This is the softest vanilla cake I have ever made. Homemade dulce de leche and lots of strawberries make this cake a genius dessert! If you haven't tried dulce de leche caramel you missed out!
Strawberries and vanilla cake is a typical summer cake combo, this recipe adds dulce de leche and trust me it tastes amazing!
Key to a soft vanilla cake
This vanilla cake recipe is the best one I have made so far. It is soft and tasty, has an even crumb and a nice structure of pores. The moist vanilla cake pairs well with any buttercream or like I used a stabilized whipped cream frosting.
One key of a soft vanilla cake is the mixing time. Make sure to really follow the instructions of the recipe. When it says "mix it for about 4 minutes" you should not skip it as it could lead to a less airy and more dense cake.
Do not over mix your cake batter after adding the flour! I am pretty sure you have heard that before but trust me it is one of the most important steps in baking. Mixing the cake batter longer than necessary to just combine the flour and cake batter can lead to a dense cake.
Cake flour makes the cake light and fluffy. Instead of all purpose flour, cake flour is used in this recipe which increases the lightness of the cake. Read here how to substitute cake flour with all purpose flour and cornstarch.
Another tip is to not over bake the cake. Every oven is different and the baking time can vary. When you begin to smell the cake it is a good sign that the cake is done baking. I recommend to check on the cake about 3 to 5 minutes before the baking time ends. Use a wooden skewer and push it into the middle of the cake. If it comes out clean the cake is done baking. If you find some moist crumbs sticking on the skewer that is fine, too. Other signs of a sufficiently baked cake are color of the cake, consistency of the cake and texture. The color of the cake should be lightly caramelized brown on the sides and top. When you touch the cake it should spring back and be elastic. If your finger leaves a dent in the cake layer it needs to bake for a longer time. I always like to move the oven grate for a bit and see if the cake jiggles or if it has more structure and doesn't move so much. If the cake jiggles and it is not a cheesecake it needs to bake for a longer time.
The most important tip for getting a soft cake is to cover the cake with cling wrap while it is still warm. Then place it in the freezer for about 1 hour until it has cooled completely. I find this traps all the moisture in the cake and is the best tip for a beautiful soft cake.
Dulce de Leche Strawberry Vanilla Cake
Ingredients for 3 8-inch cake layers Vanilla cake:
1 1/2 cups (300 g) sugar
2 1/2 cups (300 g) cake flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup (240 ml) butter milk
1/2 cup (113 g) unsalted butter, softened
1/3 cup (80 ml) vegetable oil
3 teaspoons vanilla
1 lb (500 g) strawberries, sliced
1 can dulce de leche
Stabilized whipped cream:
3 1/2 cups heavy cream, cold
3 1/2 sheets gelatin or 3 1/2 tsp powdered gelatin
3 1/2 tbsp cold water
3/4 cup powdered sugar
3 tsp vanilla
Preheat the oven to 350 °F. Start off with a medium sized bowl. Sift in flour, baking soda and baking powder. In a large mixing bowl combine the sugar, butter, vanilla, and oil. Mix for about 4 minutes. The mixture should be very fluffy and light in color. Add eggs and butter milk. Mix it until combined. Sift in the flour mixture and salt. Mix the batter until everything is thoroughly incorporated. But do not over mix it!
Grease and line three 8-inch baking pans with parchment paper. Divide the batter evenly among the pans and smooth the cake batter. Bake the cake for 20 minutes at 350 °F, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of each layer comes out clean. Cool the layers in the pans for about 3 minutes before transferring to a wire rack. While the cake layers are still warm wrap them in cling wrap and place them in the freezer to cool completely for about 40 minutes.
In the meantime make the whipped cream frosting. To make a stabilized whipped cream frosting I am using gelatin. Soak gelatin in cold water. If you are using granulated gelatin let it bloom in 2 tbsp water for 5 minutes. In a big mixing bowl add powdered sugar and very cold heavy cream. Whip it with a whisk attachment of a hand mixer until soft peaks form. Then warm the soaked gelatin in the microwave for about 8 seconds. If you are using gelatin sheets add 2 tbsp of water to the soaked gelatin. Mix it and make sure the gelatin is fully melted but do not heat it for too long since it might cook and loose its gelation properties. Add some of the whipped cream to the melted gelatin, mix it and then transfer the gelatin mix to the rest of the whipped cream and whip it until stiff peaks form. Place it in the fridge until needed.
To decorate the cake place the bottom layer on a plate and spread a thin layer of frosting on top and smooth it out. Add 1/3 of a cup of dulce de leche and smooth it with a spatula. Fill the cake with sliced strawberries and top it with some whipped cream frosting. Make sure that all the filling is covered by the frosting since it could leak later on. Add the second cake layer and repeat the step. Cover the cake with frosting on the top and its sides. Smooth it out and let it cool in the fridge for about 40 minutes or place it in the freezer for 8 to 10 minutes. When the cake is cooled add a final layer of frosting and smooth it. Be aware that whipped cream frosting is light and airy. It might not smooth the same way as buttercream.
Let the cake cool for at least 40 minutes before adding some dulce de leche on top of the cake. Smooth it and decorate the cake with swirls of whipped cream frosting. Add to each swirl a small slice of fresh strawberry.
You want to bake a smaller cake? For 6 inch I recommend using half of the cake batter for 3 layers.
Not a whipped topping fan? Make my signature Swiss meringue buttercream instead. Find the recipe here.
To make homemade dulce de leche use one can of sweetened condensed milk and place it in a tall pot. Fill it with water untill the water level is 1 inch higher than the can. Place the pot on a stove top and let it come to a boil at medium high heat. When the water begins to boil turn the heat down to medium heat and let it cook for about 3.5 hours. Make sure the water keeps boiling the entire time and increase the heat if needed.
Make your own cake flour: The ratio is for every cup all-purpose flour take out 2 tbsp of flour and add 2 tbsp of cornstarch. So if you need 4 cups of cake flour, measure the all-purpose flour, take 8 tbsp of it back into the flour container and add the same amount of corn starch. Sift at least 5 times.