Prep Time: 1 hour
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour, 30 minutes
Yield: 8-12 Servings
- 16 ounces frozen whole strawberries (2 cups)
- 3/4 cup milk, room temperature
- 6 large egg whites, room temperature
- 2 tsp. vanilla extract
- 2 1/4 cups cake flour
- 1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
- 4 tsp. baking powder
- 1 tsp. salt
- 12 Tbsp. unsalted butter, cut into 12 pieces and softened
Cheese Frosting Ingredients:
- 2 (8 oz.) bricks cream cheese, softened
- 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
- 2 tsp. vanilla extract
- 6-8 cups powdered sugar
1 (16 oz.) bag conversation hearts
Transfer strawberries to bowl, cover, and microwave until strawberries are soft and have released their juice, about 5-7 minutes, stirring once halfway through. Place strawberries in a fine-mesh strainer set over small saucepan. Firmly press fruit dry (juice should measure at least 3/4 cup); discard strawberry solids. Bring juice to boil over medium-high heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until syrupy and reduced to 1/4 cup, 6 to 8 minutes.
Whisk together strawberry juice, milk, egg whites, and vanilla in bowl, and set aside.
Using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt on low speed until combined. Add butter, 1 piece at a time, and mix until only pea-size pieces remain, about 1 minute. Add half of strawberry mixture, increase speed to medium-high, and beat until light and fluffy, about 1 minute. Reduce speed to medium-low, add remaining milk mixture, and beat until incorporated, about 30 seconds. Give batter final stir by hand, being sure to mix in any clumps on the bottom of the pan.
Scrape equal amounts of batter into two prepared 9-inch round pans, and bake until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes, rotating pans halfway through baking. (Or if using 6-inch round pans, pour 2 cups of batter into each prepared pan, bake until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, baking 25 to 30 minutes.) Cool cakes in pans on wire rack for 10 minutes. Remove cakes from pans, discarding parchment, and cool completely, about 2 hours.
Use a knife or a cake leveler to level out the cakes so that they are perfectly flat. Then add a thick and even layer of frosting on top of the first cake, and set the second cake on top. Continue to frost the entire cake with a very thin layer of frosting for the "crumb coat" (to seal in the crumbs). Then go back over the entire cake and frost with a thicker layer of frosting for the final coat. Layer with conversation hearts, beginning at the bottom and working your way to the top and center. (**You will want to work as quickly as possible so that the frosting stays moist for sticking.**)
Serve immediately, or store in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
To Make The Frosting:
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix the cream cheese and butter on medium speed until smooth. Add the sugar and vanilla and mix at low speed until combined. If you need to thicken the frosting, add more powdered sugar. If you need to thin, add a teaspoon or two of milk.