Lemon Thyme and Ginger

Nifty Cake with Strawberries Peaches and Cream

A tribute to my father for his many gifts and love. Dad gave me my first photography lesson and encouraged me to continue with it along the way. Included with this tribute is a cake recipe for Nifty Cake. An updated version of the birthday cake I baked for him when I was a teenager. This cake recipe features his favorite fruits, strawberries and peaches.  GS

Over the past few weeks my dad and his memory has filled my thoughts. His forward presence came around for no other reason than it is strawberry season. Dad loved strawberries, especially strawberries and cream. I can clearly see him sitting at the head of the table with a bowl of strawberries, pouring heavy cream all over them and then add a sprinkle of sugar. Whenever strawberries were in the house, this was his impromptu dessert.

Nifty Cake: Buttermilk Cake with Strawberries, Peaches and Whipped Cream cake recipe

Nifty Cake: Buttermilk Cake with Strawberries, Peaches and Whipped Cream cake recipe

I would watch his strawberry and cream routine with a raised eyebrow and a sideways smirk, “Really Dad? You’re drinking heavy cream.” I could not see how heavy cream, even adorned with strawberries, was worthy of such attention. Eating sweetened whipped cream I understood, but cream straight out of the container was gross. Ignoring my smirky adolescent attitude, Dad would dive into his bowl of strawberries and cream like a seasoned athlete, ever so focused and determined to savor every drop. Eventually, he would look up seeing my adolescent stare and say, “What? It’s great. Do you want some?” He was always eager to share the things that brought him joy.

It amazes me how random and small instances, or thoughts, can bring out strong emotions and memories. Once the strawberry trigger hit me, memories of my life with Dad filled me with his spirit, and it hasn’t left. I am not sad with these memories, it is nice to feel his presence since I can no longer see or talk with him. He gave me many gifts over our lifetime together, and I am grateful for the precious time we spent together.

Nifty Cake: Buttermilk Cake with Strawberries, Peaches and Cream cake recipe

Nifty Cake: Buttermilk Cake with Strawberries, Peaches and Cream cake recipe

One common interest we shared is still very prominent in my life. He gave me my first photography lesson. I can’t remember if I initiated it or not, but when I was around 12 years old he took me out to the dry grassy hills above Old St. Hilary Church and taught me how to use his Tele-Rolleiflex camera and his light meter. Tele-Rollei is a 120mm camera that required the photographer to look down into a viewing box to see the image. Also, a separate hand-held light meter was needed to determine the exposure. There was a lot to learn, and each photograph took extra time to set up and capture.

One of Dad’s favorite activities was taking pictures of wildflowers. So, on my first day I wandered along the Tiburon hills photographing wildflowers with apt attention and a new-found love. That day is as vivid to me like a bright California summer day. I wonder if Dad initiated this outing because the two of us were just sitting around the house and he thought we both needed something to do.

I recently found the photographs I took on our day together. Dad saved them filed with his slides as, “Jennifer’s Pictures.” Seeing my slides organized with his, made me feel that day was as important to him as it was to me. After all these years I never knew he had them. Ever since that day on the Tiburon hills, photography has been a significant part of my life. Thanks Dad.

Father’s Day BBQ recipe ideas to serve with Nifty Cake: 

Grilled Sherry Marinated Flank Steak

Garden Vegetable Pasta Salad

Nifty Cake: Buttermilk Cake with Strawberries, Peaches and Cream cake recipe

Nifty Cake Recipe for Dad

When I was in middle school I started making birthday cakes for my family. I would ask my brothers what cake they wanted and set out to bake it for them. For Dad’s birthday I did not ask him what he wanted, I knew. I created a cake overflowing with his favorite fruits: yellow butter cake (from a mix), layered with strawberries, peaches and whipped cream.

This was my first “original” cake recipe. I piled the middle layer with whipped cream and fruit, then frosted the entire cake with more whipped cream and decorated with strawberries and peaches. It was a miracle the cake did not topple over. This cake is a strawberry, peaches and cream lover’s dream come true, and I made it for him every year until I went away to college.

