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

1235 Comments

  1. Oh Sally, You’ve done it again! This recipe looks wonderful!
    One question: Would I have to use the cake flour, or would bread flour or all-purpose flour work? Thanks again!

    1. Hi Shantelle! I strongly recommend using cake flour.

  2. It absolutely would!! Yum!

  3. Pierre Daoust says:

    Happy New Year from freezing but dry Montreal.
    We have had 17 record breaking days of -17 C temperatures but freeze dried strawberries…I could not find….any substitutions?
    Would I be able to replace frozen strawberries with fresh for the cake?
    Keep warm everyone!

    1. I haven’t tried this strawberry cake with cooked down frozen strawberries, but let me know if you do. 

  4. Christina Gerasimovich says:

    Omg! This cake looks amazing Sally! Just one question: how many strawberries is about 1lb?

    1. It totally depends on the size of the berries! But most stores sell them packaged by weight.

  5. I cannot WAIT to try this! Never using strawberry cake mix again. Never ever ever.

    1. I hope you love it!

  6. I’m in love with this recipe! I’ll be making it in a couple weeks with raspberries for my raspberry-obsessed sister 🙂 Our grandmother used to make a wonderful raspberry mousse for which we no longer have the recipe and I’m hoping this will be an excellent cake-based replacement!

    1. So sweet – let me know how you like it with raspberries 🙂

  7. Red Haired Lady says:

    OMG, I am SOOOO excited to see this recipe!!

    I don’t like strawberries, but my husband loves them. I’ve tried twice to make him a really good strawberry cake for his birthday back in August, with no success. Both recipes I tried were duds.

    It seems nearly impossible to find a strawberry cake recipe which doesn’t involve either boxed cake mix or strawberry Jello. Cany wait to try this one!!

    1. I’m glad to have a solid strawberry cake recipe without the crutch of artificial flavors. If you bake this cake for your husband, I’d love to hear how he likes it!

  8. I really want to bake this cake for Valentines day..my birthday. But it is winter and the strawberries are basically flavorless right now. Could you use frozen berries and cook them down?

    1. Hi Pam! I haven’t tried with frozen strawberries, but you can give it a shot.

  9. Going to save this recipe until I can buy fresh strawberries. Live in the boonies. It sound so good.

    1. I hope you love it! Happy baking 🙂

  10. Mon dieu! A strawberry cake from actual strawberries! So happy to see this. The times I’ve eaten or made a strawberry cake, it’s been from scratch. This is great for a change! And the frosting is absolutely gorgeous.

  11. *I reposted this to check the box to get notified of replies, sorry!* This cake will be perfect for my sister’s baby shower (it’s a girl!). I was already planning on using your freeze-dried strawberry frosting recipe but this recipe answers the question of which cake to use! I do have two questions though – the first time I made your strawberry frosting, one cup of freeze-dried berries, pulverized = less than 1/4 cup of powder. Did I grind them up too small? I just bought an ozeri food scale from amazon (only $9.42!) so I’ll weigh the berries before and after processing them next time to be safe. My other question: is this cream cheese strawberry frosting thick enough to pipe on a cake? I’d like to do a rosette pattern and then I’m going to make little white marshmallow fondant baby booties for the top of the cake.
    Thanks for all of the wonderful recipes! Baking became my favorite hobby after I found your blog 2 years ago!

    1. Hi Kari! So many congrats to your sister! That’s so exciting. This frosting is pipe-able, yes. I suggest sticking it in the fridge for 30 minutes before piping so it holds its shape a little nicer.

  12. I am SO excited about this! My brother-in-law’s favorite cake is strawberry cake, and last November he requested one for his birthday. I checked here first and decided to use your recipe for strawberry cupcakes and vanilla buttercream (at his request). The cake tasted wonderful, but the texture was definitely off. The buttercream was a hit though! Can’t wait to try this version! Thank you for doing all the work so we get an amazing recipe!!

