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


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


  • 2 and 1/2 cups (263g) 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 (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


  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.


  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


  1. I love strawberry. I will try this to make.

    1. Let me know how you like it!

  2. Love strawberry anything. Can’t eat it, but will make it for me family.

    1. Let me know how it goes when you do!

  3. “My” not “me”

  4. Thank you Sally! Love your recipes so I was extremely excited when you uploaded this recipe as I love strawberries but couldn’t find the perfect strawberry cake recipe. Making this as soon as possible

    1. YAY! Hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

  5. Wow Sally, this cake looks delicious! I love how you found the secret to getting ‘real’ strawberry flavour into a cake (I dislike artificial flavouring). Pairing it with strawberrt cream cheese frosting….double delicious! Another recipe to add to my ‘must bake’ list!
    Do you think the same technique of reducing a fruit puree could work for other flavours? I’m thinking blueberry, raspberry or mango. Cheers & Happy New Year!

    1. I can’t see why not! I’d love to try this with raspberries next time.

  6. Thank you for this Sally! It’s so hard to find the perfect strawberry cake. A bakery near my house had wonderful strawberry cupcakes, but they closed. This looks like my ideal strawberry cake! And my birthday is coming up. I thought I’d make your tuxedo cake, but this one is giving that cake a run for its money! Thanks for all the fabulous cake recipes.

  7. Hi Sally!

    Another stunner from you. I love everything pink and this cake looks dreamy.

    I have a curiosity question. You have not changed the leaveners in this recipe from your base white cake recipe. I have always read that when you add any fruit purée to a cake batter, it imbalances the pH level of the overall batter and we need to adjust leaveners to maintain the pH balance. Can you please explain how and why the strawberry puree in this recipe did not call for adjustment in the leaveners. 

    Once again, this question is only intended to improve my knowledge. Otherwise I trust your recipes blindly and have probably made 40+ items from your website and cookbooks.

    Hope you don’t mind me asking the question!

    1. Hey Nupur! I didn’t play around with the leavening amounts in my testing– and the cake still rose up and was as airy and fluffy as I wanted. So I didn’t find it necessary this time! 🙂

  8. I want to make this so bad! Need to find a friend with a birthday coming up! Sounds heavenly.

    1. Yes yes yes! Let me know if you get the chance to bake it.

  9. “Barbie would be jealous” Hahahahahaha!! Sally, you’re a genius and this cake look AMAZING!! Seriously the photos are blowing my mind. Strawberries are in season now in India and I’m tempted to get a batch right now and make this!

    1. Thanks Gayatri!

  10. Kelly | Maverick Baking says:

    This looks gorgeous, Sally! You’re absolutely right, you never see a naturally pink and strawberry flavoured cake in stores or on other recipe sites, it always involves flavouring and colouring. Well done for tackling this, I’ll need to try it sometime!

    1. It was a challenge figuring out how to get the most *natural* strawberry flavor packed in a cake without altering the texture too much. I’m so happy with this. Would love to hear if you try it Kelly!

  11. Talk about perfect timing – my nephew just asked for a strawberry cake for his birthday – which we are celebrating tonight! We’ll have to make a run to the grocery store and give this a try. It looks delicious!


    1. Hope the bday boy loves it!

  12. Let me know if you do!

  13. Thanks Andrea!

  14. Mila Dempsey says:

    I have found the freeze dried starnerries at Aldi!

  15. Homemade strawberry cake is one of my favorites! Strawberry season is around the corner here in Florida. Looking forward to making another delicious Sally dessert! God bless!

  16. Oh my gosh, Sally, this is out-of-control beautiful 😀 I would love to make a strawberry cake…with lemon frosting, probably! But it sounds just perfect. I’ve never had one from scratch, just the Pillsbury or whatever kind 😉 I’m heading back to North Carolina today for school, and I really want to do more baking this semester. Thanks for this great idea!

  17. Think I just found my birthday cake for this year!Thanks again for all your wonderful recipes.My family truly enjoys them.

