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Strawberry Crunch Cake
Inspired by my childhood favorite ice cream bar, this Strawberry Crunch Cake is made up of my go-to strawberry and vanilla cake layers, strawberry crunch filling, whipped vanilla buttercream, and is covered in a shortbread cookie strawberry crunch.
This late winter in Utah has me aching to bypass spring and jump feet first into summer. We had snow a week ago, you guys! The second week of April! Simply uncalled for, if you ask me 😉 This California girl will never get used to what people call a Utah “spring.” It’s just an extra long winter. There’s no way to make that sound enjoyable.
As I’ve been dreaming of pool days, I’ve been thinking about new summer-inspired cake flavors I want to whip up. Last year I did a Watermelon Lime Cake, a Root Beer Float Cake, and a Rainbow Sherbet Cake, to name a few. I loved how each one of them turned out. I couldn’t help but think back to my childhood with each bite.
This year, I’m returning to memory lane with my childhood favorite summer treat, the Strawberry Crunch Bar.
Strawberry Crunch Cake
As I thought about turning this yummy treat into a cake, I knew I didn’t want it to have ice cream. (Just goes against everything I stand for ;). ) I wanted to make sure, however, that it had all the same flavors as the bar. It needed to be the perfect blend of strawberry and vanilla with a little crunch.
I looked at Pinterest to see how often this cake has been made and to my surprise, I only found a few layered cakes similar to what I had in mind. One of the cakes that caught my attention was from Confessions of a Cookbook Queen. Her version of this cake was very similar to what I envisioned for my cake: layers of strawberry and vanilla cake with a yummy strawberry crunch coating. I immediately felt like soul sisters 😉
For my version, I whipped up a half batch of my vanilla cake (the base of my Funfetti Cake) and a half batch of my Strawberry Cake. I then made my Strawberry Frosting and threw in some freeze-dried strawberries to give it a little texture and flavor dimension.
For the vanilla frosting, I adapted the vanilla frosting from the Milk Bar Birthday Cake. I love how light and fluffy it is and thought it would pair well with the slightly denser strawberry filling.
As for the outer layer of crunch (or crack, as some might say), I toasted shortbread cookie crumbs and then mixed in chopped up freeze-dried strawberries. You’ll have some leftovers of this, but don’t throw it away. I always save any extra fillings to serve alongside the cake.
The layers of cake are tender and fluffy and full of flavor. And I love how the two frostings complement each other with different textures and flavors.
It’s a summer cake worthy of your reliving childhood memories. I hope you love it as much as I do!
And here’s a little behind-the-scenes of how I put together this cake.
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Strawberry Crunch Cake
Inspired by a childhood favorite ice cream bar, this Strawberry Crunch Cake is made up of strawberry and vanilla cake layers, strawberry crunch filling, whipped vanilla buttercream, covered in a shortbread cookie strawberry crunch.
FOR THE STRAWBERRY CAKE
- 1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 1.5 ounces of strawberry flavored Jell-O
- 1 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons (186.8 g) cake flour
- 2 1/4 teaspoons (9 g) baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon (1.4 g) salt
- 1/2 cup (113 g) unsalted butter at room temperature and cut into cubes
- 3 large or extra large egg whites at room temperature
- 1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons (165 g) buttermilk divided, at room temperature
- 1/2 tablespoon (2.1 g) pure vanilla extract
FOR THE VANILLA CAKE
- 3 egg whites
- 1/2 cup (120 g) buttermilk room temperature
- 1 teaspoons (4.2 g) clear vanilla extract
- 1 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons (186.8 g)cake flour
- 1 cups (200) granulated sugar
- 1/2 tablespoon plus 1/2 teaspoon (16 g) baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon (2.8 g) salt
- 6 tablespoons (84.75 g) unsalted butter room temperature
FOR THE STRAWBERRY FILLING
- 1 cup (226 g) unsalted butter room temperature
- 1 teaspoon (4.2 g) strawberry emulsion
- 1 cup (125 g) freeze dried strawberries crushed and then measured
- 4 cups (500 g) powdered sugar measured and then sifted
- 2 tablespoons (28.87 g) heavy whipping cream
FOR THE BUTTERCREAM (adapted from Milk Bar)
- 1 cup (226 g) unsalted butter slightly chilled
- 1/2 cup (109 g) vegetable shortening
- 3 ounces cream cheese slightly chilled
- 5 cups (625 g) powdered sugar measured and then sifted
- 2 teaspoons (8.4 g) clear vanilla extract
- *This buttercream recipe makes enough to fill and cover your cake. If you want to add additional piping, you’ll want to make an extra 1/2 batch.
