The one thing that sets this strawberry cake apart from others? Reduce fresh strawberry puree down and add to the best white cake batter.
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…
I cried tears of joy. Or were those actual tears because I just dirtied every dish with all this strawberry cake recipe testing?
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.
How to Pack REAL Strawberry Flavor Into Cake
- Puree fresh strawberries.
- Reduce down on the stove.
- Let cool.
- 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.
Take that strawberry puree—don’t add anything else to it—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 also do this with champagne in my mimosa cupcakes and champagne frosting. And with Guinness in Guinness chocolate cake, too.
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.
The reduced strawberry puree will go into the cake batter. No need to strain the seeds first—they disappear when the cake is baked.
Because 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
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 single drop of pink gel food coloring.) Expect a velvety and slightly thick cake batter.
- No artificial strawberry flavor.
- Nothing from a box.
- Just pure strawberries.
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 flavoring, I took a trick from Sally’s Candy Addiction: strawberry dust! Grab some freeze-dried strawberries, grind them up, and mix that magic dust 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 strawberries are a YES for frosting!)
- Where to buy freeze-dried strawberries? I find freeze-dried strawberries in my regular grocery store in the dried fruit aisle. I’ve also seen them in health food stores. Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, Amazon, and Target all carry them, as well.
- Baker’s Tip: Do not use “dried strawberries” which are like raisins, dried apricots, and dried pineapple. They have a gummy texture and don’t grind into a powder. You need freeze-dried strawberries, which have all of the moisture removed. They’re the same strawberries you use in strawberry and cream cookies.
Instead of a thicker strawberry buttercream, I used my silky cream cheese frosting recipe. Added in the freeze-dried strawberry “dust” and milk and was left with a frosting so pink, Barbie would be jealous!
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!Print
Homemade Strawberry Cake
- Prep Time: 1 hour, 30 minutes
- Cook Time: 25 minutes
- Total Time: 6 hours
- Yield: serves 10-12
- Category: Cakes
- Method: Baking
- Cuisine: American
The one thing that sets this strawberry cake apart from others? Reduce fresh strawberry puree down and add to the best white cake batter.
- 1 pound (454g) fresh strawberries, rinsed and hulled
- 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 step 1)
- 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
- 1–2 Tablespoons milk
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- salt, to taste
- Make the reduced strawberry puree first, and let cool: Puree 1 pound of rinsed and hulled strawberries. You should have a little over 1 cup. Stirring occasionally, simmer the puree over medium-low heat until you’re left with 1/2 cup or slightly more (you need 1/2 cup for the cake). This takes at least 25–35 minutes, but could take longer depending on your pan or how juicy your strawberries were. 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. Allow it to come back to room temperature before adding to the cake batter. (See Notes for further make-ahead instructions.)
- Preheat oven to 350°F (177°C). Grease two 9-inch round cake pans, line with parchment paper rounds, then grease the parchment paper. Parchment paper helps the cakes seamlessly release from the pans. (If it’s helpful, see this parchment paper rounds for cakes video & post.)
- Make the cake: Whisk the cake flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together. Set aside.
- Using a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a paddle 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 room-temperature 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 of pink gel food coloring.)
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Cover leftover cake tightly and store in the refrigerator for 5 days.
- Make Ahead Instructions: The cake layers can be baked, cooled, and covered tightly and stored at room temperature overnight. Likewise, the frosting can be prepared, then covered and refrigerated overnight. Let it sit at room temperature to slightly soften for 10 minutes before assembling and frosting. Frosted cake or unfrosted cake layers can be frozen for up to 2–3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator and bring to room temperature before decorating/serving. See How to Freeze Cakes for instructions. You can also make the reduced strawberry puree ahead of time and store it covered in the refrigerator for up to 3 days, or freeze it for up to 3 months. Thaw, bring to room temperature, then use in the recipe.
