In another "what was I thinking moment"... (Strawberry Dream Cake w/ Homemade Pocky)

As I have probably explained (ad nauseum, I am sure), birthday cakes are a big deal in this house.

While The Dude always seems to want either a variation of a chocolate cake/ chocolate frosting or some traditional Italian dessert, Runner Girl and Karate Kid seem to take great pride in coming up with challenging flavors or concepts.

Yep, that's my girls...

We do have a couple of ground rules: 1) since I make my cakes from scratch, it has to be a flavor or concept that can be created and 2) it can't involve complicated decorating - my mad cake skills don't apply to anything beyond "rustic". That being said, I will try almost anything once...for better or worse.

Apparently, this year we seem to be on a pink kick. Runner Girl opted for a shocking pink raspberry treat and Karate Kid wanted strawberry. Karate Kid is also a huge pocky lover & wanted to incorporate pocky. The Karate Kid has been an absolutely amazing sport about all the attention her sister has required over the past few months in preparing for college, so there was no way I wasn't going to give this one the "ole' college try" (pun NOT intended).

Of course - OF COURSE, I figured I could "just make the pocky" myself. Someday, the thinking part of my brain will fully understand that there is no such thing as "just making" this, that or the other thing.

I won't go into detail with the pocky making process. Frankly, it makes my head hurt to think about it. Somewhere along the way, it involved someone (not me) in the house turning off the oven mid-bake and some yelling and temper tantrum throwing as a result (I was the tantrum thrower).

Yes, some things are best left to the annals of memory.

Oh, it should be noted that I decided to pocky-make on a VERY hot August evening. The hotter the kitchen, the higher the temperature that the recipe calls for, no? Of course, chocolate dipping and setting also happened on the same evening.

Insanity reigned.

Fortunately, the cake and frosting were far less troublesome than the P.I.T.A. pocky. The hardest part was actually finding a recipe for strawberry cake that I could live with - one that was pink from strawberries and not from an added box of Jell-o (I begrudgingly used a box on her sister's cake to get the shocking pink that we were going for, but lemmetellyou that was a last resort).

What we ended up with was a moist, sponge-y cake that exceeded my expectations in the flavor department. Giving a little bit of extra attention to the berries on the front end yielded in flavor rewards on the back end (i.e. the eating part).

Adapted from Cooks Country

1 12-ounce bag frozen whole strawberries
3/4 cup whole milk, room temperature
6 large egg whites, room temperature
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups (9 ounces) cake flour
1 3/4 cups (12 1/4 ounces) granulated sugar
1 Tbs + 1 tsp aluminum free baking powder
1 tsp fine grain sea salt
12 Tbs unsalted butter, room temperature & cut into 12 pieces

10 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
2 1/4 cups (9 ounces) confectioners' sugar (plus have additional on hand in case frosting needs thickening)
12 ounces cream cheese, room temperature & cut into 12 pieces
Pinch salt
ounces fresh strawberries, hulled and sliced thin (~1 cup)
Additional strawberries for garnish

Make sure an over rack is placed in the center of the oven and preheat oven to 350F. Grease the sides and bottom of two 9-inch cake pans and line the bottoms of the pan with parchment. Grease the parchment and then lightly flour the pans. If you have cake strips, attach them.

Transfer the frozen berries to a microwave safe bowl. Lightly cover and microwave for ~5 minutes. You want the berries to get really soft and release all their juices - cook longer, if needed. Set a fine mesh sieve over a small sauce pan. Strain the berries through the sieve into the saucepan - pressing as much juice as possible out of the berries (need ~3/4 cup liquid). Set aside the "carcases" to reincorporate back into the frosting. Reduce the strawberry juice over medium-high heat until ~1/4 of juice remains - it should be thick and syrupy ~8 minutes). Measure out 1/4 cup of the syrup and stir into the milk.

In a small bowl, mix together the strawberry milk mixture, egg whites and the vanilla. Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment - stir on low speed to ensure they are mixed fully together (resist the urge to mix at a faster speed - and don't ask my how I know this...). Add the butter - one piece at a time - mixing until one small pieces remain. Scrape down the sides of the work bowl. Add one half of the milk mixture and beat until light and fluffy at medium speed - ~1-2 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl again. Reduce speed to low and add the remaining milk mixture - beat until just incorporated (~30-45 seconds). Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl one more time and divide mixture equally into prepared pans.

Place plans on rack in oven and bake for ~20-25 minutes (rotating pans halfway) until toothpick inserted in the center pulls out clean. Remove cakes from oven and let cool in pans on rack for ~10 minutes. Remove cakes from pan and finish cooling on rack - at least an hour.

To make the frosting, place the butter and sugar in bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on medium low speed to combine, then increase speed and beat until light and fluffy - ~2-3 minutes. Add cream cheese, one piece at a time. Beat until incorporated. Add reserved strawberry "carcases" (from the syrup making process) and mix well. At this point, if you find your frosting is too loose add more confectioner's sugar - if it's too thick, add milk one teaspoon at a time to adjust coinsistency.

