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!

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Homemade strawberry cake

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 (250g) 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

1118 Comments

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  1. Hi, i am not sure what you mean by full fat cream cheese? is it savory one or another thing i found is called cream cheese style icing. thank you

    1. Get regular cream cheese, not reduced fat/fat free. Speaking from experience, fat free cream cheese ruins frosting. Tastes fine looks awful

  2. Sorry I meant to leAve 5 stars lol Do you think substituting regular milk for buttermilk could work just as good ?

    1. You can definitely use buttermilk– same amount!

  3. Amazing strawberry flavor! My husband said this is a close second to his all time favorite cake – pineapple upside cake. I got rave reviews from all my friends. I added a layer of fresh whipped cream which added a beautiful compliment to the strawberry flavor. Thank you for a wonderful recipe! I’m making it again for the second time in a week. My only pry was a very wet cake – I’m at 5,350 ft elevation. Going to try a small amount of additional flour.

  4. Hi Sally, if I wanted to cut this recipe in half how would I handle the egg whites? Can I use a whole egg and one white?

    1. Hi Bridget! Use my strawberry cupcakes recipe, which is about half of this cake.

  5. Amazing! Made this cake for my sons 4th Birthday party yesterday as he requested a strawberry cake with strawberry icing and strawberries on top! This cake had everyone asking for the recipe. Making the pistachio cupcakes with strawberry icing for his actual birthday on Friday. Thank you again Sally for a fabulous cake!

  6. Hey, fellow Marylander! I just made this today…I took some of the cake top I removed for leveling and some of the icing to see what I created…OMG! This is outrageous! I made the puree yesterday to save time. Another very moist cake from you (I made the red velvet for July 4th). This will be a huge hit at the cookout tonight!

    1. Fantastic reaction – it was described as a Good Humor Strawberry Shortcake!!

  7. Hi – I just watched your video on making the strawberry cake and noticed you use the wire whisk attachment for making your cake, including the creaming stage. I was wondering why you use the wire whisk instead of the beater attachment, which is traditionally used to make cake batter.

    Going to try this tonight!

    1. Hi Jean! Great question and thanks for asking! I often use a whisk for this cake batter to help combine the varying textures of room temperature ingredients. It often takes a bit more to combine butter, liquid-y egg whites, and sour cream– and a whisk really helps!

  8. this strawberry cake recipe is genius! it is delicious!

    even my kids (who generally dislike cake) request it for their birthdays!

  9. How come you only use egg whites?? I always make cakes with full eggs. If i were to use full eggs, how many would i need?

    1. Hi Maggie! Using only egg whites promises a very soft and fluffy texture. I recommend it for this cake.

  10. Hi Adam! 1.5x the strawberry buttercream recipe definitely makes a lot of frosting– just enough for a large layer cake like this. I don’t think it’s too sweet when divided over so many servings, but you could definitely reduce it if desired.

  11. Carmella Alexander says:

    This is my go to strawberry cake!!! I wont try nothing else!!!

  12. Hello dear, I loved the recipe and I am planning to try it for my 7 years old son’ birthday next week, I have only one question, What can I use instead of freeze dried strawberry for frosting??

    1. Hi Aida! Vanilla buttercream would be delicious 🙂

      1. Thank you for the suggestion, I will try it and let you know of the results…

      2. I tried this recipe today, it was just perfect.. I used less suger though, around 1 and quarter cup… I need vanilla whipped cream cheese frosting.. it was very delicious and fluffy… The whole family loved it… Thank you for sharing this recipe ❤️❤️❤️

  13. This recipe is absolutely delicious!!! I made it last year for my daughters 3rd birthday and we were in love! I am making it again and I honestly do not remember if I used sour cream or plain Greek yogurt (which I always have on hand). My question is, can I use Greek yogurt or does it have to be regular yogurt? Thank you in advance! And thank you for sharing your amazing recipe!!

    1. Hi Alejandra! So glad you enjoy this strawberry cake. 🙂 You can use plain Greek yogurt or plain regular yogurt in place of the sour cream. Same amount.

  14. Hi Sally! I have a small kitchen and only have one 9” springform to make cakes. If I want to just make the cake in that should I half the recipe? Thanks!

    1. Hi Steph! Yes, halve the recipe for the one layer 9-inch cake in the springform pan.

  15. Sally can you use the leftover strawberry puree in the cream cheese icing? I couldn’t find the freeze dried strawberries.