FOR THE COOKIE CRUNCH (adapted from Confessions of a Cookbook Queen)
- 24 shortbread cookies I used Lorna Doone
- 1/4 cup (56.5 g) unsalted butter melted
- 1 cup (120 g) freeze dried strawberries crushed and then measured
FOR THE STRAWBERRY CAKE
- Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare four 6-inch round cake pans by spraying each pan with non-stick spray, covering the bottom of the pan with parchment paper, and spraying the parchment paper with the non-stick spray as well. Set aside.
- In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the cake flour, sugar, Jell-O, baking powder, and salt. Stir to combine.
- Add the cubed butter, one piece at a time, and 1/2 cup of buttermilk to the dry ingredients. Beat on medium-low speed until light and fluffy. About 2 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
- In a small mixing bowl, whisk the egg whites and remaining 3 tablespoons of buttermilk. Add the mixture to the mixing bowl in 2 separate additions, mixing for about 30 seconds and scraping down the sides of the bowl in between each addition. Mix in the vanilla.
- Divide the batter evenly between two of the four 6-inch pans (about 12 ounces of batter in each pan). Bake for about 15 minutes.
- Let cool in the pans for about 10 minutes and then invert onto wire cooling wraps to cool completely. Cakes can be individually wrapped in plastic wrapped and frozen for a week. If you'd like to freeze them longer than one week, wrap each cake layer in tin foil as well. Level the layers before freezing, if needed.
FOR THE VANILLA CAKE
- In a medium-sized mixing bowl, combine the egg whites and clear vanilla extract. Set aside.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the cake flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Mix on low speed for about 30 seconds.
- With the mixer on low speed, add the butter and buttermilk. Continue to mix on low until just combined and then increase to medium speed and mix for 1 to 2 minutes, until light and fluffy.
- Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the egg mixture in two additions, beating on medium speed for about 20 seconds after each addition until just combined and all the ingredients are thoroughly incorporated.
- Divide the batter into the remaining two 6-inch pans, using a kitchen scale to measure equal parts in each pan. (About 12 ounces of batter).
- Bake for 15 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.
- Let the cakes cool in the pans for 10 minutes and then invert onto wire racks until completely cool.
FOR THE STRAWBERRY FILLING
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter for 2 minutes until light and fluffy.
- With the mixer on low speed, gradually add the powdered sugar, followed by the strawberry emulsion.
- Add the whipping cream and turn the mixer to medium-high and beat for another 2 to 3 minutes.
- Fold in the freeze dried strawberries.
FOR THE BUTTERCREAM
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the butter, shortening, and cream cheese and beat together on medium-high for 2 to 3 minutes, until the mixture is smooth and fluffy.
- With the mixer on its lowest speed, add the powdered sugar and vanilla. Increase the speed back up to medium-high and beat for 2 to 3 minutes, until you have a nearly white frosting.
- Remove the bowl from the mixer and use a wooden spoon and mix by hand to stir out the air bubbles.
FOR THE COOKIE CRUNCH
- Preheat your oven to 300 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Set aside.
- In a food processor or blender, pulse the shortbread cookies until they are crumbs. Add the melted butter and mix until combined.
- Bake the crumbs for 15 minutes. Let cool completely.
- In a medium sized bowl, combine the toasted shortbread cookie crumbs and freeze dried strawberries.
- Level each cake layer, if needed, and then place one of the vanilla cake layers, crumb side up, on a cake board that has a little smear of frosting on it.
- Spread half 1/3 of the strawberry filling over the vanilla cake layer. Place a strawberry cake layer on top of the filling and spread another 1/3 of the filling over the strawberry cake layer. Repeat for the second vanilla cake layer, and then place the final strawberry cake layer, crumb side down, on top.
- Cover the entire cake with a thin layer of vanilla frosting. Freeze the cake for about 10 to 15 minutes to set the crumb coat and lock the crumbs into place.
- Finish frosting the cake with the remaining vanilla frosting and the cover the entire cake in the shortbread cookie strawberry crunch.
I’ll be making this cake this evening and just had 2 questions.
1. Is it unsalted butter we use for the strawberry filling?
2. Do we use clear pure vanilla extract or imitation?
I am so excited for this cake thank you for the recipe!
Yes, unsalted butter and either pure or imitation is fine.