- Special Tools (affiliate links): Stand Mixer or Handheld Mixer | 9-Inch Round Cake Pans | Cake Turntable | Straight Spatula for frosting | Round Cake Carrier for storage | Food Processor | Pink Food Coloring
- Cake Flour: I strongly suggest using cake flour in this recipe. If you can’t find it, try this homemade cake flour substitute.
- Whole Milk: If needed, buttermilk works in its place. I don’t recommend a lower-fat milk.
- Where to Buy Freeze-Dried Strawberries: I always find them in my regular grocery store in the aisle with the dried fruit. Target, Whole Foods, and Trader Joe’s carry them, and I’ve also found them in some health food stores. 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.
- Can I use frozen strawberries for the puree? You can use frozen strawberries, but they will take longer to reduce even if you thaw them first.
- 9×13-Inch Cake: Simply pour the batter into a greased 9×13-inch 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 30 cupcakes. For 14–15 cupcakes, follow my strawberry cupcakes recipe, which is adapted from this strawberry cake.
- Food Coloring: If you want, you can add 1–2 small drops of pink or red food coloring to deepen the pink color of the cake. I add 1 small drop of pink gel food coloring.
- 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, or you can 1.5x the recipe for a thicker layer.
Keywords: strawberries, pink
Reader Comments & Reviews
Just made the purée (hopefully correctly) but found the description “very thick and very red” to be lacking in what to look for as far as consistency.
In your video you even say it’s where the mistake would likely happen so I felt a bit frustrated that I couldn’t find a better description of how thick it should be.
Is it tomato paste? Thinner?
Does it thicken more as it cools?
I’m hopeful things go well when I make the actual cake tomorrow.
My daughter’s 4th birthday 🙂
A better description would certainly be helpful, and I’m glad to help. Just about as thick as tomato paste. It does thicken a bit more as it cools.
This cake is great! It turned out very dense and moist. I used King Arthur 1:1 gluten free flour so that could be why it was so dense.
Hi! I need to make the cake layers 2 days in advance. Do you recommend refrigerating the layers if I plan on frosting it a couple days later?
Hi Tejashree, yes, we’d recommend covering them tightly with plastic wrap (and even a layer of foil for good measure!) and store in the refrigerator until you’re ready to frost and assemble.
I’ve helped my daughter make this cake at her house, and we all love it! Now I want to make it, but I only have 8″ round pans. It has to be a layer cake. I know I’ll need three, but how long to bake them? We are at 2500′ altitude, does that matter? Also, no one in our family has a mixer with a whisk attachment; does the mixing time change with regular beaters? Love your recipes, thank you!
Hi Mary! Yes, you can use 8 inch pans. We’re unsure of the exact bake time, but it will be slightly longer because the layers will be slightly thicker. Keep a close eye on them and use a toothpick to test for doneness. We wish we could help adjust for your high altitude, but we have no experience baking at high altitude. Some readers have found this chart helpful: https://www.kingarthurflour.com/learn/high-altitude-baking.html Yes, you can use a mixer with regular beaters here!
Hello Sally, I made this cake over the summer for my niece’s birthday and she absolutely loved it. So much so, she wants one next year for her birthday. Your recipes are the only ones I use when baking. If it’s not on your site, I am not baking it. Tried to make a cake once from another site and it was a major fail. At any rate, can you use the real strawberry purée, the kind used in drinks instead of puréing fresh or frozen strawberries?
Hi Lisa! Thank you so much for visiting my website and using my recipes! Is the strawberry puree you’re referring to sweetened or unsweetened? If it’s unsweetened, it might be ok. For best results, I would just follow the recipe and not take that chance!
This cake was a hit at my daughter’s baby shower. I followed the recipe exactly except I substituted the milk in the frosting for some extra strawberry reduction. I made it into two 6” round cakes—one was 3 layers and the other was 2 layers. I directed several people to your site for the recipe. Delicious!
Hi again! I want to use the vanilla buttercream recipe to cover this cake as requested by the birthday boy! Since I am making this cake as a 4 layer 9 inch cake, how much buttercream would I need?
