Addictive Recipes from a Self-Taught Baker

Homemade Strawberry Cake

Sweet strawberry cake topped with strawberry frosting made with fresh strawberries! No artificial flavors. Homemade strawberry cake on sallysbakingaddiction.com

This strawberry cake completely blew me away.

After years of mediocre from-scratch strawberry cakes, my expectations were pretty low when it was time to taste-test. Biting into the first pastel pink forkful was a moment of truth. And I cried tears of joy.

Or were those real tears because I just dirtied every dish in my kitchen with all this strawberry cake recipe testing? Hmm.

Sweet strawberry cake topped with strawberry frosting made with fresh strawberries! No artificial flavors. Homemade strawberry cake on sallysbakingaddiction.com

I find it challenging to pack real strawberry flavor into cake without the crutch of fake strawberry flavoring. My goal was to create a strawberry layer cake made entirely from real strawberries. We’re talking strawberries inside the cake and in the frosting as well. With the help of freeze-dried strawberries, I tackled strawberry frosting. I’ll get to that below. But for strawberry cake? Things have always been pretty lackluster in the flavor and texture department.

Here are the Problems

  • Chopping up strawberries and folding into cake batter works, sure, but then you’re just eating vanilla cake with chunks of strawberries.
  • Pureeing strawberries and folding into cake batter has potential, but (in my experience) the texture is always off. There’s too much liquid. How about adding more flour to make up for that liquid? Then your cake is too dense. And the flavor is always lacking.
  • Strawberry jam could work, but I prefer to start with real strawberries.

So how can we pack real strawberry flavor into cake batter without adding too much liquid? REDUCE THEM DOWN. Ding ding ding! We have a winner.

Fresh strawberries on sallysbakingaddiction.com

New Game Plan

  1. Puree fresh strawberries.
  2. Reduce down on the stove.
  3. Let cool.
  4. Stir into cake batter.

Start with 1 pound of ruby red strawberries. Puree them. You’ll need a food processor or blender for this step. And you’ll need it again for the frosting. I used my ninja!

How to make fresh strawberry cake on sallysbakingaddiction.com

Take that strawberry puree and reduce it down on the stove. This, my friends, is where all the magic happens. Like I mention above, you want a lot of concentrated flavor within a little amount of liquid.

We went from 1 cup of liquid-y hot pink (above) to 1/2 cup of super thick deep red (below). That’s what 30ish minutes simmering on the stove gets us. Look at the difference!! You want this thick, rich, highly concentrated strawberry flavor in your cake batter, instead of the thinner strawberry puree pictured above.

How to make fresh strawberry cake on sallysbakingaddiction.com

This reduced strawberry puree will go right into the cake batter. No need to strain the seeds first — they disappear when the cake is baked. Since the reduced strawberry puree needs to completely cool down, I suggest getting started the day before. Just let the reduced strawberry puree sit in the refrigerator overnight and make the cake batter the following day.

How to make fresh strawberry cake on sallysbakingaddiction.com

The cake batter itself started from my white cake. This vanilla flavored cake proved to be the best jumping off point for a strawberry cake. I kept the majority of the recipe the same, but I removed some of the wet ingredients to make room for 1/2 cup of reduced strawberries. The cake is light, springy, soft, and fluffy.

The reduced strawberry puree will tint the cake batter a lovely pastel pink and, if you want, you can add a small drop of pink or red food coloring to brighten that hue. Not necessary, of course. (I added a teeny drop.)

Expect a velvet-y and slightly thick cake batter.

How to make fresh strawberry cake on sallysbakingaddiction.com

Sweet strawberry cake topped with strawberry frosting made with fresh strawberries! No artificial flavors. Homemade strawberry cake on sallysbakingaddiction.com

You can taste the fresh strawberry flavor in the baked cake, but the flavor is REALLY brought out when you combine it with strawberry frosting.

Like strawberry cake, strawberry frosting has always left me feeling a little defeated. Fresh strawberries were the issue. The frosting would always curdle from the added moisture. And no amount of fresh strawberries could get me the strawberry flavor I craved. Instead of settling for artificial strawberry flavor, I took a trick from Sally’s Candy Addiction: strawberry dust! Grab some freeze-dried strawberries, grind them up, and toss it into the frosting.

