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Dark Chocolate Strawberry Cake

As I was thinking ahead to Valentine’s day, I reminisced on the Valentine’s day cakes I’ve made in the past. That was when I realized I made an adorable dark chocolate strawberry cake a few years back, but never shared the recipe!

As I remade this cake, I made a couple adjustments.

One notable change is how I make my strawberry buttercream, along with a slight tweak to simplify the decoration.

image of chocolate dipped strawberry cake with chocolate ganache and strawberry buttercream

But before we get into all that good stuff, let’s talk about each delicious component of this cake.

The Dark Chocolate Cake Layers

This cake is made with my small-batch chocolate cake recipe. It makes three, perfectly sized six inch cake layers.

It uses dark cocoa powder, which gives it an amazing depth of flavor.

The recipe also includes buttermilk, which makes the cake layers moist and tender.

I wanted to really pack this cake with filling, so I decided to torte the cake layers (like I did for my pink velvet cake).

To do this, you simply cut your leveled cake layer in half horizontally, to turn one cake layer into two thin cake layers.

While I level cakes all the time, I don’t torte them very often.

image of chocolate cake with strawberry buttercream and fresh strawberry filling

My layers didn’t turn out quite as even as I’d envisioned, but they still helped me accomplish my goal.

I now had 6 cake layers instead of three! This allowed me to add 5 delicious layers of filling to this cake.

The Strawberry Buttercream

As important as the cake layers are, the strawberry buttercream needed to be spot on. I wanted it to be packed with real strawberry flavor.

However, I’ve run into issues adding fresh strawberries to buttercream in the past.

These attempts have included adding a strawberry reduction, and strawberry preserves. During both attempts, my buttercream broke before I added enough to be happy with the flavor.

I also tried adding a strawberry emulsion, which made the frosting taste like a strawberry jolly rancher. It definitely wasn’t the flavor I was after.

This year I finally discovered strawberry powder. It’s made from real, freeze-dried strawberries.

image of strawberry buttercream on whisk attachment with kitchenaid mixer in the background

It adds tons of real fruit flavor into the frosting, without throwing off the consistency!

In my opinion, it’s by far and away the best way to make strawberry frosting.

I order my strawberry powder on amazon, and some health food stores carry it.

You can also find freeze dried strawberries at most grocery stores and pulverize them into a powder in a food processor.

The Cake Filling: Fresh Strawberries and Chocolate Ganache

Now for the rest of the cake filling. I wanted this cake to be bursting with dark chocolate and strawberry flavor.

To take things up a notch, I also added diced strawberries on top of the strawberry buttercream.

Then I drizzled my favorite strawberry preserves and a dark chocolate ganache over the top.

image of chocolate cake with strawberry filling

It gives every bite a ton of flavor. The dark chocolate ganache drizzle and cake layers do a great job balancing out the sweetness of the strawberry buttercream and preserves.

The Cake Decoration: Chocolate Dipped Strawberries

The final aspect of this chocolate and strawberry cake is its decoration.

With the same dark chocolate ganache drizzled inside the cake, I coated some strawberries and added a partial chocolate drip around each berry on top of the cake.

I think it gives the cake a whimsical look, and lets you know exactly what’s waiting for you inside.

image of chocolate covered strawberry cake, with chocolate drips being added to the cake with a plastic squirt bottle

I like to use a squirt bottle to add my drips, but you can also use a spoon!

If you’ve never added drips to a cake before, I cover everything you need to know about it in this post about chocolate ganache drips.

Tips for Making the Best Dark Chocolate Strawberry Cake

  • Properly measure your flour (spoon into the cup measure, then level) or use a kitchen scale.
  • Make sure your ingredients are at room temperature to help them mix together better.
  • Don’t over-mix your batter, stir until the flour is just incorporated.
  • Don’t level and torte your cake layers until they have completely cooled to room temperature.
  • Use strawberry powder to really pack your strawberry buttercream with flavor!
  • Cut your cake layers in half horizontally with a serrated knife, to create 6 thin cake layers! This allows you to pack twice as much filling into this cake.
  • Make sure your buttercream is the right consistency. This will help give your cake proper structure and make it easier to decorate.
  • If your cake layers turn out less than perfect, read my cake troubleshooting guide to see where things might’ve gone awry.
image of dark chocolate strawberry cake with slice cut

Let Me Know What You Think!

