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
Hi! I made this cake with freshly picked strawberries last weekend, and it was incredible! I forgot the dehydrated strawberries so we used some of the extra reduced purée, and it was a little runny but yummy! Extra frosting was delicious on toast! Anyway, the cake itself was absolute perfection, so thank you! This will become our annual strawberry cake recipe!
What a great annual tradition!!
Hello! My son has requested strawberry cake with chocolate frosting for his birthday. Is your Favorite Chocolate Frosting a good choice for this or should I choose something lighter? Thanks!
Yes, they would be delicious together! I hope he has a fantastic birthday! 🙂
Sally, this cake was so good. I made cupcakes for Mother’s Day because they were easier to give away to my friends who are mothers. The batter made 28 cupcakes filling the liners 2/3 full but the baked cupcakes ended up about level with the top of the liner. I think next time I will fill the liners a little fuller and aim for 24 cupcakes. Instead of a cream cheese frosting I made a butter cream recipe that I love using the dusted freeze dried strawberries you call for. The finished product was really good. Very light with great strawberry flavor. You nailed it! Thank you for perfecting this special cake.
This is my absolute favorite. The flavors are spot on and the cake is so moist. A must make
This is the BEST strawberry frosting I have ever had! The frosting has such a pretty color and holds up better than most frostings that add fresh strawberries. The cake was equally delicious and very light. For people who aren’t getting a strong strawberry flavor from the cake, it could be because the strawberries you used weren’t very flavorful (it’s hard to find good strawberries this time of the year). Unfortunately, not all strawberries are the same, if your strawberries are still fairly white in the inside it may be a good idea to use a bit of strawberry extract.
Thank you for such a lovely cake recipe! I had fun baking this strawberry cake for my MIL’s birthday today! The cake is perfectly sweet and is one of the best cakes I’ve ever made. Rave reviews from the family tonight!
My daughter asked for a strawberry cake for her birthday. I’ve seen lots of recipes floating around there, but I stumbled upon this one shortly after she told me what flavor she wanted.
Her birthday is tomorrow, the cake is frosted and ready – looks good! I use natural sugar and gluten-free flour, both which darken the batter, so it’s not a delicate pink like yours, but I don’t mind! I licked the cake batter and noticed, as other said, that the strawberry flavor is not pronounced. I think the strawberry frosting helps make up for that, but I also decided to spread some strawberry jam (along with the little bit of leftover strawberry puree mixed in) in-between the layers, on top of a thin layer of frosting. Just an idea for another level of strawberry!
I bet it’s delicious with the extra layer of jam! I hope she has a very happy birthday 🙂
Thanks so much for this recipe! I’m in college and just started learning to cook and bake. My friend asked me to make a strawberry cake for their birthday and I said yes before realizing the difficulty. This recipe was a life saver. I’ve been exploring your other recipes and have this site bookmarked. You’re really creative and have a very in depth understanding of the chemistry behind baking, which makes your recipes and advice so fantastic. People often dismiss baking as something frivolous but it’s actually very difficult and takes someone of very high intelligence to tamper with the science behind it successfully. Thank you very much!
Friday night I food processed the freeze-dried strawberrie, puréed the strawberries in the processor next then reduced them. I left all the needed ingredients on my kitchen counter overnight creating room temp items. The next morning I mixed & baked. I prepared this recipe in the form of cupcakes for my niece’s baby shower. Very much enjoyed by everyone! I am so pleased to have this recipe. I will be baking this moist, yummy strawberry cake many times. I look forward to “fresh strawberry growing season” when the wonderful fresh strawberry flavor will reveal itself even more! Thank you for sharing your magic! A happy baker, Deb
Sally, I made this last night for my husband for Valentine’s Day. It was wonderful!
I thought I had messed it up because I didn’t see that I needed a whisk attachment until later in the recipe. But, it turned out great in spite of it. It was so light, tender and moist. I tasted it just out of the oven and it was heavenly. It was so good even without icing that we ate it just as it was. So happy you shared this perfect strawberry cake!
I made this last night to bring to work today and it was a HUGE hit! Everyone loved it. One of my co-workers is allergic to red dye, so I left that out, so the color of the cake wasn’t as pink as yours, but the flavor is spectacular. I made mine in a heart-shaped pan for Valentine’s Day. When I make it again, I’m going to slice some extra strawberries to put between the layers.
So glad it was a hit! Would be great with even more strawberries between layers!
I made this in the 9×13 form for a Galentine’s brunch this past weekend and it was a huge hit. In prepping for the event, I had made a different strawberry cake recipe and this one is SO MUCH better. Like, in a completely different league. It’s clear how much thought and troubleshooting you put into this one. It totally shows. The batter was heavenly, the finished cake was awesome, and–girl–that frosting. Lordamercy, that frosting is good. Thanks so much for the amazing recipe!
I just made this into cupcakes for my son’s Valentines day party at school tomorrow! I am so stoked because the recipe doesn’t require red dye, which is pretty hard to come by in a pink recipe. One of the kids is allergic to red dye in his class, so I’m so happy to have found something “Valentine-y” for him to take!
Hi Sally, my son’s Birthday is this Friday and asked for a strawberry cake with cream cheese frosting. I have never made one from scratch but I wanted to try one but I wanted a real strawberry cake, like you, and I got a new stand mixer for Christmas that I’m itching to use. So I googled it and I think it was meant to be because yours is the first one to show up and is exactly what I was looking for. I do have a question about the cool time. Do you let the cake cool completely in the pan or take out after about 10 minutes then cool on racks? I saw others had trouble removing the cakes and I just want to be sure. Thank you Sally I can’t wait for everyone to try this cake!!
Hi Cammie! I always always always let cakes completely cool in the pans. As long as you grease your pans well, there should be no sticking issues. Great question! I hope your son loves the cake 🙂
Made this yesterday with raspberries and blackberries, same technique but strained berries before reducing as seeds are larger…soooo yummy!!!
Thank you for letting know that it worked! I can’t wait to try this with other berries!