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 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: 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.
  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

1147 Comments

  1. Hi Sally, I have made a similar recipe to this one before and it was beautiful so I’m looking forward to trying yours. Previously I used an 2 x 8 inch round tins but this time I am making a large birthday cake using an 11 inch round tin. Will this work if I use one batch of normal mix in each tin?

    1. Hi Michael! There will be too much batter for 1 11-inch cake pan. The best solution would be to prepare the batter twice, fill each cake pan halfway, then use leftover batter for cupcakes on the side.

  2. Sally. Is there a way to get this cake to three full layers? Can I just add a 1/2 cup of flour? If so how many more eggs sour cream sugar and milk would I need?

    1. Hi Baker! I wouldn’t add more of any ingredient. Instead, divide between 3 cake pans. The layers will still be relatively thick. The bake time will be a little shorter.

  3. Hi Sally,
    I’d like to try this recipe using blueberries instead of strawberries. Your thoughts? Should I adjust the amount of blueberries?
    Thanks.

    1. Hi Eric, I haven’t tried it but some readers have tried this recipe with blueberries with great results. Use freeze-dried blueberries for the frosting too!

  4. HOLY COW! Best strawberry cake EVERRRRRRR! If you are thinking about making this cake go ahead. You will not be disappointed!

  5. Hi! I have tried your strawberry cake with real strawberries and it is amazing. Now my question is can you also use frozen strawberries using the same method? It’s cold now and the strawberries aren’t as ripe or good looking right now haha please help me with this! Thanks

    1. Hi Stacey! See recipe note. For the puree, you can use frozen strawberries, but they will take longer to reduce even if you thaw them first.

  6. Baked this for a dinner party with great success! Kicking myself because I forgot to take a photo before it was devoured. Just a note for Australian bakers, freeze dried strawberries are called strawberry chips (found at Woolworths). Thanks for a faultless recipe

  7. Hi Sally! I’m just curious, since you say buttermilk can be substituted for the whole milk, can I use 2% milk+ White vinegar? Or what would be the change if I use a lesser fat milk?
    Thanks!

  8. Dear Sally,

    I am not a baker and yesterday my son came home with strawberries and asked me to bake a strawberry cake. I tried your recipe and it turned out great. Thanks for this great recipe, it made me look like a star 🙂

  9. Hello..saw your video on Amazon prime video and loved it! Can you add corn starch to gluten free flour to make cake flour? How do you get a scratch cake to be really white instead of yellow..for example for a strawberry or coconut cake? Also if you are allergic to milk what works best for a scratch cake? Thanks!

    1. Hi Sherry! I don’t have a lot of experience baking with gluten free alternatives, but you can try a 1:1 gluten free cake flour if you stumble across one. If you have milk allergies, you can use a nondairy milk.

  10. I make a lot of cakes and this is one of the best cakes I’ve ever had. I’ve tried other strawberry cake recipes and nothing comes close. The strawberry powder in the frosting is genius!

  11. Hi Sally, I made this for my daughter’s 6th birthday party. Everyone who tried them loved them and some were taken home for spouses to try. Thanks for the recipe. I think it was the icing that was the biggest hit. The freeze-dried fruit dust was ingenious! It tasted much better than adding jam to the icing and kept up the consistency the same just as if I added a little more powdered sugar.

  12. Hi Sally!

    I have always made a strawberry cake from the box every year for my birthday but decided it was time to do something from scratch since that’s how I’ve started to do everything these days. Made this the other day and the cake itself is fantastic – light, fluffy, great texture, moist. My husband and I loved it. The only sad thing was that it didn’t have much of a strawberry taste. I reduced the strawberries and even added maybe a little more than you suggested into the cake (it was a very thick consistency…I wonder maybe too thick?). I also prefer chocolate icing on my strawberry cakes, so I made a chocolate buttercream but I think it just ended up overpowering the cake and being too heavy. So my question…(it doesn’t sound like others have had this issue so maybe I’m so used to my artificial box cake I can’t get that taste out of my head) If I were to increase the amount of strawberries in the cake, what other ingredients would I need to increase to offset the puree? Flour? I’m just now getting into the whole science of baking so I’m not sure. Trying to avoid strawberry extract. Maybe my strawberry reduction was too thick?

