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: 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

1150 Comments

  1. Sally, I’m looking for a raspberry flavored cake that doesn’t use Jello. Do you think I could sub in freeze-dried raspberries and reduced raspberry puree in this recipe?

    1. Hi Mary, The freeze dried raspberries will definitely work with the frosting. I haven’t tested the cake itself with raspberries but other readers have reported back with good results. They make take longer to reduce due to their higher water content.

    1. Hi Lyndee, Do you mean to use the preserves instead of the puree? I don’t recommend it as strawberry preserves are mostly sugar and you won’t get as much actual strawberry flavor.

  2. Hi Sally! I made this cake yesterday for my husbands birthday. Every year he wanted a black forest cake. This year, I decided to do something different and came across this strawberry cake. I asked him how he felt and he was borderline about it. After he tasted this cake, he was surprised. He really enjoyed it, as did I.

  3. This is the *best* cake I’ve ever made! I adapted it a little to make it gluten free for my birthday, and it turned out amazing. I used to love strawberry cake from a box as a kid, and it’s been hard to find a from-scratch version with enough strawberry flavor so I can make it gluten free. This cake is tender and has a great strawberry flavor, but the icing is to die for and really pulls it together. Thanks so much for the recipe!!

  4. I reduced my strawberries down after processing them in a Ninja and they started off kind of frothy pale pink and only darkened a little. They didn’t get the super deep color you have, but they reduced fully. Could I have some something wrong? Did I over blend them (if that is a thing???)? I’ve made jam but I’ve never just reduced berry purée.

    1. Hi Matney! Nothing you did wrong. Depending on the time of year and region (or simply the brand/box of strawberries), the strawberries may not have been as vibrantly red.

      1. Hi! The cake and frosting both tasted amazing! Just a few things I had to iron out. First, it was tough finding freeze-dried strawberries. The places you mentioned aren’t located near my city. Some Aldi and Dollar Tree stores sell them, but not the ones closest to me. I did eventually locate the item at Walmart, though. Next, I greased and floured the pans carefully, but still had a terrible time removing them. When they finally came out, some chunks were stuck to the bottom. Next time, I will just add parchment paper to the bottom of each pan. Finally, I had a lot of trouble frosting the cake, as it kept “peeling. ” I ended up doing a “dirty” layer, refrigerating the cake for 30 minutes, then applying n.v g a “clean” layer. Overall, very tasty and worth the effort!

      1. I guess I realized that – I made the cake! We love it! Thanks (not a fan of wasting- so I guess we’re having scrambled eggs for breakfast)

  5. I have cooked the strawberry purée for a LONG time and can’t get it as thick as the picture. I don’t want it to be too wet in the batter- any suggestions???

  6. Hi! I’m looking for a strawberry cake recipe that is super super strong in strawberry flavor. This looks like a great recipe, but I read some comments saying it wasn’t as strawberry as it would be expected. What can I do to make it more strawberry strong without adding frosting?

    1. Hi Samantha, adding artificial flavoring is the only way to guarantee a stronger flavor without compromising the texture and structure of the cake. I recommend some strawberry extract or strawberry gelatin powder.

  7. This cake looks wonderful and I’m hoping to make it for my daughter’s birthday. However, apparently freeze dried strawberries are difficult to source in my city. I’m wondering if dried strawberries are an appropriate replacement or will I just have to bite the bullet and order some online?

    1. Hi Therese, dried strawberries are usually different – they still have some moisture in them so when you attempt to use a blender it will make a thick unworkable paste. The freeze dried berries turn into a powder!

  8. There is no reason this recipe should be anything but 5 out of 5 stars!
    The combination of freeze dried strawberries and cream cheese are the perfect secret to giving the frosting a juicy, strawberries & cream finish! Who would have thought? Thanks, Sally!

    ✨ A few variations I used:
    -Buttermilk instead of whole milk in the cake batter! It’s so worth it! This yielded moist, rich layers that maintained their moisture.
    -Double the frosting. I make a double recipe of frosting, this was to allow for extra taste testing, adequate frosting on the sides, but most importantly, decorative piping on the top around the edges! I had some frosting left over, so 1 1/2 times the frosting recipe would probably suffice.
    -Don’t overcook the layers! I took mine out right at 24 min, and leveled the layers by gently trimming the “dome” off.
    – I used a food scale to ensure the batter was equal in both the pans and moistened the bottom layer with simple syrup before applying icing to help seal in the moisture.
    -I looked everywhere for freeze dried strawberries! My local Walmart and Ingles did not carry them, so I checked CVS and found them. I guess the moral is to check your local drugstores if all else fails and you can’t wait to make this cake, like me!

