Fresh and floral, this strawberry forward cake is enhanced with some lemon zest and rosewater that bring out a delicate, elegant sweet strawberry taste. Cream cheese buttercream and a strawberry rose sauce enhance the cake’s flavors in the best way.
This cake has my heart in a way I did not know was possible. Sometimes I create recipes with others in mind rather than myself; like with funfetti bakes (but my daughter is, and I know many others out there are) and I kind of feel the same about rosewater; I’ll tolerate it but it’s not my favorite.
But something amazing happened when I used it in this cake. I had seen this recipe and it spurred the idea to create a combination of rose and strawberry (and lemon, there’s gotta be lemon). I always have a bottle of rosewater (and orange blossom) in my pantry, because what kind of Arab would I be without it, but I rarely use it. Here was an opportunity.
I made the jam/reduction/sauce whatever you want to call it first and swiped some for a taste. I thought, well this is quite nice. Then I baked it up with the cake (with big strawberry chunks) and used some strawberry kefir (I usually buy plain but Lily requested this one). The cake was a mess (thanks to the giant berries that sank to the bottom) but it was so delicately sweet, berryfull and just… I couldn’t believe how light and sweet all those flavors were together.
I remade it (pureed the sauce this time) and, well it might be one of my favorite cakes ever. I can see this as a wedding cake for someone; it’s got an elegance to it, makes me feel like I’m in a fresh, spring garden.
Strawberry Rose Cake Ingredients
Strawberries: Fresh or frozen is fine. Use red berries not white, they’ll have the best flavor.
Rosewater: This can be found in persian or middle eastern markets but i’ve also seen it at whole foods. Don’t skip it.
Lemon: Some zest for the cake and juice and zest for the sauce.
Strawberry Kefir: Trader Joes sells this and Lifeway make a variety, if you absolutely cannot find it I bet you can get your hands on some strawberry yogurt (but not the overly sweetened kind) – thin it out a bit with some water.
Cake Flour: Made from a different wheat than most all purpose flours and more finely ground this yields a very tender structure, perfect for a cake. In a pinch make your own with all purpose flour and some cornstarch.
Butter & oil: I like using a combination of these because butter makes a cake taste good, allows for more air to be incorporated so you get a fluffier cake but oil keeps it moist. Canola, vegetable or grapeseed or even avocado oil are fine here. Coconut, refined, could work as well.
Vanilla: Pure vanilla extract, paste or even a scraped vanilla bean.
Tapioca flour/starch: If you haven’t yet used this stuff, you’re going to want to. Tapioca starch does all the things cornstarch does but without the chalky after-taste.
How to make Strawberry Rose Cake: the Quick Guide
Make strawberry rose reduction (10 minutes), puree into a sauce when cool
Make cake batter (10 minutes)
Layer sauce with batter and swirl
Bake (30-40 minutes)
Make buttercream (10 minutes)
Spread buttercream on top of cooled cake, swirling with more sauce
Strawberry Rose Cake
Light strawberry cake swirled with a strawberry rose reduction.
In a pot, toss together the strawberries (stems removed, no need to slice them), sugar, lemon zest and juice and tapioca starch. Turn heat to medium low and cook for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally as the strawberries soften. Smaller berries will burst, that’s ok.
When the sauce thickens and all the berries are either dissolved or very soft, remove from heat and add the rose water. Set aside to cool then puree. It should be completely cool before using in the cake.
Make the cake:
Preheat the oven to 350 F. Line a greased square metal pan, 8”x8 or 9”x9 with parchment paper (or use a brownie pan).
In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat together the butter, oil, sugar, salt, and lemon zest. While the mixer is running, add the vanilla and rose water. Let it beat for a full five minutes, until nice and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time and beat until well combined. Add the flour and while the mixer is on low, drizzle in the kefir. Beat until batter is just smooth.
Dollop some of the cake batter into the bottom of the pan then spoon some of the strawberry reduction in and use an offset spatula (or butterknife) to swirl it in.
Dollop more cake batter and repeat. The idea is to layer and swirl the reduction into the cake batter. Make sure you have some sauce for the very top of the cake.
Bake for 40 minutes, or until the top springs back when poked (or a cake tester comes out clean). Let cool completely before frosting.
Make the buttercream:
Press the cream cheese and butter together in a bowl with a rubber spatula until smooth - the idea is to remove any lumps. Add the vanilla and salt and beat with a stand or hand mixer to combine. Add the powdered sugar and beat until smooth. Buttercream can be made ahead of time and stored in the fridge for 3 days. Let it come to room temperature before spreading on the cake. If it’s lumpy, add a bit of milk (or strawberry kefir) and stir with a rubber spatula until smooth.
Assemble the cake:
Spread the buttercream over the cake and dollop some more strawberry sauce on top. Swirl it in for a pretty effect. Top with fresh strawberries and dried rose petals.
Cake will keep in the fridge for up to 3 days.
This makes enough for a ‘snack cake’ so, a 8x8 or 9x9” cake pan. Could also work in a 9” round. If you want to make a sheet cake use a 9x13” cake pan and double the recipe. If you want to make this as a layer cake, double the recipe and bake it either in three six” round pans (3” tall pans) or two 8 or 9” round cake tins.
You’ll likely have more Strawberry Rose sauce than you need so feel free to halve it if you can’t think of another use (or don’t want it on ice cream, toast or.. Anything you want to make yummier).