Dad often used the expression “nifty” when he described something fun. In his honor, I decided to recreate my cake recipe I made for dad and call it Nifty Cake. When I first developed this cake recipe for Dad I used a cake mix. Now, I make cakes from scratch and had a lot of fun figuring out the type of cake to make. After testing several cake recipes, I decided on a Buttermilk Cake from Rose Levy Beranbaum’s book, The Cake Bible. I slightly adapted her cake recipe and substituted all-purpose flour instead of cake flour, because it is an ingredient people can easily get.

Nifty Cake: Buttermilk Cake with Strawberries, Peaches and Cream cake recipe

This buttermilk cake recipe with strawberries, peaches and sweetened whipped cream can be dressed up or kept simply adorned. If you are a person who does not like frosting, this is the cake for you. This is a delicate cake with slight tang and prominent butter flavor. It is delicious all by itself, or covered with any type of frosting. This cake is a blank canvas for endless varieties of frosting and toppings. It is the perfect cake for the strawberries and cream lover in your life.

Love and miss you Dad.

Nifty Cake: Buttermilk Cake with Strawberries, Peaches and Whipped Cream

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 40 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour

Category: Dessert

Cuisine: American

8-10 servings

Nifty Cake: Buttermilk Cake with Strawberries, Peaches and Whipped Cream

Nifty Cake is a buttermilk cake with strawberries, peaches and sweetened whipped cream. It is a delicious and simple cake that is appropriate for any occasion. The buttermilk cake can easily be eaten plain, topped with whipped cream and fruit on the side. It is the perfect cake for those who do not like frosting, as well as served with any variety of frosting you wish.

The buttermilk cake recipe was slightly adapted from Rose Levy Beranbaum recipe, "Buttermilk Country Cake" in "The Cake Bible Cookbook".


    Buttermilk Cake
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 2/3 cup / 5.5 oz / 160 g buttermilk
  • 1/2 tea pure vanilla extract
  • 1 3/4 cups plus 2 Tbls / 7 oz / 200 grams sifted all-purpose flour (see note)
  • 1 cup / 7 oz / 200 g sugar
  • 1 TB / 15 g baking powder
  • 1/2 tea / 3.5 g Kosher salt
  • 8 TB / 4 oz / 113 g unsalted butter - softened
    Fruit Filling
  • 8 oz / 225 g Fresh Strawberries
  • 1/2 Fresh Peach
  • 1/3 cup / 75 ml best quality strawberry or peach jam
    Whipped Cream Frosting
  • 2 cups / 16 oz / 500 ml heavy cream
  • 1 1/2 tea pure vanilla extract
  • 2-3 tea sugar
  • Decorate the top of the cake with additional peach slices and strawberries.


