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? 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!

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
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.
  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. 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.
  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. Special Tools: KitchenAid Stand Mixer | Ninja Food Processor | Measuring Cups | Egg Separator | Glass Mixing Bowls | 9-inch Cake Pans | Marble Cake Stand | Eat Dessert First Fork
  3. Cake Flour: 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.
  4. Whole Milk: If needed, buttermilk works in its place. Do not substitute a lower fat milk.
  5. 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.
  6. 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 for 25-30 minutes until you’re left with 1/2 cup or a little over 1/2 cup 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. Use 1/2 cup in the cake. 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.
  7. 9×13 Cake: Simply pour the batter into a greased and lightly floured 9×13 pan and bake for 40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.

Keywords: strawberries, pink

1057 Comments

  1. 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!

  2. 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?

  3. Three stars purely because this frosting is legit. I didn’t use food coloring and my cake was a warm beige in color. The flavor on the cake was a very subtle strawberry. I found the cake recipe really high maintenance with not much payoff. On the other hand, this frosting recipe is going into my regular rotation. It is fantastic and easy.

  4. 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!

  5. 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. 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!

  6. 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?

  7. Oh Sally! I’m so sad. The cake batter color was beautiful and I added two drops of gel food coloring to brighten it up a bit. I tasted the batter and it was divine. It came out of the oven just a bit deflated in the middle but clean and appeared to be perfect. I cut off the top and it was taupe colored inside! I followed your recipe to the T. What happened?! The crumbs I peeled off taste delicious too. Help me!

    1. Oh no! Which food coloring did you use? Feel free to add more next time. So glad you enjoyed the cake’s taste and texture though!

  8. Hi, just made this recipe as cupcakes. I was very sad because some of them sunk in. They still tasted very yummie, but I’m wondering if my strawberry purée did not reduce down enough. I did some reading after and looked at yours and mine was more liquid that thick paste. I reduced it for 30 min it did not reduce down to 1/2 cup I still had purée left over at least 1/2 cup. At least the frosting will hide how they look, but they will still taste good. Any suggestions for next time? Thanks, Diane

    1. It does sound like you could have reduced the puree down more. If your berries have a higher moisture content it will take longer to reduce so go by the picture/texture more than the time! Also for cupcakes, fill the liners only about 2/3 full to avoid them rising and then sinking.

      1. Thank you! I was just sad they sunk. I don’t usually have this problem, however they were yummie and everyone enjoyed them!

  9. 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!

  10. I need some help. In regards to the cup of dried strawberries; what amount in ounces? Also where can you buy these with an affordable price? $25 seems excessive. Please advise.

    1. Hi Laura! See recipe note about where to best find the freeze-dried strawberries. 1 cup = about 1/2 of an ounce. They’re extremely light.

  11. When you add the egg whites to the batter it says to mix it about 2 minutes. Are the egg whites supposed to turn fluffy or do you just mix it until they are combined?

  12. This cake was soooo good. Thank you for the recipe. I made the cake for Easter dinner dessert. The icing is to die for! And the cake was delicious. Great texture. The cake took an extra 10 mins than what was listed to bake in the oven. I kept checking it at 5 min intervals after the 20 min mark waiting for the center to set and a toothpick to come out clean. A big hit. Can’t wait to make it again.

  13. I made this for Easter and it came out perfect. I was worried it would be dry because I had to bake it longer than the recipe recommends for a toothpick to come out clean, but it was totally fine and moist. I used the regular strawberry frosting which worked great. Definitely saving this recipe to use again in the future!

  14. Sally, I’ve made this recipe once before it really was fantastic and I have tried several different recipes for strawberry cake and they all lacked in someway. I do have a few questions for you though… Do you think it is safe for me to use liquid egg whites. My second question is would it be safe for me to double this recipe or would you recommend making two separate batches. Thank you ever so much !

    1. Liquid egg whites should be ok as long as they are 100% egg whites and not egg substitute. I definitely recommend making it twice and not doubling it – with that much batter it’s likely that you will over or under mix the batter!

