Last Updated on January 6, 2022 by Chenée Lewis
This mini vanilla cake with strawberries is the perfect treat for Valentine’s Day, and especially for strawberry season! Vanilla sponge cake with fresh strawberries in the middle and whipped cream frosting is always a classic! And read on for my tips on how to decorate a cake with whipped cream and strawberries! For more strawberry treats, try my Strawberry Cheesecake Cookies, my Strawberry Crumble, and my No-Churn Strawberry Ice Cream!
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Vanilla Cake with Strawberries on Top and Layered Inside
This cake is always a huge 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! We'll layer our cake with fresh strawberries in the middle for the perfect burst of strawberry flavor! It's a lot like strawberry shortcake -- not too sweet, and perfect for a light dessert!
Mini Strawberry Cream Cake
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 put fresh fruit in the middle of a cake?
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!
What do you put between cake layers?
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 to stabilize it! 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.
Strawberry Cream Cake Ingredients
- 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!
How to Decorate a Cake with Whipped Cream and Strawberries
- While your cake layers are 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.
- 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!
- To assemble your strawberry cream cake, 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.
My favorite way to top this vanilla cake with strawberries is to add our top layer of whipped cream first, and then to top it with our macerated strawberries.
The strawberries you add in the cake layers will add a bit of moisture that the layers of cake will soak up. But because the cake layers are moist on their own, they won't get too soggy. That said, I do recommend assembling the cake just before serving to minimize any liquid soaking into the cake layers.
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 ⅛ 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.
If you try this recipe, I would love it if you could leave a rating and comment below! It’s so wonderful hearing your feedback! And don’t forget to share your creations with me by tagging @chenee_today on Instagram!
More Recipes for your 6-inch Cake Pan
- Mini Carrot Cake
- Mini Basque Cheesecake
- Butter Pecan Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting
- Pumpkin Pecan Dump Cake
- Mini Vanilla Cake with Easy Vanilla Buttercream
- Mini Chocolate Cake
Equipment you may need
Vanilla cake layers
- 1 lb fresh strawberries - cleaned well, hulled, and sliced
- 3 tablespoon 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 tablespoon 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 on top for later!