some text
Jennifer Louallen won the Strawberry Festival Pie & Cake Contest with "Star-Berry Tunnel Cake," an angel food cake with a surprise strawberry/cream cheese filling.


• What: Strawberry Festival

• Where: Chattanooga Market, First Tennessee Pavilion, 1826 Reggie White Blvd.

• When: 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Sunday

• Admission: Free

• Information:

Star-Berry Tunnel Cake

1 10-inch round angel food cake

2 3-ounce packages cream cheese

1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk

1/3 cup lemon juice

3/4 teaspoon almond extract

2 to 4 drops red food coloring

1 cup fresh strawberries, chopped

1 12-ounce container whipped topping

Additional strawberries for garnish.

Invert cake onto serving plate. Cut a 1-inch slice across the top of the cake and set aside.

With a sharp knife, cut a "ditch" ( tunnel) into the cake by cutting around the cake 1 inch from the outer edge and 1 inch from the inner edge. Do not cut all the way to the bottom of the cake; cut to 1 inch above the bottom of the cake. Take out the cut cake and reserve pieces. When finished, cake walls should be about 1 inch thick.

In a large mixing bowl, beat cream cheese until fluffy. Gradually beat in sweetened condensed milk until smooth. Stir in lemon juice, almost extract and food coloring.

Tear cake removed from the tunnel cavity into pieces, stir into cream cheese, add chopped strawberries, fold in whipped topping.

Fill tunnel with strawberry mixture, replace top of cake. Chill 3 hours or until set. Then frost with remaining strawberry mixture. Garnish with fresh strawberries.

- Jennifer Louallen

some text
In keeping with the contest's "Hollywood Star-berries" theme, Ashlee Glenn decorated her four-layer Hollywood Decadent Chocolate Cake with chocolate-dipped strawberries.
some text
Allison Berndt won the adult division of the contest with Strawberry Angel Food Dessert, presented in martini glasses to show off the dessert's red and white layers.

A good recipe can stand the test of time - just ask Jennifer Louallen. In last week's Strawberry Festival Pie & Cake Contest in Dayton, Tenn., she won with the same cake that won two decades ago.

"My grandmother-in-law, Ruby Wilkey, won with this same recipe 20 years ago in the same contest," says the 28-year-old Dayton homemaker.

Louallen's "Star-berry Tunnel Cake" -- a light, summery concoction of creamy, strawberry filling inserted into angel food cake -- helped the defending champ win her second grand prize in a contest that pitted 25 desserts for first through third places in adult and youth categories. As Overall Champ, Louallen walked off with $100 cash, a medal and a gift basket.

After entering the annual festival's cookoff four times, this mom has pretty well figured out what it takes to impress the judges.

"I think presentation helps a lot. I really try to do my best on presentation, making it go along with the theme. Also, having a lot of strawberry in the recipes helps a lot, too," she says.

This year's theme, "Hollywood Star-berries," drew entries such as Red Carpet Truffle and Hollywood Decadent Chocolate Cake. Louallen's cake sat on a little custom stage, others had strawberries walking the red carpet or desserts decorated in stars.

Allison Berndt took first place in the adult division with a Strawberry Angel Food Dessert that was as pretty to look at as it was tasty to eat. Berndt served the layered dish like a parfait in martini glasses, a creative way to highlight its vivid red-white contrast.

One of the most complicated desserts entered, Fabulous Strawberry Banana Split Cake, was submitted by a seventh-grader at Rhea Middle School. Its luscious layers helped DeAnna Moore lock up first in the youth division.

DeAnna says she entered cupcakes last year on her first try and didn't win, but she learned how to compete.

"My mom and I just find recipes we like and keep them in a shoebox," says the 13-year-old. "We had made this banana split cake before and I liked it, but I knew it had to have strawberries for the contest. So I added the strawberries to the recipe."

Dayton's annual festival, which marked its 67th year, has become an unofficial kickoff to strawberry season in the Tennessee Valley. On Sunday, Chattanooga Market will celebrate all things strawberry with its annual Strawberry Festival. Local growers will bring in fresh berries as well as strawberry products such as jams and jellies, salsa, cakes, pies, even strawberry lemonade.

