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!

Print
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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. Kiss your boxed strawberry cake buh-bye.


Ingredients

  • 2 and 1/2 cups (285g) 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

1296 Comments

  1. My batter has lumps in it and it won’t mix what do I do?

    1. Hi Haley! The batter should come together when you add the dry ingredients & milk. A few lumps is ok, but you can always whisk by hand a few times to rid any large ones.

  2. Hello…I have a rose shaped bundt pan and would love to try this recipe out in as it’s pink and looks delicious…do you recommend using a bundt pan?

    1. Hi Erin! This strawberry cake batter fits nicely into a 10 cup or larger bundt cake pan.

  3. Hello! I made this cake yesterday and it did not have an overtly strawberry flavor. (The delicious frosting definitely gave it that wonderful flavor though.)
    Do you think I could add a quarter cup of powdered freeze-dried strawberries to the cake batter without compromising the texture?

    1. I’ve made this three times now. All three times I took out 1/4 cup of sugar and replaced it with 12 grams of ground freeze dried strawberries. The cake was very sweet and very strawberry- forward!

  4. Connie Graham says:

    I made this cake for a family dinner to celebrate my daughter’s birthday – it was incredible! I admit I was a bit nervous when it can to reducing a pound of strawberries to purée, but stuck with it (and learned a new technique!) and it was so worth the extra time. I couldn’t stop “testing” the strawberry cream cheese frosting with the freeze dried strawberries mixed in to the frosting – heavenly! The cake is very rich and packed full of strawberry flavor, but I recommend cutting smaller than normal slices. Thanks, Sally, for another incredible recipe!

  5. Sally, thank you!! This recipe was amazing. I’m in the UK so I used your gram measurements and made it for my daughter’s birthday. My strawberries were a little on the sour side so I added a dash of strawberry essence. I noticed when I added the strawberry purée to the cake batter it looked a little curdled but it tasted good and baked well. Frosting was amazing. Cake was delicious and moist. I made three tiers. Yum!! Got lots of compliments.

  6. For years my mother and I have tried to make a strawberry cake recipe that was handed down by my grandmother. And for years we have struggled with getting the icing to be thick enough, not to slide right off of the cake…and to make a cake that was not so dense.
    This cake has blown us away and fixed all of the problems. It will now be our go to strawberry cake going forward. With real strawberry flavor and the perfect consistency, it has become our new favorite. Thank you for sharing.

    1. I’m so thrilled that you tried this recipe and that you both enjoyed it so much!

  7. Hi Sally!
    Can you please tell me how to get the beautiful pink cake in your pictures.
    I baked this cake, the batter was a lovely pink colour after adding one drop of the food colouring. I was really excited to serve this cake to my guests and when I cut into the cake it was a pale brown, not what I expected! Taste was great but I would really like to get the pink colour in your pictures. I do hope you can help me with this problem, Thank You!

    1. Hi Marylin, What type of food coloring are you using? I use gel colors which are nice and vibrant. If you are using liquid drops you will have to use more to achieve a brighter color.

    2. Hi Sally,
      I used Americolor Dusty Rose soft gel paste(one drop) Thank You!

  8. Hi Sally
    This cake sounds fabulous, I want to use it as part of a birthday cake for my great nieces 3rd birthday cake , ( she has asked for strawberry & lemon cake ) I’m going to use your lemon cake recipe as well.
    Wanted to ask will the frosting be ok to fondant ice onto or should I use a butter cream , will the frosting set ok?
    PS , making a Mary Poppins theme cake 2 tiers.
    Many thanks

    1. This is a cream cheese frosting which should be refrigerated if not serving right away. My understanding is that you shouldn’t refrigerate fondant, so that might be something you want to consider!

  9. I’m betting you can dehydrate and then grind the strawberries if you don’t find the freeze-dried. I make several things into powder after dehydrating to give a flavor kick to recipes.

  10. I made cupcakes tonight with your recipe…. I forgot to use your cupcake conversion, but seriously, they STILL were amazing! You can literally smell the fresh summery scent of the strawberries, and the taste is amazing!
    It took me a while… I’ve never reduced anything before, but with patience, it came out great! Will definitely be making this again, next time as a cake.
    You are an amazing baker! Keep ’em comin’!

    1. Erica Nishizawa says:

      Is FULL FAT cream cheese an easy find? I’ve never really paid attention‍♀️

  11. Can you successfully double this recipe? I know sometimes when you double a recipe it doesn’t come out well. I want to make this for a luncheon so I have a 13 x 15 pan I’d like to use.

    Thanks!

    1. Hi Tara! For best taste and texture results, I strongly recommend making the batter twice.

  12. I made this cake today and followed the recipe exactly. I made the strawberry reduction last night and let it cool in the fridge overnight. I made it with your strawberry frosting instead as my kids don’t like cream cheese frosting (blasphemy!). Let me tell you it is absolutely delicious! Very natural strawberry flavor, moist, not too sweet, it’s perfect! My kids loved it too!

  13. I made this for my daughter’s birthday and everyone that attended loved it and asked for the recipe. Later my husband and I fought over what was left! I will definitely make it again. For me it took twice as much freeze dried strawberries to get the recommended amount of powered so just a heads up on that.

  14. Made this for my son’s birthday in two 9″ round pans and everyone loved. Paired the two strawberry layers with two chocolate cake layers and doubled the frosting recipe to have in between all four layers and the crumb coat. Finished with cooked strawberry between each layer. Immediately received requests for it again.

    This is now my go-to strawberry-cake recipe.