Hi Tejashree, we would make a double batch of this vanilla buttercream recipe to ensure you have enough. That being said, it is recommended to stick with this strawberry frosting recipe (or our strawberry buttercream) for the best strawberry flavor. A lot of the strawberry flavor comes from the freeze dried strawberries in the frosting and you make find the flavor of the cake lacking without it.
I understand! However the boy wants a blue Godzilla cake. Do you think the pink color of the frosting will hide well if I added blue gel color to it?
I’m really unsure. I fear it will turn more of a purple color unless you add a lot of food coloring.
Hi! Can I double this recipe to make 4 layers?
Hi Tejashree, rather than doubling, we recommend making two separate batches. A four layer cake should hold up just fine, but you may want to use cake dowels for extra support.
Thank you so much Trina! I like your suggestions. Will keep you posted on how it turns out.
Hit daughter can not have regular flour can I sub it for almond flour?
Hi Melissa, we don’r recommend using almond flour in this cake recipe. Some readers have reported success using 1:1 flour substitutes in this recipe (like Cup4Cup). If you try it, let us know how it goes!
It’s winter where I live, could frozen strawberries be reduced down rather than the fresh?
Hi Ava, you can use frozen strawberries, but they will take longer to reduce even if you thaw them first.
I’m making a cake for a group that includes an egg allergy. Which egg white substitute would you recommend for this recipe? Thank you!
Hi Lauren, we haven’t tested this recipe with any egg substitutes, so we’re unsure of the best replacement here. Let us know if you give anything a try!
So I used 10 T aquafaba (liquid from a can of chickpeas) for the 5 egg whites. (Though I read not to substitute for more than 2 egg whites for best results – I had no choice.) The cake itself was delicious and perfectly fine for my daughter’s birthday crowd. While the batter fluffed up nicely, the layers were sortof flat. Tasted great – and the dense layers didn’t dip down in the middle at least -they were nice and moist. =) So not ruined, but definitely not as fluffy as your pictures when done.
This is a great cake and cupcake recipe. I enjoy it without frosting more often than I care to admit lol.
I’m going to make this for a big birthday party. She’s turning 18! Do you think that a strawberry swiss buttercream would be good for this cake? She doesn’t care for american buttercream because it’s sickly sweet to her and she hates cream cheese frosting, unfortunately.
Do you think adding a concentrated puree or freeze dried powder would be best in a swiss buttercream?
Hi Sam, We recommend adding 1/2 cup of freeze-dried strawberry powder along with the vanilla extract and salt for a strawberry Swiss meringue buttercream. Hope it’s a hit!
Im going to try this recipe hopefully it comes out right
In the frosting, could I use finely chopped/mashed strawberries instead of freeze dried and leave out the milk so that it doesn’t get too thin?
Hi Karley, the freeze dried strawberries really are key in the frosting for best flavor and texture (and color, too!). We do not recommend swapping with mashed strawberries.
This is a fantastic recipe. The instructions are very clear and the cake was delicious. The icing was amazingly tasty. I made it for my daughter’s birthday as she loves strawberries.
I only noted 2 problems. Firstly, it was not clear whether the baking temperature was for a fan oven or not (the temp of 170C does work for a fan oven). Secondly, for some reason, once the strawberry puree was similar in appearance to that pictured in the recipe it was not enough as I had expected 1 cup and made a double batch of cake batter. Luckily I had bought a big packet of freeze dried strawberries and was able to achieve the same effect by adding a little water and then processing them. So if you’re short on time (as it does take a good 30 mins to reduce the strawberries) I would recommend trying this as it seemed to give a similar appearance and flavour to the fresh strawberries. Maybe worth considering for a recipe update?
Finally, I make one batch as cup cakes and they came out well too. Baked for approx 10 mins.
Hi Francina, thank you for your feedback! We always list temperatures for a conventional oven. If using a fan oven, you’ll need to lower the temperature a bit. (I usually bake at 160 fan.)