I Tried Ina Garten’s Strawberry Country Cake and It Tastes Like Summer in a Slice
Strawberries and whipped cream are a classic combination, and when it’s strawberry season, I’m all about eating fresh strawberries straight from the pint. I’m also a sucker for dessert and have recently gotten into making my own layered cakes from scratch, so when I saw Ina Garten post a photo of her Strawberry Country Cake on Instagram, I knew I needed to make it.
With summer still well underway, I stopped by my local supermarket, picked up fresh strawberries, and got started on making my first-ever Ina recipe. I was determined to make her proud.
How to Make Strawberry Country Cake
Before getting started, gather all of the cake ingredients and place them on the counter. The recipe calls for refrigerated ingredients like unsalted butter, eggs, and sour cream to be at room temperature before combining them, so don’t skip this step.
Once the ingredients are at room temperature, preheat the oven and prep your cake pans. Next, cream the butter and sugar together with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add the eggs in one at a time, then mix in the sour cream, grated lemon and orange zest, and vanilla extract. In a separate bowl, sift together flour, cornstarch, salt, and baking soda. Gradually add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, then pour the batter into the cake pans and use a spatula to smooth the tops.
Bake the cakes until cooked through, then allow the cakes to cool to room temperature. Once the cakes are ready to be assembled, make the frosting by whipping chilled heavy whipping cream to stiff peaks, then add in the sugar and vanilla. Wash, hull, and slice the strawberries.
To assemble, slice a cake in half horizontally. Place the bottom half of the cake on your serving platter, then spread half of the whipped cream on the cake and top with strawberries. Place the top half of the cake over the strawberries, then cover with remaining whipped cream and strawberries.
My Honest Review of Strawberry Country Cake
This cake looks and tastes delicious, and was a hit at the Fourth of July party I brought it to. The sweet, slightly tart strawberries perfectly complemented the fluffy whipped cream filling, and the brightness of the lemon and orange zests really came through in the light cake. Every bite keeps you coming back for more — it’s truly a perfect summer cake. It was my first time cutting a cake in half horizontally, but I found that this particular cake was sturdy enough that it stayed together as I cut through it and placed the layers on a cutting board to assemble and serve. I was also pleasantly surprised that the cream held together and didn’t ooze out the sides when sliced.
With that said, I found this recipe to be a bit fussy. This strawberry cake might look perfectly rustic and effortless, but it definitely was not for me. The intermediate recipe requires several ingredients to be at room temperature before getting started, so if you didn’t read the recipe beforehand, you’ll need to wait another hour or two to even begin.
Additionally, if you’re not reading carefully, you may miss the fact that the cake ingredients yield two cakes while the filling ingredients are only for one cake (and thus need to be doubled). If you’re baking and assembling the cake on the same day, you’ll need to set aside even more time to let the cake cool completely before frosting it. If you’re a beginner baker or don’t bake often, just know that this recipe requires a little extra time and care, but produces a stunning result. Plus, you end up with two cakes!
4 Tips for Making Strawberry Country Cake
- Decrease cook time if you’re using larger pans. Ina’s recipe is written for 8-inch cake pans, but I have 9-inch ones. I asked Penny Stankiewicz, chef-instructor at the Institute of Culinary Education, for some advice, and she explained that I could still make the recipe, but with a small adjustment. “If you put batter intended for an 8-inch pan in a 9-inch pan, the cake will be thinner and bake faster, so it will require a little less time in the oven,” she said.
With her advice in mind, I ended up baking my cakes for 10 minutes less than the recommended baking time and they were perfectly cooked. I was a little worried that the resulting cake would end up being too thin, but it was not. “I change pan sizes all the time,” Stankiewicz said. “It’s really not a big deal at all, but it does depend on what you’re looking for.” In this case, I didn’t have to increase the volume of the recipe.
2. Use a kitchen scale to ensure cakes are equal in size. You can simply eyeball the amount of batter you pour into each cake pan, but if you want to be a little more precise you can place each pan on a kitchen scale to ensure they have the same amount of batter in them. You don’t even need to tare the scale if your cake pans are a matching set.
3. Smooth the batter before putting it in the oven to ensure the resulting cakes are level. Because the cake batter is fairly thick, I found that it didn’t really “settle” in the oven. As a result, the tops of my cakes were a little uneven. It’s barely noticeable after the cake has been frosted and topped with strawberries, but it’s something to keep in mind. Taking that extra few seconds to smooth over the top will make for a more even cake.
4. Make the cake ahead of time, and assemble the day you’re eating it. Between waiting for ingredients to come to room temperature, actually baking the cakes, and cooling them, you’re looking at a decent time investment and a good number of dishes. I definitely recommend making the cakes ahead of time, if possible, and leaving the frosting and assembly for another day when the cakes are completely cooled.