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The one thing that sets this strawberry cake apart from others? Reduce fresh strawberry puree down and add to the best white cake batter.

overhead image of homemade strawberry cake on a marble cake stand

This strawberry cake completely blew me away. After years of mediocre from-scratch strawberry cakes, my expectations were pretty low. It was time to taste test my efforts. Biting into the first pastel pink forkful was the moment of truth…

slice of homemade strawberry cake on a white plate

I cried tears of joy. Or were those actual tears because I just dirtied every dish with all this strawberry cake recipe testing?

Let’s get down to business. Watch me make the recipe below:

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.

Strawberry Cake Problems

  • Chopping up strawberries and folding into cake batter works, but then you’re just eating vanilla cake with chunks of strawberries.
  • Pureeing strawberries and folding into cake batter has potential, but 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 THE STRAWBERRIES DOWN. Ding ding ding! We have a winner.

carton of strawberries

How to Pack REAL Strawberry Flavor into Cake

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

Puree 1 pound of ruby red strawberries. You’ll need a food processor or blender for this step and again when you make the frosting.

Strawberry puree in a food processor

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.

You’ll begin with 1 cup of hot pink puree and reduce down to 1/2 cup. After 30 minutes, it will be very thick and very red. Add this thick and highly concentrated strawberry flavor to your cake batter, instead of the thinner strawberry puree.

strawberry puree in a glass measuring cup

The reduced strawberry puree will go 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.

strawberry cake batter in a glass bowl

Strawberry Cake Batter

The cake batter starts 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.

  • No artificial strawberry flavor.
  • Nothing from a box.
  • Just pure strawberries.

strawberry cake batter in round cake pans

The Strawberry Frosting

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? They’re more commonly found than you think. I always find freeze-dried strawberries in my regular grocery store in the dried fruit aisle. Wegmans, Giant, Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, Amazon, and Target each carry them.

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

Homemade strawberry cake on a wood and marble cake stand

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. Have fun baking!

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overhead image of homemade strawberry cake on a marble cake stand

Homemade Strawberry Cake

  • Author: Sally
  • Prep Time: 1 hour, 30 minutes
  • Cook Time: 25 minutes
  • Total Time: 6 hours
  • Yield: serves 10-12 1x
  • Category: Cakes
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: American

Description

The one thing that sets this strawberry cake apart from others? Reduce fresh strawberry puree down and add to the best white cake batter.


Ingredients

Scale
  • 2 and 1/2 cups (285g) cake flour (spoon & leveled)
  • 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 or plain yogurt, 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)*
  • optional: 1-2 drops red or pink food coloring

Strawberry Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 1 cup (about 25g) 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
  • 12 Tablespoons milk
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • salt, to taste

Instructions

  1. Make the reduced strawberry puree and allow it to cool completely. See note. You can make it a few days ahead of time and store it covered in the refrigerator or cover and freeze it for up to 3 months. Thaw before using in the recipe.
  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. Stir in food coloring, if desired. (I use 1 small drop.)
  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 crumbs. 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. Yields about 3 cups of frosting.
  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.

Notes

  1. Make Ahead Instructions: 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 or unfrosted cake layers can be frozen up to 2 months-3. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator and bring to room temperature before decorating/serving.
  2. Cake Flour: 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!
  3. Whole Milk: If needed, buttermilk works in its place. I don’t recommend a lower fat milk.
  4. 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.
  5. Reduced Strawberry Puree: puree 1 lb of rinsed and hulled strawberries. You should have a little over 1 cup. Stirring occasionally, simmer the puree over low-medium heat until you’re left with 1/2 cup or a little over 1/2 cup. This takes at least 25-35 minutes, but could take longer depending on your pan or how juicy your strawberries were. *Do not add sugar or anything to the puree or reduced puree– it’s just pure strawberries. 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. Allow to cool completely before using in cake batter. Make sure it’s room temperature when adding to the batter. You can make the reduced puree ahead of time and freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw, bring to room temperature, then use in the recipe. Discard any leftovers or spoon on ice cream/yogurt/add to smoothie. Yum! You can use frozen strawberries, but they will take longer to reduce even if you thaw them first.
  6. 9×13 Inch Cake: Simply pour the batter into a greased and lightly floured 9×13 inch pan and bake for 40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  7. Cupcakes: Fill cupcake pans 2/3 full with batter. Bake for 20-22 minutes. Makes 2 and 1/2 dozen cupcakes. For 14-15 cupcakes, follow my strawberry cupcakes recipe, which is adapted from this strawberry cake.
  8. Food Coloring: If you want, you can add 1-2 small drops of pink or red food coloring for a lovely pink shade to the baked cake. I add 1 small drop of pink gel food coloring.
  9. No Cream Cheese in Frosting: If you’d like to skip the cream cheese in the frosting, use my strawberry buttercream recipe instead. You’ll have enough for a thin layer of frosting, but you can 1.5x the recipe for a thicker layer.

Keywords: strawberries, pink

Reader Questions and Reviews

  1. Hi I love this recipe, can I use coconut oil in place of the butter for a dairy free option? Do you know? Thank you have a blessed day!

    1. Hi Paige, we haven’t personally tried it, but you could try solid coconut oil in place of the butter (so that it can properly cream together with the sugar). The taste of the final cake will likely be different. If you give anything a try, let us know how it goes!

  2. I have a question about the strawberry reduction, mine didn’t get real red but it is thick. Should I be concerned about it? I want to make this cake for my husband and he is looking forward to it.

    1. Hi Leah, the color of the strawberry reduction will depend on the strawberries you’re using. You can alway add a bit of gel food coloring to deepen the pink color of the cake.

