Strawberry Brownie Layer Cake

Remember how on Sunday I alluded to baking a cake instead of studying diligently over the weekend? Well, this is that cake. I don’t do layer cakes very often, as they usually require too much fuss, but of course when I’m slammed with studying, I venture into the realm of cake baking. Granted, if you’re going to make a layer cake, this is definitely one of your easiest options! Naked cakes are all the rage these days (just check out Style Me Pretty and the loads of beautiful un-frosted wedding cakes) and nothing looks better naked than layers of brownie cake, freshly whipped cream, and some of the season’s first and sweetest strawberries.

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Although frosted cakes are undoubtedly beautiful, they can certainly be intimidating and very technique sensitive. When I have ample time and patience, there’s nothing more rewarding than a smoothly frosted cake. But when there are random facts to be memorized and not a lot of time, I am 100% open to the idea of an unfrosted cake. This way you can see all the beautiful layers without even cutting into the cake, and the components really get to shine. Believe it or not this cake was actually very easy to put together too. I baked one batch of dark chocolate brownies into three 6″ cake pans and used a simple sweetened whipped cream to layer the brownies with sliced strawberries. A quick ganache went on top to help secure the crown of strawberries to finish it all off. This is also a great dessert to skip a few steps if you want – use boxed brownies instead of from scratch or cool whip instead of fresh whipped cream and the result will still be beautiful and tasty!

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What really drove me to make this cake was the fact that I was dying to load up on strawberries. The strawberries in stores are finally starting to taste like actual strawberries, not just watery fruits, and I really wanted to showcase them in this dessert. Their red color adds a lot of pizzazz to this cake, but the sweetness and freshness of the berries also help balance out the deep, dark brownie layers and the whipped cream keeps everything light and not too rich. Strawberries and whipped cream make a great combination, as do chocolate-covered strawberries of course, so it doesn’t come as a surprise that this chocolate, strawberry, whipped cream cake is such a hit!

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I realize bikini season is around the corner and a brownie layer cake might not be the most appropriate food to be sharing as temperatures rise, but with Mother’s Day coming up and plenty of picnics and barbecues, everyone needs a little treat. So even if you have a massive board exam coming up, I promise that you can still make this cake and enjoy it that much more.

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Strawberry Brownie Layer Cake

Yield: 1 6" cake

Ingredients:

for the brownie layers:

12 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
1 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3 large eggs
1 egg yolk
2 tsp vanilla
1 cup cocoa powder (I used Hershey's Special Dark)
1/3 cup all purpose flour

for the stabilized whipped cream:

1 cup heavy whipping cream
2 tbsp vanilla or white chocolate instant pudding mix

for the topping:

4 oz semisweet chocolate, roughly chopped
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
1 pound strawberries

Directions:

for the brownie layers:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and spray 3 6" cake pans with non-stick cooking spray. Set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat together the melted butter and sugars until smooth and creamy, about 2 minutes. Add the eggs and egg yolks one at a time and beat, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Add the vanilla and beat until well incorporated.

With the mixer on low speed, add the cocoa powder and flour and mix until incorporated. Divide the batter equally among the three prepared cake pans and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean. You want to be careful not to overbake your brownie layers or else they will be too difficult to slice through in the cake. Allow brownies to cool in the pans for 5 minutes, then invert onto wire cooling racks to cool completely.

for the stabilized whipped cream:

Chill your electric mixer bowl and whisk attachment before using. Once chilled, whip the whipping cream on high speed until peaks form. Reduce the speed to medium, add the pudding mix, then increase the speed again to high and whip until stiff peaks form. Store in the fridge until ready to assemble cake.

for the topping and assembly:

To make the ganache, place the chopped chocolate in a small bowl and set aside. Heat the whipping cream in a small saucepan over medium heat until it JUST begins to bubble. Pour the heated cream over the chocolate and whisk until completely smooth. Chill ganache in the fridge for about 10 minutes to allow it to slightly set.

For assembly, place first brownie layer on desired serving plate and cover with half of the whipped cream. Cover with a layer of sliced strawberries. Add a dollop of whipped cream in the center on top of the strawberries to help the next layer of brownie adhere to the strawberries. Repeat again with the next layer of brownies, whipped cream, and strawberries.

Place the last brownie layer on top and cover with ganache. Use an offset spatula to spread the ganache evenly over the top of the cake. Then arrange the rest of your sliced strawberries on top as desired. Transfer cake to the fridge for at least 30 minutes to allow the ganache to set, and keep cake chilled until ready to serve.

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