  18. Oh, I’m so excited about this! Strawberry cake was always my favorite, and the cake I always requested for my birthdays when I was a little girl. AND, this would be perfect for Valentine’s Day! I have some individual heart-shaped pans, about 6-7″ height and width, that I use. That way, my son can have a “whole cake” to himself. Then I just cupcake out the rest of the batter. Of course, we always have to have sprinkles on top; my son wouldn’t know what to do with a cake without sprinkles. lol 😉 Can’t wait to try this; thanks!

  19. Sally, thank you so much for figuring this out for all of us! Strawberry cake is my favorite, but since I don’t make things with artificial colors or flavors for my family, I haven’t made strawberry cake for my daughter! I will be trying this soon. Thanks again!

  20. Desiree Sweeney says:

    Wow… this cake sounds divine. I am also thinking this cake with lemon curd or chocolate ganache in between the layers and then the strawberry frosting on top 🙂 Oh, the possibilities…..

  21. Hey Sally!  I’m definitely going to make this cake (now that you’ve figured it all out!  LOL).  I have one question.  Since strawberries tend to be “sour”, would it not be a good idea to add some sugar and a touch lemon juice when reducing?

    1. Not necessary at all. there’s enough sugar in the cake 🙂

  22. Catherine Smith says:

    What a gorgeous cake AND cake stand!!! I can’t tell you how excited I am about this cake…isn’t it depressing how 90% of the strawberry cakes found on the internet are only strawberry because of jello? Gross! So excited for this!!!

    1. My thoughts exactly!

  23. Sally,
    I am a big fan of your strawberry buttercream-or I should say the people I make it for love it as I am allergic- so I know this cake will be lovely. I was SO surprised to hear the freeze dried fruit make such a yucky cake! As someone else asked, I might try the reduction trick with other fruits. 

    1. Let me know if you do try that– and what fruits you use!

  24. Wow this looks so pretty! What type of cake flour do you use? I’ve tried using Bob’s Red Mill unbleached cake flour and did not like it (compared to the same cake using KA AP flour).  Thanks for all your inspiration! 

    1. Hey Ashley! I like Swans Down brand.

  25. Sarah Didier says:

    Haven’t even read the recipe yet, but you should have seen the fist pump I did when I saw this in my email. It is so difficult to find a good strawberry cake recipe (no jello)! Hurrah for Sally!

    1. YEAH FIST PUMP!!! 😉

  26. Sarah Didier says:

    Something to consider adding to your recipe test list: Neapolitan cake! I made one for my Neapolitan-loving husband for his birthday last year and it was AMAZING but cobbled together from a Neapolitan cake recipe from online with my sister’s strawberry cake recipe. Just picture it with some pastel Sweetapolita sprinks (which I didn’t have yet)…. So cute and so tasty!

    1. Now that I have a strawberry cake I love, I definitely need to try my hand at Neapolitan cake. Great suggestion, thanks Sarah!

  27. Patricia Pines says:

    YUM! Strawberry cake is one of my favs. I usually cheat and buy the strawberry cake box and then make my own buttercream icing . I’m not a box kinda gal so don’t hate me! I’m making this for my birthday!!! And serving it with vanilla bean ice cream. Yes Yes Yes!

    1. Yes!! The perfect birthday cake – happy birthday Patricia!

  28. Charlotte Moore says:

    Love the color PINK! The cake looks delicious. I have never made a strawberry cake that I can remember. Unless it was the jello one. I’ll pass! If so it was long ago when they came out.

  29. Strawberry cake is my favorite!!! I can’t wait to try this, I just might make it tonight! Seriously, everything I have baked from your webite is always a hit!

  30. Sally, so excited you “broke the code” on how to make a great naturally-flavored strawberry cake! Strawberry is my husbands favorite cake but I have tried, and failed, many times to create a good cake. I ran into all the same issues you stated (cakes with powdered pudding, too much liquid, not enough strawberry flavor…). So I am thrilled you succeeded! I cannot wait to make this!
    Thank you for sharing.

    1. Thank you, Trish! I hope you (and your husband) love this cake as much as I do!

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