This Chocolate Strawberry Layer Cake boasts delicious layers of chocolate cake and cream, with fresh strawberries hidden inside.
I briefly debated in my head whether I was going to post this Chocolate Strawberry Layer Cake recipe because I had messed up one component of the cake. I mentally beat myself up for it for days before the other less negative part of me won over. Because on the other hand, I also could not help but think that it would be such a waste to pass up the chance to share this wonderful cake with everyone. (Not to mention I had already invested so much time and effort in building this cake.)
To be completely fair, this cake tastes pretty amazing. Even after making my dumb little error it still tasted pretty amazing. Everyone said so, and I have to agree. I just have this habit of obsessively feeling very annoyed at myself whenever I make avoidable mistakes like this one. And I was especially hard on myself in this case since I have made this specific chocolate whipped cream before and it turned out exactly as it should. I’ll talk about my misstep more in the recipe notes section below. Anyway, I guess we can say it’s a mark of a truly good cake that even though this amateur baker made an error, it still came out beautifully.
You know, the moment I stumbled upon this Chocolate Strawberry Layer Cake on the Rock Recipe blog, I immediately knew I HAD to make it. I can’t remember the exact circumstance of how I came across it; I just remember being seized by the feeling of needing to make it. It looked too pretty. It looked too delicious. And for once, my mother agreed to allow me to use her precious strawberries in a baked good.
Strawberries are quite expensive here in the Philippines, and normally, my mom is “horrified” by the idea of using expensive fruits in baked goods. She is of the opinion that the only way to enjoy the full properties of expensive fruits is to eat them as is. The frugal part of me totally gets that, but the baker part of me just wants to make the darn cake. So I had to make sure she would not regret letting me use the strawberries for this cake.
And besides, technically you are enjoying the strawberries in their fresh form in this cake. The only difference is that they will be sitting within a layer of glorious chocolate cream. Also, they will be sandwiched between two phenomenally tender and moist chocolate cakes. Allow me to gush about the chocolate cakes for a second here. They are absolute winners! The texture and flavor of the cakes are amazing, and they stay fully soft and moist even after refrigeration. They are so tender they even bounce back when you slice through them.
This Chocolate Strawberry Layer Cake recipe is just a solid one overall, and I think it’s hard to deny how impressive it looks. I feel kind of like this is just perfect as my last recipe for 2020. Because we have to end this terrible year with a bang to usher in the good luck right? (Please?)
This Chocolate Strawberry Layer Cake isn’t as hard as it may initially appear, but it has several components that you will need to make during different stretches of time in order to complete the cake. The first part is the easiest—the simple chocolate cake. It’s very straightforward so I won’t write a step by step write-up for the cake anymore. It’s oil-based and one-bowl, and you literally just mix all the ingredients together until it’s very very well combined.
The amount of sugar seems like a lot initially, but this is the only sweet part of this cake so once you have it assembled and eat the cake as a whole, it will balance out. The cake will not feel sweet at all. (I did shave off maybe 1/8 cup of the sugar from the original recipe.)
The addition of coffee in the cake makes it taste more complex, and the soured milk (the buttermilk substitute for this cake) really helps keep the cake soft and moist. Simply put, you get a deliciously chocolatey and amazingly textured cake that does not harden even if you put it in the fridge for 48 hours straight.
The only thing that might pose an issue here is when it comes to unmolding the cake, so make sure you properly grease your cake molds and dust it with an even coating of cocoa powder. (Not flour! Unless you want your chocolate cake to look like it powdered itself.) You can line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper, but I usually skip this part when I’m lazy. I never have any problems as long as my pan is properly dusted because the cake just drops right off.
Once you have your cake layers baked, you have to let it cool completely before moving on to the next part, which is the whipped cream layer. This is the part where I messed up you guys. The chocolate ganache whipped cream layer was the most tricky part about this cake for me. Although the process itself is quite simple, there are some details to keep in mind.
You can make the chocolate ganache whipped cream in different textures depending on how much chocolate you decide to use in relation to the amount of cream. I belatedly realized I ended up using way too much chocolate to make this so unfortunately the texture of my chocolate whipped cream is not optimal, so let me give you some notes so you don’t make the same mistake.
When I made this cake, I had used the ratio of 480mL/2 cups cream to over 340 grams/2 cups chocolate, and a chocolate with high cacao content at that (72%), so my chocolate ganache whipped cream layer ended up being quite firm after a spell in the fridge. The original recipe calls for 2 cups of chocolate but I used an overflowing 2 cups because it was getting late and I wasn’t paying attention to what I was doing anymore. Ugh.
