Strawberry and Thyme Layered Vanilla Cake

By Libbie Summers
Assisted by Candace Brower
Photography by Cedric Smith

The mother of all Mother’s Day cakes. 
Mother's Day Cake from Libbie Summers
Strawberry and Thyme Layered Vanilla Cake
(vanilla bean cake, thyme syrup, strawberries and cream, marshmallow frosting)
serves 12
(NOTE: I doubled this recipe and made it three 9-inch layers for the cake in the photo, you don’t need to do that…we were feeding 25 people! The two layer cake below is perfection.)

3⁄4 cup milk
2 teaspoons vanilla paste
12 tablespoons butter, at room temperature, plus 2 tablespoons for the pans
1 3⁄4 cups vanilla sugar, plus more for the pans (you can use sub regular sugar)
2 3⁄4 cups cake flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1⁄2 teaspoon salt
5 large egg whites, at room temperature
Thyme Syrup (recipe to follow)
Strawberries and Cream Filling (recipe to follow)
Marshmallow Frosting (recipe to follow)
Sugared Thyme (recipe to follow, optional for garnish)

In a small saucepan over low heat, stir together the milk and vanilla paste. Bring the mixture to a simmer, then remove from the heat and let cool to room temperature.

Preheat the oven to 350° F. Butter two 8-inch round cake pans, line the bottoms with parchment paper, and butter the paper. Add 1 to 2 tablespoons vanilla sugar to the pans and swish it around to coat the inside. Set aside.

In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, sift together the flour, vanilla sugar, baking powder, and salt. Mix on low speed for 10 seconds, then add the butter and the milk mixture and beat on low speed until combined. Increase the speed to medium and mix for 1 minute.

Add 2 egg whites and beat on medium speed for 30 seconds. Add the remaining 3 egg whites and continue to beat for 30 seconds.

Divide the batter between the prepared pans and use an offset spatula to level the top of each. Bake for 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Do not over bake. Let the layers cool in the pans for 10 minutes before turning them out onto a cooling rack. Let cool completely.
Trim any “dome” that may have happened when baking off of the layers. Place one layer, trimmed side up, on a cake pedestal or plate. Brush the top with the thyme syrup. Top with the Strawberry Cream Filling and spread to the edges. Place second layer on the cake, cut side down and brush with the thyme syrup(you will have some left over, use it for a great cocktail or add to your iced tea). Cover with frosting and garnish with sugared thyme if desired

Strawberry Cream Filling
1 cup chopped strawberries
2 teaspoons sugar
1/4 cup heavy cream, whipped with 1 tablespoon confectioner’s sugar

Stir the strawberries and sugar together and set aside for 30 minutes. Whip cream and fold strawberry mixture in.

Thyme Syrup
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
4 sprigs of fresh thyme

Directions: In a small saucepan over medium heat, add the water and sugar. Cook, stirring occassionally, until the sugar has dissolved. Remove from heat and add thyme. Allow thyme to steep in the syrup for a minimum of one hour and up to overnight. Remove thyme before using.

Marshmallow Frosting
8 large egg whites, at room temperature
2 cups sugar
1⁄2 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Green food coloring (optional)

Fill a medium saucepan with 2 inches water and place over medium-low heat. Set the bowl from a standing mixer over the simmering water, making sure the bottom of the bowl doesn’t come into contact with the water. If you’re not using a standing mixer, a heatproof stainless-steel bowl will work fine. Put the egg whites, sugar, and cream of tartar in the bowl and whisk constantly for 4 minutes, until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is warm.

Transfer the bowl to the standing mixer fitted with the whisk attachment (or use a hand mixer) and whisk for 5 to 7 minutes, gradually increasing the speed until stiff, glossy peaks form. Add the vanilla extract and mix until just combined. Tint light green with food coloring if desired. Frosting should be used immediately.
Spring Layer Cake from Libbie Summers
Cake Decorating with sugared herbs from Libbie Summers
Sugared Thyme
1 egg white, beaten
Thyme sprigs
1 cup sugar

Brush the egg whites onto the thyme springs and dip in sugar. Lay out on parchment paper to dry.




  1. So i am thinking that the thyme syrup involves some heating and/or perhaps infusing? This looks like one component that could be made day before?

    Comment by David Brown on June 14, 2016 at 7:59 pm

  2. David!! So sorry I forgot the thyme syrup directions! I just updated the recipe. The thyme is really pungent, so you don’t need to steep too long. Overnight max. 1 hour minimum.

    Comment by Libbie Summers on June 14, 2016 at 9:48 pm

  3. Thanks, Libbie. One more follow up. I see your comment to “use” the frosting immediately. Any reason this cake wouldn’t hold up in the fridge for a day (fully prepared) or is best practice to make and consume same day?

    Comment by David Brown on June 17, 2016 at 3:44 pm

  4. The frosting will break down eventually, so I like to serve it at its best.

    Comment by Libbie Summers on July 3, 2016 at 10:31 pm

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