(I actually added freeze-dried strawberries to cake batter as one of my test recipes. This was an awful decision and an epic fail. The cake was atrocious. Texture, taste, and appearance. Just… no. But freeze-dried strawbs are a YES for frosting!)

Where to buy freeze-dried strawberries? I always find them in my regular grocery store in the dried fruit aisle. Wegmans, Giant, Trader Joe’s and Target carries them. Keep your eyes peeled– they’re more commonly found that you think!

Sweet strawberry cake topped with strawberry frosting made with fresh strawberries! No artificial flavors. Homemade strawberry cake on sallysbakingaddiction.com

Instead of a thicker strawberry buttercream, I used my silky cream cheese frosting recipe. Tossed in the freeze-dried strawberry “dust” and was left with a frosting so pink, Barbie would be jealous.

So let’s review. The tricks to homemade strawberry cake and frosting made with real strawberries? (1) Reduced strawberry puree in the cake batter and (2) freeze-dried strawberries in the frosting. Kiss your boxed strawberry cake buh-bye.

Sweet strawberry cake topped with strawberry frosting made with fresh strawberries! No artificial flavors. Homemade strawberry cake on sallysbakingaddiction.com

Homemade Strawberry Cake

Ingredients:

  • 2 and 1/2 cups (250g) sifted cake flour (measured correctly)*
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup (1.5 sticks; 170g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 1 and 3/4 cups (350g) granulated sugar
  • 5 large egg whites, at room temperature
  • 1/3 cup (75g) sour cream, at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup (120ml) whole milk, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup reduced strawberry puree (see note)*

Strawberry Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 1 cup (10-12g) freeze-dried strawberries*
  • one 8-ounce block full-fat cream cheese, softened to room temperature
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick; 115g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 3 cups (360g) confectioners' sugar
  • 1-2 Tablespoons milk
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • salt, to taste

Directions:

  1. Make the reduced strawberry puree and allow it to cool completely. See note.
  2. Preheat the oven to 350°F (177°C). Grease and lightly flour two 9-inch cake pans.
  3. Whisk the cake flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together. Set aside.
  4. Using a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, beat the butter and sugar together on high speed until smooth and creamed, about 2 minutes. Scrape down the sides and up the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed. Beat in the egg whites on high speed until combined, about 2 minutes. Then beat in the sour cream and vanilla extract. Scrape down the sides and up the bottom of the bowl as needed. With the mixer on low speed, add the dry ingredients until just incorporated. With the mixer still running on low, slowly pour in the milk *just* until combined. Do not overmix. Whisk in 1/2 cup of reduced strawberry puree, making sure there are no lumps at the bottom of the bowl. The batter will be slightly thick.
  5. Pour batter evenly into cake pans. Bake for around 24-25 minutes or until the cakes are baked through. To test for doneness, insert a toothpick into the center of the cake. If it comes out clean, it is done. Allow cakes to cool completely in the pans set on a wire rack. The cakes must be completely cool before frosting and assembling.
  6. Make the frosting: Using a blender or food processor, process the freeze-dried strawberries into a powdery crumb. You should have around 1/2 cup. Set aside. In a large bowl using a hand-held or stand mixer fitted with a paddle or whisk attachment, beat the cream cheese for 1 minute on high speed until completely smooth and creamy. Beat in the butter until combined. Add the confectioners' sugar, strawberry powder, 1 Tablespoon milk, and vanilla and beat on medium-high speed until combined and creamy. Add 1 more Tablespoon of milk to slightly thin out, if desired. Taste, then add a pinch of salt if needed.
  7. Assemble and frost: First, using a large serrated knife, slice a thin layer off the tops of the cakes to create a flat surface. Discard (or crumble over ice cream!). Place 1 cake layer on your cake stand or serving plate. Evenly cover the top with frosting. Top with 2nd layer and spread the remaining frosting all over the top and sides. Refrigerate for at least 45 minutes before slicing. This helps the cake keep its shape when cutting-- it could slightly fall apart without time in the fridge.
  8. Cover leftover cake tightly and store in the refrigerator for 5 days.

