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

1181 Comments

  1. Hi Sally! I accidentally reduced my strawberries too much! (Eek!). I have a little less than 1/2 cup. Will that be ok? Should k supplement it with something else? Thank you!

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Nabihah, you can certainly reduce down more strawberry puree to yield exactly 1/2 cup if you’d like, but the cake will be just fine with a little less than 1/2 cup. No changes necessary.

  2. Hi Sally, I had the hardest time finding the freeze rid strawberries! I finally found the crunchy snack kind however, they only had two pkgs. I got them both but I don’t think it will be half a cup? Should I also add a little strawberry puree or do you think it will work? I’m praying it will be fine, I’m making the cake for a gift!

    1. Michelle @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Pamela, freeze dried strawberries don’t have a great substitute available for the frosting. If you’re unable to find what you need in the store, you can substitute for the same amount of confectioners’ sugar for a plain vanilla frosting. Or, if you have strawberry extract, you can try adding that to the frosting for the strawberry taste. Hope this is helpful!

  3. Have you ever used freeze dried strawberries in this recipe?

    1. Michelle @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Laura, freeze dried strawberries are used in the frosting here, but fresh strawberries made into a puree are required for the cake.

  4. I was thinking freeze dried in the cake batter. Thanks.

    1. She covers why that won’t work in her blog part

  5. Sally,
    I made this yesterday and i don’t know if i didn’t reduce the strawberries enough or if i didn’t have enough but it was not pink nor did it taste like system strawberries. I also did the reduction and baked the cake the same day. Still delish but it was just a whisper of strawberries and i was sad.

  6. Doreen Noble says:

    Hi I made this cake the other day for my daughter’s 22nd birthday and I have to say it was really, really good – and I’m not a huge fan of strawberry in food. I did the purée wrong, so I may make it again just to see (I didn’t purée first, I just cooked it down and used a hand purée-er). Also, my cake itself came out somewhat dense, even with the cake flour. Not exactly sure what I did wrong there. But the cake was delish and no one but me noticed those flaws. Really pretty cake too! Wish I could share a pic! I may try your monthly baking challenge. Thanks!

    1. So you did the purée wrong, and then gave her four stars? Come on, now.

      Your cake came out like that because the purée likely had too much liquid.

  7. Hey Sally,
    I had a question I was wondering if you could answer. I know that you said the freeze dried strawberries didn’t really work for the cake, but do you think they might work in a cobbler dough? Most fruit cobbler recipes I see go with the standard plain/vanilla dough, but I thought it might be tasty to make a strawberry cobbler with strawberry flavor in the dough as well. I thought about taking a chocolate cobbler recipe and substituting the freeze dried strawberries for the cocoa powder. Or do you think I’d be better off just adding some strawberry extract?
    Thanks!

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Ben, That sounds delicious but we have never tried it so we can’t say for sure what the outcome would be. When we tested it in the cake we found the flavor and texture were both off. Let us know if you give it a try, but if you don’t want to experiment you may wish to stick to strawberry extract.

  8. Oops one more question! Is it possible to substitute “white whole wheat pastry flour” in place of the cake flour somehow? Would the ratio of flour to corn starch be the same?

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Sondra, for best taste and texture, we highly recommend sticking with cake flour (or the homemade cake flour substitute) for this strawberry cake recipe.

    2. Your recipes are my go to however I found this cake a little dry after putting it in the fridge. Before the fridge, I love the taste and texture. How can I avoid it getting dry? I refrigerated it because of the CC frosting.

      1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

        Hi Steffee! Yes, cakes will dry out if stored in the fridge. After decorating anything with buttercream or cream cheese frosting, it’s fine for 1 day at room temperature. After that, we would refrigerate it. See recipe notes for our recommended make-ahead instructions for next time!

  9. Hi there. My soon to be 4 year old is BEGGING me to make this cake! He wants 3 layers though. Is there a conversion for this or do I have to stick with two?

    Thanks so much & for all you share with us!

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

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

  10. Hi Sally – thanks for the great recipe! It was a big hit for my daughter’s 20th birthday! #sallysbakingaddiction
    Wish I could post a photo here, but even if I could – it tasted better than it looked!

  11. This is my go to strawberry cake recipe. I’ve made this without altering anything, it is stunning in its flavour and texture.

    Wanted to add lime to this, so I put in zest of a small lime in the batter. Also used lime essential oil (culinary friendly), of which I added a couple drops to the batter and the frosting. The strawberry flavour is great as is, but I wanted to kick it up a notch, so I used strawberry yogurt instead of plain. The extra sugar in the yogurt didn’t adversely affect the cake.

    Y’all, if you follow the recipe and use what it calls for, this is foolproof. Thanks, Miss Sally!

  12. Sally: This was one of the yummiest cakes I’ve ever eaten. I followed the recipe to the T (used frozen strawberries super reduced). Thank u so much for all the work you put into this. It’s so ridiculously good. We used strawberry buttercream frosting recipe for frosting. Also amazing. I owe ya one.

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