To assemble: Pat sliced strawberries dry with a paper towel to remove excess juice. Place one cake round on plate or other flat surface. Spread 3/4 cup frosting on top of bottom layer. Press sliced strawberries in an even layer on the filling. Carefully spread another 3/4 cup frosting on top of the sliced berries. Place second layer on top and frost with remaining frosting. (At this point, I like to spread a thin layer of frosting on the cake and then pop it into the refrigerator for a half hour - once the thin layer has set, I take it out and finish frosting. This is called a "crumb coat" and makes things look a heckuva lot prettier in the end.) Garnish with remaining strawberries or with whatever else floats your boat.

This cake may be covered and refrigerated for up to two days - but let come up to room temperature before serving. Cold cake isn't so hot - unless it's ice cream cake...

The pocky was adapted from Not Quite Nigella. It was a little bit of a P.I.T.A. process (and somewhat traumatic as already noted), but I followed the instructions as posted and was pleased with the results. I added 1 tsp of matcha powder to white chocolate (3 bars Ghirardelli) to get the color in the coating.

Karate Kid was pleased.

And at the end of the day, that's really what I was going for.


  1. Now I need to look up what pocky is. I've never heard of it. Happy birthday to karate kid!

  2. I've gotten myself into more DIY trouble that way. "Oh, I'll just make that myself ...." (Although I'm famous for not reading the directions first, only to discover much later that there's some sort of waiting-before-cooking time that stretches well into the event for which it was planned). Another beautiful cake!

  3. As much as I love strawberry cake, the homemade pocky is more impressive to me. Great cake!

  4. I am doing the same as Ei!! Never heard of pocky! The cake looks fabulous! Happy Birthday to the Karate Kid!!

    1. There's a link to the Wiki on pocky in the body of the post. My girl became hooked on them when one of her friends moved to Japan and would send them over to her in the mail.

  5. You are my hero.
    PS; My birthday is in May…. (hint hint)

  6. I have had Pocky's in Japan too. I did not know that a teen would know what there are. But now I understand. And I have to say your cake is really beautiful. The concept of surrounding the cake with tall stick like things is one I saw in Rose Levy Berenbaum's book Rose's Heavenly Cakes. Don't know if you have seen it. I like how natural and rustic it looks. Great job!

  7. my daughter also LOVES Pocky, having discovered them years ago at some kind of Manga convention, I think. I periodically pick them up at the international farmer's market for her. Never in my wildest dreams would I have thought of MAKING them! But now that I saw the link (and yours), I'm considering it... stop me now before it's too late!

    1. My girl is a HUGE Manga addict & draws Anime as a hobby. Hmmmm - maybe the two are tied together.
      Sorry, it sounds like you are already headed over to the dark side...

  8. Cher, you are such a good mommy;-) I can't think of a better reason to bake a cake as unique and fun as this make your daughter very happy;-)

  9. your cake skills are far from rustic ....i love them !! I wish someone baked this cake for my bday :))

  10. Your cake skills are good especially the frosting and deco. I can tell how much you enjoyed making it. Well done Cher, you did a great job :)

  11. Your cake looks like strawberries hiding in a grass - love the decoration. It must be really fun to treat on pockies first.. I would take the idea and stick them in all over the cake and call it "birthday porkupine" for example.

  12. I have totally missed the Pocky craze! I had to go check out NQN's blog to get the scoop! You did a fabulous job with this cake...and I'm sure dd #2 was delighted with some extra attention. I felt like I was making almost daily trips to BB&B or Target the last week before Nick left for college...put a crimp in my "me" time...LOL.

  13. What a great cake! I'm a huge fan of "rustic" as well. If it doesn't qualify as rustic decorating, it is very unlikely to be seen in my kitchen!

  14. Ahhhhhhh! awesome! I love the photo of the Pocky Cake - it made me smile and laugh out loud. :)

    1. ...and the "I'll just make the" comment hilarious!! We should all get T shirts!

  15. I love the cake and the pocky too--even if it was a PITA. Maybe I'm crazy, but I now want to make some too.

  16. That cake is awesome! (But I need to google pocky???)
    I always wanted to be able to make fancy decorated cakes but honestly I lose patience! Now I have a new word for my skills "rustic"! Thank you!!! I like that very much :)

  17. Cher, although I do know what "Pocky" are, these chocolate-covered biscuits sticks that kids adore (they are called "Mikado"around here), I had no idea that you could actually bake them yourself! They look so cute the way you arranged them around your delicious cake - if I show your cake to my kids, one of them will want to have it for his/her birthday too, I am sure.

    Happy Belated Birthday to your daughter!

  18. Cher you have a lucky family! Beautiful cake, never heard of pocky before, but that's the great thing about blogs you learn so much!


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