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Thanksgiving Turkey Cake

I can’t believe Thanksgiving is this week!!!! Since I am a pie novice, of course I wanted to make a cake to celebrate T-Day. I was inspired by the turkey cake Baked by Dan made on one of his Food Network livestreams. This cute little turkey cake is made with colorful swirled pumpkin cake layers, and is covered in milk chocolate ganache. I’m sure some of you are thinking, “pumpkin, and chocolate??” Trust me on this one, it’s a surprisingly delicious combination. The recipe and tutorial can be found below:

Pumpkin Cake Batter:

  • 3 1/4 cup (416 grams) all purpose flour
  • 3 cups (600 grams) granulated sugar
  • 2 1/2 tsp (13 grams) baking powder
  • 1 tsp (5 grams) salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 cup unsalted butter or 2 sticks (226 grams), room temperature
  • 2 tsp. (9 grams) vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup egg whites (183 grams) – about 5 large egg whites; I use egg whites from the carton to avoid wasting egg yolks
  • 1 1/2 cups (360 grams) buttermilk, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup of pumpkin puree (I used canned pumpkin for this)
  • yellow, orange, and red food coloring

Milk Chocolate Ganache:

  • 23 oz. (652 grams) milk chocolate chips (I use Hershey’s)
  • 1 cup + 1 tsp (230 grams) heavy cream

Additional Decorations:

  • red, orange and yellow fondant (I use the Satin Ice brand – I think it tastes best of all the premade fondant!)
  • 1 set of jumbo eye sprinkles, or eyes made with black and white fondant
  • piping bag
  • kitchen scale (for ganache)

Instructions:

The milk chocolate ganache needs a few hours to firm up before you can you cover the cake, so I like to make it in advance (usually the night before)! Note that if you want to use dark chocolate instead of milk chocolate, you will need to use more cream (weight ratio of dark chocolate to heavy cream is 2:1, milk chocolate is 3:1)

To make the ganache,  place chocolate chips or chopped chocolate into a bowl. In a separate bowl, heat heavy cream at a medium heat until it just begins to bubble (watch very carefully, heavy cream can bubble over in the blink of an eye!!). Pour over the chocolate. Let the mixture sit for about 2 minutes without touching it, then stir until fully incorporated. If there are still lumps of chocolate, heat the bowl for 15 seconds and then stir again; continue until no lumps remain. Once the mixture is nice and smooth, place plastic wrap over the top of the ganache, and let it sit overnight.

The fondant accents also need to be made in advance, so they can dry. Roll out colored fondant to be 1/4 of an inch thick, and cut out feather shaped pieces (mine looked like giant tear drops) that are about 4 inches long. Use circle cutters to make cartoon fondant eyes, and shape a beak, two turkey feet, and a gobble. Set aside to dry.

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Next, prepare the pumpkin cake layers. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease and line four 7″ round pans.

Mix together all dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt) in a stand mixer with a paddle until fully combined.

Mix chunks of room-temperature butter slowly into the dry mix, on a low speed. Continue to mix until no large chunks of butter remain, and the mixture becomes crumbly.

Pour in egg whites, and mix on low until just incorporated.  Mix in the buttermilk in two installments, on a low speed. Add in vanilla and pumpkin puree, and mix at a low speed until just incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula, then beat on medium speed for about 30 seconds. Divide batter between three bowls, coloring them yellow, orange, and red with gel food coloring. Add spoonfuls of batter into the pans, then tap them on the counter to flatten the batter. Swirl together using a butter knife (full tutorial on how to make swirled layers here).

Bake for 37-38 minutes for 7 inch cake pans (or until a skewer comes out clean). Allow to cool for 10 minutes, then run an offset spatula around perimeter of the pan to separate the cake from the pan. Place cake layers on a rack to finish cooling.

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To assemble the cake, cover cake layers with a generous layer of ganache, and stack vertically. Add a thick, even layer of ganache around the cake using an offset spatula. Smooth using a bench scraper. You can see a full tutorial on how to frost a cake with smooth sides here.

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Place remaining ganache into a piping back, and pipe wings half way up the sides of the cake. Next, add on the facial features to the front of the cake. Secure the feathers to the back of the cake, using additional tabs of ganache. Once the entire back fan of feathers is in place, trim remaining feathers and gently insert into the top of the cake neat the other feathers. I found the cutting a slit into the top of the cake with a small knife made this process much easier.

