Doctoral Desserts

We had a big ol’ BBQ to celebrate the Ladyfriend’s PhD graduation over the weekend.  I got to cook and prep up a storm with all the family around to watch the Babylady.  There were 3 salads (orzo, potato & a simple green) and appetizers (jalapeno-pepper jelly &/or spicy carrot relish over cream cheese & a bunch of pickled stuff). Homemade condiments (mayonnaise, ketchup & pickled red onions). A signature drink (involving cucumber & mint…mmm!).  Burgers, brats, hot dogs & chicken.

And dessert. Oh, the dessert stole the show.

Strawberries. Chocolate. Caramel.  Bliss.  Seriously.

Fresh Strawberry Cake (from here)


  • 3 cups cake flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ½ cup buttermilk
  • 2 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1-¾ cup granulated sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 cups pureed strawberries
  • Strawberry Cream Frosting:

    • 3 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
    • ¼ cup unsalted butter, room temperature
    • 1 tsp. vanilla
    • 1/2 cup pureed strawberries
    • 4-½ to 5 cups powdered sugar


    1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare three 9 inch round layer cake pans; lightly grease the pans with shortening and dust with flour.  In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt; whisk together to mix. Set aside.
    2. In a small mixing bowl, stir the buttermilk and vanilla together. Set aside.
    3. In a large bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
    4. Add eggs one at a time, beating until thoroughly mixed.
    5. With the mixer on low-speed, add about one-third of the flour mixture, mix just until the flour is almost completely blended.  Scrape the bowl down, and add about one half of the buttermilk mixture, blending just until mixed. Scrape the bowl down again and continue alternating with the flour mixture and buttermilk mixture, ending with the last portion of the flour, and stirring just until blended.
    6. Gently fold the strawberries into the batter.
    7. Spoon the batter into the prepared pans and smooth the surface with the back of a large spoon. Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until a long toothpick, wooden skewer, or cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from oven and place pans on a wire cooling rack to cool for 10 to 15 minutes then remove cake from the pans and place the cake on the wire cooling rack to finish cooling.
    8. In a medium bowl, combine cream cheese, butter, and vanilla; use an electric hand mixer or wooden spoon and beat together until mixture is smooth. Stir in pureed strawberries. Add 4½ cups powdered sugar; beat until frosting is smooth and creamy. Add additional ½ cup powdered sugar if necessary to make frosting a good spreading consistency. Use an offset spatula to spread frosting between layers and over the top and sides of cake.
    9. Garnish with strawberries, cover frosted cake and refrigerate until ready to serve.

    General Tidbits for a better cake:

    • You can use parchment paper to line pans also.  I usually don’t, but I suppose I should.   I kind of feel too lazy to cut it out and have never had a problem.   The recipe called for 9 inch pans, but I used 8 inch rounds because it was the size I had.  It made for a tall cake!  Nothing wrong with that!
    • When creaming sugar/butter you will want to make sure your butter is room temperature.  I don’t recommend using a microwave or heating it in any way. Not cool and not melted.  Add the sugar slowly over time till it is good and fluffy.  Like 6-10 minutes!  Scrape down sides from time to time.
    • To add eggs, beat in one egg at a time and beat for about a minute before adding the next.  Scrape down sides.

    Verdict: This cake was awesome!    The only think I would do different is make the frosting a bit more cream-cheesy. I think I’ll use 6 oz. cream cheese next time.  I think it would also be incredible using pureed blueberries, cherries, raspberries or blackberries. Yum.

    fresh strawberry cake

    decorating help courtesy of the Babylady...lopsided, but tasty!


    Want to take the cake up a notch?  Of course you do!   Add ICE CREAM!  Of course!   What is better with strawberries than chocolate?  Nothing.

    (Dark) Chocolate Ice Cream (adapted from Alton Brown)

    • ½ cup unsweetened (dark) cocoa powder
    • 3 cups half-and-half
    • 1 cup heavy cream
    • 8 large egg yolks
    • 9 oz. granulated sugar
    • 2 tsps vanilla
    • ~1 tsp kosher salt
    1. Place the cocoa powder along with 1 cup of the half-and-half into a medium saucepan over medium heat and whisk to combine. (note: you don’t have to use dark cocoa…but I like it better). Add the remaining half-and-half and the heavy cream.
    2. Bring the mixture just to a simmer, stirring occasionally, and remove from the heat.
    3. In a medium mixing bowl whisk the egg yolks until they lighten in color. Gradually add the sugar and whisk to combine.
    4. Temper the cream mixture into the eggs and sugar by gradually adding small amounts, until about 1/3 of the cream mixture has been added. Pour in the remainder and return the entire mixture to the saucepan and place over low heat.
    5. Continue to cook, stirring frequently, until the mixture thickens slightly and coats the back of a spoon and reaches 170 to 175 degrees F.
    6. Pour the mixture into a container and allow to sit at room temperature for 30 minutes.
    7. Stir in the vanilla extract.
    8. Place the mixture into the refrigerator and once it is cool enough not to form condensation on the lid, cover and store for 4 to 8 hours or until the temperature reaches 40 degrees F or below.
    9. Pour into an ice cream maker and process according to the manufacturer’s directions. This should take about 25 to 35 minutes. Know what I miss about ice cream makers that don’t use rock salt?  That subtle salty taste you get from iced/salted machines that signifies “homemade” to me.  So when nearly done I tossed in a few pinches of kosher salt (maybe 1 tsp?).  I think it added to the finished goods!
    10. Serve as is for soft serve or freeze for another 3 to 4 hours to allow the ice cream to harden.

    Verdict: People loved, loved, loved this.   Some even said it was the best chocolate ice cream they had ever had. EVER. Wowsa!  I agree!

    dark chocolate ice cream

    this isn't mine, but it looks the same! I forgot to take my own pictures. This is courtesy of (thanks!)


    I went overboard and had some Salted Caramel Sauce (that I wrote about here) to drizzle on top. Or eat by the spoonful- your choice really.   If you make nothing, make this. It takes no time, few ingredients and is good in a way that could make your cry.

    Stay tuned for Doctoral Drinks!

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    7 Responses to Doctoral Desserts

    1. Meemaw says:

      I was there to eat it all and believe me it was delicious! I’m so lucky to have Meg as a daughter-out-law!

    2. Travel Mommy says:

      We just got home from this Graduation weekend in Seattle and believe me that food was AMAZING! The cake was definitely a highlight as well as the ice cream! But….the salads, appetizers you name it —all was delicious! The special “Jen grad drink was yummy!” Can I have another one? It was a fantastic weekend with family and little kids running around having tons of fun in Meg and Jen’s yard!

    3. Pingback: Doctoral Drinks: Cucumber Mint Gimlet | Grow & Resist

    4. uma says:

      This looks sooo delicious!! Mmmm…

    5. Pingback: A Little Something to get a Doctoral Candidate to Doctorhood | Grow & Resist

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