Homemade Strawberry Cake

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
  • 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

  • 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

1029 Comments

  1. Excited to make this cake! If trying to make a 3 tier cake in 9inch rounds, would I need to double the recipe?

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Amy, You can make 1.5 times the recipe for three layers. Enjoy!

    2. This did not turn out well, the strawberries did not give a strawberry flavour, despite following instructions with the reduced strawberry purée. One drop of food colouring is not enough, as I put 4 drops and it didn’t come out pink. Seeds in the cake are not pleasant

  2. I’ve been to 3 stores and can’t find cake flour. One of the stores has pasty flour, could that be an acceptable substitute?

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Hanna, pastry flour isn’t quite as light as cake flour. You can use it as a substitute in recipes calling for cake flour, but the baked good won’t taste quite as light – best to stick with cake flour (or this cake flour substitute if you can’t find boxed cake flour) in this strawberry cake if possible!

  3. Great option when strawberries are in season! Everyone loved the light texture of the cake at home. Thanks

  4. hello! making this cake tomorrow for my daughter’s birthday and super excited. is it possible to use bob’s mill 1:1 gluten free flour? thank you.

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Amy, we haven’t tried it ourselves so we’re unsure of the results. However, many readers have reported using that flour in our cake recipes with success. Let us know if you give it a try and happy birthday to your daughter!

      1. thank you so much!

      2. ended up using cake flour and the cake turned out perfect! our favorite strawberry cake. thank you!

  5. Made this cake with my daughter for her birthday today. She wanted a pink cake so it was perfect! Flavors were delicious and it was a big hit, but we had some issues with the cakes sinking a bit in the center. Any tips for where we could’ve gone wrong? (Knife came out clean in the center so was worried they would burn or dry out if we left them bake longer.) Thanks!!

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Alison, A cake that sinks in the middle is often under-baked. A minute or two longer in the oven should help with the sinking and make sure the cake is fully baked. Glad to hear you enjoy this recipe!

  6. Hello! I only have one cake pan, will it be ok for the batter to sit out while waiting for the first cake to bake?

    Thanks!

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Liz, absolutely. Leave the remaining cake batter covered with a clean towel at room temperature while waiting for the other pan to bake.

  7. Can I sub freeze dried strawberry powder instead of making a reduction

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Ola, we don’t recommend it. We actually tried it in a test version of this recipe, and the taste, texture, and appearance were lacking.

  8. Made it again 2nd time as my son loved it so much.
    Baked one whole recipe in a 10 inch square cake tin and made another whole recipe for a second layer. Baked it in 170 degrees Celsius for 30-35mins.
    Did the one recipe of the strawberry frosting to go in between. Made Swiss meringue buttercream to go on top for a basketball court (half court) cake.
    Everyone said how moist, light and fluffy the cake was. Loved it!
    Thanks for recipe.

  9. Can this recipe make cupcakes too?

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Angela, Absolutely! This recipe makes 2 and 1/2 dozen cupcakes. See recipes notes for more details. Or for 14-15 cupcakes, follow our strawberry cupcakes recipe, which is adapted from this strawberry cake. Enjoy!

  10. Hey,

    this strawberry cream cheese frosting sounds sooooo good ! We just moved from Germany to the states and I’m looking for new recipes with the original products you can find here, since most of the recipes I use are with German products/measurements etc.

    Our daughter is turning 5 on Monday and I’ll bake a unicorn cake – what else !?
    Will this frosting be “hard” enough for a 3-4 layer cake ? It’s just so much tastier than a regular buttercream. I’ll prepare it ahead with overnight in the fridge before decorating.

    Thank you so much already !

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Antonia, this frosting isn’t “hard” but you can certainly use it to layer a 3-4 layer cake. Hope it’s a hit for your daughter’s birthday!

      1. Sorry I formulated the question wrong. I will bake 4 layers of funfetti cake and wanted to fill it with this frosting and then decorate it with fondant (I know this frosting is not safe for fondant. I will cover the cake with a buttercream).

        What I meant is, will this frosting hold this cake or is it to soft for that much of a weight?

  11. Can I use this recipe to make a 12 inch round cake?

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Chrissy! Here is everything you need to know about converting recipes to different Cake Pan Sizes.