    * I noticed comments about the cake looking “tan”. This could be due to the strawberries themselves, as they can range from pink to deep red depending on their quality and ripeness. However, Sally suggests adding a drop of red food coloring as desired, and that worked for me!
    Using quality, adequately ripened strawberries could help give the cake a more defined pink hue and a stronger, natural flavor.

    1. Hi Debra, Yes it should work. I’m unsure of the bake time so just remember to not fill your pan more than 2/3 and use a toothpick to test for doneness.

  9. I made this cake for my little girls birthday. I did change it up a little in that I used the reverse-creaming method because I just like the texture of the cake better that way. It was Divine!

    Now I’m going to use the same recipe only with raspberry for my son’s birthday.

  10. If I wanted to use my own white cake recipe, How would I combine this strawberry purée? What liquids what I reduce? Thank you

  11. Can I use this frosting recipe with the strawberry cupcake recipe or will it be too runny? I don’t want to use white chocolate or heavy cream so I’d rather use this one!

      1. You can also add about 1/3c powdered buttermilk (available at Walmart or other mid-sized grocery stores) to firm up a cream cheese frosting for piping. This works without adding sweetness from excessive sugar. Plain powdered milk works too, but it adds milky flavor rather than the nice tang you expect from cream cheese frosting.

  12. This was my first time doing any cake from scratch! And even more a two layer cake! And I have to say, I’m excited with the results! It turned out perfect! (At least for me and my expectations ) The only thing that I changed (not by choice) was the freeze dried strawberries; instead, I bought a strawberry smoothie mix that comes in a small package already in powder form, and it work out just fine! ❤️

    I really appreciate all of your tips and videos!

  13. We made this cake for my daughter’s birthday. The frosting was excellent. But the cake, while tasty and a pretty color (after adding a couple drops of red food gel) was dense – more like carrot cake. I think I need to try again as I used 8″ cake pans rather than 9″ after reading other comments that the cake didn’t rise much. But I had also used self rising cake flour, so mine rose even above the pans. It took closer to 40 minutes to bake thoroughly. I also didn’t sift the cake flour – just used pre-sifted that I poured 2 1/2 cups into a 4 cup wet measuring cup. My puree was definitely room temp but my sour cream, milk and egg whites could have been too chilly. But does the temperature of those really matter? I guess I strayed enough from the details in the recipe that the density is my fault, not that of the recipe. Learning lessons.

    1. Hi Heather! I’m happy to help. I strongly encourage you to use sifted cake flour and the leavening agents listed instead of self-rising cake flour. I think you’ll find a vast difference in the outcome. Additionally, I know you’ll find this post helpful: How to Prevent a Dry or Dense Cake

  14. Just made this recipe. Happy b’day, Me! It’s pink, it’s sweet, fluffy and tall, but can’t really taste the strawberries (dah! They aren’t in season! How could they taste yummy? So really not the time for this recipe), I knew that before hand and tried to humor my daughter. So, a recipe to try again during strawberry season or if in winter use cooked frozen berries and add some lemon juice because it was a little sweet for me. I didn’t do the frosting bit! It was a winner here 🙂

    1. Happy birthday, Mel! Yes, the sweeter the actual berries the more flavor they will bring to your cake. You will be able to taste the fresh strawberry flavor in the baked cake, but the flavor is REALLY brought out when you combine it with strawberry frosting, so I recommend you try it next time!

  15. Awesome cake! If you love strawberry flavor, then this is the cake for you! So moist and flavorful! I made it for my father’s birthday and it was a huge hit! This is one I can’t wait to repeat in the spring when strawberries are in season.

  16. I have made this strawberry cake for my wife’s birthday. It turned out fantastic. I used a vanilla frosting instead of the strawberry(her request). Now my daughter is requesting a cake for her 18th birthday. I am making a 3 layer cake. How do I adjust your frosting recipe for a 3 layer cake?
    Thank you.

    1. I found the answer – https://sallysbakingaddiction.com/strawberry-frosting/. Someone ask the same question.
      Thank you again.

