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. Hi Sally!
    I’m going to make this for my adult daughter’s birthday. She loves strawberry cake. Your recipe sounds really well thought out and tasty. I wanted to know about using 8 inch pans (round). I wanted the cake a bit taller. Would it change the baking times much? Would it fill 3 pans (either 8 or 9 inch) or not be enough? I’m just trying to plan ahead. Any help would be appreciated.
    Thanks,
    Kim

    1. Hi Kim! You can use 3 8-inch cake pans instead. The bake time will be about the same, maybe a couple minutes shorter but use a toothpick to check for doneness.

  2. Can you use 3 8” round cake pans with this recipe ?

    1. Sure can! Bake time will be about the same– maybe a few minutes shorter. Use a toothpick to check for doneness.

  3. Hi Sally,
    I tried making this recipe and it tasted amazing! It really locks up the taste of fresh strawberries and the smell is heavenly! However, I didn’t get the texture of my cake right. It was a little dense and a little too wet even though I made sure to follow every detail of the recipe. Any tips on how I can do better? Making this for my friend’s daughter’s birthday a few days later! 🙂

  4. How do you find the cake to hold up when stacked? Also, when cut, does it hold together well or crumble? I have attempted a different recipe last year and my cake literally fell apart because it was so moist when cut.

    1. Hi Stacey! I’ve never experienced crumbling issues when slicing into this 2 layer cake. I’ve used this recipe as a base for other flavors as well (pistachio cake and white cake) and haven’t had issues either!

  5. I made this to share with friends on Memorial Day! I don’t make full sized cakes very often. I usually stick to cupcakes and cookies… so this was out of my comfort zone. My cakes sunk in the middle and I was tempted to toss them in the trash because they didn’t look quite right. But- the frosting was SO tasty that I decided to still go ahead and put the cake together and hide my imperfections with frosting. Despite the sunken cakes and lopsided final product, my friends LOVED the cake and so did I! It was incredibly moist and had a strong, fresh strawberry flavor. I’ll definitely to make this again and try for a prettier final product! lol

  6. Hi sally,
    I have a question about your strawberry cream cheese frosting. I want to make this for my birthday and plan on frosting it with rosettes on the top of the cake and since working with cream cheese frosting in the past and knowing it doesn’t always frost like buttercream or hold it’s shape always I’m a little concerned on whether or not to use it . Would you recommend a strawberry buttercream over this recipe?

    1. If you are going to leave the cake out in a warmer environment before serving I would opt for the strawberry buttercream so that the rosettes don’t wilt. But I have always been able to pipe with cream cheese frosting as long as it’s cool (you can place the full piping bag in the refrigerator for a bit if needed).

  7. This cake looks Delicious!! and the dehydrated strawberries are a super creative touch! I was hoping to make this this weekened but I have a bit of a problem. My coworkers don’t like cream cheese frosting (too sweet for them) and I was thinking buttercream might work better as there will be layers of banana pudding in between. do you think adding the dehydrated strawberries to your buttercream would turn out alright?

    1. Yes yes yes! Here is my strawberry buttercream recipe (no cream cheese) — you’ll need to at least 1.5x the recipe to yield enough for the cake.

  8. Jamie Hiles says:

    A great tasting cake!! One small change I made was adding in a tablespoon of the strawberry puree into the frosting instead of that second tablespoon of milk!

  9. Has anyone used the extra puree between the layers for added flavor and less waste?

  10. Dear Sally,thank you for this recipe.I am planning to make this cake for my daughter’s 3rd birthday (she loves strawberries). I am from the Czech Republic, so we have different products to the US. so I am not sure your cream cheese is the same as our cream cheese. could you possibly add some details about the cheese you are using (e.g. fat content )? alternatively,have you tried a frosting just with butter,freeze dried strawberries and sugar?if yes,how was it? thank you a lot for any help.hanka

    1. Hi Hanka! A strawberry buttercream like you suggest would be the better choice if you’re unsure about the cream cheese options available. I recommend this strawberry buttercream. You can 1.5x the recipe to yield enough for the cake.

  11. I made the frosting with freeze-dried blueberries and oh my goodness, it was so tasty! Just the right amount of sweetness. I can’t wait to try it with every freeze-dried fruit I can find! (I made it to go with your vanilla cake which was also delicious! Made it for my son’s 1st birthday and he ate the whole thing up!)

  12. I made a few changes to the frosting. I felt that the amount of sugar was way too much for my taste, so added only 200gms as well as the powdered dried strawberries. Also added the rest of the reduced strawberry puree I had made for the cake base as well as 1/4pt of whipped heavy cream. I found my cake mixture curdled when I added the milk. But it seemed to bake up ok although not quite the texture I was hoping for. The knack is, I think, in keeping everything at room temperature including the egg whites which I think I might have preferred to whisk and fold into the mixture. I would also have added more colouring to give the colour shown in her photos. I used a couple of drops of pink – but I think red might have been better. I took this cake to my volunteer group this morning and it was extremely well received! Thank you Sally X

  13. Many thanks for this amazing recipe! I made it (as cupcakes) for my daughters 12 th birthday party this past weekend and it was a hit! Kids and adults alike! I’ve never had strawberry baked goods that truly tasted like strawberries until now! So thanks for helping me give my girl an amazing treat!

