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Last Updated on April 21, 2021 by Chenée Lewis
Updated February 2021: I made this cake for Sultan’s birthday again this year, and this time I was inspired to update the recipe. This updated vanilla cake with strawberries and whipped cream is now easier to make, with a lighter texture and slightly thinner cake layers, making it stack better. I also took new photos and video! Hope you enjoy!
In February, my boyfriend celebrated his birthday, and I decided to whip up a small cake for our low-key celebration. His favorite cake is a vanilla cake with strawberries and whipped cream frosting, so I went with this simplified recipe adapted from my Brown Butter Yellow Cake. It was a hit! The soft vanilla cake layers are so easy and stay moist even as a naked cake, and the stabilized whipped cream frosting helps it look and taste great for days! It ended up with a flavor a lot like strawberry shortcake — not too sweet, and perfect for a light dessert!
This vanilla cake with strawberries and whipped cream is also special because it’s a small batch recipe! It’s perfect for two to four people and a low-key celebration at home! three 6-inch cake pans, and I loved the result! Let’s get into some of the key components of this lovely little strawberry shortcake cake!
How do you top a cake with strawberries?
For this vanilla cake we’re using macerated strawberries, which just means strawberries that are softened with sugar or a sweet liquid. There are a lot of ways you can enhance the flavor of strawberries, adding flavored extracts, herbs, citrus, or even balsamic vinegar. But in this vanilla cake we’re going with the standard strawberries and sugar technique that I grew up with. All you’ll do is hull and slice your strawberries, toss them in some granulated sugar, and let it all meld together in the fridge for a few hours, or overnight. The longer they sit in the sugar, the softer they’ll be for the cake filling, so it’s up to you and your preference.
Macerated strawberries are delicious to eat on their own, and even better on cakes, ice creams, waffles and pancakes, or yogurt. Try it out– you’ll love them!
Stabilized whipped cream
Nothing fits a buttery vanilla cake with strawberries like a fluffy whipped cream frosting! The only issue is that whipped cream isn’t as sturdy as other types of cake frosting, so for this layered cake, standard whipped cream wouldn’t cut it.
So to add a bit of structure, to our whipped cream frosting, we’re adding in a bit of instant pudding mix! It’s a super-easy way to help our whipped cream stand up to the layers in this vanilla cake with strawberries and stay fluffy for days. It’s definitely a game-changer for whipped cream frosting! I used this Godiva white chocolate pudding, but you can use a vanilla pudding mix that you like as well.
- salted butter – make sure your butter is room temperature.
- granulated sugar – adds sweetness to this vanilla cake with strawberries, and creams with the butter to create light, fluffy cake layers!
- eggs – these should also be room temperature.
- pure vanilla extract – Vanilla is the major flavor in our cake layers, so be sure to use a high-quality pure vanilla extract. Or better yet, check out my post on how to make vanilla extract at home with just 2 ingredients!
- vegetable oil – just a bit keeps our cake layers nice and moist!
- sour cream – I love using sour cream in cakes! It keeps them moist and rich. Be sure to let your sour cream come to room temperature before adding to the recipe!
- cake flour – you’ll need 1 cup cake flour (127 grams measured with a kitchen scale). See below for a tip if you don’t have any cake flour on hand!
- baking powder and baking soda – gives some lift to the layers of this vanilla cake with strawberries and whipped cream!
For our macerated strawberry filling, we’ll need:
- fresh strawberries – make sure your strawberries are cleaned well, hulled, and sliced.
- sugar – we’re making macerated strawberries, so we’ll need granulated sugar.
And for our stabilized whipped cream frosting, we’ll need:
- heavy whipping cream – it should be very cold!
- powdered sugar – like the flour above, measure your powdered sugar using a kitchen scale.
- vanilla extract – check out my post on how to make vanilla extract at home!
- instant pudding mix – helps our whipped cream to stand up to the cake layers and last longer! I like to use white chocolate instant pudding mix.
Here are some tools I recommend for this vanilla cake with strawberries and whipped cream, including silicone cake pan liners to replace using parchment paper to line your pans, my favorite 6-inch cake pans, and the most useful kitchen scale!
Trick to keeping naked cakes from drying out
Usually, when frosting covers all parts of your cake layers, it’s easier to keep the cake layers from getting too dry. But it’s even more difficult when you have an open cake like this vanilla cake with strawberries. So an easy trick I use with all my cakes to keep the layers moist is to spray or brush the cake layers with simple syrup before decorating. Making simple syrup is so easy:
- Combine 1 cup of granulated sugar and 1 cup water in a saucepan.
- Bring to a boil, stirring, for about 2 minutes until sugar is dissolved.
- Store refrigerated for up to 2 weeks.
Told you it was easy! Then, just spray or brush the syrup all over your cooled cake layer, allow it to soak in for 10-15 minutes, and then decorate your vanilla cake with strawberries and whipped cream frosting!
Step by Step
This cake is an elegant dessert with lots of layers of goodness, but once you get everything together, this vanilla cake with strawberries is easy to assemble! The video above shows the steps for making the cake layers and assembling the cake:
- Start with your softened butter and sugar, and cream them together until they’re nice and fluffy. This should take about 5 minutes.
- Then you’ll add your eggs, one at a time to make sure that they emulsify completely with the butter and sugar.
- Then you’ll mix in your sour cream, vegetable oil, and vanilla extract, and that’s it for your wet ingredients!
- You can either sift your flour and baking powder directly into the bowl or whisk them together in a separate bowl. Then just fold the dry ingredients into the wet mixture gently, so as not to overmix. Once the dry ingredients are just barely incorporated into the wet ingredients, your cake batter is ready to bake!