Make ahead tip: The cake layers can be baked, cooled, and covered tightly at room temperature overnight. Likewise, the frosting can be prepared then covered and refrigerated overnight. Light it sit at room temperature to slightly soften for 10 minutes before assembling and frosting. Frosted cake can be frozen up to 2 months if you have room in the freezer. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator and bring to room temperature before serving.

Recipe Notes:

*I strongly suggest using cake flour in this recipe. It's sold right next to the all-purpose flour in the baking aisle. And you use it a lot in my recipes! In a pinch, you can use a DIY version: measure 1 cup of all-purpose flour. Remove 2 Tablespoons. Mix in 2 Tablespoons of cornstarch. Sift it. Measure 1 cup. This sifted 1 cup equals 1 cup of cake flour. I suggest doing this 3x, then remove 1/2 cup since you need 2 and 1/2 cups in this recipe.

Where to buy freeze-dried strawberries? I always find them in my regular grocery store in the dried fruit aisle. Wegmans, Giant, Trader Joe's and Target carries them. Keep your eyes peeled– they’re more commonly found that you think! Do not use the chewy/gummy dried strawberries. You need FREEZE-dried strawberries which grind into a powder. If you can't find them anywhere, just leave them out of the frosting and add another 1/2 cup of confectioners' sugar.

*To make the reduced strawberry puree: puree 1 lb of strawberries. You should have a little over 1 cup. Stirring occasionally, simmer the puree over low-medium heat for 25-30 minutes until you're left with 1/2 cup or a little over 1/2 cup Allow to cool completely before using in cake batter. I always make the reduced puree the day before so it has plenty of time to cool down. I cover and place in the refrigerator overnight. Use 1/2 cup in the cake. Discard any leftovers or spoon on ice cream/yogurt/add to smoothie. Yum!

*To bake in a 9x13 pan: Simply pour the batter into a greased and lightly floured 9x13 pan and bake for 40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

*Cupcakes: Fill cupcake pans 2/3 full with batter. Bake for 20-22 minutes. Makes 2 and 1/2 dozen cupcakes. For less cupcakes, you can make my vanilla cupcakes, reduce the milk and sour cream to 1/3 cup each and add 1/4 cup of concentrated strawberry flavor to the batter.

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© Sally’s Baking Addiction. All images & content are copyright protected. Please do not use my images without prior permission. If you want to republish this recipe, please re-write the recipe in your own words, or link back to this post for the recipe.

SHOP THE RECIPE

Here are some items I used to make today’s recipe.

Food Processor | KitchenAid Stand Mixer | KitchenAid Hand Mixer | Stainless Steel Measuring Cups | 9-inch Round Cake Pan | Icing Spatula | Marble Cake Stand

Some of the links above are affiliate links, which pay me a small commission for my referral at no extra cost to you! Thank you for supporting Sally’s Baking Addiction.

Sweet strawberry cake topped with strawberry frosting made with fresh strawberries! No artificial flavors. Homemade strawberry cake on sallysbakingaddiction.com

205 comments

  1. This might seem silly but you use granulated sugar in your recipes. Does this mean regular old granulated sugar you use in your coffee or caster sugar? Just wondering what difference it makes if so 🙂

  2. Oh I have to give this a try! So clever reducing the puree down!!!

  3. Hi Sally! Big fan of your recipes! tried making this cake today and although it tastes great when I was trying to transfer it from pan to plate half of it came out and half was stuck (not nearly either). I did grease and flour the pans. I’m sure it’s something I did in the process of making the cake. Am an amateur baker after all. What do you think? I definitely want to try making it again but I just need to know what might have gone wrong. Please help Sally or anyone else who might know! Thank you!!!

    • What type of pan are you using? While the cake certainly is moist, I haven’t had issues with it sticking so much before. You can always line with parchment paper too!

