Photo: Greg Dupree Styling: Ginny Branch
This gorgeous cake is even more amazing when you slice into it, revealing the rows of perfect strawberries.
1. Make the Cake Layers: Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease, with shortening, and flour 2 (9-inch) round, 2-inch-deep cake pans. Beat the butter with a heavy-duty stand mixer at medium speed until fluffy; gradually add the sugar, beating well. Add the egg yolks, 1 at a time, beating just until blended after each addition.
2. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt; add to butter mixture alternately with milk, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Beat at low speed just until blended after each addition. Stir in the vanilla and almond extracts.
3. Beat the egg whites at high speed with an electric mixer until stiff peaks form. Fold about one-third of the egg whites into batter; fold in remaining egg whites in 2 batches. Spoon batter into prepared cake pans.
4. Bake in preheated oven until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean, 28 to 32 minutes. Cool in pans on a wire rack 10 minutes; remove from pans, and cool completely on wire rack, about 1 hour.
5. Meanwhile, cut a thin slice from stem end of each of 20 to 25 whole strawberries to form a flat base; set strawberries aside.
6. Make the Dreamy Whipped Frosting: Gently stir together the mascarpone cheese and 1/3 cup sugar in a medium bowl. Beat whipping cream and vanilla and almond extracts with an electric mixer at medium speed until foamy; increase speed to medium-high, and slowly add remaining 1/3 cup sugar, beating until stiff peaks form. Fold one-third of the whipped cream mixture into cheese mixture; gently fold in remaining whipped cream mixture in 2 batches.
7. Place 1 cooled cake layer on a cake plate or serving platter; spread top with 3/4 cup of the frosting. Working from the outer edge of cake layer toward middle, place strawberries, flat base sides down and pointed tops up, on top of frosted bottom layer.
8. Spoon about 1 1/2 cups frosting into a ziplock plastic freezer bag; snip 1 corner to make a small hole. Pipe frosting between strawberries, filling in spaces completely. Gently spread about 3/4 cup of the frosting on top of berries.
9. Place second cake layer on berry layer; spread remaining frosting over top and sides of cake. Garnish with whole and sliced strawberries, if desired.