    Thank you thank you!!!

    1. Hi Emma, 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. I recommend using the frosting in between the layers if you want to use chocolate on the outside, or vice versa. Also remember the sweeter your berries start out the better the flavor will be in the cake (this time of year where I live good berries are hard to find!).

  13. I can’t find freeze dried strawberries anywhere and they are $70 on amazon!!! I do have leftover strawberry puree after making my cake. Could I put some in the frosting to enhance the strawberry flavour?

  14. We made this cake in 2 9”pans but the layers seemed thin. Could I make it in 2 8” pans or do you think the cake would fall in the middle?

    1. I made this cake for my daughter’s 16 birthday, and it was a hit with her and her friends!. The cake itself turned out fluffy and moist and held its shape great. The frosting was delicious and plenty for decorating the cake. It has quickly become a favorite. Thanks Sally!

  15. My daughter asked me to make a strawberry cake for our Christmas dinner, so I began scouring the internet to find a recipe that was completely homemade. Yours sounded perfect. I gathered all the ingredients and followed the directions exactly. The frosting, with the freeze-dried strawberries was beautiful and the best I’ve ever tasted! My cake? Not so much. The batter looked as pictured, but the layers didn’t rise much and didn’t have that fresh strawberry flavor I expected. All ingredients used were fresh and/or well within expiration dates (baking powder, milk, etc.). My reduced strawberries turned out great, but took longer than noted in directions to reduce to half. I baked the layers for 24 minutes only, but they looked tan, not pink. What went wrong? Frosting- 5 stars, cake 0 stars.

  16. Made this cake for my boyfriends birthday (strawberry cake is his fav) and he LOVED it. Perfect consistency and the pink from the strawberries was to die for! 10/10 recommend to everyone!

  17. Hello, can heavy whipping cream, or unsweetened almond milk be used as a substitute for the milk ingredient? I don’t use dairy milk and those are my two normal available options sitting in the fridge. Or, could I use powdered buttermilk?
    Thank you for your response!

    1. Hi, Sunny! If needed, buttermilk will work in place of the milk (although I have not tried this recipe with powdered buttermilk). I would not recommend a lower fat milk in its place. I hope this helps!

      1. Do you use cake bands when baking the cake? I noticed your cakes came out perfect and wanted to know if I need to use mine or not. Thanks!

      2. Hi Kelly, I don’t but I have heard wonderful things about them. I do always level my cake layers (cut off the domed top) before assembling them!

  18. Extremely delicious- everyone loved flavour. I was unsure whether cake would taste ok as seemed a bit flat but it tasted great. Before I cut it I said “enjoy because unless this is awesome I will never make it again” because it was so time consuming. Unfortunately they ALL said it was awesome.

    1. Do you think substituting champagne would work? Or reducing the strawberry down with champagne? I’d love to try this as a strawberry champagne flavor

      1. Hi Cassandra, I have never tried a strawberry champagne flavor, but it sounds amazing! You can see how I use champagne in both the batter and the frosting of these Wedding Cupcakes. It would be very easy to use that frosting and just add the strawberry dust as in this recipe – but the cake batter would take some experimenting. Please let me know if you try it!

  19. Hi sally!

    If I’m baking this layer cake in a 4″ cake pan instead of 8″, could I then just divide the ingredients’ amounts by half?

    Thank you!

    1. Hi Nadine, Unfortunately it’s not that easy. The capacity of a 4 inch pan is much less than half of an 8 inch pan. You can take a look at this chart by Wilton to help you figure out how much batter you should use for different pan sizes: https://www.wilton.com/cake-serving-guide/cms-baking-serving-guide.html

  20. Hmm, not sure what I did wrong but the middle of the cakes didn’t rise, almost looks like it drooped in the middle. Trying to decide whether to continue and frost it or start over on another cake since I don’t have enough puree left to make another like this.

    1. Hi Sarah, If the middle sunk it’s likely undercooked and the middle is still too raw. If you try it again add a few minutes to your bake time and if you notice the tops getting brown before the center is finished you can cover it loosely with foil.

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