When I worked for the University of Illinois Extension Service, I spent two weeks in August at the Illinois State Fair. I was on a communications team that covered the 4-H winners. We worked long hours, submitted media stories daily, filmed video for local news and got little sleep. But we had a great time. When we finally had a moment to kick back at the very end of the day, I always headed for a Strawberry Shake Up—ice cold strawberry lemonade made from scratch with tons of sugar, real strawberries and chunks of real lemons. It was the best.
So this summer, when we’ve had one of the best strawberry seasons I can remember in ages, I thought it might be time to recreate that State Fair Strawberry Shake Up. What was on the menu, however, was not lemonade but a birthday cake for two good friends. So maybe a Strawberry Shake Up could become a birthday cake? You bet.
My Strawberry Lemonade Pound Cake is all summer—sweet, tart, and BIG! It serves the whole party, so get those birthday candles ready. And if there’s no birthday to celebrate? I say find another excuse cause you’re gonna love this one. Remember, Independence Day is just around the corner.
- One cup chopped strawberries, macerated over night with two to three tablespoons sugar, well drained, syrup reserved
- Six eggs, separated
- Two cups of sugar, separated (A fine-grain evaporated cane juice works well here.)
- Two and one-half sticks of unsalted butter, softened
- Three cups sifted cake flour
- One teaspoon fine sea salt
- One-quarter teaspoon baking soda
- One-quarter teaspoon baking powder
- One cup buttermilk
- Two tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- Zest of one large lemon
- Pinch cream of tartar
- One and one-half cups sifted powdered sugar
- Several tablespoons reserved strawberry syrup
- Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
- Generously butter a standard (10-inch) bundt pan, making sure you get in every crevasse and crease. A nonstick pan is a plus here, if you feel you have a safe one. Have a rimmed parchment paper-lined baking sheet at the ready.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder and sea salt. Set aside.
- Using a heavy-duty stand mixer, beat the butter until whipped Add one cup of sugar and beat on medium high speed until light and fluffy. Scrape down the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed.
- Add the egg yolks, one at a time, beating after each addition. Beat in the lemon juice and zest.
- Turn the mixer to low and add the flour and the buttermilk, alternating additions. Begin and end with the flour; three to two.
- At this point—and I know this is a pain—you'll need to get a clean bowl and a clean set of beaters; the balloon whisk attachment is ideal. This is where an extra hand mixer comes in really handy. However, I move my prepared batter to a clean large mixer bowl (one that is going to give me plenty of space to fold in the whites) and quickly wash out my stand mixer bowl, dry completely (very important) and put back on the stand. I exchange the beater for the balloon whisk, add the egg whites to the clean bowl with the pinch cream of tartar. Beat this until foamy, then gradually add in the remaining cup of sugar, beating on high until you have stiff peaks.
- Now, with an incredibly gentle touch, fold the stiff egg whites into the rest of the batter, one half at a time, until no white streaks remain.
- Finally, gently add in the well-drained chopped strawberries and scrape it all into your prepared bundt pan using a rubber spatula. Make sure the batter is evenly distributed. Give the pan a couple of taps on your counter, then place on the prepared baking pan and place on the middle rack of the oven. Bake for one and one-half hours or until a tester toothpick comes out clean in the center.
- Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Then invert onto a baking rack and allow to cool completely.
- For the final touch, whisk the powdered sugar with about four to five tablespoons of the reserved strawberry syrup to create a beautiful pink glaze. The cake is good without the glaze, but really? Drizzle over the top of the cake and allow to run down the sides—this gives you an opportunity to make double use of that parchment paper—stick it under the baking rack before you glaze the cake to catch the drips.
- Transfer the cake to a pretty plate and decorate, if desired, with extra berries
Cake Crafting Tips
Berry Good Advice: Be sure you plan ahead and macerate those strawberries over night so a rich syrup develops. Also, take care to drain the berries well at least two to three hours before you begin the cake preparation. Otherwise, your batter will become wet and the pink color will run. Not what you want here.
Separated Strategy Leads to Whipped Up Wonderful: You will want to have all your ingredients at room temperature, but you will be more successful separating those eggs if you separate them while they are cold; then, allow them to calm down. Your whites will have far more volume if they are room temp when you whip them. And volume is what you want to help the “pound” cake retain some airiness. So whip the warm whites to stiff peaks; then, fold them in very gently, a bit at a time into the main batter. Add the berries last, using a very gentle hand.
Parchment Paper-Lined Baking Sheet—Really? Trust me. A bundt pan is hard to grasp in the oven, and if you are successful (and I know you will be), this cake is going to puff up beyond the top of your pan and develop a delicious little crusty bottom that I refuse to remove—people love this. So that pan underneath makes travel out of the oven and onto the cooling rack so much easier. The parchment paper is just a little added precaution in case of overrun, but really don’t worry about this. You know how those things go: if you prepare for the worst, it will never happen.
Yolk Lore: When you are adding the yolks to the butter and sugar, there is the possibility that it could curdle. Here is a great tip I learned from the bakers at the Sono Baking Company—I love their cookbook, in which you will find another great recipe for lemon pound cake! If you get that little curdle, add just a tablespoon of the flour mixture and keep beating. If you need, add another tablespoon. The batter should smooth out just fine and you can continue with the recipe. If the curdle remains, the batter may have an uneven texture.
The Long Wait: I know this seems like a long time to bake a cake, but this is a BIG cake. And it does depend on your oven—they all have their own personalities, just like us. I would test the cake at about 70 minutes: does it spring back? Does a toothpick come out clean in the center? If not, stick it back in. I will say, mine has taken all of the hour and a half baking time.
This cake will be the perfect summer ending to endless summer dining.