It’s the season that’s a’pleasin, when super-ripe spring strawberries play a starring role in one of the South’s favorite cakes.
Strawberry cake is beloved across Alabama and in neighboring states. A 2022 analysis for the jewelers Shane Co. rated it the second-most-popular nationwide based on Google searches, winning seven states in this tasty take on the electoral college. Five are in the Deep South. (Alabama’s No. 1? Red-velvet cake).
Recently, the online resource site CakeRe ranked strawberry cake fourth in popularity among Alabama’s sweet freaks. But topping the list are two Alabama icons, Lane Cake and Hummingbird Cake, so fourth isn’t exactly a dessert diss.
Home recipes often call for strawberry-flavored gelatin and boxed cake mix. But the scratch-made versions at the bakeries and restaurant kitchens below use fresh strawberry puree to create the seasonal pink hue and moist texture for which the style of cake is known.
White icing, often boosted with tangy cream cheese, provides a nice color contrast. Many bakeries also blend the namesake fruit into their frosting, especially when the local crop is abundant.
Round layer cakes, including these from the bakeries below, can grace a celebratory table. Larger sheet cakes will feed a crowd. For insurance, give 48-hour notice for whole cakes.
Strawberry cake has been a best-seller since Ashley McMakin opened her original café and bakery in 2010. (Now it has five locations in greater Birmingham.) It is a signature sweet at Ashley Mac’s Kitchen, so much so that McMakin includes a recipe (page 57) in her new cookbook. The three-layer cake is made with strawberry puree and gelatin; strawberry bits stud the cream cheese icing. Slices at the cafés are $5. Shipping and pick-up are available for 9-inch round whole cakes ($42).
Before the menu at Joe’s opens to the list of pizzas and pastas, the cover puts you on notice: “You absolutely must save room for the famous strawberry cake.” Now, this is no ordinary famous strawberry cake, the menu reads later. “A GIANT SLICE OF JOE’S FAMOUS STRAWBERRY CAKE … Plenty to share!” That’s not an idle boast. Towering slices ($8.99) have strawberries baked into the cake and are iced with cream-cheese strawberry frosting.
Birmingham, Tuscaloosa, Huntsville, Pelham, Trussville
Strawberry cake is a perennial customer favorite at Edgar’s, which has 10 locations total in Birmingham, Hoover, Homewood, Tuscaloosa, Huntsville, Pelham, and Trussville. Strawberry is an option (with chocolate and white) as the base for the bakery’s decorated cakes. But you’ll reach spring-berry nirvana with choices starting with the Strawberry Cake, $32-$120 depending on size (they range from 6-inch round to full sheet cakes). Southern Lady Cake has strawberry options for cake, icing, and filling (round cakes start at $48). The ultimate is the ornate Strawberry Crescent Cake, $37-$130 depending on size. Order online for delivery or shipping.
The venerable bakery and café, which opened in 1990, serves an upscale take on breakfast, brunch, and lunch. Its bakery sells an 8-inch round strawberry cake with cream cheese icing. Slices of the cake are an occasional special for dessert.
The cake is slathered in strawberry cream cheese icing. Options for whole strawberry cakes ($30) are three-tier 9-inch round, or 9×14 pan. Slices are $5. Also noteworthy is Suzanne’s Strawberry Pretzel Salad, a homey dish with a pretzel crust topped with a sweet cream cheese mixture and topped with congealed strawberry gelatin. Individual servings of the salad are $3.25, 9-inch round pans are $15 and 9×13 pans are $30.