Let Them Eat: Strawberry Dream Cake

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Strawberry dream cake begins by adding strawberry gelatin to boxed white cake mix. Among the cornucopia of recipes in existence, you will find additions like fresh or frozen strawberries, vanilla pudding, coconut, pecans, and even strawberry soda, all of which turn out very pink.

Courtesy of my grandmother, I have a 1958 edition of Woman's Day with a version of the cake that calls for slicing store-bought poundcake and layering it with a mixture of whipped cream, gelatin, and strawberries.

The cake photo is early Technicolor-bright and teetering on garish—retro to the -nth degree, but alluring in a Barbie Dream House sort of way. While it looks fabulous and all, I preferred to start from scratch and build my own dream cake.

My recipe has fresh strawberry jam and cool, whipped cream sandwiched between layers of strawberry-flecked cake and crisp meringue. The secret ingredient? Freeze-dried strawberries, which have sharp, concentrated flavor that leaves red gelatin in the dust. A portion of the berries goes into the cake and the remainder are folded into the meringue.

Homemade jam is a highlight of this dessert: I cook frozen strawberries with a little sugar until thick and deep ruby, then stir in lemon juice to accentuate the berries' tart sweetness.

What really makes this cake shine, though, are the meringue disks. Nigella Lawson's lemon meringue-topped-and-bottomed cake inspired this cake's construction, but for more textural contrast, the meringues in this recipe are baked separately to fully dry them out and add crunch. This cake is berry delicious (sorry, I went there).