisk all Dry Ingredients together in a large bowl
Whisk all Wet Ingredients together in a small bowl; add strawberry puree and whisk again
Add Wet Ingredients to Dry Ingredients and mix until just moist - set aside, you want the batter to rest before baking a bit.
Prepare two 8 inch (or 9 inch) round cake pans by spraying lightly with cooking spray, line with cut parchment (put pans on paper, trace pan and cut out circles), spray again liberally with cooking spray on the bottom and up the sides of your cake pans.
Pour batter evenly into the two pans and slide into the oven side by side on a singular rack to bake. Bake for ~30-35 minutes or until cakes spring lightly to the touch, edges look slightly browned and a toothpick (hopefully reusable) comes out clean from the middle.
Let cakes cool for 10 minutes in pans on a cooling rack. Flip and remove gently from the pans and let cool completely outside of pans on the cooling rack before icing.
Once you cakes are cool, prepare Strawberry Scented Frosting as follows:
In a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment beat vegan cream cheese and vegan butter together on Medium-High speed till smooth (~1-2 minutes).
Turn off mixer, and scrape down sides of the bowl and whisk; now add all remaining ingredients (puree, sugar and salt) to the mixer bowl.
Turn mixer on low and gradually increase the speed to Medium-Low. Once the powdered sugar has mostly incorporated, turn up speed to Medium-High.
Once your frosting looks fairly incorporated, now it's time to make it dreamy, creamy! Whip on High for ~2 minutes till your frosting is light and creamy.
How do you tell if it's "done?" Lift your whisk out of the frosting and if you are left with a stiff peak (i.e. - the frosting "stands" up a bit in a point from your whisk), you are good to go!
To stack your layered cake, place one of your cooled cakes on a serving tray / plate right side up. Add at least 1/3 of your frosting to the bottom cake and spread to the edges to cover the bottom cake completely. Now, stack your next cake upside down (this will make your cake top "flat" and easier to frost). Spread remaining frosting over the top and down the sides of the cake.
Serve immediately or cover and chill till about 30 minutes to serving (you want the frosting to warm up before serving to capture the luscious texture). Decorate with fresh strawberry slices (as desired).
With love and hope for a better future for all of us - Jamie