This Strawberry Shortcake Layer Cake is made with a genoise sponge cake, fresh strawberries and lightly sweetened whipped cream, all layered together to produce a striking version of a summertime classic.
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Strawberry Shortcake Cake
Strawberry shortcake is a summertime favorite and feels like the perfect treat. Whether you're making homemade biscuits or buying store bought sponge vessels to hold your berry juice, you really can't go wrong. It's the best combination of flavors, textures, and sweetness. Now, turn that whole situation in a gorgeous Strawberry Shortcake Layer Cake and you've got yourself what we like to call a glow up!
Made with a light and airy sponge cake, a strawberry simple syrup is brushed on each layer to provide sweetness and moisture to the cake. Each layer is filled with fresh cut strawberries and lightly sweetened homemade whipped cream. Eaten slightly cold, you could almost describe the cake as refreshing!
Sponge Cake for Strawberry Shortcake
I use the Tartine genoise sponge cake recipe for this cake - the Tartine cookbook is one of my absolute favorites and this recipe has never failed me. Sponge Cakes can be finicky, though, as the goal is to keep quite a bit of air in the batter. Proper folding technique is needed here as to not deflate the batter, so if you're unsure how to do this, watch this video! This is the exact genoise sponge used for this recipe, so it's a perfect example.
Prepping & Heating
Start by preheating the oven to 350℉ and line the bottom of a 10" springform pan with parchment paper. Here's my best tip for lining a springform pan 😉. If using spray to stick the parchment down, take care not to get it on the sides of the pan. The non-greased sides is what helps the batter "crawl" up the pan.
Next, melt the butter over low heat and keep it warm. Then, sift together the flour, corn starch and salt into a bowl.
Make a double boiler by filling a saucepan with about one inch of water, then place a bowl overtop. The bottom of the bowl should not touch the water. Use a glass or metal bowl for this. Turn onto medium heat then add the eggs, salt and sugar and whisk to combine. Whisk occasionally until the mixture is rather warm to the touch and reads 120℉ on a kitchen thermometer.
Whipping & Folding
Add the egg mixture to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment (you can also use a handheld mixer) and whisk on medium speed for about five minutes. It will become pale, thick, and fluffy. When the whisk attachment is pulled straight out of the batter, a large ribbon will flow off.
Add the flour into the batter in three batches, folding in the first round of flour completely before adding the next. Be sure to scrape the whole way to the bottom to bring the flour back to the top and incorporate it.
The flour will sink to the bottom, so just when you think you're done folding, another pocket of flour will unveil itself! Be patient and careful. As you fold, only "scrape" with a spatula what is covered by batter. Don't scrape down any dried flour bits at the top, I try to steer clear of the top as best as possible. Again, watch this video to see how it's done!
Once all of the flour has been incorporated, remove a small bowl's worth of batter and stir in the warm butter to completely combine. Add the butter batter into the normal batter and immediately fold until fully incorporated.
Pouring & Baking
Set down your spatula (trust me) and pour the batter into the prepared spring form pan. I am holding the spatula in the pouring picture above but I swear, just put it down! Allow the batter to flow freely, don't tap it, and definitely do not scrape it. Whatever falls out of the bowl on its own is what you get. Scraping the sides will add chunks to the batter and will cause it to deflate. That's why I have you put the spatula down - because if you're anything like me, it takes every ounce of your being to not scrape the dang bowl! The third photo below shows how much batter will be left over.
Bake the sponge in a preheated 350℉ oven for 35-45 minutes. The top will be nicely browned and it will feel slightly springing. It may leave a small indent when touched, but should not sink in. Allow the cake to cool completely on a wire rack.
Strawberry Shortcake Filling
Strawberry Simple Syrup. The syrup is brushed over each layer of the cake to create a flavorful, moist sponge. To make the simple syrup, combine the sugar, water and strawberries in a saucepan over medium heat until all the sugar dissolves. Transfer to a jar and allow it to cool completely. I always make this simple syrup a day ahead of time and store it in the fridge.
Strawberry Puree. This step is completely optional and is mostly decorative. It does add an additional punch of strawberry flavor though, so I do recommend it! Cook down the strawberries and sugar until the strawberries break down and juices develop. Then, add the slurry of corn starch and water and allow it to bubble for about a minute. Use an immersion blender (or blender, food processor, etc.) to puree the strawberries until smooth. Set aside to cool.
