My sweet niece requested Strawberry (of course) Cake for her 12th birthday (yes, it kills me she is now 12). The year before, for her 11th birthday, I made the Triple Decker Strawberry Cake and she loved it. She is now conflicted since she also loves this cake.
I like the icing on this cake the best--strawberries, coconut, and pecans, perfection.
Solid vegetable shortening, for greasing the pans
Flour for dusting the pans
1 package (18.25 ounces) plain white cake mix
1 package (3 ounces) strawberry gelatin
1 cup mashed fresh strawberries with juice (1 ½ cups whole berries)
1 cup vegetable oil, such as canola, corn, safflower, soybean, or sunflower
½ cup of whole milk
4 large eggs
1 cup of frozen unsweetened grated coconut, thawed
½ cup chopped pecans
Strawberry Cream Cheese Frosting
1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, at room temperature
8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter, at room temperature
3 ½ cups confectioners' sugar, sifted
¾ cup fresh ripe strawberries, rinsed, capped, and mashed to make ½ cup, then drained well
½ cup frozen unsweetened grated coconut, thawed
½ cup of chopped pecans
What you do:
Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Lightly grease three 9-inch round cake pans with solid vegetable shortening, then dust with flour. Shake out the excess flour. Set the pans aside.
Place the cake mix, strawberry gelatin, mashed strawberries and juice, oil, milk, and eggs in a large mixing bowl and blend with an electric mixer on low speed for 1 minute. Stop the machine and scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Increase the mixer speed to medium and beat for 2 minutes more, scraping down the sides down again if needed. The strawberries should be well blended into the batter. Fold in the coconut and the pecans. Divide the batter among the prepared pans and place them in the oven; if your oven is not large enough, place two pans on the center of the highest rack.
Bake the cakes until they are light brown and just starting to pull away from the sides of the pan, 28 to 30 minutes. Be careful not to overcook the layer on the highest rack oven. Remove the pans from the oven and place them on wire racks to cool for 10 minutes. Run a dinner knife around the edge of each layer and invert each onto the rack, the invert again onto another rack so that the cakes are right side up. Allow them to cool completely, 30 minutes more.
Meanwhile, prepare the frosting. Combine the cream cheese and butter in a medium bowl with an electric mixer on low speed for about 30 seconds. Stop the machine and add the sugar and drained strawberries. Blend the frosting on low until the sugar has been incorporated. Then raise the speed to medium and mix the frosting another minute or until the frosting lightens and is well combined. Fold in the coconut and the pecans.
To assemble, place one cake layer, right side up, on a serving platter. Spread the top with frosting. Add another cake layer, right side up, and frost the top. Repeat this process with the third layer and frost the top. Use the remaining frosting to frost the sides, working with clean, smooth stroke. Serve at once or chill the cake for later serving.
* Place this cake, uncovered, in the refrigerator until the frosting sets, 20 minutes. Cover the cake with waxed paper and store in the refrigerator, for up to one week. Or freeze it, wrapped in aluminum foil, for up to 6 months. Thaw the cake overnight in the refrigerator before serving.