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!

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. 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

Comments are closed.

  1. Hello there! I have come to LOVE LOVE LOVE your site! I’m not a very experienced baker, but I love to cook and now to bake! Thank you! Anyway, quick question for you. I’ve got my puree ready, and I’m Jazzed to make this cake, but I’m hoping to get the lactose out of it, my little guy is allergic. I’ve got vegan sour cream, and soy milk, can I sub those?

    1. Hi Elizabeth, I haven’t tested this cake with vegan substitutes but please let me know if you try it!

      1. I went with cupcakes, because I had commitment issues, haha. They came out delightful!! Definitely the best cupcakes to come out of my kitchen yet!!
        a few notes: I used the sticks of plant based butter – 1:1, but I had to beat them a little longer with my sugar in the first step to get it smooth for the next step. I also used non dairy sour cream, and soy milk, because it was the thickest non-dairy I could think of and wanted to get the right consistency.
        Toddler approved.

  2. Can you used frozen strawberries and reduce them down?

    1. Hi Melanie, You can use frozen strawberries, but they will take longer to reduce even if you thaw them first.

  3. I couldn’t find freeze dried strawberries locally, and my creative husband came up with the idea to get special K and pick the strawberries out!

  4. Planning on using this for my daughter’s “quarantine bday party.” Can I omit the egg whites and use regular eggs instead, if so how many? Approx how many strawberries would I need to get 1/2 cup of reduction? Also, I don’t have cake flour b/c quarantine, so can I use all purpose or try to do a combo of whole wheat with all purpose?
    Thanks

    1. Hi Julie, I recommend sticking to the recipe and using only egg whites. Puree 1 lb of strawberries (the amount varies depending on the size of the berries) then reduce them until you have about 1/2 cup. Here is the cake flour substitution you can use. Cake flour (or that substitution combo) is key– cakes taste heavy otherwise.

  5. My puree turned out more of a berry-purple color. It doesn’t taste burnt, still having the tart strawberry flavor, but did I do something wrong or reduce it too long?

    1. I don’t think so. The berries could have been redder or even less red than others. The color won’t affect anything. Feel free to tint the batter with red or pink food coloring.

  6. Thank you Sally & Danae for your responses.

    Sally, can I use the fresh strawberry reduced purée for the frosting as well? I can’t seem to find the freeze dried strawberries close to me. Thank you

    1. Hi Divya! For the reasons listed above, I don’t recommend fresh strawberries for the frosting– it curdles otherwise and/or the flavor doesn’t come through. Freeze-dried is best.

  7. How, if any, would you need to adjust this recipe if you use the whole eggs and not just the egg whites? I’m not a fan of the consistency of just the egg white cakes. Thanks in advance!

    1. Hi Leigh! I don’t recommend using whole eggs in this recipe. Feel free to try my vanilla cake recipe or batter from my vanilla naked cake recipe instead. You can frost it with this strawberry frosting and/or even add the strawberry reduction and adjust the milk to make up for the added wet ingredient.

  8. I made this recipe today and it’s outstanding. Didn’t have freeze dried strawberries available due to shortages but it’s still delicious with standard cream cheese frosting. Even my husband loved it and he’s not a sweets guy! Can’t wait to try some of your other recipes.

  9. Thank you for the delicious recipe. My 10 year-old daughter made this with minimal help from me. It was very time consuming, but worth the trouble. We made a lemon cream cheese frosting for the middle and we used the leftover strawberry purée to make a strawberry cream cheese frosting on the outside. The combination of the two was not only aesthetically pleasing, but the two flavors together were a perfect combination. She wanted to make a cross, so we took the leftover strawberry frosting and added cool whip to it so it would be easier to decorate. We decided that this will be our Easter tradition from now on. Thank you again. The Karsten Girls

  10. Karen McPherson says:

    Hey Sally. Thanks for the strawberry reduction part, it was an intense and delicious addition. The batter was like strawberry fluff. So, our cakes sunk in the middle. I did the AP Flour substitution w Corn Starch for Cake Flour. I also added (accidentialy) two sticks of butter. I am at 7500′ altitude. Do you think there is another alteration to be made for high altitude?