I am confused about how you make the shortbread cookie crunch. I see golden Oreos as an ingredient used in the instructions but it’s not listed on the ingredients. Also in the instructions it states to add butter twice?
That’s a typo on my part. It’s updated now.
Your cake is, may I say, “breathtaking”. This may sound a bit over the top but I’m VERY intrigued with this culinary creation. I’m certain mine won’t look like that but going to try later in summer when I have a family gathering to take it to. Wow!🌵🐝💜
This cake was absolutely delicious! I made it for a birthday celebration at work and received so many compliments, with more than one person telling me it was the best cake they’ve ever eaten. Reminiscent of the ice cream bar in the best way possible. The cake is intoxicatingly aromatic and even people who don’t like cake couldn’t resist trying a slice. Thank you so much for the wonderful recipe!
I’m so glad it was a hit!
Love this! Any chance you can share a link for the “cake topper” you used in the video when applying frosting to the sides of the cake?
It’s from a company called cake safe.
Im so excited for this! Your recipes are always the best, so thank you so much for sharing! Question though, on some of your other cakes I’ve made it just says all purpose flour, this one calls for cake flour. Will it not turn out as good if I just use all purpose flour?? What’s the difference? Thanks!
Sorry one more question! Where do you find the freeze dried strawberries? I’m having a hard time finding them at Walmart but maybe I’m not looking in the right section.
They have some at the wal-mart near me. It was in the food storage area.Target and Smiths also have them
We made this cake for my sister’s birthday, since she was a fan of the strawberry shortcake ice cream bars as a kid. We celebrated at a local restaurant so brought the cake with us. It was very dramatic to look at, so it got lots of attention from the other people in the restaurant. The taste was fantastic, and even our waitress asked for a piece. Great recipe!
I’m so happy you liked it!
Have you ever tried putting the crunch in between the layers? I’m just wondering if it would get too soggy, or if it would had a little texture.
Can you tell me how many packages of freeze dried strawberries you used total?
It was about 2oz
Made this cake for my daughters second birthday party. I doubled the recipe and did it in a 10×10 square cake. When making the cake I was brought back to my childhood with the smell of a strawberry shortcake ice cream bar. But the cake ended up being a little too sweet for my taste. I love sweets but wow! I don’t think I will make this one again but the buttercream frosting is getting saved for sure! 😋
Love your other cakes and am excited to try this one. Question for you, can you use whole eggs instead of egg whites? I’m not worried about the color, just the texture, and I don’t need 6 yolks leftover right now😂. Thx!!
Yes you can, but take out one egg then.
Hi, I’m planning on attempting to make this cake for my sons 4th birthday, have been studying and planning this recipe for about two weeks. The crumb … I can’t help but think that once those crushed strawberries thaw they will form all this liquid and ruin the crump coating. Would that happen or am I just panicking and overthink it?
So this didn’t happen to me but I can totally see your concern. But I froze my cake and had no issues.
Thank you for this recipe! I just made it and it’s amazing!
I’m so glad!!
Do I need to refrigerate this cake? I’m going to sub canned frosting for your delicious whipped buttercream to help it be shelf stable. Will the filling and cakes be ok if left on the counter for a few days? I want to eat every last bite!!!
It will be ok for a few days but might dry out.
This cake looks amazing! I was just wondering if the cookie crumble outside mix gets mushy/chewy after the cake sits for awhile?
A little bit soft but it’s still good!
I am excited about making this cake. I am wondering what strawberry emulsion is? Is it just mashed strawberries? I couldn’t find an explanation in the recipe. Thanks!
It is a flavoring like an extract! You can find it at Orson Gygi or amazon!
Hi Courtney – I’m interested in baking this for a birthday party. Do you think it would be okay outside from late afternoon until evening? Late September in LA. Also, how would you adapt this to be a four layer 8 inch cake?
Keep it inside as long as you can. If it’s really hot it might start to slide. And double the recipe to get a four layer 8 inch. You’ll have nice thick layers.
I’m making this tomorrow and I can’t wait! Would it work to make this cake only 2 layers by using 9 inch pans instead of 6? Thank you!
I’ll be making this cakes this weekend for my nieces 7th birthday. So excited!!!
Would I be able to freeze the cake before assembling. If so for how many days?
Yes! Wrap it in saran and the layers are good for a very long time!
Will I have to double the filling recipe if I make 3 layer 9 inch cake?
1.5x the filling recipe.
I’m wanting to make this in 8in pans. Would I need to double the any thing?
Yes, if you want the same thickness of cake layers, you’d want to 1.5x the recipe for four 8″ pans.