Ok, so here it is. I know. It’s not pretty. But really, do our baked goods always have to be attractive? And isn’t beauty in the eye of the beholder, anyway? I contemplated this yesterday while eating some sort of Vietnamese bean cake. It wasn’t pretty, and it didn’t taste very good either. But that is neither here nor there. And while you may have your own opinions about Vietnamese bean cake, let me assure you, this cake does taste delicious despite its awkward appearance. And, if you have slightly better nonstick pans, you could even make this cake look pretty. So I think it’s worth sharing.
I’m not a cake-out-of-a-box kind of person, but I was working with limited resources (not my own kitchen, which is generally overflowing with baking ingredients), so we’re starting with cake from a box. That is not to say that you are limited here to cake from a box — if you want to stick with Funfetti, here’s a from-scratch recipe. But I think it would also go amazingly well with Nigella’s Victoria Sponge cake or maybe even vegan chocolate layers. But it was Easter, and I wanted something colorful and easy, so Funfetti, ©Pillsbury, it was. I will say that the cake is really not the important element here. And, incidentally, the instructions are on the box.
I didn’t want regular old frosting though, mostly because I hate it, and also because I wanted a cake that was a little more light and airy and springy, as is befitting of Easter. Mascarpone sounded nice, but at $5.99 a tub, it was sadly not in the budget. Cream cheese was nixed because of the strong flavor…and then, there was cream cheese’s poor little “lite” cousin, Neufchâtel.
“This could work,” I thought. And it did. Perfectly. So here’s the
Ridiculously Easy Instructions
Two layers of Pillsbury Funfetti (or layer cake of your choice), baked in 8″ round pans
1 lb strawberries
1/2 cup very cold half and half
1/2 cup room temperature Neufchâtel cheese
about 2 cups powdered sugar (or more for consistency)
Spray pans with nonstick spray (or use nonstick pans) and set aside.*
Make cake according to directions on box.
While cakes are baking, wash strawberries, dry, and remove tops (it’s called a calyx! The more you know!). Slice them vertically into attractively medium-sized slices. Set aside.
Prepare filling by combining the Neufchâtel, half and half, and powdered sugar in a bowl and beating vigorously with a fork. The consistency you’re looking for is about that of pastry cream, which is to say that it should have peaks, but not be stiff. It takes about five minutes by hand, which, incidentally, is a great workout. Yes, of course, you can use an electric mixer, but your forearm definition might suffer.
Stick the filling in the fridge while the cakes are cooling. Once everything is nice and chilled, assemble the cakes by spreading a layer of filling and strawberries generously over one layer, plopping on the second, and spreading another layer on top, followed by nicely arranged strawberries.
*All of this is so nice and easy if you can get the cakes out of the pan, by the way. I couldn’t; henceforth, I had to paste together the entire contraption using filling as glue. It was messy, but delicious. Unless you want to repeat this for posterity’s sake, I urge you not to use butter to grease your pans.