Strawberry Hot Air Balloon Birthday Cake

Strawberry Hot Air Balloon Birthday Cake

It’s Memorial Day weekend, which also means that it’s the weekend of my baby girl’s first birthday! I can’t believe how quickly this year has flown by. I wanted to make this a birthday to remember and so I wanted to make a flavor of cake that I haven’t had the chance to eat very often (and the fact that it’s a girl birthday and the cake would be pink). So I decided to make a strawberry cake. I also knew that I wanted to make a tiered cake to put that cake decorating class to use. So I did what any mom would do – scoured Pinterest for the best recipe to use. I came upon this recipe for the Best Strawberry Cake Ever from Rose Bakes. And I have to say that I would have to agree with the title she gave this recipe. Everyone loved it – including the baby when she smashed into it!

The first step is to create a strawberry puree by boiling water, sugar, and strawberries. Actually having strawberries within the batter is what puts this cake over the top in flavor.


Once that is set aside to cool, the dry ingredients are whisked together in a separate bowl. Strawberry Jello mix is added in this step and gives the cake a vibrant pink color when the wet ingredients are incorporated.


I wasn’t sure exactly how tall I would need each cake tier to be in order to make it look proportional, so I made two batches of this batter. I used three 7″, three 5″, and three 3″ pans and still had batter left over for a few cupcakes (I ended up only using two layers of cake per tier – more for me later). Before I poured the mixture into the pans I greased them with cooking spray, then lined the bottoms with parchment paper. The cakes were very moist and a bit tacky after they were baked, so lining the bottoms with parchment was a life saver.

I let the cakes cool for 4 hours in the fridge. That was mostly due to life happening… You could probably let them cool for an hour in the fridge before crumb coating and be fine.

I  decided I wasn’t going to be super mom and opted to buy premade buttercream from a local cake decorating store. It’s the same place where I got my wedding cake and knew that I liked the hint of almond flavoring. This buttercream was very sticky and made it harder to frost the outsides of the cakes. I might make swiss buttercream ahead of time in the future.

I let the crumb coated cakes firm up in the fridge over night. To make my life easier when putting on the final frosting layer, I thinned the buttercream with a couple tablespoons of heavy cream. It did the trick! The final layer came out super smooth.


I’m not a professional, so that is pretty dang smooth in my opinion.

To color the buttercream I used gel food coloring, which you can buy at Michaels. I used a drop and it made the color super deep – that gel food coloring is no joke.

To bring in the hot air balloon theme I decided that I would try to make a cake hot air balloon for the top tier. I probably should have made that decision the day before rather than the day of. Ten rice krispie treats in the garbage later and I decided hot glueing the tassels of a real balloon to some toothpicks would do the trick.

I did however make the hot air balloon basket out of 1 1/2 layers of cake. In order to get the basket weave effect I rolled my fondant out with my pasta attachment for my mixer and then used the linguine attachment to cut it.

Strawberry Hot Air Balloon Birthday Cake

In order to make the hot air balloons on the side of the cake, I used a cookie cutter. I found a bunch of different options on Etsy and would suggest looking there for any cookie cutter shapes that aren’t as common.


I’d call this one a Pinterest win! Here’s a shot of the cookie cutter used on actual cookies. Aren’t they cute?!


This cake was a labor of love!

Strawberry Birthday Cake

Strawberry Birthday Cake, from Rose Cakes

325 degrees


15.25 oz white cake mix

1 (3 oz) box of Strawberry Jello

1 C Sugar

1 C all-purpose flour

1 C sour cream

3 eggs

1 C strawberry puree – 1 C chopped strawberries, 1/4 C sugar, 1/4 C water

First, combine the strawberries, sugar, and water into a medium pot. Bring to a boil. Let it boil until the sugar is dissolved and the strawberries are softened (about 2 minutes). Remove from heat and let cool.

In a medium bowl whisk together the cake mix, flour, sugar, and jello. Then add the sour cream and eggs all at once and beat on medium speed until combined.

Puree the cooled boiled strawberries in a blender until smooth. Pour into the batter and beat on medium speed for about a minute more. The batter will start to have a whipped like texture.

Oil and line with parchment paper three 7″ pans and divide batter evenly between each, a little over half full. If making a tiered cake like I did – I would nix the third 7″ pan and pour the rest of the batter into two 5″ pans. The key is to have enough batter to fill the pans a little over half way.

Bake at 325 degrees for 35 – 40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Or if doing cupcakes – 15 – 20 minutes.

Let me know if you try it!

xo Sara


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