8 Tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
For the Syrup and Topping
1 1/4 lbs. strawberries (4 cups), hulled and divided
8 Tablespoons granulated sugar, divided
1 Tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 cup water
3 Tablespoons strawberry flavored gelatin
2 cups heavy cream
1 (.35-ounce) packet of whipping cream stabilizer
For the Cake
Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350° F. Butter and flour a 9 x 13-inch baking pan; set aside.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. In a separate medium bowl, whisk together the buttermilk and egg whites.
In a bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar until they are light and creamy, about 3 minutes. Add the vanilla and scrape down the sides of the bowl; beat again. Add one-third of the flour mixture, still beating on medium speed. Beat in half of the milk-egg mixture, then beat in half of the remaining dry ingredients until incorporated. Add the rest of the milk-egg mixture, beating until the batter is homogeneous, then add the last of the dry ingredients. Finally, give the batter a good 2-minute beating to ensure that it is thoroughly mixed and well aerated.
Pour the batter into the prepared baking pan and smooth the top with a rubber spatula. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cake cool completely in pan on a wire rack, at least one hour.
For the Syrup and Topping
Cook 3 cups of strawberries, 4 Tablespoons sugar, lemon juice, and water in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat, covered, until strawberries have softened, about 10 minutes. Pour through a fine-mesh sieve, pressing on the solids to release their juices; reserve solids. Whisk gelatin into the liquid and let cool to room temperature, at least 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, using a skewer poke about 50 holes in the top of the cooled cake (twist the skewer to make the holes slightly bigger). Slowly pour cooled syrup evenly over the top of the cake. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until gelatin is set, at least 3 hours or up to 2 days.
In the bowl of a food processor, pulse reserved strawberry solids, 2 Tablespoons of sugar, and remaining 1 cup of strawberries until the mixture is pureed, about 10-15 pulses. Spread strawberry mixture evenly over cake. Using a wire whisk or hand mixer, beat cream, remaining 2 Tablespoons of sugars, and stabilizer until soft peaks form. Dollop spoonfuls of the whipped cream over the strawberry layer and using an off-set spatula spread evenly over the entire cake. Cut cake into squares and serve. Cake can be made and refrigerated up to 2 days in advance. Enjoy!
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