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. Kiss your boxed strawberry cake buh-bye.

This is the BEST strawberry cake!! Made completely from scratch with real strawberries! Topped with strawberry cream cheese frosting. Recipe on sallysbakingaddiction.com

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…

This strawberry cake is made completely from scratch with real strawberries! Topped with strawberry cream cheese frosting. Recipe on sallysbakingaddiction.com

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

Let’s get down to business. Homemade strawberry cake is episode 1 in Sprinkled, my new video series! 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.

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.

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.

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

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.

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!

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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Homemade strawberry cake

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. Kiss your boxed strawberry cake buh-bye.


Ingredients

  • 2 and 1/2 cups (250g) sifted 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 (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
  • 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: Sift cake flour before measuring. 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 this homemade cake flour substitute.
  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 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

1118 Comments

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  1. Hello, My cake sank in the middle which step could I have messed up on?

    1. Hi Jocelin, If the middle sunk it’s likely undercooked and the middle is still too raw. If you try it again add a few minutes to your bake time and if you notice the tops getting brown before the center is finished you can cover it loosely with foil.

  2. This was fantastic. Used the cake base and made it into a strawberry shortcake. I would, however love it if I could have an even stronger strawberry flavour so could I add more puree and less milk or sour cream? Always a big fan!

  3. Brittany Rose says:

    This cake is incredible. I made it for my stepdaughters 15th birthday. The cake was fluffy, moist just oh-so-good. The frosting was the showstopper. The strawberry powder gave it a beautiful pastel pink hue, I almost didn’t have enough to grow the cake because it was hard to resist eating spoonful after spoonful . Thank you for this fabulous recipe. Today, I made your frosting recipe again using dried raspberries to go on a chocolate cake. The frosting is off the hook!

  4. I made this cake, and it was a huge hit! It was so moist, and the icing was the best part. I appreciate the tip about placing it in the fridge before cutting—do not skip that step! If I want to make cupcakes using this recipe, would you say the frosting recipe makes enough to frost all the cupcakes? I cannot visually remember from when I was making it. Thanks as always for your awesome recipes!

    1. Hi Katlin! I’m so happy to read that you enjoyed this cake recipe. There’s plenty of frosting in the written recipe if you bake this cake batter as cupcakes.

  5. I used this cake recipe to make a two tiered enchanted forest cake. We used chocolate buttercream and oh my! It was delicious! I was nervous because I never had a strawberry cake turn out well. It was perfect!

  6. I’ve used a number of your recipes for the past year or so and enjoyed them. I loved getting your email today and watching your video. It’s fun to feel like I have a friend in my kitchen. You are adorable and your daughter is so cute. You definitely have your priorities right and I look forward to learning from you. Thank you for sharing.

    1. Thank you so much, Susan. So nice to read this and I sincerely appreciate it!

  7. I’m confused that you say in the video that you can use this recipe to make cupcakes, but I see a separate strawberry cupcake recipe that doesn’t involve a reduction. What’s the difference in using this strawberry cake recipe for cupcakes or the specific strawberry cupcake recipe?

    1. Hi Valerie, you can use this cake batter or a reduced version, which is shown in my strawberry cupcakes. (It uses a puree– not sure if you’re looking at a different recipe.)

      1. After reading through more comments, it looks like you did your strawberry cupcakes with strawberry buttercream recipe first (used puree and not a reduction) and then later did the White Choc Strawberry cupcakes recipe (with reduction) and the latter is the one you prefer.
        Then my question would be, if I simply halved this cake recipe it does not look exactly like the preferred strawberry cupcake recipe (seems like more butter, more sugar, a few other small variations). So what would be the difference in outcome between halving this strawberry berry cake recipe or using the white choc strawberry cupcake recipe?

      2. Hi Valerie, halving this recipe will certainly work for cupcakes (though you’d need 2.5 egg whites). The strawberry cupcakes use 3 egg whites, so there’s a little more flour to make up for the moisture. I also use a little more milk and sour cream. It’s not really “half” of the cake recipe, I’d say more like 2/3 of the recipe. It’s adapted from my vanilla version. I find the cupcakes and the cake taste identical.

  8. Hi Sally,
    Could I substitute 10% cream for the whole milk in the strawberry cake recipe?

    1. In a pinch that should be fine, Annie.

  9. Hi sally! Thank you again for this delicious cake recipe! It had been my family’s birthday cake request for the past two years! My mom is such a picky eater and it is by far her favorite cake!! Question, have you ever frozen the strawberry purée? And will the thawed strawberry purée work? Thank you in advance!

    1. I’m so happy your family enjoys this cak, Alejandra! Yes, you can freeze the puree then thaw it and bring to room temperature before using.

  10. Hello Sally,
    I am planning to make this beautifully delicious cake for my daughter’s birthday. She wants unicorn cake so planning do some decorations as well. Just wondering will cream cheese frosting will be good for piping? Do I need to amend anything If I want to use cream cheese frosting for decoration?

    1. Hi Megan, Cream cheese frosting is fine to pipe simple designs. You can even fill your piping bag and place the bag into the refrigerator before piping to help it hold it’s shape. However for more intricate designs I recommend you stick with buttercream. I do have a strawberry buttercream too!

  11. Elizabeth EGAN says:

    I was just wondering about the nutrition information how many calories per serving and how many servings I would assume 8 but how many calories per serving?

    1. Hilari @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Elizabeth, I’m unsure of the nutritional info of this recipe, but there are many great online calculators like this one: https://recipes.sparkpeople.com/recipe-calculator.asp

  12. Hey sally if i don’t have cake flour on hand can i use all purpose flour?

    1. Hilari @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Rina! If you don’t have cake flour, try using this cake flour substitute.

  13. Sally,
    I did as cupcakes for a trial run before making my daughter’s birthday cake…and it was denser than expected and not fluffy and crumbly as I envisioned. I followed everything as the recipe stated but clearly something didn’t quite go right, any ideas as to what or where I went wrong?

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Alissa, Be sure you using cake flour and sifting it before measuring. For more troubleshooting tips you can see the post How to Prevent a Dry or Dense Cake.

  14. I made my reduction ahead of time and although I simmered for about 40 min there is still more then a half cup. What should the consistency of the reduction be? Should I continue to reduce to get to a half cup?

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