  12. Hi, Sally!
    Would this recipe work for a 3 layer 8 inch cake or would it need to be altered? Thank you!

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Heather, You can use the recipe as is for three thinner 8 inch layers. The bake time would be less so keep an eye on them and use a toothpick to check for doneness. You can also make 1.5 times this recipe for three layers (doubling would be too much). With 8 inch pans your bake time may be a minute or two longer as your layers will be slightly thicker.

  13. I made this cake for my son’s 1st birthday smash cake & he loved it. I’m re-printing the recipe right now so I can make it again for his 2nd birthday! It’s a big hit in our household 🙂

  14. Hello Sally, I made this cake for my daughter in law’s baby shower and it turned out wonderfully – both beautiful and delicious. She has asked for it this year for her birthday. I have a couple of questions.
    1. What quantity of freeze dried strawberries should I buy to end up with the required amount for the frosting?
    2. I’d like to add a surprise inside the cake. I saw a chef on Bon Appetit cut small 2-3 inch circles in the middle of his bottom 2 layers and, after frosting those 2 layers, fill that middle hole with some sort of large/mixed sized fancy sprinkles. Then the top layer went on and so the surprise in the middle of the cake was concealed until it was cut. ….What could I use to fill such a whole in this cake? I am thinking that filling it with fresh strawberries would perhaps not work, as they would get gloopy. Do you have any thoughts?
    I love using your site and thank you for your wonderful work. Keep it coming!
    Amanda

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Amanda, freeze dried strawberries come in a variety of packaging sizes, but you’ll want a total of 1 cup (about 25g). A surprise in the center sounds so fun! You’re right — fresh strawberries might be difficult and get a big soggy. Sprinkles would be fun, or you could even try our homemade strawberry sauce. Let us know how it goes!

    2. I made the cake – once again it turned out amazing. This time I used three 8 inch cake pans and did not increase the size of the recipe. It worked perfectly. I did not do the “surprise inside” thing…I bought the sprinkles but changed my mind. This is a solid cake recipe. Thank you
      Amanda

  15. I made four double layer 6” cakes for grandchildren’s combined birthday party. Each child picked their favorite flavor, so I made Apple, Blueberry, Carrot, and this Strawberry cake. They all turned out great…but this was a huge hit. Love this recipe…and will be making it again!!

  16. Made this cake today. Wish I could post the picture here. Came out really good – I’m the guy that makes the desserts for my family so I’ve spent a lot of time cleaning flour off my clothes and out of my hair. This recipe is easy and well explained. If you watch Sally’s video you’ll hear her say that if anything could make this cake not go right it would be the reduced strawberry. I thought I’d add a little bit on this. I puréed 16 oz. like the recipe says but it took me quite a bit longer. I think I didn’t follow her directions on this though. I cooked it down for 45 minutes on low then brought it up to med/low for another 30 minutes. It reduced to slightly under a 1/2 of a cup so maybe I went a little long. It was the consistency (and almost the color) of tomato paste. The cake was delicious, it was a hit. Thanks Sally.

  17. I loved your lemon cake with cream cheese frosting and am planning to make this strawberry recipe as cupcakes for our high school football team’s breast cancer awareness game. I have a question about the frosting- for the lemon cake you used 1 cup butter and 8 ounces of cream cheese, but this recipe uses 1/2 cup butter with 8 ounces of cream cheese. Why the difference? Do you get a different resulting texture? I ask because the lemon frosting was my most successful cream cheese frosting ever, and I’m a little scared to change things up. Comments are closed on the lemon cake, but it is fabulous! Thanks for your help!

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Karen! These are the proportions that we found to work best for this particular frosting – it’s more tangy from the higher proportion of cream cheese, which pairs beautifully with the strawberry flavor (there’s no tang from lemon in this recipe). We’re thrilled you loved the lemon cake recipe and hope you enjoy this one as well!

  18. Thank you for the recipee? I was wondering about storing the cake. You say: ‘covered tightly’. Do I do that with plastic foil? Or a cloth?

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Hannah! You can cover tightly with plastic wrap or place the cake in a large air tight container.

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