Fresh Whipped Cream. The whipped cream has gelatin added to stabilize the cream so it stays in tact for a couple of days! If you're planning to eat the entire cake within a few hours of making it, feel free to omit the gelatin.
Start by freezing your mixing bowl and whisk attachment for about 15 minutes. In the last few minutes, add the gelatin and water to a small saucepan, stir, and turn to the lowest setting. Stir it again as it starts loosening up. This next step will depend on your stovetop - the gelatin needs to stay slightly warm so it holds a liquid phase. Either keep the heat on the absolute lowest setting or turn it off while you make the heavy cream.
Add the heavy whipping cream to the cold bowl and mix on medium low for about a minute, then turn to high until soft peaks form. Switch to low speed and spoon in the powdered sugar and add the vanilla. Switch back to high and drizzle in the liquid gelatin and finish whisking until stiff peaks form and it holds a ball in the whisk.
Strawberries. Hull one pound of strawberries and slice them thin.
Assembling the cake
Prepping the cake
Start by running an offset spatula or knife around the sides of the springform to remove the cake from the sides. Then, remove it from the pan and cut the sponge cake into three even layers. If you have a turntable, you'll want to use it. I like to arrange my cake on the vessel I plan to serve it on, and place that on top of the turn table. I also typically add a few strips of parchment paper under the edges of the bottom layer to cover my serving platter and keep it clean.
Place one hand on top of the cake and use a serrated knife to score a horizontal border in the bottom third of the cake. Then, follow the border, pulling the knife towards you as you gently put pressure inward and turn the cake simultaneously. Continue until the layers become separated. Repeat the process, splitting the next layer in half.
Build the layers
Starting with the bottom slice (the first layer cut off), brush the strawberry simple syrup over the entire layer of the cake. You can also do this using a spoon and drizzling the syrup all over.
Next, add a small amount of whipped cream and spread evenly so it meets the edges. Only use enough to just cover the cake - another layer will be added on top of the strawberries. Disperse the sliced strawberries completely over the top of the whipped cream, then add another dollop of whipped cream and spread so it mostly covers the strawberries.
Add the middle cake layer on top and press down gently with both hands to help the layers combine. Follow the same steps: simple syrup, whipped cream, strawberries, whipped cream.
Before adding the final layer, brush the underside (exposed crumb side) with the syrup, then add the layer crumb side down. Press again.
Frost & Decorate
Add the rest of the whipped cream to the cake and spread it evenly over the top and sides of the cake to cover it completely. If you have a cake scraper, use that to smooth the sides and top. An offset spatula also works great here (that's actually what I use for this cake since it doesn't need to be perfect).
Once covered, add swipes of strawberry puree randomly over the sides and top. I add a dab to an offset spatula or small rubber spatula to swipe it on. Then, use a cake scraper or the same offset spatula to pull the puree through and across the whipped cream to create the striped effect. To get the swirled design on top, place the tip of an offset spatula on the edge of the cake, and spin a turn table continuously, moving the spatula slightly inward until the swirl reaches the center.
Looking for more layer cakes?
Strawberry Shortcake Layer Cake
- 10-inch spring form pan
- Parchment paper
- Stand mixer with whisk attachment, or handheld mixer
- Immersion blender, blender, or food processor (if using strawberry puree)
- Kitchen thermometer
Genoise Cake (Sponge Cake)
- 5 T unsalted butter melted & warm (71g)
- 1 ⅓ cups all-purpose flour (160g)
- 1 T corn starch (6g)
- 6 large eggs
- ⅛ teaspoon salt
- 1 cup + 1 T sugar (107g)
Strawberry Simple Syrup
- ½ cup water (4oz)
- ½ cup granulated sugar (50g)
- ¼ cup sliced strawberries (about 3 strawberries)
Strawberry Puree (optional for decorating)
- ½ lb strawberries (8oz)
- 3 T sugar (19g)
- ½ T corn starch (3g)
- 1 T water
Strawberries for Filling
- 1 lb fresh strawberries sliced (16oz)
Whipped Cream Frosting
- 4 cups heavy whipping cream (952g)
- ¾ cup powdered sugar (90g)
- 2 teaspoon unflavored gelatin (8g)
- 3 T water
- 1 teaspoon vanilla paste or extract
Genoise Cake (Sponge Cake)
- Preheat the oven to 350℉ and line the bottom of a 10-inch spring form pan with parchment paper. Do NOT grease the top of the paper or the sides of the pan.