    Buttermilk Cake
  1. You will have more success if all your ingredients are at room temperature when you begin mixing the cake batter.
  2. Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit /175 degrees Celsius/ Gas Mark 4
  3. Butter the bottom and sides of a 9-inch (23cm) springform cake pan. Line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper, then butter the paper. Lightly flour the bottom and sides of the cake pan. Shake out excess flour.
  4. In a medium bowl lightly mix together the egg yolks, 1/4 of the buttermilk, and vanilla.
  5. In a mixing bowl of a stand mixer add the sifted flour, sugar, baking powder and salt and mix together for a few seconds on low speed so they are all fully blended. Add the butter, cut up in tablespoons pieces, and the remaining buttermilk to the mix. Mix the ingredients together on low speed until the dry ingredients are incorporated with the butter. Increase the speed to medium and beat for 1.5 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and scrape the batter off the
  6. paddle/beaters.
  7. Add the buttermilk/egg mixture to the flour in 3 intervals, beating the batter for 20 seconds between each addition. After mixing the batter, scrape down the sides of the bowl and paddle attachment.
  8. Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan and smooth out the surface with an offset spatula. Bake the cake for 30-40 minutes or until a cake tester inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean and dry.
  9. Take the cake out of the oven and let it cool for 10 minutes in its pan on a cooling rack. Run a knife around the edge of the pan to loosen the cake from the sides. Turn the cake out of the pan and remove the parchment paper from the bottom of the cake. Turn the cake over, right side up, and place on the cooling rack. The cake should be completely cooled before frosting and serving.
  10. This cake is best eaten the same day it is made, but will last wrapped airtight in plastic wrap, for 3 days on the counter, 5 days in the refrigerator, and for 2 months in the freezer.
    Fruit Filling
  1. Clean and remove the stems from the strawberries. Dry with paper towels. Cut the strawberries into bite size pieces and put into a small bowl.
  2. Peal the skin off the peach, then slice into thin segments. Cut each segment into bite size pieces and add to the bowl with the strawberries. Gently mix the fruit together until well combined. Set aside.
    Whipped Cream
  1. Chill the bowl you will use to make whipped cream and the beaters in the freezer for 10 to 15 minutes.
  2. Take the bowl and beaters out of the freezer and add cold heavy cream and vanilla to the chilled bowl. Beat the cream mixture on high speed until the cream forms soft peaks. Add the sugar and beat on high until stiff peaks are formed when the beaters are lifted from the cream. Be careful not to over mix and turn the cream into butter. If you are planning to frost the cake with the cream, you will want the stiff peaks. If you are planning to have the whipped cream only for the middle and top cake layers the whipped cream can be softer and not whipped as stiff.
    Putting the cake together
  1. Divide the cake in half horizontally to make two layers. (See Note) Put the bottom layer on a serving plate and the top layer on another plate or rimless pan or tray. (Cardboard cake rounds are perfect if you have them)
  2. Evenly spread the strawberry or peach jam across the top of the bottom cake layer. Spread 1 cup of the whipped cream evenly across the jam.
  3. Add the mixed fruit then spread the fruit. Press the fruit evenly into the cream so that there is a flat and smooth fruit/cream layer.
  4. Slide the top cake layer on top of the bottom cake layer, lining up the notches on the side, (see note). Add the remaining whipped cream and spread it over the top of the cake. Decorate the cake with additional peaches and strawberries as you wish.
  5. The cake is best served the same day it is made. Add the fruit and whipped cream to the cake as close to serving time as comfortable. Store the cake in the refrigerator, loosely wrapped with plastic wrap until ready to serve. Take the cake out of the refrigerator 15 minutes before serving.
  6. After 24 hours the cake will get soggy and the whipped cream will loosen.


I find I have more consistent results when I weight my dry ingredients whenever I bake. The original recipe was calculated using cake flour. I decided to use all-purpose flour because the cake made with cake flour was very delicate and did not hold together well. 200 grams of cake flour is about 2 cups of cake flour. 200 grams of all-purpose flour is shy of two cups of flour. You do not want to add a full 2 cups of all-purpose flour, or the cake will be too dry. If you switch up any flours or dry ingredients it is always better to follow the weight vs the volume measurement for accuracy.

There are many ways to slice cake layers in half horizontally and different tools you could buy. I cut cake layers using a ruler, toothpicks and a long serrated knife. I am not brave enough to cut it in half without a guide. First, cut a small vertical mark on the side of the cake. This mark will be your guide to evenly line up your layers. Measure with a ruler the middle point around the circumference of the cake. Mark the middle with a toothpick every 3 inches all the way around the side of the cake. Put one hand gently on top of the cake with the other hand working the knife. Place the middle of a long serrated knife against the top of the toothpicks and make a cut, or score, around the circumference of the cake. Use the hand on the cake to turn the cake as you cut. Continue to cut in a circle around the edge of the cake, focusing your eye on the tip end of the knife. It helps keeps the knife level. Cut your way around the cake, gradually cutting toward the middle and then all the way through.

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© 2017, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.


  1. Perrin Smith

    July 8, 2016 at 1:00 pm

    Lovely heart felt post. Dad did give us all many gifts – including his love for fresh good food. Your post brought back many memories of celebrating his July birthday with cake and fresh fruit and grilled salmon.
    I look forward to making this nifty cake.
    Thank you!

    • Ginger

      July 14, 2016 at 4:31 pm

      Thank You Perrin. Let me know when you do get the chance to bake Nifty Cake. I hope you like it.

  2. loves2bake

    June 16, 2017 at 6:07 pm

    Ginger – this cake sounds lovely, like a shortcake but a little bit different. While I love the recipe, I like the story that goes along with it even better! What a wonderful memory of your Dad and the photographs and the slides found years later. Can’t wait to make your Nifty Cake, and I think I’m going to make it for my Dad for the birthday dinner I’m making him tomorrow 🙂

    • Ginger

      June 18, 2017 at 10:03 pm

      Thank you Laura. Dad and I had a lot of fun times taking pictures together. Hope you and your family enjoy it.


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