    2. I’m so happy you enjoyed this cake, Jesse! For a larger quantity of frosting you can simply make 1.5 times the recipe. I hope she has a fantastic 18th birthday!

  17. So I just made the cake as stated in the recipe. My strawberries made an almost purple purée and it got even brighter when I reduced it. My batter was a lovely shade of dark pink. When I pulled them out of the oven however, they were about the color of spice cake. A nice shade of tan. I was hoping for a pale pink color… any idea what may have gone awry? I really would like to not use artificial coloring.

    1. Hi Mary! Unfortunately strawberries tend to lose their vibrant color when baked. The most successful fix to brighten up the color is a little gel food coloring. How did it taste?

  18. I am so sad to be leaving this after seeing so many wonderful reviews! I never leave reviews but I’m hoping for some guidance. I was excited about this cake because I stray away from artificial flavors and colors. I followed the cake recipe fully and the cake baked beautifully. But once cooled and I tried it, there’s no flavor at all. I thought it was just me so got the whole family to try it and they agreed with me. I did not use the strawberries in the icing but I feel like the cake itself should’ve had a flavor alone. Any tips, please share!

    1. Hi Brooke, Did you happen to taste the strawberries before you made the puree? When they are in season, sweet summer berries will give you the best flavor, but they are nearly impossible to find this time of year where I live. The better the berries, the better the flavor of the cake! And while you will be able to taste the fresh strawberry flavor in the baked cake, the flavor is REALLY brought out when you combine it with strawberry frosting, so I recommend you try it next time!

  19. Hi Sally! I am wondering if I can use frozen strawberries instead of fresh strawberries when making the strawberry puree? Thanks so much!

  20. I have some questions about the cake! It unfortunately didn’t turn out the exact way I wanted it to. My cake was dense and not as strawberry forward as I had hoped. It was moist though!

    My questions are as follows:
    Could I add more strawberries to the puree (like an ounce or two more) and just spend longer reducing it to a half-cup to get more strawberry flavour?

    My sad dense cake was probably due in part to old baking powder and soda, but I also have a tendency to reduce sugar as much as possible (too much sugar makes me twitchy– I’m not even kidding). I have always wonder if reduced sugar affects the creaming process with the butter. Could this be a factor in dense baked goods and something I have to adjust other things for in the future? Or does it only affect sweetness?

    The freeze dried strawberries were an amazing tip for the frosting by the way. Even though I was under in my quantity of powder the frosting still tasted like strawberries.

    (BTW for any Canadians here, Superstore also carries the freeze dried strawberries but as part of a mix with bananas. It costs about $5 a pack. You’ll need to get at least two packs though– bananas weigh more than strawberries, that’s how I got caught out with too little strawberry powder. Just another option for us besides online and Walmart.)

    1. Hi Therese, For the best strawberry flavor it’s more important to use fresh sweet berries than increasing the amount. The better the berries, the better the flavor of the cake! You do need to make sure your baking powder and soda are fresh, old leaveners can certainly lead to a cake that doesn’t rise. Cutting the sugar can contribute to this also – sugar does more than add flavor, it is responsible for moisture, texture, and hindering too much gluten formation. This is a great article if you wish to learn more: https://www.thekitchn.com/why-can-t-i-reduce-the-amount-of-sugar-in-a-cake-226760

      1. Ah but what do you think of this:
        https://www.kingarthurflour.com/blog/2017/04/26/reduce-sugar-in-cake

        I’ll most certainly buy new baking soda and powder but I’ll probably sugar reduce where I can. It’s a personal taste preference. That being said now I do know more so if my cakes aren’t as floofy as I want them to be I’ll understand why at the very least!

  21. This is cake is sheer perfection, Sally! Followed the recipe precisely. Very easy to follow too! I look forward to trying more of your recipes now.

  22. Hi Sally, I can’t find dried strawberries, can I use strawberry jelly or strawberry flavor essence? for the strawberry frosting

    1. Hi Martha, I don’t recommend adding jelly to the frosting as jelly is mostly sugar and doesn’t have a very strong strawberry flavor. You can add strawberry extract or essence if you wish.

  23. This is now my go-to strawberry cake! Many of my customers I bake for don’t want to pair it with strawberry frosting as well, so to bring out the strawberry flavor I add a 1/4 teaspoon of strawberry oil. Perfection!! So yummy! I do have a question…can I use this recipe as cupcakes, or will they not rise the same? Thanks so much for an amazing recipe!!

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