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As fun as this cake is to build, it’s even more fun to cut into!! The swirled layers contrast beautifully against the chocolate ganache, and the pumpkin / chocolate flavor combo is a real crowd pleaser. It’s perfect for kids, and the adults don’t seem to mind it either 🙂

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Chocolate Red Wine Cupcakes

I know, red wine AND dark chocolate?? WHAT?? This is one combo you’re just going to have to trust me on. The deep flavors of the dark chocolate and red wine pair surprisingly well together, and it’s just an added bonus that you can pour yourself a glass of the leftover red wine while making these. This recipe is perfect for these chilly fall evenings, and for the Holiday season! The full recipe can be found below:

Chocolate Red Wine Cupcake Batter (inspired by Sally’s amazing chocolate cupcake recipe):

  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 2/3 cup  granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup your favorite red wine (I used a bottle of cabernet sauvignon)
  • 1/4 cup buttermilk, room temperature

Red Wine Buttercream:

  • 2 sticks of unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 4 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp heavy cream
  • 1 Tbsp red wine
  • red and black gel food coloring

Dark Chocolate Red Wine Ganache:

  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 3/4 cup chopped dark chocolate
  • 1 Tbsp red wine

Yield: 12 cupcakes

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Bake Time: 19-20 minutes

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F, and line cupcake tins with 12 liners.

Begin by making the red wine chocolate cupcake batter. Add dry ingredients into a bowl, and whisk together. Combine buttermilk, eggs, wine, and oil in a separate bowl, and mix into the dry ingredients in two installments. Stir until the ingredients are fully combined, then scoop equal amounts into liners using a cookie scoop (fill about 1/2 way, they will rise!). Bake for 19-20 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool in the pan for about 10 minutes before placing on a wire rack.

While the cupcakes bake and cool, prepare the red wine frosting. Beat the butter on a medium speed for 30 seconds with a paddle attachment, until smooth. Slowly add in the powdered sugar, 1 cup at a time. Add the cream and red wine during this process.  Once fully mixed, add in the vanilla and salt, and beat on medium low until the ingredients are fully incorporated, and the desired consistency is reached. Add a few squirts of red gel food coloring, and the smallest drop of black gel food coloring. Mix until the color is evenly distributed, and is a deep red shade. Place into a piping bag fitted with a Wilton 1M tip.

Next, prepare the red wine chocolate ganache. Place chopped dark chocolate and heavy cream into a heat proof bowl, and heat in microwave for 30 seconds at full heat. Stir, then heat for an additional 30 seconds. Stir again, then heat for 15 seconds. Let the mixture sit for about 1 minute, then stir until smooth. Add in the red wine, then set aside.

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Remove the centers from the fully cooled cupcakes using a 1 inch circle cutter or cupcake corer. Fill the center fully with a spoonful of red wine chocolate ganache.

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Frost with a large swirl of red wine frosting. Warm up any leftover ganache for 30 seconds to make it more fluid, then drizzle the leftover ganache over the top of the cupcakes.

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I also added a wine shaped pipette into the cupcakes, filled with wine. Because you can never have too much wine 😛

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Spooky Vampire Bat Cake

As we get closer to Halloween, my mind is completely filled with Halloween-themed cake ideas!! This vampire bat cake is made with my favorite chocolate layer cake recipe, frosted with my black buttercream frosting, and has a strawberry “blood” filling!! This cake is just as spooky as it is silly 🙂 The full recipe can be found below, along with a quick tutorial:

Recipes:

Bake four, seven inch chocolate cake rounds. While the cake layers bake and cool, make the bat’s wings and facial features. Use circle cutters to create the eyes, and wings. Insert wooden skewers or tooth picks into the wings, to make it easier to secure them onto the cake. Place the fondant details onto parchment paper to dry.

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Once fully cooled, use a 3 inch circle cutter to remove the centers of two of the layers. Begin assembling the cake using an uncut cake layer. Frost with an even layer of vanilla buttercream, then top with one of the cake layers. Gently frost the cake ring, the stack with the other cut layer. Spread an even layer of buttercream on top of the second cake ring, then smooth frosting into the cut-out center of the cake.

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Mix one squirt of red gel food coloring into the strawberry jam, and then carefully pour into the center of the cake. Fill to the top, then place the last cake layer on top. Cover the cake in a thin crumb coat, and chill in the freezer or fridge for about 5 minutes. Once the crumb coat is firm to the touch, add a second, thicker layer of frosting using the black chocolate buttercream. Smooth using a bench scraper. You can see a full tutorial on how to frost a cake with smooth sides here.

Add facial features onto the side of the cake, and insert the wings 2/3 of the way up the cake, on each side of the face.

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Then gather everyone around for the dramatic cut!!! The strawberry jam will begin oozing out as soon as you remove the first slice, so be prepared!

