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Birthdays are kind of a big deal in my family
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Best strawberry cake

1 (18.25-ounce) box white cake mix

1 (3-ounce) box strawberry-flavored instant gelatin

1 (15-ounce) package frozen strawberries in syrup, thawed and pureed

4 large eggs

1/2 cup vegetable oil

1/4 cup water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease 3 (8-inch) round cake pans.

In a large bowl, combine cake mix and gelatin. Add pureed strawberries, eggs, oil and water; beat at medium speed with an electric mixer until smooth. Pour into prepared pans and bake for 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

Let cake cool in pans for 10 minutes. Remove from pans and cool completely on wire racks.

Strawberry cream cheese frosting

1/4 cup butter, softened

1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened

1 (10-ounce) package frozen strawberries in syrup, thawed and pureed

1/2 teaspoon strawberry extract

7 cups confectioners’ sugar

Freshly sliced strawberries, for garnish, optional

In a large bowl, beat butter and cream cheese at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy. Beat in 1/4 cup of the strawberry puree and the strawberry extract. (The rest of the puree is left over but can be used in smoothies or on ice cream for a delicious treat.)

Gradually add confectioners’ sugar, beating until smooth. Spread frosting in between layers and on top and sides of cake. Garnish with sliced fresh strawberries, if desired.

My firstborn and only daughter turned 28 last week. In our family, we make a big deal out of birthdays.

In fact, when this same daughter was 6 months old, we celebrated with a half-birthday party. This party started at half past the hour; we had half of a birthday cake; ate sandwiches cut in half; and sang half the birthday song.

With that kind of start, it may come as no surprise that throughout the years, we have had every kind of theme party: princess, Power Rangers, ’50s, Western, ’70s and Elvis, just to name a few.

Now that the children are adults, we continue to make this a special time.

It has been the trend in our family the past few years that instead of traditional gifts, we give “experiences.” For example, we have given the zip-lining tour, concert tickets and cooking classes; all things that we can experience and enjoy together. But one thing remains the same, I always cook the favorite meal requested by the one celebrating and we gather as a family. Every single year, my girl picks a strawberry cake for dessert.

But I have to be honest, the strawberry cake and I have struggled for years. It seems I could make any kind of cake except the one my dear daughter requested for her birthday. Year after year, I would try to put a perfectly frosted, camera-ready cake on the stand, only to get a watery mess of a frosting running everywhere.

Then one day, I happened to think that you could make a cream-cheese icing and add just a little strawberry puree to it. Surely to goodness that would be the answer I had been looking for. I’m happy to report it has worked perfectly every time.

So let’s blow out the candles and celebrate!

Crevolyn Wiley is a Gainesville resident with her first published cookbook “Cooking with Crevolyn” available at J&J Foods. Contact her at crevolyn.wiley@jandjfoods.com.

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