February 17, 2014

A (somewhat belated) Happy Valentine's Day to You

It was a little late, but I got into the full-blown Valentine's spirit this weekend.

While Vivek went to pick up our Chinese take-out Saturday night, I whisked our Christmas decorations into the spare room (shhhh! don't tell) and whipped up a quick string of construction paper hearts on kitchen twine to hang across our fireplace. A vase full of tulips on top the mantel, courtesy of a friend who'd visited earlier in the day, completed the simple but oh-so-festive look.

Then, tonight (it's still Valentine's weekend, right?) -- I finally made my pink-frosted cake.

At some point when I was young, my mom made a pink-frosted cake at Valentine's Day in the shape of a heart, complete with gummy heart candies on top. With so much chocolate candy around, I kind of doubt I appreciated that cake as I should have then -- but man, have I been wanting one lately!

I needed, however, to make some alterations. I'm not likely to use food coloring for much else, so I set on strawberries, hoping they'd provide the right shade of pink. And my doctor's been after me to cut back on sugary candy (I have a weakness for things like gummy hearts, orange slices and red licorice), so I decided to skip the extra sweets on top. (Why I was concerned about the candy garnish and not the 16 ounces of sugar that go into the frosting anyway is beyond me.) Finally, if I'd made the cake in time for the Big Day, I might have gone to the trouble of creating the heart shape. But as I only got to baking in time for President's day, I decided on a straight-up layer cake.

Baking the cake was easy (nothing beats a boxed yellow cake, right?) -- so I just needed to figure out how to get my strawberries into the icing. I found a few recipes for strawberry buttercream frosting that called for syrup, but I was determined to use real strawberries -- and I found one recipe using real strawberries, but the ratios looked off. So I decided to wing it.

The result? Pretty tasty cake, if I must say so. It does have a rustic look, since I used the full puree, seeds and all. But the fresh strawberry taste -- even with just a handful of strawberries mixed in -- makes for one sweet treat.

Pink frosting on a yellow cake with pink tea towel and red kettle nearby.
Turns out you only need a few strawberries to pull this together. (I froze the puree I couldn't use tonight.) And while I think this recipe's probably adaptable to whatever's in your fridge, I'll note that I used full-fat milk and real Clover butter.

Happy Valentine's Day!

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Strawberry Buttercream Frosting
(frosts one layer cake)

1 lb. confectioner's sugar
1 stick of butter, softened (1/2 c.)
4-5 large strawberries (enough to make 3 T. puree)
a few drops of milk

Cream together the sugar and butter. While the mixer's running, cap and puree the strawberries.

Add the strawberry puree to the butter-sugar mixture 1/2 tablespoon at a time and mix until well blended. Add puree until the icing seems just about ready to spread, and then add a few drops of milk to smooth it out.