Chocolate Strawberries and Cream Cake

Let's clear some things up before I start talking about this cake. I rarely ever bake cakes. And I never make layered cakes. So I really didn't know what I was doing before I made this beauty up there. While I did take one fondant and one cake decorating class a few years back, I don't remember much about the technique, but I do have to say it was pretty fun to put together.
I offered to make a "wedding cake" for a YW mutual activity we were having and I knew it had to look fancy. I knew how to bake a cake, but frosting it was another story. It's so hard to make the frosting look smooth. So I decided to make some ganache to pour on top to cover some of my mistakes. Ha! And also because ganache is delicious.
Strawberries seemed to go perfectly with the ganache so not only did they go on top, but they went in the filling as well. Let's just say this cake turned out better than I even thought it would and it was a real hit at our activity. And it was also SO much easier to make than you would think. Trust me! This is coming from an inexperienced baker.
The best part was I learned some new techniques on how to make a box cake mix better with some simple substitutions. I'm all about making things simple so a box mix works best for me, but they definitely could use some improvement.
I had planned to take a picture of the inside of the cake, but by the end of the night it ended upside down in the lid of my cake stand (in my car...) Thankfully none of it got on the floor of my car, but it wasn't very pretty anymore.

Chocolate Strawberries and Cream Cake
Adapted from Rachael Ray and AllRecipes
1 (15.25 oz.) white cake mix (I prefer Pilsbury)
ingredients needed on the back of the box 
*Substitute milk for water & Substitute melted butter for oil (to make cake more moist)
*granulated sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla
4 strawberries, chopped for filling
10 strawberries, sliced for topping 

1. Preheat oven and follow instructions on the cake mix box to make the cake batter. Stir in vanilla until combined. Prepare 2 (8 or 9-inch) round pans by lightly coating them with baking spray or using butter and a flour dusting. (This is very important so the cakes come clean out of the pan.) 
2. Pour batter into pans and sprinkle with a small amount of granulated sugar to prevent the cakes from rising too much. Place in oven and bake for allotted time written on the cake mix box.
3. When a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, remove cakes from oven and let cool before removing from pan. Cool cake completely before frosting.

Cream Cheese Frosting
2 (8 oz.) packages cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup butter, softened
2 cups sifted powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract

1. In a medium bowl, cream together the cream cheese and butter until creamy. Mix in the vanilla, then gradually stir in the powdered sugar. Store in the refrigerator after use.

Chocolate Ganache
2/3 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/4 cup half-and-half
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

1. Place chocolate in a medium microwave-safe bowl and heat on high power for 1 minute to soften chocolate; set aside.
2. In a small microwave-safe bowl or measuring cup, heat the half-and-half on high power just until it begins to bubble and show signs of boiling, about 30 seconds to a minute. 
3. Pour hot half-and-half over chocolate and let stand 1 minute. Whisk vigorously until chocolate has melted and mixture is smooth and velvety. Add vanilla and whisk to combine. Set bowl aside for about 5 minutes, allowing ganache to cool and thicken a bit.

Cake Assembly
1. Top bottom layer of cake with a generous amount of cream cheese frosting for the filling using a metal icing spatula. Place chopped strawberries evenly on filling and place second layer of cake on top.
2. Finish frosting the entire cake by placing a generous amount of frosting on top and work your way down.
3. To smooth out the sides, hold your metal icing spatula under hot water, dry off and then carefully run the edge along the sides of the cake until smooth.
4. Whisk ganache mixture briefly before preparing to drizzle it over the cake. Start in the center and pour along the edges of the cake so it will “drip” down the sides. Smooth the ganache with the spatula as desired.

5. Place strawberries on top in pattern as desired. Store cake in refrigerator.                  


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