Vanilla Layer Cake with Strawberry Mascarpone Frosting

Another birthday, another opportunity to make a birthday cake.  This time, I worked together with the birthday boy’s wife to create a cake for him.  We decided upon a vanilla layer cake with strawberries adapted from the finecooking website.  Sandra told Denver that she was going out for “brunch with the girls” before heading over to bake the cake and some other surprises.

Denvers birthday cake

Denver's birthday cake

This cake was created in a rather unique method… I don’t think I’ve made any cakes like this before, especially not from The Cake Bible.  It initially started normally, sifting the dry ingredients first, then creaming the butter and sugar before adding the other wet ingredients.  The dry was then added alternately with some milk (we used 2% milk instead of whole milk).  At this point, we folded some soft-peak meringue into the batter instead of just mixing the eggs directly.  Unique, but did it hold up?

As we baked it, I noticed the cake layers had a very eggy smell, and didn’t seem to set completely.  As such, I kept it in the oven about 5 more minutes, and perhaps overbaked them 😦  However, when I removed them from the oven, they were still not completely set, so it was hard to tell at the time.  While the cake cooled, we prepared the mascarpone cheese frosting…

I’m actually not a big fan of mascarpone cheese.  Compared to its cream cheese brother, it’s more expensive and far too subtle to give off a big flavor.  However, I do admit its subtlety lets it add some richness as a complement to other flavors: in this case, we chose to highlight strawberries.  Instead of adding whole strawberries between layers, we chopped up the fruit beforehand and mixed it with about 1/4 of the mascarpone cheese frosting.  Then we used the strawberry frosting as a filling while using the normal frosting for the sides and top before finally topping with some more fresh strawberries.

As a whole, the cake turned out decently, although it was a bit too dense for my personal taste.  It tasted great though, and not at all eggy as I initially feared.  The consistency resembled more of a pound cake than a normal buttercake though, which may not be for everyone.  It sure was fun to make though!

As for the other birthday surprise… well, I’ll save that for a future post this week, though you can probably guess what it is by looking at some of the pictures….

Vanilla Cake with Strawberry Mascarpone Frosting

adapted from finecooking


For the cake:

  • 1/2 lb. (1 cup) unsalted butter, softened at room temperature; more for the pan
  • All-purpose flour for the pan
  • 12 oz. (3 cups) cake flour
  • 1 Tbs. plus 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp. table salt
  • 1-3/4 cups granulated sugar
  • Seeds scraped from 3/4 vanilla bean, or 2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 6 large egg whites, at room temperature

For the frosting

  • 1 lb. mascarpone cheese, at room temperature
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • Seeds scraped from 1 vanilla bean, or 2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • Pinch table salt
  • 2 pints raspberries, rinsed and patted dry


1.  Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Grease the bottom and sides of two 9″ round cake pans (I actually used 8″ cake pans for this).  Lightly flour or use Baking Non Stick spray.

2.  Sift the cake flour, baking powder and salt into a bowl and set aside.

3.  In a stand mixer fit with the paddle attachment, cream the butter until smooth (about 1-2 minutes).  Add 1 1/2 cups of sugar and the vanilla bean seeds and/or extract (we used both).  Continue beating until well combined and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes.  Stop to scrape the bowl as needed.

4.  On low speed, add 1/3 of the dry ingredients, then add 1/2 cup of the milk.  Add another 1/3 of the dry ingredients, then another 1/2 cup of milk.  Finally add the last 1/3 of the dry ingredients and scrape the bowl.  Mix until just blended.

5.  In a medium bowl, beat the egg whites on medium-high speed ntil soft peaks form.  Gradually add the remaining 1/4 cup sugar and keep beating until you get medium-firm peaks.  Scoop about 1/4 of the meringue and mix into the cake batter to lighten it up.  Then fold the remaining meringue carefully into the cake batter.

Sandra helping me with my meringue

Sandra helping me with the meringue

6.  Scrape the batter into the prepared pans.  Bake until the tops are light brown and a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean (about 30 minutes).  Set the pans on a rack and let cool for about 15 minutes, then remove the cakes from the pans.

7.  To prepare the frosting, combine the mascarpone cheese, heavy cream, sugar, vanilla seeds and/or extract and salt into a medium bowl.  Use an electric mixer and beat on low speed until smooth (about 1 minute).  Increase the speed to medium-high and beat until the mixture is thick and holds firm peaks.  Be careful not to overbeat.

Beat the mascarpone frosting

Beat the mascarpone frosting

8.  Chop some strawberries (about 1/2 cup?) and mix it with 1/4 of the frosting.  Set aside while you assemble the cake.

9.  Carefully slice the tops of the cake layers to make even.  Place one cake layer slice side up onto a cake stand.  Add the filling you just made in Step 8.  Then place the remaining cake layer slice side down on top of the filling.

10.  Create a crumb layer on the cake by spreading a thin layer of frosting all around the cake, then refrigerate for a few hours.  Remove the cake from the fridge and spread the remaining frosting all around, making peaks or any other kinds of decorations you want.  Garnish the top with fresh strawberries.

Happy birthday Denver!

Happy birthday Denver!

Cross section

Cross section

Optional: You really can use whatever fruit you want; the original recipe called for raspberries.  Just be sure to wash then thoroughly dry the fruit before placing on the frosting so it doesn’t discolor the cake.  Also, it’s easy enough to make this a 4 layer cake; just divide each layer in half, and add filling between each layer.  You’d probably want to add the sliced strawberries to about 1/2 of the frosting (instead of 1/4) and just use less frosting on the sides and top of the cake.

And here’s a few more teaser pics from Denver’s birthday dinner at Nelore… What are they?

Stay tuned!

Stay tuned!


10 Responses to “Vanilla Layer Cake with Strawberry Mascarpone Frosting”

  1. 1 Patrick
    March 16, 2009 at 7:47 pm

    man, so good

  2. 2 karen jean
    March 17, 2009 at 3:24 am

    i’m not gonna lie. the cake looks delicious, but i’m leaving a comment to say how much i love your purple shirt. 🙂

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