There is something about chocolate covered strawberries that just screams romance. Or maybe, whispers it seductively in your ear. They would be the perfect end to a delicious Valentine's Day dinner. Except that it's February and strawberries are a few months from being in season. I'm not even sure my little small town grocery store has fresh strawberries right now! If I could find them, I bet I wouldn't like them.
So when I saw a recipe for strawberry cake in a summer issue of Cook's Country that called for frozen strawberries I thought it would actually be perfect for winter. Frozen strawberries are fresh year round! However, I'm still trying to be a good girl and eat fewer calories from fat and sugar. The cup and a half of butter (132 grams of fat) and 1 3/4 cups of sugar weren't jiving with that resolution. But I knew I had to have this cake. I remembered I successfully substituted margarine for butter in the cranberry upside down cake I made last fall. So I used it again, which cut out half the fat. And I used my favorite sugar stand in, Splenda, instead of the sugar.
To make this cake, you extract the juice from frozen strawberries and use that to give the cake a strawberry flavor. The original recipe included a strawberry frosting, but I thought for Valentine's Day, chocolate would be perfect. So I made a chocolate buttercream frosting. Full disclosure, the frosting is not low calorie! But after I made the cake, I got another idea. One of my favorite cakes my mom used to make was a chocolate cake topped with Cool Whip and cherry pie filling. So why not make a chocolate lite Cool Whip topping with strawberries? I looked into the idea. I didn't see that Cool Whip makes a chocolate flavored topping, but I found a few recipes online for making your own. I think that would be a good low calorie substitute for the super fatty frosting.
Anyway, I made the cake with chocolate frosting, fed it to my husband, and he raved about how good it was, with no idea that it was lower in calories. His only complaint was that it didn't have enough strawberry in it. The original recipe had sliced strawberries between the two cake layers, and the leftover strawberry solids from the juice making mixed into the frosting. I didn't do that, but I guess I should have! So I'm including it in my recipe. I guess I should learn to follow directions!
So to make a romantic cake for your sweetie that you both will love and still be able to fit into your pants on February 15th, start by thawing out some frozen strawberries.
Press them through a fine mesh strainer over a small saucepan.Now boil the juice until it is reduced to about 1/4 cup. Then whisk in milk, egg whites, and vanilla.
In a stand mixer, mix flour, Splenda, baking powder, and salt. Then add the margarine, 1 piece at a time, until you have about pea size pieces. This is a Cook's Illustrated technique to making cake that is backwards from how most cakes are made. But trust me, it works out great!
Then just add half of milk mixture, beat about 1 minute, and add the other half and beat again. Cake's made!
Now, unfortunately, is the part where my camera died. And the show must go on when I am making something sweet! So I don't have any pictures of panning the batter or making frosting. If you want to make the full fat frosting I made, you can check out the pictures from when I made rum buttercream frosting for my eggnog cake. As I said, I didn't make the chocolate Cool Whip topping, but I think it sounds like a good lower calorie alternative, so I am including a recipe it as well.
One thing I might add is to be extra careful when working with this cake. Because it is made with margarine instead of butter, it will be a little crumblier than a traditional cake. When you use margarine, you are substituting some of the fat for water, which evaporates during baking and increases crumbs. This makes the cake more fragile. But it worked for my purposes!So this is how my cake turned out. As you can see, I ended up adding some of my leftover frozen strawberries as a garnish and strawberry flavor booster. This cake was so good that you won't know that it has about 1800 fewer total calories than the original. Or course, if you want to go the traditional route, you can have regular old chocolate covered strawberries, but I recommend cake!
Chocolate Covered Strawberry Cake
For the strawberry cake:
10 oz frozen whole strawberries
3/4 cup skim milk, at room temperature
6 large egg whites, at room temperature
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups cake flour
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar (or Splenda)
4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
12 Tbsp (1 1/2 cups) margarine, in 12 pieces.
8 oz strawberries, hulled and sliced thin (about 1 1/2 cups)
For the cake: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease two 9-inch round cake pans, line bottoms with parchment, grease parchment, and flour.
Transfer strawberries to microwave-safe bowl, and microwave until strawberries are soft and have released their juice, about 4-5 minutes. Place in fine-mesh strainer set over small saucepan. Firmly press fruit dry; reserve strawberry solids. Bring juice to boil over medium-high heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until syrupy and reduced to 1/4 cup, 6-8 minutes. Whisk milk into juice until combined.
Whisk strawberry milk, egg whites, and vanilla in bowl.
Using stand mixer fitted with paddle, mix flour, Splenda, baking powder, and salt on low speed until combined. Add margarine, 1 piece at a time, and mix until only pea-size pieces remain, about 1 minute. Add half of milk 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.
Scrape equal amounts of batter into prepared pans and bake until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, 20-25 minutes. Cool cakes in pans on wire rack for 10 minutes. Remove cakes from pans, and cool completely, about 2 hours.
To assemble: Spread frosting over 1 cake round. Press 1 cup strawberries in even layer over frosting and cover with additional frosting. Top with second cake round and spread remaining frosting evenly over top and sides of cake. Garnish with remaining strawberries.
For Strawberry Chocolate Lite Cool Whip "Frosting"
1 8 oz tub Lite Cool Whip
1 small package fat free, sugar free chocolate pudding
Strawberry solids (leftover from making cake)
Mix dry chocolate pudding and strawberry solids into Cool Whip. Refrigerate until firm enough to spread over cake.
For the chocolate buttercream frosting:
1/3 cup sugar
2 large egg whites
pinch of salt
12 Tbsp ( 1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened and cut into 1-Tbsp pieces
6 oz bittersweet chocolate, melted and cooled to 85-100 degrees
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
For the frosting: Combine sugar, egg whites, and salt in bowl of stand mixer. Place bowl over pan of simmering water. Whisking gently but constantly, heat mixture until slightly thickened, foamy, and 150 degrees.
Place bowl in stand mixer fitted with whisk attachment. Beat mixture on medium speed until consistency of shaving cream and slightly cooled, 1-2 minutes.
Add butter, one piece at a time, until smooth and creamy. Once all butter is added, add cooled melted chocolate and vanilla. Mix until combined. Add reserved strawberry solids. Increase speed to medium-high and beat until light, fluffy, and thoroughly combined, about 30 seconds, scraping beater and sides of bowl with rubber spatula as necessary.
Cake recipe adapted from Cook's Country, chocolate buttercream frosting from Cook's Illustrated