If you try this dark chocolate strawberry cake recipe, please tag me @chelsweets and use the #chelsweets so that I can see your baking!

Yield: 16

Dark Chocolate Strawberry Cake

image of chocolate cake with strawberry buttercream and fresh strawberry filling

This dark chocolate strawberry cake is made with moist, dark chocolate cake layers, real strawberry buttercream, fresh strawberries and chocolate ganache!!

Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 35 minutes
Additional Time 30 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 15 minutes

Ingredients

Dark Chocolate Cake Ingredients

  • 1 2/3 cup granulated sugar (333g)
  • 2/3 tsp baking soda (4g)
  • 1 tsp baking powder (4g)
  • 1/2 tsp salt (3g)
  • 3 large eggs, room temp (168g)
  • 2/3 cup unsalted butter, room temp (150g)
  • 2/3 cup hot water (160ml)
  • 2/3 cup buttermilk, room temp (160ml)
  • 2/3 cup dark cocoa (55g)
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour (250g)

Strawberry Buttercream Frosting

  • 2 cups unsalted butter, room temperature (452g; 1 lb box)
  • 1/2 cup freeze dried strawberry powder (55g)
  • 1/2 tsp salt (3g)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract (4ml)
  • 7 cups powdered sugar (907 grams; 2 lb bag)
  • 2/3 cup heavy cream or heavy whipping cream (160ml)
  • 1 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice; about 1/2 small lemon (12ml)

Chocolate Ganache Drip

  • 1 cup dark chocolate chips (175g)
  • 1 cup heavy cream (240ml)

Additional Ingredients for Decoration and Filling

  • 2 cups of diced strawberries (filling)
  • 1 1/4 cup of strawberry preserves (filling)
  • 8 small strawberries
  • 1 package of freeze dried strawberries (optional)

Instructions

Dark Chocolate Cake Layers

  1. Begin by preheating the oven to 350 F / 175 C. Line three 6-inch pans with parchment rounds, and spray with non-stick spray.
  2. Add the sugar and butter into the bowl of a stand mixer and mix on medium-high for 2 minutes with a whisk attachment. The mixture should become light in color.
  3. Mix in the eggs, one at a time. Then add baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Mix on high for another minute.
  4. In a separate bowl, combine the cup of hot water, and cup of room temperature buttermilk. Pour in the cup of dark cocoa powder and whisk until no clumps remain.
  5. Next, add 1 cup of flour into the butter/egg mixture. Scrape the sides of the bowl with a spatula.
  6. Pour in the buttermilk/cocoa mixture and gently pulse the mixture to incorporate the liquid. If you don't, you can end up splattering the cocoa mixture all over your kitchen!
  7. Mix in the 2nd cup of flour, at a low speed, and mix on low until the flour is incorporated.
  8. Evenly divide the batter between the prepared pans.
  9. Bake for 30-32 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the layers comes out with a few moist crumbs.
  10. Let the layers cool in the pans for about 10 minutes, then run an offset spatula around the edge of the pans to help separate the layers from the pans.
  11. Place the pans in the freezer for about 45 minutes to accelerate the cooling process. Once the layers are fully cooled, carefully flip the pans and remove the layers from the pans.
  12. Use a serrated knife to level the tops of the layers.
  13. If desired, cut each cake layer in half horizontally with a serrated knife, to create 6 thin cake layers.

Strawberry Buttercream Frosting

  1. Beat the butter on a medium speed for 30 seconds with a paddle attachment, until smooth. Mix in the freeze-dried strawberry powder, vanilla extract, salt, and vanilla on a low speed
  2. Slowly add in the powdered sugar, 1 cup at a time. Add the heavy cream halfway through to make the frosting easier to mix.
  3. Once the powdered sugar is fully incorporated, mix in the freshly squeezed lemon juice.
  4. Beat on low until the ingredients are fully incorporated and the desired consistency is reached. 
  5. If the frosting is too thick, add in additional cream (1 Tbsp at a time). If the frosting is too thin, add in more powdered sugar (quarter of a cup at a time).
  6. Stir by hand with a rubber spatula for a couple minutes to get the frosting SUPER smooth, then cover with plastic wrap and set aside.

