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!

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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.
  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. 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

1091 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!

  2. 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!

  3. 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!

  4. 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!

  5. 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?

  6. 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.

  7. *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.

  8. 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!!

  9. 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??

  10. 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.

  11. Wow, this is amazing!! Do you think I could pair the cake with a different frosting? I live outside of the US and, unfornately, don’t have access to freeze-dried strawberries

  12. Hi. Exactly what is freeze dried Strawberries, and how do you make them? Can you use fresh Strawberries in the frosting instead?

    1. Hi Danielle! They’re strawberries that have all of the water removed, but all of the flavor is preserved. Do not use fresh strawberries in this frosting– much too wet!

  13. 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!

    1. Hi Lala! The frosting can curdle that way, but you can try it. See my note about the freeze-dried strawberries if you can’t find/don’t have them. 🙂

  14. Ugh. I’ve been waiting for something like this! Every other strawberry cake recipe called for jello packs. I actually read a recipe for strawberry buttermilk ice cream that roasts strawberries! I feel like doing that for this recipe would be amazing! A million thanks, girl!

  15. 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!

  16. I love strawberries. This cake was moist and tasty. I put chocolate dipped strawberries all over it. It was beautiful. So the icing wasn’t runny, I did make sure my butter was just softened NOT melted. I crushed the strawberries and drained all the juice I could off of them. I used 5 cups of powdered sugar. It was thin but not running. I think next time I will add softened cream cheese for a little more stability. I baked the cake about 35 minutes. It was moist and perfect.

  17. 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!

  18. Hi Sally! This looks amazing and I can’t wait to try it out. My daughter’s birthday is coming up and she wants a raspberry cake. Do you think I could try a similar process to make a raspberry cake? Do you think the flavor would turn out well? Or do you have a recipe for a raspberry cake? 

    1. Hi Jamie! The only raspberry cake I have at the moment is this one: https://sallysbakingaddiction.com/2014/03/28/raspberry-chocolate-chip-layer-cake/

      You can do this exact method with raspberries instead of strawberries though. I’ve had readers try it already. Great results!

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

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