  14. I’m making a cake for a little girls birthday tomorrow and loves strawberry cake. She likes whipped icing, would you suggest using the strawberry buttercream or the strawberry cream cheese frosting? Also, I need to feed 20-25 people so I was going to use a 9×13 pan, can I double the recipe in one pan or should I make two separate batches as doubling the recipe could mess up the baking time and overall turnout of the cake. Thanks!

    1. Hi Azalia! For a whipped frosting, I suggest the strawberry buttercream. This recipe is enough for one 9×13 inch cake. If you’d like two cakes, make the batter twice.

  15. Can you use butter milk instead of the sour cream & milk and would it be an equal substitute?

    1. Hi Michael! The buttermilk substitution would be fine in this strawberry cake recipe.

  16. Outstanding step-by-step instructions !! Thx for that My reduction took closer to 40 mins … aside from that // this cake turned out incredible ❤️

  17. Julie Chapen says:

    HI Sally,
    I love your recipes! I’ve tried many of them. Have you ever tried adding balsamic to the strawberries for a stronger flavor? I love it in gelato but not sure how the vinegar will act in a cake. Also, I’m searching for a good coconut lime cake recipe:)

    Julie

    1. Hi Julie! I haven’t, but now I’m intrigued. Let me know what you try!

    2. Hi Julie, I have an awesome recipe for a “Golden Balsamic vinegar and strawberry cake recipe if you are interested.
      Syndy

      1. Julie Chapen says:

        Hi Syndy, I wouls love the recipe! I have 20 pounds of fresh picked berries so I’m ready to bake>

        Julie

  18. Hi, Sally! I made this cake for a party this weekend — everyone LOVED it. The fresh strawberry taste was amazing, and the texture was perfect. Thanks for this delicious recipe and the helpful video. I’ll definitely be making this cake again!

  19. Thank you for this recipe Sally! So good! I’m making your zebra cake plus this strawberry cream cheese frosting

    As I’m making 3 layers of 9” cakes, how much more for the frosting should I make?

    It didn’t say in the ingredients, but should the milk be room temp too?

    Also found the frosting still too sweet. When I make red velvet cupcakes, it usually calls for 8 oz cream cheese and 2 cups of sugar only. Can I do the same ratio? What will happen if I use less sugar?

    Thank you!!!

    1. Hi Liz! You can 1.5x this frosting recipe for a 3 layer cake. If using less sugar, the frosting may not hold together very well but you can certainly try it. The milk in the frosting does not need to be room temperature. Let me know how it goes!

  20. Hi Sally! Could you try this with other fruits, as well as strawberries? I want to make a blueberry cake that is blue/purple in color (as opposed to a vanilla or lemon cake with whole blueberries)- could I replace the strawberries with blueberries for a similar result?

    1. Hi Lili! Some readers have used other fruits such as mango, blueberries, and raspberries. Go ahead at try it! Feel free to tint the batter blue/purple if you’d like.

  21. Cristina Vallejo says:

    Hi Sally!
    I’m making this cake and plan to use a 12×2 inch round cake pan. How many times would I need to make this recipe to have enough batter. I plan on making it 3 layers but not torting the layers. So I’ll need to bake 3 individual layers and make it about 5 inches tall.
    Thank You!

    1. Hi Cristina! Something tells me that 2 batches of the batter (made separately) should be enough for the cake you’re making. Let me know how it turns out!

  22. I don’t have experience with diabetic friendly baking- I recommend consulting a doctor or specialist for best results!

  23. I made this cake for a coworkers birthday at her request. I try to cook from scratch as much as possible. When she requested a strawberry cake, I searched for a recipe online. Yours was the only one that used real ingredients. Boxed cake mix in my house is grounds for divorce. It was delicious! Nothing left but crumbs! They loved the fact that the cake and icing had just the right amount of sweetness. Definitely making this again! Thank you!

  24. I am following the instructions step by step but every time I bake a cake it ends up burnt because the middle is not done in the suggested time. Should I turn my oven down and bake it longer?

    1. Hi Ariel– yes, I definitely suggest lowering your oven temperature by 25 degrees F. Using an oven thermometer could help too– they’re relatively inexpensive and VERY handy.

    2. I always check well before the suggest times and, if necessary, I use a foil tent to ensure nothing burns…and the last few minutes I remove the foil. Really makes a difference!

  25. I made this cake followed instructions but added a box of pudding. This cake is fantastic. The icing isn’t too sweet and easy to make. This was my first attempt at not making a box cake and the family loved it

  26. So delicious! Thank you for sharing!

  27. I’ve been looking for that perfect strawberry cake recipe and I found it! The strawberry puree and the freeze dried strawberry dust in the frosting, create amazing flavor. Thank you for your detailed, step by step instructions!

  28. I just made this as a two-layer 9×13 cake for my daughter’s birthday. Followed your instructions exactly, just doubled everything. Best. Cake. Ever. Guests thought it was a secret family recipe it was so good. Definitely a keeper!

  29. Jacquelina says:

    Hi Sally,
    I’m making a two tier cake for my daughter’s birthday. Do you think this cake is dense enough to be stacked for a tiered cake?
    Thank you!

    1. Yes! Readers have used this cake for tiered cakes with great results.

      1. Thank you Sally!

  30. Lisa Yearwood says:

    I searched through many recipes before arriving at this one and just knew it would be right. It was. Thank you for figuring it out. Who wants a doctored box cake and gelatin?!

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