Strawberry Cream Cheese Frosting

frostingI’ve been testing out cake (and filling, and frosting) recipes for Kami’s birthday celebration this Thursday.  Kami is turning five years old this Thursday – and while her parents are certainly dear friends of mine, Kami and I are fast friends in our own right.  She has very discriminating taste for an almost-5-year-old, so I generally try to pull out all the stops for her birthday cake.  Not as easy as it sounds, when you consider that most “pull out all the stops” celebration cakes are distinctly grown-up: lots of chocolate waves, sugar baskets, fancy effects and fancy tastes.  Kami is sophisticated, but she is five.  She loves Cinderella and Ariel and pink.  Most especially pink.

So, I’ve been looking for cake recipes with knock-your-socks-off flavor, but that still conform to a traditional birthday cake theme (2 or 3 layers, frosting, etc).  I tried the Pink Lady over at Smitten Kitchen but I wasn’t impressed; I found it simultaneously too moist and too dense, with a lack of structure that caused the middle of the cakes to collapse somewhat.  (It may have been due to my substituting whole wheat pastry flour + cornstarch for cake flour, or to cutting the recipe way down in order to bake a test mini-cake, but either way, I nixed it).  I frosted that cake with Strawberry Cloud Cream (essentially whipped cream with strawberry puree) from Rose’s Cake Bible; the strawberry cream was quite delicious, and would make a great filling, but even stabilized it was too soft for piped decorations.  Next up on the testing block was Rose’s White Velvet Butter Cake from the Cake Bible.  This cake had a great texture, a soft, moist crumb, and baked up beautifully, not needing any leveling. I thought the vanilla a little overpowering, especially as I want to pair it with a delicate strawberry frosting, but I think with some modifications, this cake will be perfect.  As for the frosting, I searched high and low for strawberry frosting that did not require Crisco (eeewww), food coloring, or anything else nasty.  Not easy to find.  I eventually decided to make a basic cream cheese frosting and add a little bit of strawberry puree for color and flavor.

Can I admit something?  I’ve never made cream cheese frosting.  NEVER.  Yes, I know it is a baking staple.  Yes, I know it is supposed to be easy, delicious, with great texture, better for you than butter, etc., etc., etc. It’s just that I hate cream cheese.  Really, it’s up there with oatmeal and mayonaisse on the list of Things Kaela Absolutely Will Not Eat.  So I got desperate.  I tried it.  And you know what?  They are all right – cream cheese frosting ROCKS.  It tastes absolutely nothing like cream cheese, but doesn’t have the overwhelming buttery flavor of so many buttercream frostings; it’s stiff enough to pipe decorations, even with strawberry puree added in, and it’s been in the fridge for three days now, and after a little whipping up with a fork, looks and tastes as good as new.  I may be in love.

Adapted from Cream Cheese Frosting courtesy of VanillaGarlic.

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Strawberry Cream Cheese Frosting

INGREDIENTS

Strawberry Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 8 oz cream cheese
  • 2 oz butter
  • 4 tsp strawberry puree (recipe follows)
  • 1/4 tsp lemon extract
  • tiny pinch salt
  • approximately 2 cups confectionary sugar

Strawberry Puree

  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 12 oz frozen strawberries, unsweetened (or fresh strawberries, frozen overnight to release their juice)

METHODS  

  1. Thaw the strawberries, in a colander suspended over a bowl, overnight in the refrigerator or for several hours at room temperature.  Or defrost in a microwave safe bowl and then drain in the colander for at least 15 minutes.
  2. Press on the strawberries with the back of a spoon to get out all the juice possible.  You should get about 1/2 cup of juice.
  3. In a small saucepan over high heat (or microwave on high power) boil the juice until reduced to about 1/8 cup. The juice will darken and get syrupy.  Scrape into a medium bowl or cup measure to cool.
  4. Puree the stawberries in a food processor until smooth.  Transfer the puree to the juice bowl, add lemon juice and pinch of salt, and mix well.0412

Yields about 3/4 cup of puree.

Strawberry Cream Cheese Frosting

  1. Remove the butter and cream cheese from the refrigerator and hold at room temperature until softened, approximately 30-60 minutes.
  2. Cream the butter and cheese in a small bowl with an electric hand mixer or in the bowl of a stand mixer.  Add 2 teaspoons of strawberry puree and lemon extract and mix to incorporate. Add about 1 cup of sugar and mix.  At this point, taste and test texture; keep adding sugar and strawberry puree until the frosting has the taste, color and texture that is optimal (the full amount specified is what I used, except for slightly less than 2 cups sugar).
  3. The frosting will become softer with mixing, so for ease in frosting and decorating, refrigerate for at least 1 hour prior to use. (Can be made ahead by 1 day). 

Yields about 2 cups of frosting, or enough to frost a batch of cupcakes. To frost & fill an 8- or 9-inch cake, double the recipe for 4 cups of frosting.

OPTIONS

  1. To make a lightly sweetened strawberry sauce with the remainder of the puree (great for serving alongside your cake), measure the volume or weight of the puree, then divide by 5.  This is the amount of sugar to add to the puree.  For example, to 10 oz of puree, add 2 oz of sugar. Stir until the sugar dissolves (heat in a small saucepan or in the microwave if the sugar will not completely dissolve).
  2. Most cream cheese frosting recipes call for vanilla; about 1 teaspoon would do for this recipe. I chose to omit vanilla so as to focus on the delicate strawberry flavor.  The lemon extract does not impart a lemony flavor but just serves to punch up the strawberry flavor.
  3. Other berry purees would work equally as well. If using raspberries or blackberries, pass the puree through a food mill, chinoise, or fine sieve to remove seeds prior to using puree.

STORE

Well, the frosting has been in my fridge since Friday night, covered, and is still fluffy and delectably tasty.  I imagine it is best used the day it is made, but could easily be made the night before cake decorating day, and still last for several days on the cake.  As it is cream cheese and butter, it should be stored refrigerated; remove a cake from the refrigerator 1-2 hours prior to serving.

SEASON

Strawberries are in season in late spring/early summer, but with the use of frozen berries, this can be made year-round.

Strawberry Puree

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