  15. Great from scratch strawberry cake to satisfy the cravings I’ve been having! I had leftover strawberry puree, I made extra to flavor the frosting as I cannot get freeze dried strawberries where I live. The extra puree took the cake over the top! Would definitely recommend extra to layer in the middle. The cake was very tender, to the point of falling apart! I probably needed to leave it in the oven longer. However, given that I live at 5000 ft elevation, having to adjust for that could also be a factor!

  16. I want to make this, but looking for tips on making Gluten Free, anything I need to do different besides changing the GF flour?

  17. Loved the flavor and texture of this cake, but the frosting is to die for! Here’s my twist that I added to the recipe; l added 1/4 cup finely chopped basil to the cooled strawberry reduction before l added it to the cake batter. It gave the cake a mild basil flavor, but the strawberry was still dominant. My husband and our guests loved it!

  18. I made this cake as a tester for my brother-in-law’s grooms cake and im glad i did a tester as the texture of the cake was not quite right. The batter for me was too thick, I probably could have added a tad more strawberry reduction to help texture and flavour. Strawberry flavour was mild.

  19. Hi sally, my oven won’t fit 2 x cake pans side by side. Should I cook the cakes on different shelves, or have the second batch sitting on the bench whilst the first one cooks?

    1. My recipe for strawberry chocolate chip cookies uses the dry cake mix, so you wouldn’t be able to use this complete batter in it’s place for that recipe.

  20. The best cake I’ve ever baked! The strawberry flavor in the cake itself was actually pretty mellow (maybe because strawberries are still coming in to season) but that was actually great because my husband is a strawberry hater and was able to tolerate it. The frosting was delicious with the freeze dried strawberries. I made an extra half batch of frosting to do some decorative piping– I just refrigerated the frosting before piping as suggested elsewhere in the comments. Great recipe!

  21. Do you know how many ounces this cake makes? Also do you know about how many mini cupcakes the batter makes?

    1. I have not tested this recipe in a bundt pan. If you want to try it the bake time would increase because of amount of batter in one pan. Let me know if you try it!

  22. Could you use three 8″ pans instead?
    If so, would I need to make 1.5 the amount of batter this calls for, and what would you estimate for cooking time?
    Thanks in advance!

    1. Hi Alexx! You can prepare the cake batter as written and divide between 3 8-inch cake pans. The bake time will be a couple minute less, but use a toothpick to test for doneness.

  23. This cake is so good that tonight I made it for the 2nd time this week! The flavor is outstanding and the color is gorgeous. I have to keep telling people that there is no artificial coloring or flavoring in either the cake or the frosting . Next time I do believe I’ll make it in 8″ round pans since neither time did I get enough rise in my layers for my taste.

    Interestingly, I just saw that Stella Parks (Serious Eats) posted today what she calls a Double Strawberry Cake that uses both fresh strawberry puree (not your concentrated puree) and freeze-dried strawberries in the cake but neither in the buttercream. I’m sticking with yours! Thank you for a reputation maker cake!

  24. Hi Sally,
    Can I reduce and then freeze the fresh strawberries? Thinking of making this cake in a month for my daughter’s birthday but not sure there will still be strawberries then. Thanks!! Marine

  25. This is my all time favorite cake. I have made it for countless birthdays and will be making it for Mother’s Day! I am going to follow the recipe measurements for the 6 inch cake you posted a few weeks ago since this weekend is a smaller crowd, and add the pureed strawberries. Should I still use half a cup? I didn’t want the liquid balance to be off, but I noticed that the 6 inch cake recipe uses the same amount of milk, so I wanted to double check. Thank you, and happy early Mother’s Day to you!

    1. I’m so glad you enjoy this cake so much! I haven’t tested this cake with different proportions but I would recommend keeping the strawberry proportional to the rest of the ingredients.

  26. I made this yesterday and it was a huge hit. I didn’t use food coloring in the batter, so the cake wasn’t pink, but it was delicious and had great texture and was packed with all-natural strawberry flavor. I will be adding this to my collection of favorites.

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