Strawberry Birthday Cake for my Kelly's 21st!

Kelly, the birthday girl
The things we do for the ones we love.  We landed after midnight and hit the pillows around 1:30 a.m. and by 12:30 p.m. (just 11 hours later) we've baked a cake, gone to the grocery, wrapped gifts, made guacamole, put baked beans in the oven, made and baked mac and cheese, prepped fruit and veggies, made icing and frosted a cake before the entire Rogers clan gathered to celebrate Kelly's birthday.  Kelly is our oldest, the oldest grandchild and most importantly the oldest cousin (something akin to rockstar status).  Kelly will be 21 in a matter of hours.  I am fairly certain Kelly is more freaked out about this than even her parents.  She has waited as all of her pledge sisters have turned 21 before her and now it's finally her turn.  Purdue University actually sent her a birthday card emphasizing the finer points of celebrating safely.  Nice touch.  Hopefully, she'll pace herself and survive to enjoy the rest of Grand Prix week (good timing).  I was always working on Grand Prix (and we all know I was not the fun half of "Greg and Kristin" at Purdue) so I can share no wisdom on celebrating the momentous occasion of turning 21 on campus.  I turned 21 and less than 6 months later I was married.  How my parents never showed their own freaked-outedness, I will never know.

Just before we left for St. Croix, Kelly volunteered that she could come home to celebrate on Sunday after we returned so I did have time to pick out a cake recipe with her and make sure I at least had ingredients for her cake waiting at home.  Kelly creatively requested a strawberry cake with cream cheese icing.  You know, like the raspberry one we've had and no I did not know but I did remember a lovely raspberry cake with buttercream icing that my best friend, Susan bought for me last summer.  Kelly had a good twist in mind.  A little google search later and I found a recipe from Paula Deen using a boxed cake mix, a box of jello and frozen sweetened strawberries.  None of those things naturally occur in my kitchen, but Kelly and I were sure Paula Deen would not steer us wrong.  That girl knows her desserts.  I did find a scratch recipe, but as it turns out the cake mix version saved me.  Because with all the things I needed to do that morning to pull off the party, sleeping in until almost 9 a.m. was not one of them.  But, indeed I rolled over and looked at my clock and had a moment or two of panic.  I am one of those people who can accomplish the same work in 3 hours or 6 hours, able to fill whatever time I have available.  And I had a bit of luck on my side, Sara was already awake and ready to help at the grocery and it was an unbelievably beautiful and warm (hot, even) day so we could all be outside.  Greg quickly moved all the patio furniture outside and even built two new chaise lounges while we scrambled inside.

So, back to the delicious cake.  Paula did me right.  I used sugar free strawberry jello and that was my only substitution for the cake ingredients.  I did not use a recipe for the cream cheese icing.  That's pretty easy just to "wing it" and since it was so warm and I was just home from somewhere near the equator, I thought lemon cream cheese icing would be especially yummy with the strawberry cake.  Good guess.  Just perfect.  I have one big hunk left in the fridge after serving it to our chocolate-loving family (sorry, chocolate cake is never requested by any one of the four of us for our special days) and sending four pieces to the Theta house with the birthday girl.  So, don't be a cake snob (generally guilty, no problem eating cake but it better be worth it and preferably from scratch) and give it a try.  I'm thinking these would be very cute and yummy cupcakes too.

Strawberry Cake with Lemon Cream Cheese Icing

1 box white cake mix
1 3-ounce box sugar free strawberry-flavored instant gelatin
1 15-ounce box or tub frozen sweetened strawberries, thawed and pureed (mine were in a tub from Target)
4 large eggs
1/2 C vegetable oil
1/4 C water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray two 9-inch round cake pans with cooking spray.
In a large bowl (stand mixer bowl is easiest) combine cake mix and gelatin.  Add pureed strawberries (I used my stick blender), eggs, oil and water and beat at medium speed until well blended.  Scrape sides and bottom of bowl and beat a little faster for another minute our so.
Pour into prepared pans and tap on counter to remove air bubbles.  Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a tester in the center comes out clean.  Cool 5-10 minutes on a wire rack, run knife around edges and invert onto cooling rack to cool completely.

4 T softened unsalted butter
1 8-ounce package reduced fat cream cheese (use regular if you desire, but never use fat free, ever)
3-4 C confectioner's sugar
1/2 tsp lemon oil or lemon extract or juice of one lemon and 1 tsp lemon zest

Cream butter and cream cheese until smooth.  Add confectioner's sugar starting at a very low speed and then whipping on high until fluffy.  Beat in lemon flavoring choice to taste (you may need more lemon goodness).

Place one cake on your serving plate and spread with a generous layer of icing for the filling.  Top with remaining cake.  Heap the frosting on top and use an offset spatula to spread across top and down sides.  Chill until serving.  Store in refrigerator up to 3 days.

lighting candles on a breezy day

cake model

cousins: Jacob, Sara, Kate, Kelly, Marnie, Sophia and Madelyn


  1. Whew! If anyone could pull this off, it would be you! Hope you slowed down enough to enjoy they day!


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