To get a lighter, airier chocolate ganache whipped cream layer, I would suggest the ratio of 480 mL/2 cups cream to 170 grams/1 cup chocolate. You can use at most 255 grams/1½ cups chocolate. Using less chocolate allows the whipped cream to maintain its airiness without too much weighing it down. You can also mix the chocolate in more easily, without the risk of deflating the mixture.
To actually make the chocolate whipped cream, you want to melt your chocolate with a small amount of very hot cream in one bowl, then whip the rest of your cold cream until stiff peaks.
After that, you just want to mix the two together. Add 1/3 of the melted chocolate into the whipped cream and mix just until nearly combined, then add the next two portions at a time. You want to make sure to mix the melted chocolate completely during your last addition. (You can actually also do it the other way around and mix the cream into the chocolate, 1/3 at a time.)
Taking into consideration the ratios I mentioned, using a lot of chocolate will result in a chocolate ganache whipped cream that is quite firm and melt in the mouth in a chocolate truffle kind of way. (This is what happened with my cake.) On the bright side, I love the way it plays on the textural contrast of the cake. You get the super soft and super moist chocolate cake and a firm chocolate cream layer that just dissolves in the mouth. Yes it softens when you let it sit at room temp for a while, but a soft and fluffy layer works better for this kind of cake. It makes it easier to cut through the layers. Regardless, it tastes pretty amazing. I can assure you.
Once the cakes are completely cool, it’s time to assemble this Chocolate Strawberry Layer Cake. First, slice the strawberries into your desired size/design. Remove the leaves or completely slice off the top part to get a flat surface. I personally like to halve some of the strawberries for decorating the side of the cake but you can skip this part and just keep whole strawberries inside as a surprise.
To keep the cake layers stacked perfectly, I used an adjustable stainless round mold I bought on Shopee. I really love this thing! I was super scared of it at first because it looked like a lethal weapon, but once I figured out how to use it (in like 5 seconds), I was smitten. I adjusted the size of the mold to fit the 9 inch cake layers and laid the first layer inside. Make sure you have a cake board at the bottom. Otherwise, you can use a springform pan with high sides.
Spread a thin layer of the chocolate ganache whipped cream over this first layer. Now we add in the fresh strawberries. I like to use the halved strawberries to line the outside of the cake, pressing the cut side against the cake mold so that when I unmold the cake, there would be an even line of strawberries all around.
The whole strawberries go onto the remaining empty spaces of the cake. Make sure to press them slightly into the cream to adhere.
Once you’re satisfied with the amount of strawberries and the pattern, dump in the rest of the whipped cream. You will have more than enough to cover all the strawberries while filling the gaps between each piece. Spread out with a spatula and make sure there are no empty spaces, creating a nice and even middle layer.
Finally, take the other cake layer and lay it on top, pressing it down just slightly to help the layers stick together. Be careful when you move the cake into the mold because it’s SUPER SOFT and fragile.
Now we put the cake in the fridge so that the whipped cream layer firms up and the cake maintains its form. I actually ended up leaving this cake in my fridge for 2 days because I couldn’t get to it right away, but as mentioned, the cakes stayed beautifully soft. I love it. If you’re using a cake board, place the cake inside a baking sheet or a tray or a flat-surfaced platter of some sort to keep it flat as you move it to the fridge.
To unmold the cake, you want to use a hot towel and gently let that heat the sides of your cake mold. With this process, you allow the cake to gently detach from the mold and create enough space to lift up that mold without damaging the layers. (Be careful when you wring the towel by the way. It’s hot!)
When you’re ready to finish the cake, make the chocolate glaze. It’s basically just melting chocolate in a very hot butter-corn syrup mixture, until you get a glossy smooth glaze. Let it cool for a few minutes so it isn’t too hot for your cake, and then you can either pour it on top to glaze just the top of the cake, or push it down the sides to create a drip effect. Honestly, the drip effect is perfect for this cake! If you like A LOT of drip and glaze atop your cake, feel free to double the recipe. I didn’t find it necessary because frankly this cake is flavorful enough with just a touch of the glaze.
As a final decorative detail, I lined the outside of my Chocolate Strawberry Layer Cake with quartered strawberries. Because you know, a cake as good as this needs a crown. (Also, I had leftover strawberries lol.) Wouldn’t you agree that ring of red on top completes the look?
Slice into the cake with a sharp knife, but put some force into it because you’ll need to slice through some strawberries inside the cake as well. The inside is as pretty as the outside! Oh, and the cake tastes as good as it looks.
As I mentioned, my chocolate ganache whipped cream became very hard after refrigeration, but thankfully it softened after being left at room temp. It’s funny how I half regret the fact that I didn’t think about the ratios when I made the chocolate whipped cream, because I was already partially out of my mind with exhaustion that day. At the same time, I can’t completely say I hate myself for making this stupid mistake, since the Chocolate Strawberry Layer Cake turned out brilliantly anyway. I have already made the necessary adjustments in the recipe below so I really hope you try this cake and enjoy it as much as I did!
