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Billowing Strawberry Poppy Seed Layer Cake

Makes 1 (3-layer) cake, serving 12 to 14

Level of difficulty: moderate

Ingredients

For the Cake
2 1/4 cups flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter, softened
1 cup whole milk
2 eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 tablespoons poppy seeds

For the Frosting
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 cups powdered sugar
2 cups cream

For the Filling
1/2 cup high-quality strawberry jam
1 pint fresh strawberries, stemmed and thinly sliced

For Garnish
1 pint fresh strawberries

Instructions

For the Cake
Preheat an oven to 350°F. Grease and flour three 8-inch round cake pans and set aside.

In the bowl of a standing mixer or other large mixing bowl, sift together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Add the softened butter. Using an electric mixer, mix on medium speed for 1 minute. Add half of the milk and mix for 2 minutes more to cream the batter. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula and add the remaining milk, eggs, and vanilla. Continue mixing on medium speed for 2 more minutes. Stir in the poppy seeds.

Divide the batter evenly among the prepared pans and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until a cake tester or toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Remove from the oven and cool in the pans on a rack for 10 minutes. Run a knife around the edge of each cake layer and turn it out onto a rack to cool thoroughly.

For the Frosting
Meanwhile, make the frosting: Using an electric mixer, beat the softened cream cheese and vanilla on medium speed for 1 minute. Turn the speed to high and mix for 1 minute. Stop the mixer, add 1 cup of the powdered sugar, and mix on low speed for 1 minute. Repeat twice, until all the powdered sugar has been added, then increase the mixer speed to high and whip for 3 minutes.

In another bowl, whip the cream until stiff, then fold it gently into the cream cheese mixture until just incorporated. Refrigerate until ready to frost the cake.

For the Filling
To make the filling: In a medium bowl, stir the strawberry jam until smooth, then gently fold in the strawberries. Set aside until ready to fill the cake.

To assemble and frost the cake: On a large cake plate, place 1 layer of the cake. Spoon one-half of the strawberry filling in the center, then spread it out to 3/4 inch from the edge. Top with 1 cup of the frosting and spread the frosting to 3/4 inch from the edge. Place another layer of cake on top and repeat. Place the final layer of cake on top, then press down gently on the cake layers to stabilize them.

With a large rubber or cake spatula, mound half of the remaining frosting on the top of the cake. Spread the other half around the sides of the cake, covering up all cake and swirling the frosting decoratively. Smooth out the frosting on the top of the cake. Let the frosting dry a little before garnishing the cake.

For the Garnish
Stem the garnish berries, and cut in half lengthwise. Place, cut sides down, around the top edge of the cake. Arrange any extra strawberries in a small pattern in the middle of cake. Refrigerate the cake until ready to serve.

Chef's Tips: Bakeries often freeze their cake layers before filling and frosting them, as doing so is easier when the cake is really firm. Generally, by the time you have finished frosting the cake, it has defrosted and is ready to eat.

Chef Kathy Casey is a food, beverage and restaurant concept consultant and food writer based in Seattle, Washington, USA. She owns Kathy Casey Food Studios®, a consulting and special events venue, and co-owns with husband John Casey her café and specialty food concept, Dish D'Lish®. This recipe is from Dishing with Kathy Casey: Food, Fun & Cocktails from Seattle’s Culinary Diva, Sasquatch Books, Seattle. Copyright © 2002 by Kathy Casey.

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