    1. Sure could! The consistency of the frosting separates when a lot of extra liquid is added, so add a little at a time.

  16. Hi Sally! I’ve noticed off season strawberries lack flavor. I have to make this for a birthday when they wont be in season and as flavorful! Any tips to offset less than ideal fruit? I’m also using some strawberry frosting but have to frost the outside in vanilla for decorating purposes, so I’ll only be able to work in a thin layer of strawberry under the vanilla frosting. Thus, I’d really like to make sure the cake is suuuuper strawberry. Any advice is appreciated, as I’m doing a practice cake soon!

    1. Hi Amy! A couple things can help– freeze super sweet strawberries to use for this cake at a later time when they aren’t in season. OR add a touch of strawberry extract to the batter. 3/4 teaspoon should be plenty.

  17. Hello Sally! Can I use Lakanto Monkfruit Sweetner Classic instead of granulated sugar?

    Thanks!

    1. Hi Mishika! I don’t have any experience with Lakanto Monkfruit Sweetener, so I’m unsure. Let me know if you try anything!

      1. Mishika Kaur Bhasin says:

        Hey Sally! Just baked this cake with Lakanto Monkfruit Sweetner and it worked just like sugar and it’s the best alternative for white sugar. Loved this recipe. Thank you sooo much!

  18. Hi Sally,
    Love what you do!
    Can l double the strawberry cake recipe?

  19. Hey! I’m making my boyfriend this cake on Friday and I only have three 8” round baking tins… can I use all three or should I just use the two? I’m worried about if there would be enough batter for three layers ):

  20. Hi Sally,
    Do you think the recipe would work for a Dolly Varden cake tin?
    My tin is about 7.5 inches in diameter and 6 inches deep. And does the cake freeze well?

  21. Hi Sally! Love this cake recipe but I have 1 question. How come you add all your flour instead of alternating with the milk? I know that bakers ask you to alternate so I’m just curious. TIA.

    1. Hi Anita! Sometimes I do it that way, sometimes I don’t. I’ve never found ANY difference in the outcome of the cake. As long as you mix slowly and don’t over-mix– you’re on the right track!

  22. This cake was so good! Really light, very moist and so flavorful. I used a bit of food coloring in the cake to make it more pink, but once it baked, it still came out pretty pale and not very pink. But the flavor was so good I didn’t care.
    I made it with the lemon buttercream cream cheese frosting from the lemon cake recipe, which was delicious.

    1. Thrilled you enjoyed this recipe, Fiona! I bet it was delicious topped with lemon cream cheese buttercream 🙂

  23. So excited to try this out for my daughter’s birthday—but I’m wondering how best to scale up proportions for the recipe to be a half sheet. I’m wary of simply doubling—especially because I don’t want to lose any of the rich pink color as pink is an important requirement for her. Thank you!!!

    1. Hi Katy! This cake should be fine as a half sheet cake baked in a jelly roll pan. I’m unsure of the exact bake time.

  24. How would you cook this cake in a mold with a hole in the middle (for devil’s food cake)? I will try and make it in the shape of a worm for my son’s 5th birthday next week-end…

  25. Sorry…I meant angel food cake mold

  26. Hi! I am starting to make this cake for my daughter’s 6th birthday. I don’t currently have sour cream or plain yogurt but I have a lot of kid’s strawberry/vanilla yogurt. Any thoughts on using this as a substitute? Thank you!

    1. You could use the strawberry flavor yogurt.

  27. I would like to make a pinata cake (strawberry cake with your vanilla frosting). Since I need to make 4 layers should I double the recipe? or should I do 1.5X and divide it into four 9 inch pans?

    1. I recommend 1.5x the recipe for 4 decently thick 9 inch layers.

  28. Janette Smith says:

    I don’t have a blender or any tools at home to make the puree myself. Can I buy store bought frozen puree, thaw it out and reduce it on the stove myself? Would that solve the too much liquid problem?

    1. That should be fine, yes.

  29. Amy Goldenberg says:

    Hi there
    I’m planning to bake this for my daughter’s birthday. Shall I whisk the egg whites before adding them into the batter? What would happen if I whisked them to form soft peaks and folded them in for instance?

    1. Hi Amy! You can add them directly into the batter without whisking or mixing beforehand. The cake would be extra fluffy if you took the extra step.

  30. Jane Hadley says:

    Thank you. It’s the first time I’ve made it and at the the moment I’m reducing the strawberry purée as I type! Also, am new to the site and have made the super moist chocolate muffins which were delicious.

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