It had been too long since I last baked a layer cake.  Clearly, it was time.  My brother’s wonderful girlfriend celebrated a birthday last week  and I couldn’t resist baking a treat for the occasion.  I asked her what sort of cake she would like and her reply included pumpkin, lemon, chocolate, strawberry, “Or anything really.  I like everything!”  It seems I am in good company and I am not the only one who suffers from birthday cake indecision.  (On a related note, I delayed baking my birthday cake this year because we were so busy and I still haven’t gotten around to it.  If I ever make my own decision, maybe it will happen!)

Anyway, I pondered her list of suggestions, brainstormed a bit and eventually settled on this chocolate covered strawberry layer cake.  Though it looks fancy, and I suppose it sort of is, I did my best to keep it fairly straightforward.  Layers of chocolate cake are sandwiched with strawberry Swiss meringue buttercream and ganache, which is also used to dip the berry garnish for the top.  No painstakingly smooth frosting of the sides required.  This cake was definitely a big hit with everyone who tried it, and it didn’t last long!  If you have a chocolate, strawberry, or chocolate and strawberry lover in your life, they are bound to love this cake.


For the cake:

  • 1¾ cups plus 2 tbsp. (9 3/8 oz.) all-purpose flour
  • 1½ cups (4½ oz.) unsweetened cocoa powder, plus more for dusting the pans
  • 1 tbsp. instant espresso or coffee powder
  • 1½ cups boiling water
  • ¾ cup sour cream
  • 1 tbsp. vanilla extract
  • 1½ cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2½ cups plus 2 tbsp. (18 3/8 oz.) sugar
  • 3 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1¼ tsp. baking soda
  • ¾ tsp. salt

For the strawberry filling:

  • 3 cups fresh strawberries, rinsed, hulled and coarsely chopped, divided
  • 4 large egg whites
  • 1¼ cups sugar
  • 3 sticks (1½ cups) unsalted butter, at room temperature

For the ganache and the garnish:

  • 12 oz. bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • 1½ cups heavy cream
  • 12 whole strawberries, rinsed and dried


  • 01

    To make the cake, preheat the oven to 350˚ F.  Butter the edges of 3 8-inch round cake pans and dust with cocoa powder, shaking out the excess.  Line the bottoms of the pans with parchment paper.  In a medium bowl, combine the cocoa powder, espresso powder, and boiling water.  Whisk until smooth; set aside to cool slightly.  When cooled down a bit, whisk in the sour cream and vanilla.  Set aside.  In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter on medium-high speed until smooth, about 1 minute.  Gradually blend in the sugar and whip on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, 2-3 minutes more.  Blend in the eggs one at a time.  In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, and salt; whisk to blend.

  • 02

    With the mixer on low speed, add the dry ingredients in three additions alternating with the sour cream mixture, beating each addition just until incorporated.  Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans.  Bake the cake layers for about 30-32 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, rotating the pans during halfway through to ensure even baking.  Transfer the baked cake layers to a wire rack and let cool in the pans at least 30 minutes before inverting onto the rack to cool completely.

  • 03

    To make the frosting, place half of the strawberries in a food processor or blender.  Puree until completely smooth.  Combine the egg whites and sugar in a heatproof bowl set over a pot of simmering water.  Heat, whisking frequently, until the mixture reaches 160° F and the sugar has dissolved.  Transfer the mixture to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.  Beat on medium-high speed until stiff peaks form and the mixture has cooled to room temperature, about 8 minutes.  (The bowl should be cool to the touch.)  Reduce the speed to medium and add the butter, 2 tablespoons at a time, adding more once each addition has been incorporated.  If the frosting looks soupy or curdled, continue to beat on medium-high speed until thick and smooth again, about 3-5 minutes more (or longer – don’t worry, it will come together!)  Blend in the strawberry puree until smooth and completely incorporated, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.  Once the frosting is fully blended and smooth, fold in the remaining half of the coarsely chopped strawberry.

  • 04

    To make the ganache, place the chopped chocolate in a medium bowl.  Bring the cream to a simmer in a saucepan over medium heat.  Pour the hot cream over the chocolate and let stand about 2 minutes.  Whisk together until the chocolate fully melts and a smooth ganache is formed.  Let cool to room temperature, stirring occasionally.

  • 05

    Line a baking sheet with wax or parchment paper.  Dip the whole strawberries in the ganache to coat evenly and transfer to the baking sheet.  Let stand at room temperature until the ganache has set (or transfer the to refrigerator to speed up the process.)  If desired, drizzle with a contrasting chocolate such as milk chocolate or white chocolate.