- In your smallest saucepan, melt the butter then remove from the heat, but keep it warm.
- In a separate bowl, sift together the flour and cornstarch and set aside.
- Make a double boiler (fill a pot with about one inch of water and set a heat proof bowl - glass or metal - over top; the bottom of the bowl should not touch the water) and turn to medium heat. Add the eggs, salt, and sugar into the bowl and whisk occasionally until it is 120℉ or very warm to the touch. About 5-10 minutes.
- Transfer the hot egg mixture to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and mix on medium speed for about 5 minutes until the batter becomes pale yellow, triples in volume, and falls off the whisk in a large ribbon.
- Remove from the stand, and, using a rubber spatula, fold the flour into the egg mixture in three batches. Scoop the whole way to the bottom and lift the flour to the top while folding. The flour sinks, and can trick you into thinking it has been incorporated. Be patient in this step and watch this folding video for more guidance.
- Once all flour has been folded in, remove a small portion of the batter into a bowl and mix in the warm butter by hand. Add the butter batter back into the main mixture - quickly and carefully fold it into the batter.
- Immediately pour the batter into the spring-form pan and do not scrape the sides. Any non-homogeneous pieces of batter will cause your cake to deflate. Whatever falls out of the bowl on its own is what you get. Bake for 35 - 45 minutes until it slightly springs back when touched. Remove from the oven and let cool in the pan on a wire rack. Once cool, run a knife or offset spatula around the inside of the cake to release it from the sides of the pan, and turn it out and peel off the parchment paper.
Strawberry Simple Syrup
- While the cake is cooling, combine the water, sugar and strawberries in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir until hot and the sugar has dissolved. Pour into a bowl or glass jar and let cool. This can also be done a day in advance and stored in the fridge.
Strawberry Puree (optional)
- In a saucepan, cook the strawberries and sugar over medium low heat until the strawberries are easily mashed down with a spatula and develop juices, about 5 - 7 minutes. In a small bowl, mix the corn starch and water, then add to the strawberries and turn to medium high just until it bubbles.
- Remove the mixture from the heat and blend with an immersion blender (or blender/food processor) and set aside to cool. This can also be done a day in advance and stored in the fridge.
Whipped Cream Frosting
- Before mixing, place the bowl of stand mixer and the whisk attachment in the freezer or fridge for 15 minutes. This helps the cream whip up best.
- Once the chill time is almost up, add the gelatin and water to a small saucepan over the lowest setting and stir to dissolve. Depending on your stove top, either keep the gelatin on the lowest setting or turn off the burner - the gelatin needs to remain in a liquid phase.
- When ready, add the heavy whipping cream to the bowl. Whip on low for about one minute, then turn to high and whip until soft peaks form. Turn to low and spoon in the powdered sugar and add the vanilla. Turn the mixture back to high, and once stiff peaks have almost formed, slowly add in the gelatin while the mixture is running, whip until incorporated and until stiff peaks have formed a ball in the whisk.
- Place in the fridge until ready to use.
- Using a serrated knife, cut the cake into three horizontel even disc layers. Place the first layer onto a cake stand (or whatever you want to serve it on) and slide parchment paper under the cake to keep your stand clean.
- Using a pastry brush (or a spoon), fully coat the top of the first cake layer with the simple syrup. Add a dollop of whipped cream to the top and spread evenly over the cake layer, reaching the whole way to the sides. Layer half of the sliced strawberries evenly over the whipped cream, then add another dollop of whipped cream and spread it evenly to cover the strawberries.
- Add the middle layer of cake and gently push down so you remove any gaps in the strawberries and whipped cream. Complete the same process with the simple syrup, whipped cream, strawberries, whipped cream.
- Before adding the final layer, add the simple syrup to the underside of the cake (the crumb side, not the browned side) then place the layer crumb-side down and lightly press down.
- Add the remaining whipped cream to the top and sides of the cake so it is fully covered. If using the strawberry puree, use a spatula to add small swipes of the puree to the tops and sides of the cake, then smooth it out to the desired texture.