- Pour your batter into three 6-inch cake pans that have been sprayed with baking spray and lined with either parchment paper or silicone cake pan liners. I like to weigh my cake pans with a kitchen scale to make sure the exact same amount of batter is in each pan.
- While its baking (or a day ahead of time), you can work on your strawberries! Just clean and slice your strawberries and toss them in granulated sugar at least an hour before you plan to use them. I usually let them rest in a bowl in the fridge covered in plastic wrap, but you can also transfer them to a plastic food storage bag. The idea is for the sweetness of the sugar to penetrate the fruit and give it a slightly softer texture.
- Finally, as your cake layers are cooling, you can work on your whipped cream frosting! Make sure you’re working with a cold bowl, cold utensils and mixer attachments, and the heavy cream is very cold. All this will help to achieve the fluffiest whipped cream. I would also recommend using the whisk attachment for either your hand mixer or stand mixer. Combine your heavy cream, vanilla, pudding mix, and powdered sugar, and then mix them on low to combine. Turn your mixer up to high and whip the cream mixture a few minutes, or until stiff peaks form.
- If you’re using sugar syrup to help keep your cake layers moist as I mention above, grab that too, and you’re ready to assemble your vanilla cake with strawberries and whipped cream!
- Start with one cake layer on your cake platter or plate. Top it with your strawberries, followed by a generous dollop of whipped cream frosting. Top it all with your second cake layer and repeat. Then add your third cake layer, but instead of adding the strawberries first, top it with whipped cream and add the strawberries on top. That will add a lovely topping to this lovely vanilla cake with strawberries!
Tips and F.A.Q.
You can make a cake flour substitute using all-purpose flour and cornstarch! Just sift together 14 tablespoons (109g) of all-purpose flour and 2 tablespoons (16g) of cornstarch. Then add it in with your dry ingredients as usual!
Your vanilla cake with strawberries should last in the fridge, covered for up to 4 days.
My favorite way is alternating cake layers, then strawberries, then frosting until you get to the top! Then add any extra strawberries on top. Check out the video in the recipe card below to see how I did it with this vanilla cake with strawberries.
Just add 1/8 teaspoon of salt with the dry ingredients.
For eggs, just submerge them in a bowl of lukewarm water for about 15 minutes.
For sour cream, just place it in a microwave-safe bowl and heat for 5 seconds at a time, stirring in between, until your sour cream is room temperature.
For butter, heat a half stick of butter on a microwave-safe plate for 10 seconds, rotating every 4 seconds.
I’m such a fan of this vanilla cake with strawberries and whipped cream! It’s a perfect treat for a springtime celebration, a birthday, Valentine’s Day, or anytime! And there’s more where it came from — my Lavender Earl Grey Cake with Honey-Lemon Glaze is a super simple cake that is perfect for your next get-together! There’s Lavender Earl Grey tea baked right into the cake, and that honey lemon glaze is to die for!
Another fun 6-inch cake that I love is my Butter Pecan Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting. It’s got the rich buttery, vanilla, and pecan flavors from your favorite butter pecan ice cream, but in a fluffy, 6-inch layer cake! And it’s covered in the most perfect brown butter cream cheese frosting just to make it even more irresistible!
Equipment you may need
Vanilla cake layers
- 1 lb fresh strawberries - cleaned well, hulled, and sliced
- 3 tbsp granulated sugar
Simple syrup for cake layers (optional)
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 cup water
Prepare macerated strawberries
- Combine strawberries with sugar in a bowl or zipper bag. Chill in refrigerator for at least an hour or up to overnight.
Prepare Simple Syrup
- Heat sugar and water in a small saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring, until sugar is fully dissolved and mixture is clear.
- Allow to cool fully. Store in an airtight container in refrigerator up to one week until ready to use.
Prepare your cake layers
- Preheat the oven to 350° and place two racks near the center of the oven. Line three 6-inch round cake pans with parchment or silicone baking liners and spray with baking spray.
- In a large bowl of an electric stand mixer or with a handheld electric mixer, cream softened butter on medium speed for 2 minutes. Add sugar and beat for 4-5 minutes on medium speed.
- Add in eggs, one at a time, followed by oil, vanilla and sour cream. Mix just until combined in between each addition and scrape the sides of the bowl if necessary.
- Sift in cake flour, baking powder, and baking soda. Gently fold dry ingredients into wet ingredients until just combined.
- Divide the batter evenly between the three pans. Drop each pan from about 3-inches onto the counter to minimize air bubbles while baking.
- Bake for 15 minutes, or until lightly golden around the edges and a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean.
- Let the layers rest in the cake pans for 10 minutes before gently turning them onto a cooling rack to cool completely.
- (Optional) Once cooled, spray or brush with simple syrup and let sit for at least 15 minutes.
Whip up your frosting
- With chilled mixer attachments, beat cold heavy cream, vanilla, pudding mix, and powdered sugar in a large chilled bowl about 3 minutes until stiff peaks form.
- Set aside until you're ready to assemble your cake.
Assemble your cake
- Start with one of your layers on the cake plate or cake board. Top with about 3 tbsp strawberries and their juices.
- Pipe or spoon about 1 cup whipped cream frosting on top of strawberries.
- Repeat with second cake layer, more strawberries, and more whipped cream.
- Finish with third layer of cake, but this time top the cake with a generous amount of whipped cream, followed by strawberries on top of that.
- Store cake covered in refrigerator up to 3 days.
Pin this recipe for vanilla cake with strawberries and whipped cream frosting for later!