Chocolate Ganache:

  1. Place the dark chocolate chips in a heatproof bowl and set aside.
  2. Heat heavy cream in a heatproof bowl in the microwave for 45 seconds to 1 minute, until it's gently bubbling.
  3. If you don’t have a microwave or prefer to use the stove top, you can heat the cream over a medium heat in a pan until it begins to simmer. Remove from heat.
  4. Gently pour the heavy cream over the chocolate chips, making sure they are covered with cream. Allow mixture to sit for 1-2 minutes.
  5. Stir until the cream and chocolate are fully combined and ganache is silky smooth.
  6. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside.

Assembling This Dark Chocolate Strawberry Cake:

  1. Stack and frost cake layers on a greaseproof cake board, using a dab of frosting to help stick the first cake layer to the board.
  2. Add an even layer of strawberry buttercream on top of your first cake layer.
  3. Pipe a ring of strawberry buttercream on top of this and spread 1/3 cup of diced strawberries inside the ring. Drizzle about 1/4 cup of strawberry preserves, and 1-2 Tbsp of dark chocolate ganache over the strawberries.
  4. Repeat with remaining cake layers.
  5. Spread a thin coat of frosting around the cake, to fully cover the cake layers.
  6. Smooth using a bench scraper, then chill the cake in the fridge (30 minutes) or freezer (10 minutes) until the frosting is firm to the touch.
  7. Add a second, thicker layer of frosting to the cake, and smooth using a bench scraper.
  8. Press freeze-dried strawberries around the base of the cake and chill it one more time until the frosting is firm to the touch (fridge: 30 minutes or freezer: 10 minutes)
  9. Cover the small strawberries in chocolate ganache and place them around the top of the cake. Add drips around each strawberry with chocolate ganache using either a plastic bottle or spoon.
  10. Then enjoy!

Notes

Tips for Making the Best Dark Chocolate Strawberry Cake

  • Properly measure your flour (spoon into the cup measure, then level) or use a kitchen scale.
  • Make sure your ingredients are at room temperature to help them mix together better.
  • Don’t over-mix your batter, stir until the flour is just incorporated.
  • Don't level and torte your cake layers until they have completely cooled to room temperature.
  • Use strawberry powder to really pack your strawberry buttercream with flavor!
  • Cut your cake layers in half horizontally with a serrated knife, to create 6 thin cake layers! This allows you to pack twice as much filling into this cake.
  • Make sure your buttercream is the right consistency. This will help give your cake proper structure and make it easier to decorate.
  • If your cake layers turn out less than perfect, read my cake troubleshooting guide to see where things might've gone awry.

Making this Cake in Advance & Storage Tips

    This cake can be assembled and decorated in advance but should be refrigerated once made and consumed with a few days because of the fresh strawberries inside the cake.

These cake layers can be made in advance! Learn more about how far in advance they can be made and how to properly wrap them in my post on how to make cake layers ahead of time.

This buttercream can also be made in advance!! I highly recommend making it ahead of time to make the decoration of a cake less stressful and more fun. It keeps in the fridge for up to a week if stored in an airtight container.

When you're ready to use the chilled buttercream, remove it from the fridge a few hours in advance (or overnight) and allow it to come to room temperature.

Give it a good stir with a rubber spatula or your kitchen aid, to get rid of any air bubbles that may have formed. Once the buttercream is smooth again, it's ready to use!

Nutrition Information

Yield

16

Serving Size

1

Amount Per Serving Calories 852Total Fat 45gSaturated Fat 27gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 15gCholesterol 146mgSodium 285mgCarbohydrates 111gFiber 3gSugar 88gProtein 6g

Strawberry Buttercream Recipe w/ Real Strawberries

Sunday 29th of May 2022

[…] creates a stable, pipe-able frosting that can be used on cakes (like my dark chocolate strawberry cake)and cupcakes […]

Chris Matney

Tuesday 12th of April 2022

I made this cake last weekend for my daughter. It worked out awesome!!! I messed up the ganache slightly because I didn't cover it while I was decorating the cake. Other than that it was great!!!

Erin

Friday 8th of April 2022

Hi! If I didn't want to do a dark chocolate cake with this frosting, do you recommend I use your plain chocolate cake recipe or your moist chocolate cake recipe (with the espresso in it)?

Nini

Thursday 31st of March 2022

Hi! Do you think this recipe would work in two 9-inch pans or would the layers be too thin? That’s the only size I have unfortunately.

Krishna

Tuesday 22nd of March 2022

Hello,

If i was to use 2 - 8 or 9 inch pans, how would I change the recipe?

Thank you

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