  15. Hi! I am REALLY interested in trying out this recipe but was curious if I wanted to use Strawberry Jam instead of the strawberry puree, can I use your recipe and just sub in the same amount of strawberry jam in for the puree?

    1. Hi Emmy, strawberry jam does not produce the same amount of flavor as the reduced strawberry puree. For best results, I recommend following the recipe.

  16. When I made the strawberry puree it came out very tart. My question for you is how tart you suggest that the puree be prior to adding it to the rest of the cake ingredients. Should it be ice-cream topping sweetness prior to adding it, or should it be less sweet to balance out the sweetness of the cake ingredients?

    Thanks!

    1. Hi Leanne! The strawberry reduction will be extremely tart since there is so much flavor and no added sugar.

  17. Hi there, I’d like to make this for my son who has an egg allergy but loves strawberries. Have you ever tried omitting the eggs altogether from the batter or using an egg substitute?

    —Thanks, Sonya

    1. Hi Sonya, I haven’t tried the strawberry cake with an egg substitute. Let me know if you try it!

  18. karon holcomb says:

    I have used freeze dried strawberries and find that they make a mess when grinding them so I purchased the powder instead do you still use one cup if it is powdered strawberries?
    Thanks and love this cake recipe

    1. Use 1/2 cup of strawberry powder/dust.

  19. This recipe looks absolutely delicious, I would like to make it for my daughter’s birthday. 2 questions – oven temperature, is that conventional oven or fan? And cream cheese icing – my daughter is allergic to dairy, I have quite been quite successful replacing most of the cow’s milk based ingredients in baking (butter, milk, yoghurt) but dairy free cream cheese produces too runny icing unfortunately. I don’t want to use more sugar to stiffen it because I find it too sweet. What would you recommend instead to ice this cake?

    1. Happy to help! The oven temperature is for conventional ovens. If using convection, you may want to slightly lower the oven temperature. Instead of cream cheese, use another stick (1/2 cup) of dairy free butter. (Assuming that is what you use instead of regular butter!)

  20. I am not a fan of cream cheese at all! ‍♀️ Any suggestions for a good frosting for this cake without cream cheese??

    1. Hi Kris! Replace the cream cheese with 1/2 cup (8 Tbsp) of softened butter instead.

  21. Sally, I recently made this recipe with frozen strawberries that took forever to cook down! The cake did not have a pretty strawberry color. It looked kind of tannish. Flavor was good, however. One question…have you ever used freeze-dried raspberries in this frosting? I am considering substituting raspberries for strawberries and using it to frost a white vanilla cake. Thanks.

    1. Hi Patsy! I usually use a drop or 2 of food coloring to brighten up the color if you’d like to try that next time. Freeze-dried raspberries work VERY well in this frosting. It would pair nicely with a vanilla cake.

  22. I made this cake today for Easter on Sunday. Is it okay to freeze the layers (wrapped tightly) and frost later? I see it says you can freeze the frosted cake, so I wasn’t sure. Thanks!

    1. Hi Ande! Yes, you can tightly wrap the cooled cake layers and freeze them.

  23. I have leftover strawberry reduction but could not find freeze dried strawberries in the food dessert I live in. Can I put the leftover (1/4 cup) reduction in the frosting?

    1. Hi Audrey– you can, yes, but the frosting may curdle and separate from the extra liquid.

  24. Made this exactly as written and it was fabulously rich and strawberry-ful! The frosting flavour in particular was incredible, it tasted like melted strawberry ice cream. As someone else noted, the cake is very rich so smaller slices were required. We sliced fresh strawberries into the layers and used them on top to decorate as well.

    I think next time, I will look for a less rich cake base – perhaps oil-based or swap more yogurt in. But fabulous overall and the little guys were over the moon looking at it! Thank you!

  25. How would you make a lemon reduction to make this cake but lemon flavor?

    1. Hi Adrianne! Here is my lemon cake recipe if you’d like to try it. You can use this strawberry frosting for the lemon cake if desired.

  26. Karen Andel says:

    Hello. Does this frosting lend it self to piping flowers?

  27. The strawberry flavor in both the cake and the frosting is amazing! The freeze dried strawberries work so perfectly in the frosting and create a really intense flavor. The only thing I didn’t love about the recipe was the texture and moisture level of the cake itself. Both my husband and I thought it felt dry comparatively and it’s much more firm/dense than I usually prefer in a cake. I was very careful not to overmix and followed all instructions exactly.

    1. Teri Pasinetti says:

      Hi Sally! I would like to try this recipe but for cake pops. Do you think this would work well for cake pops? I am also wondering if it is sturdy enough to cover in fondant. I am doing a twodles Minnie birthday for my daughter who is turning 2 and want to create a Minnie boutique cake made of strawberry cake thanks so much!

      1. Hi Teri! You can use this cake for cake pops. You’ll want to significantly decrease the amount of frosting as the cake is pretty moist already. The cake holds up nicely under fondant, yes!

  28. Do you prefer one frosting over the other for this cake? I know you call the other strawberry frosting the best recipe. Obviously the difference is whether or not somebody likes cream cheese or buttercream better but I’m wondering if you have a preference if it’s a cake or cupcakes. I just finished baking the double layer cake and I’m trying to decide which frosting to use. Maybe the buttercream is easier for piping?

    1. The cream cheese version (shown here) is a little easier to spread on a cake. But you can use either!

  29. I used GF flour along with GF cornstarch to make my own cake flour and it turned out perfectly! And no one knew it was gluten free!

  30. This cake was so moist. Everyone enjoyed it. I used the leftover puréed strawberries between the middle layers . It added the right touch of flavor. Thanks for the receipe!

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