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Cinnamon Fireball Cupcakes

I had my first taste of fireball when I was 19, and it had a lasting impression. It’s a flavored whiskey liquor that tastes just like a liquid red hot. For some reason I’ve always associated fireball with the Fall, so it seemed like the right time to whip up some fireball-inspired cinnamon cupcakes! There’s fireball in both the cupcake batter, and the buttercream frosting, and the cupcakes are topped with a fireball pipette. The full recipe can be found below:

Fireball Cinnamon Cupcake Batter:

  • 1 1/4 cup (162g) all purpose flour
  • 1 cup (212g) sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup (120ml) buttermilk
  • 1/4 cup (60ml) vegetable oil
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup fireball

Fireball Buttercream Frosting:

  • 2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 Tbsp. fireball
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • optional: yellow and orange gel food coloring

Yield: 12-14 regular cupcakes, about 40 mini cupcakes

Prep time: 10 minutes

Bake time: 17 minutes for regular cupcakes, 9-10 minutes for mini cupcakes

Preheat oven to 350°F (175°C) and place cupcake liners in baking pans.

Add the flour, sugar, cinnamon, baking powder and salt to a large mixer bowl and gently mix. Add the buttermilk, and gently stir until just combined. Next, add in the fireball, vanilla, and  vegetable oil, and mix until the batter comes together. Next, mix in the egg until well combined.

Fill the cupcake liners about 3/4 way full, and bake for 19 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Allow the cupcakes to cool for 5 minutes before moving them to a cooling rack to finish cooling. Once cooled, poke holes into each cupcake using a fork, and drizzle fireball (1/2 – 1 tsp per cupcake) over each cupcake.

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While the cupcakes bake and cool, prepare the vanilla frosting. Beat the butter on medium speed for 30 seconds with a paddle attachment, until smooth. Slowly add in the powdered sugar, 1 cup at a time. Add the fireball half way through. Once fully mixed, add in the vanilla and salt, and beat on medium low until the ingredients are fully incorporated, and the desired consistency is reached. If the frosting is too thick, add in some additional fireball (1 teaspoon at a time). If the frosting is too thin, add in more powdered sugar (quarter of a cup at a time).

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Color 1/2 of the frosting yellow, 1/4 orange, and leave 1/4 of the frosting uncolored. Place into piping bags fitted with a Wilton 1M tip (open star), and pipe swirls of each color onto the cupcakes. I matched the color pattern of  candy corn, but you can pipe them however you want!!

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The last step is to add a pipette of fireball into the side of each cupcake. Then it’s time to enjoy (responsibly!) 😛

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How to Make Black Buttercream Frosting

With Halloween just around the corner, I’ve been using black frosting on quite a few of my baking projects! This has led to a bunch of questions about how I get my frosting such a deep shade of black, so I’m sharing my secrets to making super black buttercream frosting! I start off using my classic american buttercream as a base, and then add my two secret ingredients: black cocoa, and gel food coloring.

I only recently discovered black cocoa, and I’m obsessed. Black cocoa has a slightly higher pH than dutch-processed cocoa (8 vs.7), and is much less acidic than natural baking cocoa (5-6). The best comparison is to think of the bittersweet, chocolaty taste of an Oreo cookie! It has a beautiful dark color, which helps build the perfect chocolaty base for this black frosting,

In terms of food coloring, gel food coloring is a must. It’s much more concentrated than liquid food coloring, so you can add less and still get the dark color you’re after! Liquid food coloring can also throw of the consistency of your frosting if you add too much. I always use the Americolor brand, which I purchase in big bottles from Amazon! A full tutorial showing how to make this frosting can be seen below:

When using this to frost my favorite vanilla layer cake recipe (which is amazing and bakes flat!!), which can be used to make four 7 inch or 8 inch cake layers, I usually make 1.5 – 2 batches, depending on how I’m decorating the cake.

Chocolate Black Buttercream Ingredients: 

  • 4 sticks or 2 cups (434 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 8 cups (907 grams) powdered sugar
  • 1/2 tsp (3 grams) salt
  • 3 Tbsp. (45 grams) heavy cream
  • 3 tsp (12 grams) vanilla
  • 1/2 cup black cocoa
  • black gel food coloring

Instructions:

Beat the butter on a medium speed for 30 seconds with a paddle attachment, until smooth. Slowly add in the powdered sugar, 1 cup at a time. Alternate with small splashes of cream. Once fully mixed, add in the vanilla and salt, and beat on medium low until the ingredients are fully incorporated, and the desired consistency is reached. If the frosting is too thick, add in cream (1 teaspoon at a time). If the frosting is too thin, add in more powdered sugar (quarter of a cup at a time). Once full mixed, add in black cocoa. Slowly incorporate, then add in a couple squirts of gel food coloring.