  • 06

    To assemble the cake, place one of the cake layers on a cake board or serving platter.  Spread about one third of the strawberry frosting in a smooth layer on top of the cake.  Spread a thin layer of the ganache over the strawberry frosting.  Top with a second cake layer, followed by another layer of the frosting and ganache.  Repeat once more with the remaining cake layer.  Once the ganache has been spread on top, place the chocolate covered strawberries around the perimeter of the cake.  Chill and allow the ganache to set fully.

  • Jessica Rose

    I love everything about this cake!! ;)

  • Emily @ Life on Food

    This cake looks amazing. Perfect combination of chocolate, frosting and strawberries. Beautiful.

  • Kelly

    Wow, what a beautiful cake! One of my favorite desserts is chocolate covered strawberries, and to combine them with cake – what a wonderful idea!

  • Danielle Lapinski

    This cake looks so delectable! I SO want a piece right now! thanks for sharing!

  • Good lord that is a gorgeous cake Annie! Love that it’s not a super complicated cake either, so there stands a slim chance that I could attempt it :)

  • Warm Vanilla Sugar

    I absolutely love this cake Annie – it’s so gorgeous!

  • SK

    Oh my I want to eat this cake NOW! Or the next best thing, make it… But better still, I will save it for a special occasion… my soon daughter will 5 yrs old ( oh I am going to cry, she will be 5!!!!!!) anyways, just like me she loves, loves, loves chocolate and strawberries…. Perfect cake for her birthday….worst part will waiting for a month to make it!

  • currycomb

    Looks so pretty and good!

  • Annalise

    Such a gorgeous cake, Annie!

  • Nancy

    This cake and your photos are so lovely, Annie!

  • Karen @ The Food Charlatan

    Ah, but Annie can you make a pumpkin-lemon-chocolate-strawberry cake?? :) PS I’m not sure how you made me want to eat even the green part of the strawberry, but you did so…there’s that.

  • SO gorgeous!! I am on a layer cake baking kick, and this is being added to the to-do list. It makes birthday cake decisions a lot easier when you just bake a cake every week for fun…it’s like you get to eat all the flavors your heart desires!

  • Bonny @ Clever Hen

    This is AMAZING! Who could resist a beautiful spring cake like this. Especially since it has my favorite food – chocolate

  • Denise

    This cake looks beautiful AND delicious. Of course I have pinned it. I think I’ve pinned about 95% of your recipes. Ha! Thanks for sharing.

  • Beautiful birthday cake!

  • James Sotelo

    O man, that looks fantastic! Going to have to try then when it’s not a blizzard outside so I can get some fresh strawberries!

  • Shawna Clifton

    Can’t wait to bake this for mother’s day. Our mom’s will love it

  • Trish

    This cake looks delicious…and it is beautiful.

  • Mary


  • Love how beautifully simple this looks! Can`t go wrong with a chocolate & strawberry combo!

  • Brittany

    Made this cake and it was one of the most delicious things I’ve ever made. DIdn’t look as pretty as yours, but so good! Highly recommended.

  • Debbie Johns

    This looks amazing BUT six sticks of butter….I just can’t :(. I don’t have a problem indulging now and then, but I’ve got to figure out a way to lighten this just a bit. Maybe use some lovely home made reduced fat ricotta instead (for the filling). Going to try and find some time to tinker with this, since it is GORGEOUS! Just discovering your blog….it’s wonderful!

  • annieseats

    If the large amount of butter bothers you (though I would argue, you’re probably only eating one piece so it’s not that big of a deal), I would suggest making a strawberry whipped cream instead. Make homemade whipped cream that is heavy on the powdered sugar to stabilize it and then fold in some strawberry puree. Similar effect, less butter :)

  • Sneha Suzan Kurien

    Thank you for this delicious recipe. I tried it yesterday and it came out really well. Here in India, sour cream is not something easily accessible so I replaced it with yogurt and the cake was beautiful and moist with a texture that melts in the mouth!

  • Tia Xenia

    I got a very soupy frosting after following the directions to a t. I’ve been blending for 15 minutes and nothing. The picture is beautiful but not what I ended up with :-( Obvious lesson: don’t try new recipes before a party!

  • Annie

    Sorry to hear that. If you had kept beating, it would have thickened eventually.

  • Kayla Marie Sherman

    I had the same issue with the frosting. I kept beating and beating for a very long time and it never thickened. I tried to assemble the cake and it turned into a runny mess that I can’t even use. I ended up running to the store to buy box mix and frosting which is definitely not what I wanted to serve my boss for her birthday :(

  • Annie

    It certainly would have come together if you had waited long enough. Patience is key with this type of frosting.