And they don't last long.

"We grow one acre of organic strawberries under a variation of traditional green housing and a few acres of strawberries in open fields," says Brandon Smith of Watsonia Farms. This method yields several hundred gallons of strawberries per week, which are sold at local farmers' markets, he says.

Smith says he's sold out of strawberries at Chattanooga Market every Sunday so far this season.

Janet Sims says this is the second year Sims Family Farm has grown strawberries -- 1.5 acres of berries last year boosted to 2 acres this season. She says she hauled 120 gallons of whole berries to Chattanooga Market once last season and 150 gallons once this season -- and sold out both days.

"My husband and I like homemade pound cake and berries, but one of the family's favorites is Strawberry Cake. My sisters and I share the recipe and make it for family gatherings. Everyone seems to enjoy it and it's not hard to make," she says.

Contact Susan Pierce at or 423-757-6284.

Strawberry Cake

1 box white cake mix

1 3-ounce strawberry Jell-O

1/2 cup water

1 cup butter, softened

1 10-ounce package frozen strawberries, thawed

4 eggs

1 box powered sugar

Strawberry juice, as desired

For the cake, drain juice from thawed strawberries and reserve to use in icing.

Mix 1/2 cup butter, cake mix, water and gelatin. Add eggs and beat 5 minutes. Add drained berries and mix well.

Grease and flour two 9-inch cake pans; pour in batter. Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes.

For the icing, mix 1/2 cup butter and powdered sugar, add strawberry juice to desired flavor and consistency.

- Janet Sims, Sims Family Farm

Strawberry Angel Food Dessert

1 10-inch angel food cake

2 8-ounce packages cream cheese, softened

1 cup white sugar

1 8-ounce container whipped topping

1 quart fresh strawberries, sliced

1 18-ounce jar strawberry glaze

Crumble the cake into a 9-by-13-inch dish.

Beat the cream cheese and sugar in a medium bowl until light and fluffy. Fold in whipped topping. Mash cake down and spread the cream cheese mixture over the cake pieces.

In a bowl, combine strawberries and glaze until strawberries are evenly coated. Spread over the cream cheese layer. Chill until serving.

- Allison Berndt

Strawberry Banana Split Cake

3 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

3/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup butter

1 1/2 cup sugar

4 eggs

1/2 cup mashed banana

1/2 cup sour cream

1/2 cup milk

1 tablespoon vanilla

1/2 cup strawberry preserves

Red food coloring

1/2 instant cocoa

Flour and grease 9-by-13-inch pan.

Stir together flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt.

In a large bowl, beat butter on medium speed until light (about 30 seconds.) Add sugar and beat until fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating after each addition.

In a medium bowl, mash banana and add sour cream, milk and vanilla. stirring until combined.

Add dry ingredients to butter mixture alternately with banana mixture, beating well after each addition. Reserve 2 cups of this mixture in two bowls; one cup per bowl.

Stir strawberry preserves into one of the bowls with one cup of the mixture. Stir cocoa into the other one-cup bowl.

Spoon half the plain banana mixture into pan. Top with strawberry mixture. Add other half of plain banana mixture. Top with cocoa mixture.

Bake at 350 for 60-70 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes then remove from pan to cool completely. Ice with following recipe:

Strawberry Icing

1 cup fresh strawberries

1 cup butter

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

3 1/2 cups confectioner's sugar, sifted

Place strawberries in a blender, puree until smooth. Transfer strawberry puree to a saucepan over medium heat; bring to boil, stirring often until puree is reduced by at least half (about 20 minutes.) Remove from heat and cool completely.

Beat butter in bowl until light and fluffy. Beat 1 cup confectioner's sugar into butter until just blended. Beat 2 tablespoons strawberry puree and vanilla extract into butter mixture until just blended.,

Repeat with 1 cup confection's sugar, followed by 2 tablespoons strawberry puree. Repeat. Beat last 1/2 cup confectioner's sugar into mixture until just blended.

When cake is iced, decorate with fresh strawberries and sliced bananas as desired. Drizzle with chocolate across cake's top, then sprinkle crushed nuts over center of cake.

- DeAnna Moore