Chocolate Strawberry Layer Cake
Makes one 9-inch cake
For the chocolate cake
- 1 cup 240 mL whole milk
- 1 Tablespoon lemon juice or vinegar
- 2 cups 240 grams all-purpose flour
- ¾ cup 63 grams cocoa powder
- 2 cups 400 grams sugar
- 2 teaspoons 8 grams baking powder
- 1 teaspoon 6 grams baking soda
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 2 eggs, room temperature
- 1 cup 240 mL black coffee
- ½ cup 120 mL vegetable oil
- 1 teaspoon 5 grams vanilla extract
For the Chocolate Ganache Whipped Cream & Filling
- 2 cups 480 mL heavy whipping cream, divided use
- 1 cup 170 grams bittersweet chocolate chips or chunks
- 2 Tablespoons 15 grams confectioners’ sugar
- 400 to 500 grams fresh strawberries, washed and hulled
For the Chocolate Ganache Glaze
- ¾ cup 127.5 grams semisweet or bittersweet chocolate chips or chunks
- 1½ Tablespoons corn syrup
- 3 Tablespoons 42.5 grams butter
- Strawberries, quartered (optional, to garnish)
Make the cake
- Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C) and place oven rack in the middle. Grease two 8- or 9-inch cake pans and dust with cocoa powder until completely coated. Make sure to tap out the excess cocoa powder. This will keep the cakes from sticking to the pan.
- In a measuring glass, mix together milk and vinegar to sour it. Leave for a minute or two to curdle.
- In a mixing bowl, combine flour, cocoa powder, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Whisk together briefly.
- Add in the rest of the cake ingredients. Beat until completely combined and smooth. If using an electric mixer, beat for 2 minutes. Divide the batter between the two prepared cake pans.
- Bake cakes for 30 to 35 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. The tops will be super soft so don’t poke it with a finger. Cool cakes in pans for 5 minutes before unmolding onto a wire rack to cool completely. These cakes are very tender so handle with care.
Make the whipped cream filling
- In a small saucepan over low heat, scald 1/2 cup of the whipping cream just until steaming, but do not let it boil. Remove from heat then pour over the chocolate. Let sit for a minute or so, then stir until melted and smooth. I recommend using only 1 cup chocolate for a fluffier layer but you can add a little more if you prefer a heavier chocolate cream layer. Leave chocolate to cool.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine remaining 1-1/2 cups whipping cream with the confectioners’ sugar. Whip using the whisk attachment until stiff peaks form.
- Add the cooled chocolate 1/3 at a time into the stiff cream, then fold with a spatula just until nearly incorporated. After adding in the final 1/3 of the chocolate, make sure to thoroughly incorporate the chocolate into the cream without deflating the mixture. Use big folding motions with your spatula and scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl as you go.
Assemble the cake
- Wash and hull enough fresh strawberries to cover the surface of the bottom layer of cake. Try to pick strawberries of similar sizes, cutting the bases down if necessary to equalize their height. A bit of difference should be fine. I also sliced several hulled strawberries in half to line the outer edges of the cake.
- In a high springform pan or a stainless round cake mold with a cake board at the bottom, place your first chocolate cake layer. Spread out a small amount of the chocolate whipped cream in a thin layer, then place the halved strawberries following the shape of the pan all the way around. The cut-side should be pressed against the walls of the pan.
- Arrange the whole strawberries cut-side down until the entire surface of the cake is covered. Add in the remaining chocolate whipped cream, spreading it out to the edges and filling in the gaps between the strawberries. The cream should cover them up entirely. Take the other cake layer and place on top, like a lid. Gently press down to adhere.
- Cover the cake with clingwrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, preferably overnight, until the filling is set completely.
Make the glaze
- In a small saucepan, melt the butter and mix in the corn syrup. Once it begins to simmer slightly, remove from heat and add in the chocolate. Stir until chocolate is completely melted and glaze looks smooth and glossy. Let cool for about 5 minutes before using.
Finish the cake
- Quarter some fresh strawberries if additional garnish is desired. Set aside for a moment.
- Place a hot towel around the outside of the cake mold/springform pan to help loosen it up from the sides. Gently unmold the cake.
- For a drip effect, scoop spoonfuls of chocolate glaze around the edges of the cake, allowing chocolate droplets to drip down the sides of the cake. Pour the remaining glaze on top and spread in an even layer with an offset spatula or the back of a spoon.
- If using the strawberries, arrange them on the cake as you like, working quickly before the glaze sets. Slice and enjoy this beautiful cake!
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