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NOTE: To get super dark frosting, I highly recommend making it in advance and letting it sit overnight. The color will deepen with time (this is true of other colors as well!)

And that’s all there is too it!

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Honey Lavender Buttercream Cake

I’ve wanted to make another buttercream flower cake for a while now, and decided to make one for this week’s livestream for the Food Network! I love matching my decorations with the flavor of my cakes, so I decided to make a honey lavender cake!! Lavender is such a delicate ingredient, you need just the right amount to give the cake a bright floral taste. If you add too much, you can wind up feeling like you’re eating perfume! I use dried lavender from whole foods to incorporate the flavor into the cake layers and frosting.

Honey Lavender Cake Ingredients:

  • 3 1/4 cup (416 grams) flour
  • 3 cups (600 grams) granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 2 1/2 tsp (13 grams) baking powder
  • 1 tsp (5 grams) salt
  • 1 cup unsalted butter or 2 sticks (226 grams), room temperature
  • 2 tsp. (9 grams) vanilla extract
  • 1 cup egg whites (244 grams) – about 7 large egg whites; I use egg whites from the carton to avoid wasting egg yolks
  • 1  cups (240 grams) buttermilk, room temperature
  • 1/2 whole milk
  • 1 tbsp dried lavender
  • 1/8 cup (28 grams) vegetable oil
  • purple gel food coloring (optional)

Honey Lavender Buttercream:

  • 6 sticks or 3 cups unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 12 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp  salt
  • 2 Tbsp. heavy cream, warmed and steeped with dried lavender
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 Tbsp honey

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease and line four 8” round pans, or three 9″ round pans.

Begin by placing dried lavender into a coffee filter or tea bag, secure the top with a rubber band. Heat the whole milk until it is warm to the touch, and steep the lavender bag in the milk.  Set aside, and steep for at least 10 minutes. Mix together all dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt) in a stand mixer with a paddle until fully combined.

Mix chunks of room-temperature butter slowly into the dry mix, on a low speed. Continue to mix until no large chunks of butter remain, and the mixture becomes crumbly.

Pour in egg whites, and mix on low until just incorporated.  Mix in the buttermilk, on a low speed. Remove lavender bag from milk, and add in lavender infused whole milk, vanilla, honey, and oil into the batter. Mix at a low speed until fully incorporated. Add in a couple squirts of purple gel food coloring. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula, then beat on medium high for about 30 seconds.

Divide evenly between the prepared cake pans. Bake for 35-37 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean. Allow to cool for 10 minutes, then run an offset spatula around perimeter of the pan to separate the cake from the pan. Place cake layers on a rack to finish cooling.

While the cake layers bake and cool, prepare the honey lavender buttercream (click here for tutorial). Beat the butter on a medium speed for 30 seconds with a paddle attachment, until smooth. Slowly add in the powdered sugar, 1 cup at a time. Add the lavender steeped cream (same process as used for the cake layers, but with cream) half way through.  Once fully mixed, add in the honey, vanilla and salt, and beat on medium low until the ingredients are fully incorporated, and the desired consistency is reached. If the frosting is too thick, add in cream (1 teaspoon at a time). If the frosting is too thin, add in more powdered sugar (quarter of a cup at a time).

Leave 3/4 of the frosting uncolored. With the remaining frosting, color half a few shades of green, and the half different shades of purple using gel food coloring. Place green frosting into piping bags and cut the tip to have a 1 cm opening. Place the purple frosting into piping bags with different frosting tips (Wilton 103, Wilton 104)

NOTE: If you are making frosting for a cake, it is important to mix the buttercream on low at the end of the process for a couple minutes, to get out any extra air that might have be incorporated during the mixing process. This will make it easier to get super smooth sides on your cake!

Next, prepare buttercream flowers of your choice! I made a few shades of purple buttercream, and used a Wilton 1M tip, Wilton 103, and Wilton 104 tip to pipe buttercream rosettes and buttercream roses. Once the flowers are piped, place them in the freezer until they are firm to the touch (only takes about 10 minutes).