    1. I’m wondering if it’s altitude related as I had the same issue but I used fake flour. I’m only at 5,000 feet and I don’t usually have that many issues with baking, but for some reason mine sunk in the middle as well.

      1. *cake flour

  11. Vickey Codella says:

    Hi Sally,
    I made this cake for my husband’s birthday, and for Easter. The frosting is delicious, and the cake has a good flavor, but the edges of the cake tasted burned. I’m not sure what I did wrong. After my timer went off, the cake tester was still coming out wet, so I cooked it until it came out clean. But, I was disappointed to have the burnt flavor. If I avoided the edges, the flavor was great. It was also a bit dry…so I can only assume that I over baked it. Any tips?

    1. Hi Vickey, I’m so glad you enjoyed the flavor. It does sound as if it was over baked. Any chance you changed the number or size of the pans or used glass pans? If you try again feel free to tent the top with foil part way through baking to help the tops not brown too quickly as the center bakes. You might also enjoy reading my 10 Baking Tips for Perfect Cakes and my post on How to Prevent a Dry or Dense Cake.

  12. Hi Sally, I made this cake for my young daughter’s birthday and it was loved by all, especially my daughter. Which is what really counts! Full success. I can’t wait to try more of your recipes. Many thanks for making this day extra special.

  13. Is there a way to freeze dry fresh strawberries for the icing?

    1. Hi Heather, Unfortunately not. Even with a dehydrator they will have too much liquid and just be dried berries and not freeze dried.

  14. It’s a lot of work but 8/10 would make again!

  15. My soon to be 6 year old daughter isn’t a fan of cream cheese icing. What other icing would you suggest to go with this cake? The icing doesn’t need to be strawberry flavour.

    1. Hi! Try my regular strawberry frosting or my vanilla buttercream. You may need 1.5x either recipe to ensure you have enough for the layer cake.

  16. Richa Gupta says:

    I’m not a baker at all, it’s new territory for me, but I’m super excited to try this recipe for my daughters birthday.

    I don’t have plain regular yogurt or sour cream. Can I use nonfat Greek plain Greek yogurt instead? Or any other subs?

    1. Hi Richa, Plain Greek yogurt is fine. I hope you love it!

      1. Great thank you Sally! Also do you have any tips on how to level the cake for layering? Every time I try to cut the dome part of the cake, it’s never even.

  17. Hi Sally,
    I don’t have plain yogurt, but I do have strawberry yogurt. Would that work or would it be too strawberry?

  18. Hi Sally,
    Love your recipes. Tried the strawberry cake and turned out awesome. The frosting tastes great but drips down.

  19. Rebecca Tolbert says:

    I made this cake and it was absolutely delicious!! Super easy to make and wows any guests you’re trying to impress. I will definitely be making time and time again!

  20. Brenda Herrera says:

    I made this cake and it came out super super yummy. I always check on it even if a recipe says bake certain amount I check it before so it doesn’t burn and good thing I did since it was ready at 15 minutes. I forgot to put butter on the edges and it still came out perfectly and it didn’t stick! The cake was soft, tasty, just perfect. The icing was not good at all. I followed the instructions but didn’t like the taste. So I made a cream cheese frosting and it mixed with the cake deliciously.

  21. This cake is phenomenal! I have had my eye on this recipe since it was posted and finally got around to making it as part of my long list of quarantine bakes (anybody else baking and comparing every brownie recipe they can get their hands on?). It is absolutely delicious and I will be making this for anyone and everyone’s birthdays when we’re allowed to have birthdays again. Unfortunately my baking soda is past its prime, so the cake didn’t quite have the perfectly soft and fluffy texture I was hoping for, but the flavor is still soooo good. And I want to put this strawberry cream cheese frosting on everything. Thanks Sally for this great recipe! I love everything pink, so this cake is such a joy

  22. Delicious cake and icing, I followed everything to the letter. However my cake did sink a bit in the middle, and it was so delicate it was really hard to move. It definitely stuck in the pan which was a bummer even though I buttered and floured the pans, if I did this again I would use parchment in the bottom. I had a hard time icing it as well because it just wanted to fall apart. Not sure if I did something wrong to cause that!

