The beginning of summer coincides with strawberry season and I for one am delighted about that. When you approach a market, the strawberries are so ripe and fragrant that you can practically smell them from the parking lot – impossible to resist. While juicy and delicious when eaten out-of-hand, strawberries are so versatile that they demand other exciting and scrumptious ways to use them. Let’s dive right in.

A single moist, tender layer of vanilla-scented yellow cake paired with a strawberry whipped mascarpone frosting and topped with a handful or two of even more chopped ripe strawberries makes a lovely presentation and a fresh-flavored dessert worthy of any summer occasion. The nice thing about this cake (Vanilla Cake with Whipped Strawberry Frosting) is that it is easy enough for a beginning baker to accomplish with confidence and success. Baked in a 9 x 13-inch pan, it’s also incredibly handy to bring to a potluck.

Let’s talk about the cake. You can count on the usual suspects on the cake’s ingredient list – flour, sugar, butter, eggs, buttermilk (you can use whole or 2% milk instead), etc. The slight twist comes with the addition of just a bit of neutral oil. While this small amount might seem insignificant, it adds just the right amount of moisture and tenderness to keep the baked cake fresh and delicious for days. Don’t skip it – trust me on this one.

For the frosting, instead of using a traditional whipped cream frosting, I’ve paired the cream with some mascarpone cheese. This addition stabilizes the cream so that it will hold up on the cake, and it adds another layer of richness to the creamy frosting. I’ve scattered some additional chopped berries on top, but feel free to add a sprig or two of fresh mint, a sprinkling of edible flower petals, or some white or bittersweet chocolate curls or shards for a fun and sophisticated appearance.

As I mentioned, baking the cake in a 9 x 13-inch pan makes for easy serving for a crowd. You can cut pieces right out of the pan. If you prefer, you can unmold it before frosting (see Kitchen Notes below). Use a serrated knife to cut the frosted cake into small (or large!) squares or rectangles and pass around with some napkins – no plates or forks need. Of course, if you have pretty plates and forks, feel free to use them.

And speaking of strawberry desserts, our Baking Together #16 recipe, Strawberry Hand Pies, was a big hit too, as was our Strawberry Short Cake Recipe from Baking Together #6. You should definitely make those again while the strawberry haul is at its peak. You can bake off a batch of hand pies or stow some assembled (but not baked) in the freezer for a rainy day bake. Shortcake biscuits can be frozen after baking.

As with all our Baking Together recipes, I’m offering guidance (in the kitchen notes below) on ways to adapt the recipe according to your tastebuds as well as your equipment. 

Kitchen Notes


Susie Middleton

The Cake


Two Round Pans
Instead of baking in a 9x13 pan, the batter can be evenly divided and baked in two, 9-inch (bake 31-33 minutes) or 8-inch (bake 35 to 37 minutes) round cake pans. Frost as a “naked” cake – no frosting on the sides – using 1/2 of the frosting and chopped strawberries in-between the layers and top with the remaining frosting and fruit.

Flavor the Cake

A yellow butter cake recipe is an essential element of every baker’s repertoire and it’s remarkably versatile. Feel free to add freshly grated citrus zest – orange or lemon - along with the sugar and butter and proceed as directed.


The Frosting


Flavor Variations

I paired this cake with the whipped mascarpone cream with a fresh berry fold-in but it is just as yummy with a lemon glaze (see Glazed Lemon Pound Cake) or chocolate frosting (Milk Chocolate Frosting) or cream cheese frosting (Brown Sugar Cream Cheese Frosting). Top any of these options with fruit, colorful sprinkles or chocolate shards or shavings.

Other Fruits

I’ve tested this frosting using fresh blueberries and/or raspberries using the same ounce measurement as the strawberries with delicious results. While I haven’t tested with tree fruits (peaches, nectarines, apricots), I suspect they would make delicious substitutes for the strawberries. I suggest you pit them (no need to peel), cut them into wedges then chop ‘em up before lightly crushing. Don’t forget to share what you’ve made in the comments below the recipe. Inquiring baking minds want to know!




Two Options

The frosted cake can be served straight from the vessel making it an easy to-go treat for a buffet, potluck picnic or holiday table. Or you can unmold it before frosting: If you’d like to serve the frosted cake on a flat plate or platter, add a parchment liner to the baking pan and lightly grease and flour the parchment and sides. This makes unmolding the layer a more assured experience and one without any mishaps.

After baking, let the cake cool on a rack 15-20 minutes. Using a thin-bladed knife, run the blade between the cake and the pan until the cake loosens from the pan. Cover the pan with a large rack and invert; lift off the pan and the parchment liner. Invert again onto a large flat plate or cutting board and let cool before frosting.