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To assemble cake, stack layers and spread an even layer of buttercream. Add a thick drizzle of honey, and repeat with remaining layers. Add a thin crumb coat, and freeze for roughly 5 minutes, or until the frosting is firm to the touch. Apply a second, thicker layer of frosting, and smooth with a bench scraper. To see a full tutorial on how to frost a cake with smooth sides, click here. Using the green frosting, pipe tapering vertical lines of green buttercream around the base of the cake. Pipe a semicircle of purple frosting on top of the cake, and secure frozen buttercream flowers into this frosting. Start with the largest flowers in the center, then fill in the remainder of the semi circle with the smaller flowers.

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Fill in empty spaces by piping flower buds and leaves. I also used an Ateco 352 tip to pipe leaves between the flowers. Then slice, and enjoy!!

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Pink Lemonade Cake

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I felt compelled to make a pink lemonade cake before summer comes to an end! I’ve always wanted to make a strawberry cake, but really struggled getting a strong strawberry flavor in my cake layers! Most strawberry cake recipes use strawberry jello, and while I was extremely hesitant to try it, it truly is the best way to incorporate a bright, vibrant strawberry flavor into cake. You have to try it to believe it!!

I made this cake using two strawberry cake layers, and two lemon cake layers. I frosted it with a lemon buttercream, and used dehydrated lemons and fresh berries to decorate this cake.

Strawberry Cake Batter:

  • 1 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup strawberry jello mix (1/2 package)
  • 1 3/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter (1 stick), room temperature
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup egg whites (about 3 large egg whites)
  • 1/4 cup strawberry puree (I blended frozen strawberries)
  • 1/2 cups buttermilk, room temperature
  • 2 tsp. vegetable oil

Lemon Cake Batter:

  • 1 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 3/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter (1 stick), room temperature
  • 2 tsp. lemon extract
  • 1/2 cup egg whites (about 3 large egg whites)
  • 3/4 cups buttermilk, room temperature
  • 2 tsp. vegetable oil
  • zest of one lemon
  • 2 drops yellow gel food coloring

Lemon Buttercream:

  • 6 sticks (3 cups) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 12 cups powdered sugar
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 3 Tbsp. heavy cream
  • pink and yellow gel food coloring
  • 2 tsp lemon extract
  • zest of 1 large lemon

Decorations:

  • dehydrated lemon slices
  • fresh strawberries
  • fresh raspberries
  • pink sprinkles

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease and line four 7″ round pans.

First, make the lemon cake better. Mix together all dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt) in a stand mixer with a paddle until fully combined. Mix chunks of butter slowly into the dry mix on a low speed. Continue to mix until no chunks of butter remain, and the mixture becomes crumbly. Pour in egg whites, and mix on low until just incorporated.  Mix in the buttermilk in two installments, on a low speed. Add in lemon extract, lemon zest, and oil, and mix at a low speed until fully incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula, then beat on medium high for about 30 seconds.

Next, make the lemon cake better. Mix together all dry ingredients (flour, strawberry jello mix, baking powder, sugar, and salt) in a stand mixer with a paddle until fully combined. Mix chunks of butter slowly into the dry mix on a low speed. Continue to mix until no chunks of butter remain, and the mixture becomes crumbly. Pour in egg whites, and mix on low until just incorporated.  Mix in the buttermilk in two installments, on a low speed. Add in strawberry puree and oil, and mix at a low speed until fully incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula, then beat on medium high for about 30 seconds.

Divide batter evenly between the prepared cake pans, pouring half of each batter into a pan. Bake for 35-38 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean. Allow to cool for 10 minutes, then run an offset spatula around perimeter of the pan to separate the cake from the pan. Place cake layers on a rack to finish cooling.

While the layers bake, prepare the frosting. Beat the butter on high for 30 seconds with a paddle attachment, until smooth. Slowly add in the powdered sugar, 1 cup at a time. Alternate with cream, adding 1 tablespoon at a time. Once fully mixed, add in the lemon extract, lemon zest, and salt, and beat on medium low until the ingredients are fully incorporated, and the desired consistency is reached.  If the frosting is too thick, add in cream (1 teaspoon at a time). If the frosting is too thin, add in more powdered sugar (quarter of a cup at a time). Divide the frosting, place 3/4 in one bowl, and 1/4 in another. Color the bowl with 3/4 yellow using a few drops of yellow gel food coloring, and color the other bowl with pink gel food coloring.

To assemble the cake, frost each cake layer with buttercream. You can also add some of the fresh berries between each layer. Alternate yellow and pink layers, then apply a crumb coat.

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Freeze cake for 5 minutes to allow the crumb coat to set, then use remaining frosting to add a second layer of frosting using piping bags. I cut my bags to have an opening of about 1.5 cm.

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Smooth with a bench scrapper. Add fresh berries, citrus accents, and sprinkles in a semicircle around the top of the cake.

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