  13. So much pink! 🙂 Thank you Patricia!

  14. Red Haired Lady says:

    Wanted to add that your strawberry puree idea got my gears churning! I’ve been trying to find a really great banana muffin recipe. But every one I’ve tried is bland, barely any banana flavor.

    I’m trying reallly hard to wean myself off boxed/packaged desserts/mixes, but homemade banana muffins are never as good as the ones from a mix. Now I’m wondering if cooking and reducing bananas would do the trick for more banana flavor??

    1. That’s a GREAT idea and definitely worth a shot. Let me know how they turn out. Curious about it!

  15. Michelle Loprieno says:

    Okay, I’m asking this because I never sift my flour. (I KNOW) If I am measuring by weight using my kitchen scale. Do I sift then weigh or weight then sift? Thank you! Excited to try this when I have a chance.

    1. Sift then measure or weigh

  16. Sally this looks delicious! Also can we take a moment to appreciate those beautiful photos! X

  17. rhonda sarver says:

    As I read this recipe my mouth is watering at just the thought of it.

  18. This cake looks absolutely delicious and perfect!! Thanks for all the great recipes you share, Sally! Happy New Year!!

  19. Traci Walther says:

    This cake looks absolutely delicious! I’ve been n the search for a strawberry cake made with real strawberries! Can’t wait to try this!

  20. I’ve never felt compelled to try strawberry cake before this post and now it’s all I want! I’m doing Sugar-Free January and this is recipe number 1 for February! Maybe for Valentine’s Day because of the color!

  21. Sally, I’ve tried so many of your recipes that turned out absolutely wonderful, but I really thought that your Strawberry Cupcakes with Creamy Strawberry Buttercream were already perfection. I guess I’ll have to test out this version for Valentines Day, though, just to be sure. It looks amazing!

  22. JODIE REMBACZ says:

    Made this yesterday with raspberries and blackberries, same technique but strained berries before reducing as seeds are larger…soooo yummy!!!

    1. Thank you for letting know that it worked! I can’t wait to try this with other berries!

  23. I was searching for a strawberry cake a few months ago but the ones I found had ingredients that sounded very bland, this sounds amazing I will definitley be making this one!!
    Thank you 🙂 🙂

  24. Before I try this recipe, I thought I should try your white cake recipe first so I did and LOVE it.It was moist and perfect sweetness. Now I will make strawberry version soon. Hope I like it too.

  25. Hi Sally, I’m a big fan!
    Is there a reason why you chose cream cheese frosting instead of buttercream? I don’t usually use cream cheese frosting because I tend to taste the cheese, would the cake be too sweet with a buttercream frosting?
    Thanks!

  26. Thank you so much 🙂 this was one of the quickest reply.. Thank you for getting back within 8 hours! very kind of you!!

  27. Sally the bread bowls and creamy chicken noodle soup was a huge hit with my family, thank you so much for your wonderful instructions. But, I have a question my son-in-laws birthday is tomorrow and he wants Strawberry Cake and I just saw this on your blog. Can you use the egg whites in the carton as I will be making swiss buttercream frosting, and I really don’t want all the egg yolks to deal with after I am done with the cake and frosting? Thank you for all your quick responses. Sure has helped me with my last minute preps of your recipes.

    1. Hi Debbie! Yes, you can use egg whites from a carton.

      1. Thank you again, did the strawberries yesterday they look like they will work great, thanks for posting that post on how to reduce them down more than just puree. But, waited till this morning to do the cake I will put it in the freezer while making the buttercream. Just to firm it up and less crumbs. Thanks again for your great recipes.

  28. Thanks for the 9 x 13 directions. It was delicious and came out perfect!

  29. Hi Sally, 

    I have 8 inch round pans. If I use those what is the baking time?

    Thank you 

    1. Hi. In my experience, since there’s not that much of a difference in size, I’d reduce the baking time by 5 minutes or so. 

  30. I made the recipe three times to make two 3-layer cakes, one for my Mom and the other for my Mother-in-law. Their bdays are just two days apart and this cake was a hit! I will definitely be making it again and again! Thanks Sally!

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