This birthday cake basically tastes like the best chocolate strawberry Hostess Suzy-Q you ever did have—and I mean that in a good way. The cake is one-bowl and deeply chocolate-y. It is tender and moist and crumbles a bit as you take each bite. And the frosting is fluffy and fruity and light. The lemon juice in the frosting amps up the flavor of the strawberries, and a drop of red food coloring though optional, will brighten the color, if you so desire. This cake is unabashedly pink and it is one of my younger son’s absolute faves for his b-day. But I’m thinking it’d be just as lovely for Valentine’s Day. —Jessie Sheehan
16 to 20
For the cake
cake flour, sifted
Dutch Process Cocoa Powder
packed light brown sugar
1 3/4 teaspoons
egg, room temperature
egg yolks, room temperature, save the whites for the frosting
pure vanilla extract
sour cream, room temperature
For the frosting
sliced strawberries, plus more for decorating
plus 2 tablespoons, granulated sugar
cream of tartar
light corn syrup
1 1/2 teaspoons
lemon juice, or more to taste
In This Recipe
For the cake
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease a 13-by-9-by-2-in pan with nonstick cooking spray or softened butter and line with parchment paper.
Add the flour, cocoa powder, brown sugar, granulated sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment; mix on low speed until well combined.
In a small bowl, or in a large 4-cup liquid measuring cup (my preference), add the egg, egg yolks, vanilla, oil, and sour cream and whisk until combined. With the mixer on medium-low speed, slowly pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. Beat until incorporated, scraping down the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed.
In the same small bowl/measuring cup, no need to clean it, combine the boiling water and espresso powder and add to the batter in the mixer bowl. Mix again on medium speed for 30 seconds, until smooth, scraping the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed. The batter will be quite thin
Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 28 to 32 minutes, rotating at the halfway point. The cake is ready when a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out with a moist crumb or two. Let cool completely in the pan. Or let cool enough so you can comfortably handle it, and invert the cake on to a serving plate to continue cooling. If you would rather serve slices directly from the pan, let cool to room temp before frosting.
For the frosting
In a food processor fitted with the metal blade, or in a blender, process the berries until pureed. Place a sieve over a small bowl, pour the puree into the sieve, and using a rubber spatula, press the puree through the sieve to remove the seeds. Set aside.
Add the egg whites, sugar, corn syrup, cream of tartar, and salt in the now-cleaned bowl of the stand mixer and nestle it in a saucepan of simmering water over medium-high heat. Donot allow the bottom of the bowl to touch the water. Whisk until the mixture is just warm to the touch. Remove the bowl from the heat, add the puree and transfer it to the stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Mix on high speed until stiff and glossy, about 7 minutes. Add the lemon juice and whisk a final time to combine.
Once the cake is cool, generously frost it and sprinkle the top with pink sanding sugar. The frosted cake is best served within a few hours with a few sliced strawberries on each plate - or, a scoop of strawberry ice cream - I mean this is a birthday cake, after all.
Jessie Sheehan is a cookbook author, food writer, recipe developer, and baker. She is the author of The Vintage Baker and the co-author of Icebox Cakes (both published by Chronicle Books). She has developed recipes for many cookbooks, besides her own, and has contributed recipes/and or written for Epicurious, Food52, Fine Cooking, TASTE, Little Sous, and Main Street Magazine, among others. She blogs at jessie sheehan bakes and can be found on Instagram at @jessiesheehanbakes. She likes layer cakes with lots of frosting and cookies that are thick and chewy. Oh, and she has a soft spot for chocolate pudding. She lives in Red Hook, Brooklyn, with her husband and two boys, not far from her beloved Baked, the bakery where she got her start.