I spent most of July pummeled by feelings of anxiety and dread, so I swiftly fell down a cozy culinary mysteries and Is It Cake? rabbit hole when in search of some much-needed comfort. (Translation: I pretty much scrapped my plans to read all of Jane Austen this summer.) These days, when I’m not watching a cake show to quell my anxiety, you can probably catch me curling up with a Hannah Swensen or Paws and Claws mystery. My latest reads include Death by Bubble Tea and Blueberry Muffin Murder…you get the gist.
Anyway, my newfound interest in cake media made me overly confident about my laughably limited baking skills…like Icarus, I flew too close to the sun and whipped together a Nailed It-worthy monstrosity of a strawberry shortcake, which was loosely inspired by Joanne Fluke’s Strawberry Shortcake Murder.
This isn’t meant to be a prescriptive guide whatsoever, but I thought it’d be fun to share how I put together this cake. Honestly, you can’t really go awry with a cake mix — you could just call it a day with a baked yellow cake and add some ice cream and strawberries on top of it! Where I probably went wrong was being too ambitious with layering…you’ll see what I mean in a second.
- Pillsbury Zero Yellow Cake Mix (I wanted it to be somewhat diabetic-friendly to share with my family, but you can use regular cake mix!)
- 3 eggs
- 1 cup of water
- 1/3 cup of canola oil
- 2/3 a tub of Cool Whip (I would honestly just buy frosting or forego it altogether. Honestly, vanilla ice cream would be super tasty with this!)
- 2 cups of strawberries (about half of a 16 oz box of strawberries)
Instructions (or how I made a strawberry shortcake with no recipe, just vibes):
- After pre-heating the oven to 325 F, I added 3 eggs, 1 cup of water, and 1/3 cup of oil to the cake mix. I then distributed the cake batter over two 7.6 x 7.6 x 1.8 inch baking pans. (I added a square of parchment paper at the bottom of each pan, but you can also just grease your pan.)
- While the cakes baked for 35 minutes, I washed and cut up strawberries. I only took off the leaves on the strawberries for the top layer, but I thinly sliced the strawberries that I used for the middle layer.
- After 35 minutes, I took the cakes out of the oven and let them cool for another 20 minutes or so.
- I (attempted to) firm up/stabilize the Cool Whip. I’ll be honest — I had never used Cool Whip up until this point in my life and probably only know about it because of that one Family Guy clip. I tried mixing a quarter teaspoon of cream of tartar into a cup of Cool Whip without much success in the firming department, but it was less offensive than when I tried to mix in corn starch, which gave the Cool Whip an odiously sandy texture and taste…
- Figuring that I had nothing left to lose, I spread the Cool Whip onto one of the cakes then added the sliced strawberries on it. To cement in the middle layer, I dolloped more Cool Whip on top of the sliced strawberries before placing down my top layer of cake.
- Then, I added Cool Whip onto the very top layer. I attempted to add fancy piping with the Cool Whip, but it obviously was not stabilized enough to sit on top of the cake for very long. So, I simply spread the whipped cream (alternative?) onto the cake and topped it with full strawberries.
- No longer wanting to experiment with cake physics, I put my creation in the fridge for two hours before serving it. The good news is, my family really enjoyed the cake despite its shortcomings!
Also, a strawberry plant update…
Speaking of strawberries, my strawberry plant made it through the 100-degree heat wave! Given that I was getting about one or two strawberries per week during its active growth period, I obviously couldn’t use it for my cake. BUT I’ve seen five new flowers the past two weeks, which is really promising since it was on the brink of death just one month ago. I recently moved the strawberry plant behind our tea tree bush and left it underneath the faucet so that it can catch residual water drips throughout the day. I’ll come back with another update if I see any strawberries these next few weeks!