    1. Erin Banning says:

      Made it as direct. Used parchment on pans… All ovens are different , but mine needed another 5 minutes due to middle not cooked.
      Cake was a great flavor..: frosting I had to thin out a bit more… but spread perfectly. Cake slightly dry… possibly from having to cook longer…. the family had no problems eating it. Used sliced strawberries on top to decorate
      Thx for the recipe

  23. I’m going to buy ingredients now. I only have a hand mixer. Do I need the kitchen aid mixer?

  24. I followed this recipe and used the cake flour modification since I only had AP flour. The cake came out very dense and I couldn’t taste the strawberries at all in the cake. I couldn’t find freeze dried strawberries so left those out of the frosting and just decided to top the cake with fresh strawberries sweetened with a little bit of sugar overnight. The frosting and strawberries on top tasted great, but I am very disappointed in how the cake itself came out. I’m not sure what happened.

    1. Hi Jessica, For the strawberry flavor in the cake, did you taste your strawberries before you pureed them? The sweeter and more flavorful the actual berries the better they translate to the cake. To help troubleshoot a dense cake take a look at my post How to Prevent a Dry or Dense Cake. I hope this helps!

  25. Hi! Wow this looks amazing. I love that all the flavor comes from real strawberries. I’ve been looking for a recipe like this for awhile! I’m interested in making this into mini cupcakes. Do you think that will work? Any suggestions?

    Thank you! Love your recipes. I’ve made a few and they’ve been solid. Your iced oatmeal cookies are on my permanent Christmas cookie rotation.

    1. Thank you so much Abbey! This recipe yields quite a lot of mini cupcakes (some readers have reported about 75). Mini cupcakes usually take around 11-13 minutes.

  26. Rebecca Finale says:

    Can I use this recipe as cupcakes? If so, how long do I bake them?? I’m a huge fan of strawberry cake but my daughter likes cupcakes and it’s her birthday tomorrow.

  27. Would it work to use three 6” cake pans in lieu of 9” pans?

    1. My strawberry cupcakes batter is the perfect amount for 3 6inch cakes. See my 6 inch cakes post for baking instructions.

  28. Hello I baked this for my twins 7th birthday as they requested a strawberry cake. It was a hit. I ended up making one layer and cutting that in half and icing it in the middle that way. I used the rest of the batter for mini cupcakes. Very delicious. I did have to make this over a couple of days. I made the strawberry purée and baked the cake first day then the rest on day two.

  29. Rebecca Centers says:

    Baking this recipe right now for my daughter’s 4th birthday. The batter seemed to “break” when I whisked in the milk at the end but at that point I didn’t want to over mix it – hoping it’ll bake up ok? I wonder if it wasn’t room temp enough?
    I’m doing the frosting and assembly tomorrow. Fingers crossed!!

  30. Sharon Jones says:

    Just finished frosting this cake and my comments are good and bad. The good: a. whoever thought up using freeze dried berries is GENIUS. Once those berries hit that warm cream cheese and butter they bloom and come to life. This frosting is phenomenal. I mean, it is GOOD. b. Once the cake looks like it’s boarding on done grab that baby out of the oven. The cake continues to cook while cooling in the pans. If you give it “a few more minutes “ you’ll be sorry. c. I don’t have a food grinder and did just fine without it. I believe the cake is better with those berries not being ground to dust. The fresh berries I chopped small and they cooked down just fine. The freeze dried one I put in a Ziploc bag and pounded with a rolling pin. The bad: I chopped up nearly 2 lbs. of strawberries to yield one cup of puree and I’m glad I did. One half cup of puree isn’t nearly enough for a cake this size. Half cup just barely gives you that strawberry taste. Also, use more than a “teeny bit” of red food coloring. The batter is pale pink and you want that deep strawberry color. Also, this cake is a “project” cake, takes all day and the kitchen a mess when you’re done. Not a cake to “throw together” to take to the office the next day, but so worth the time and effort.

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