- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 10, 2007

It won’t be long until fresh strawberries are plentiful in the market and at a nice, lower price than we’ve seen in a while. Until then, you don’t have to do without that fresh, sweet, irresistible strawberry flavor.

You don’t have to blow your new year’s diet, either.

This cake is not only lighter than many cakes, but it is based on applesauce and calls for a package of frozen strawberries that you puree in the food processor or blender. You could easily use fresh berries, but you’ll need to slice and sweeten them with sugar first before pureeing (1 tablespoon sugar per 1 cup berries). You will need about a cup of pureed berries for the cake.

Serve this cake after a fast dinner from the grill — chicken, fish or burgers.

Don’t worry about frosting the cake if you are short of time. Just dust it with 2 teaspoons confectioners’ sugar. Or, if you have fresh strawberries on hand, omit the frosting and fill the center of the cake with 1 cup low-fat vanilla yogurt topped with those gorgeous berries.

Strawberry applesauce cake

The preparation time is 5 minutes, the baking time is 30 to 35 minutes and the assembly time is 5 minutes.

CAKE:

Vegetable oil spray for misting the pan

Flour for dusting the pan

1 package (18.25 ounces) plain white cake mix

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

cup sweetened applesauce

2 large eggs

FROSTING:

4 ounces Neufchatel cheese (reduced-fat cream cheese), at room temperature

cup strawberry preserves or sweetened sliced strawberries

cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted

1 drop red food coloring (optional)

Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly mist a 12-cup Bundt pan with vegetable oil spray, then dust with flour. Shake out the excess flour. Set the pan aside.

Place the cake mix, strawberry puree, applesauce and eggs in a large mixing bowl. Blend with an electric mixer on low speed for 1 minute. Stop the machine and scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Increase the mixer speed to medium and beat 2 minutes more, scraping the sides down again if needed.

The batter should look well combined and thickened. Pour the batter into the prepared pan, smoothing it out with the rubber spatula. Place the pan in the oven.

Bake the cake until it is light brown and springs back when lightly pressed with your finger, 30 to 35 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and place it on a wire rack to cool for 20 minutes. Run a long, sharp knife around the edge of the cake and invert it onto a serving platter to cool completely, 20 minutes more.

Meanwhile, prepare the frosting. Place the Neufchatel cheese and the strawberry preserves in a medium-size mixing bowl. Blend with an electric mixer on low speed until just combined, 30 seconds.

Stop the machine, scrape down the sides of the bowl with the rubber spatula, and add the confectioners’ sugar and red food coloring, if desired. Increase the mixer speed to medium and beat until fluffy, 1 minute more.

Spread the frosting over top and sides of the cooled cake with clean, smooth strokes. Slice and serve. Store this cake, covered in waxed paper, in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. Makes 16 servings.

Anne Byrn is the author of the popular Doctor series cookbooks, including “The Cake Mix Doctor” and “The Dinner Doctor” and “Cupcakes From the Cake Mix Doctor” (Workman Publishing). To share favorite cooking tips, ask questions and access her free online newsletter, go to www.cakemixdoctor.com.

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