      • Oh thanks! I’ll try again with parchment paper. Also i added a tad bit of water to the strawberries before blending and then thought that wait that’s probably not necessary. Should I have done that or is there enough water in the strawberries to blend them up? I used a round baking pan btw (not sure size but I think it was around 8-9 inches I’m sure. 

      • No need to add water to the strawberries to make the puree. Just use the plain strawberries. 🙂

  4. Hi, do you reduce straberries with sugar or just with water? sorry, I have never done strawberry reduction. Could you please provide details?

  5. Question about the sugar again, is there any way you can use less?

  6. Hi Sally, I’m a big fan!
    Is there a reason why you chose cream cheese frosting instead of buttercream? I don’t usually use cream cheese frosting because I tend to taste the cheese, would the cake be too sweet with a buttercream frosting?
    Thanks!

    • Buttercream would be great! I wanted something creamier for this cake. And I love cream cheese + strawberry combo. Just a personal preference. 🙂

  7. Also, what if I don’t have access to sour cream. I commented on instagram on your picture… because I really want to try this recipe, what substitute would you recommend for sour cream?

  8. That cake looks very very tasty!!! hmmmm

  9. Sally the bread bowls and creamy chicken noodle soup was a huge hit with my family, thank you so much for your wonderful instructions. But, I have a question my son-in-laws birthday is tomorrow and he wants Strawberry Cake and I just saw this on your blog. Can you use the egg whites in the carton as I will be making swiss buttercream frosting, and I really don’t want all the egg yolks to deal with after I am done with the cake and frosting? Thank you for all your quick responses. Sure has helped me with my last minute preps of your recipes.

    • Hi Debbie! Yes, you can use egg whites from a carton.

      • Thank you again, did the strawberries yesterday they look like they will work great, thanks for posting that post on how to reduce them down more than just puree. But, waited till this morning to do the cake I will put it in the freezer while making the buttercream. Just to firm it up and less crumbs. Thanks again for your great recipes.

  10. THIS LOOKS AMAZING! Can’t wait to test it out this weekend. Strawberry cake is my favorite!

  11. Hey Sally,
    Can you use frozen strawberries here?

  12. Hi Sally. Could you tell me half cup of strawberry purée is in grams please. Looking forward to making this cake. 

  13. Thanks for the 9 x 13 directions. It was delicious and came out perfect!

  14. Hi Sally, 

    I have 8 inch round pans. If I use those what is the baking time?

    Thank you 

    • Hi. In my experience, since there’s not that much of a difference in size, I’d reduce the baking time by 5 minutes or so. 

  15. I made the recipe three times to make two 3-layer cakes, one for my Mom and the other for my Mother-in-law. Their bdays are just two days apart and this cake was a hit! I will definitely be making it again and again! Thanks Sally!

  16. Baked this cake and was prepping the frosting ingredients when I realized I bought Vanilla flavor instead of extract. I’m out of extract; is it possible to use the vanilla flavor instead?

  17. Wow! This cake is not only beautiful, but it also looks so scrumptious! I will definitely have to try making this one day. Thank you for sharing.

  18. Okay so I made this a couple of days ago and I must have over mixed it. Yes i know you had on there dont over mix. And i really tried not too. But i must have muffed up. My heart is broken. 🙁 That is my sad face. It was dense and a bit dry. I also did it in a 9 x 13 glass pan as i didnt have the room in the fridge for a two layer cake pan. Oh and mine was not that pink. But i did not have red food coloring on hand. I did make the puree and it was yummy. I used strawberries from the freezer and made sure to pat them dry. Now the icing was so yummy so good. I could just eat that by itself. And Walmart carries the freeze dried strawberries by the way. Up near the produce. So was it dry because of over mixing? I swear I followed the recipe. I even know how to make cake flour too. Help? I dont know if I will ever endevor to do this agian. I will have to get over my heart break first. So sad:( Well of course we are still eating it. Because well why waste cake?

    • Hi Suzanne! Thank you for trying my strawberry cake recipe. It could have been overbaked. How long did you bake it in the 9×13?

      • It called for 40 minutes and i did it for 36 minutes instead. So it should have been less than that.

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