  3. Does this recipe double well? I was wanting to make a 9” cake. 🙂

    1. Hi Diana, This recipe makes a 2 layer nine inch cake as written.

  4. Hi! How firm is this cake? Is it something you could cover with buttercream and decorate successfully, or is it very soft and moist?

    1. Hi Alice, you can absolutely cover and decorate this cake with regular buttercream (or strawberry buttercream) instead of the strawberry cream cheese frosting used in the recipe. Still a wonderfully soft and moist cake, too!

  5. Hands down the best strawberry cake in the universe!!! How does Sally do it!!! Perfection! Perfection! Perfection! I don’t want to even try to describe you his cake with my words. Tasting is believing! One bite and you will know

  6. Hi Sally, I wanted to make this cake as a middle layer of a teapot cake for my daughter- is it possible to halve this batter to make just one cake?
    Also, can I use frozen strawberries, the fresh strawberries aren’t the best here this time of year.

    Thanks

    1. Hi Lauren! Yes, you can halve the batter recipe for a one layer cake. You can use frozen strawberries, but they will take longer to reduce even if you thaw them first. Happy baking!

  7. hi!! i really love this recipe and i wanted to make it into a 6in , would that work the same?
    Thankyou!

  8. if i wanted to make this for 3 eight inch rounds, should i do 1.5 of the recipe? looks absolutely delicious.

    1. Hi Karla! Yes, that is what we recommend. Your 8 inch pans will yield slightly thicker layers (bake time will be slightly longer, too). Let us know if you give it a try!

  9. I have tried the recipe twice. The first time was a mess. Cake tore apart because of loose texture, frosting too runny that couldn’t be spread well on the side of the cake.
    The second time today is a big success. All the party teens love it so much that they take the remaining slices back home.
    Thank you for the recipe, Sally.

  10. Could you please provide a version using strawberry jam? I can at home and id love to be able to use that, but I’m sure the wet ingredients would need to be adjusted. Thanks for the great recipe!

    1. Hi Megan! Strawberry jam does not produce the same amount of flavor as the reduced strawberry puree. For best results, we recommend following the recipe for the cake batter. You can, however, spread a bit of your jam between the layers for extra flavor!

    1. Hi Bruce, we haven’t measured the cake layers. Maybe about an inch and a half or so.

  11. Made this cake for my birthday and it turned out wonderfully! Used the “room temperature “ trick after reading about how important it is to have the butter, eggs, sour cream & others at room temperature. Realized that I’ve bumped into your website before and decided to subscribe! Thank you for doing all the hard work for us!

    1. Thank you so much for your kind feedback, Jill — we’re so glad you loved this cake (and our other recipes, too!)

  12. WOW I MDE THIS YESTERDAY, SO WHEN I TELL YOU IS SO FLUFY AND SOFT THE STARWBEEY LAVOR IS SUPER YOU CAN TASTE THE CLEAN NATURAL STRAWBERRY FLAVOR

  13. I don’t plan to make this cake for 3 weeks although I have plenty of very ripe strawberries now. Would you recommend freezing the strawberries whole, purée only and freeze then reduce when the time comes or purée and reduce now and freeze?

    1. Hi Nicole! We recommend reducing the puree – it can be frozen for up to 3 months. Thaw, bring to room temperature, then use in the recipe.

  14. I’m hoping to make this for my son’s first birthday this weekend. Would your not so sweet frosting work with this cake as well?

  15. Due to an egg allergy, we usually use unsweetened applesauce or baking soda + vinegar. Would you be able to advise which of these would work better for this recipe? I’m concerned that with 5 egg whites to replace that the cake would be too dense/wet if we used applesauce. Banana and aquafaba aren’t options as we also have allergies to those but I’m desperate for a strawberry cake recipe!

    1. Hi Elise! We haven’t tested an egg-free version of this cake, so without trying it ourselves it’s really hard to say. Either option would change the intended outcome of the cake. For best taste and texture (and so you don’t waste your time trying to adapt this recipe since it may not work properly), it may be more useful to find a recipe that is specifically formulated to be egg-free. Let us know if you give anything a try!

    1. Hi Susan, it depends on the depth of your pan, but you can fill them 2/3 way full. Silicone should work just fine. Hope you enjoy the cake!

  16. I made this for a potluck and everyone Raved about it. The flavor was amazing and I enjoyed using new techniques to make it.
    I may have over creamed the butter and sugar because it was a little dense. Would over creaming also cause the cake to be dry?

    1. Hi Donna, so glad you enjoyed the flavor of the cake! We have a post on how to prevent a dry or dense cake that you can read for some troubleshooting tips. If you over-cream butter, the butter will trap more air than it should. As the batter bakes, that extra air will deflate and leave you with an overly dense cake. For best results, cream butter and sugar together for about 1-2 minutes. Hope this helps!

  17. Made this cake today. I can’t wait to try it! Sally, you’ve posted the most amazing recipes- best of any that I’ve tried (I’ve tried a ton). They are always easy to follow, perfect crumb and so moist. The chocolate cake is my next one to try. It’s for my son’s teacher, as a “Thank You”. I’m so glad I found your blog!!! It’s my go-to!

    Ann

  18. Hi! Making this today! Would the bake time be the same for a Bundt pan?

  19. Yo Sally-o, I’ve only got 8 inch pans. Could I bake this cake in the 8 inch pans? Thanks, dawg!

  20. Woooooow!!! 10 stars!!! This cake is everything!!! Thanks Sally!!! I’m tempted to eat the whole cake myself. So freaking good!!!

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