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. 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. 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 until you’re left with 1/2 cup or a little over 1/2 cup. This takes at least 25-30 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. 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 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.
  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

1206 Comments

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  1. My family and friends loved this cake a lot! It turned out to be so fluffy and light. I’ll be doing it again and I’ll definitely try other recipes of yours. Thank you so much

  2. The recipe itself is fantastic, however I didn’t think it was sweet enough. Tasted like a biscuit but I whipped up your chocolate cake and will still use the strawberry frosting. I can’t win ’em all. I learned how to puree and reduce thank you!

  3. Sally I made the strawberry cake and it turned out great. However, the freeze dried strawberry icing tasted powdery and a bit funky. Any insight on what I did wrong and/or a way to fix the taste?

    1. I love this recipe and have made it numerous times! Right now I’m having trouble finding sour cream and can’t get yogurt either anything I can use instead of sour cream? Thank you!

      1. Cortney, did you find an answer to this question? I’m reducing the strawberries right now and just realized I have no sour cream or plain yogurt!

      2. Molly, I was actually able to get some sour cream in my last grocery pick up but I never got a reply with an alternative. I did find a recipe to make your own sour cream online using heavy cream, milk or buttermilk, and I think maybe lemon juice or vinegar. Mix it and let it sit for 24 hours and apparently that’s great for baking, but I have not personally tried it. My best guess for a straight up sub would be the same amount of cream cheese or a slightly smaller amount of buttermilk (or full fat milk with lemon juice or vinegar). I’m sorry I’m not more help! I absolutely love this recipe and have made it numerous times, so I hope you are able to make it!

  4. somehow my puree got turned up to high. I left it for five minutes or so and came back and it was boiling. I’ve been stirring it diligently since but it still looks very liquidy and I have only 3 minutes left. Do I need to begin again with a fresh batch?

    1. I’m having the same trouble with my puree. Did yours eventually reduce or did you make a new batch??

      1. Yeah it was definitely double the time at least from what the recipe said. Eventually it did reduce down to half a cup though.

  5. I am abut to make this for a birthday. I am sure I have made it before as cupcakes, but have one question before I start….
    Is the cake flour sifted and then measured, or do I measure and then sift in with other dry ingredients?

  6. My cakes did not rise at all. Tested my baking powder (it’s fine) and measured everything by weight. I did have to make the cake flower following your instructions (all stores are out due to the virus…) but I wouldn’t think that would matter? They have been in for 24 min and aren’t even done, still jiggly and flat. I also have an oven thermometer so I know the oven temp is ok too. I have never had this happen to me before. This was supposed to be my daughter’s birthday cake. I’m so disappointed 🙁

    1. I had the same issue until I realized the directions are a bit off. Directions say to bake for 24 mins; however, in the notes, it says to bake for 40 mins. Cake should bake for 40 mins while cupcakes should bake for 24 mins. Hope this helps!

      1. Hi Alana, If you are using two 9-inch round cake pans the bake time should be 24-45 minutes. If you are using one 9×13 pan then the bake time is approximately 40 minutes.

  7. Hi Sally –
    I love your website and I love strawberry cake. But I have diverticulitis and cannot have strawberries because of the seeds. You say the seeds “disappear ” when baked in the cake. Is that just that they can’t be seen or that they melt or disintegrate in the process? Also, are there seeds in the freeze dried strawberries for the frosting?
    Thanks for all your amazing recipes!

    1. I had seeds in my freeze-dried strawberries from Trader Joes, but I’m pretty sure you can find seedless online

  8. Hi Sally! I’m a huge fan of your recipes – tried so many! My daughter asked for strawberry cake for her 5th birthday, so of course I came to you. I just heated the puree – I started with one cup, but finished with only 1/3 of thick purée. I can’t go back to the store, so hoping you can tell me what to do to account for a shortage on the fresh purée. Perhaps I can add strawberry jam until it reaches 1/2 cup? Or should I increase the wet ingredients (which ones)? Unfortunately, I only get one shot at this. Please help!

  9. Sally, I’m going to be making this cake per request for my sons birthday. However, he has requested chocolate frosting. Do you have any suggestions for the frosting so it doesn’t over power the strawberry flavor of the cake? I was also thinking of putting chocolate -covered Strawberries on top. I can’t wait to try this recipe! I agree the box mix is lack- luster!

      1. Sally, Thanks for replying so quickly. After asking my question, I decided to go through your recipes for chocolate frosting and came upon your ganache recipe. I decided I would use that recipe and whip it as suggested. My decision was based on the fact my son doesn’t like cream cheese. But, thanks so much for suggestion and I’m so happy I came upon your blog! Please stay safe!

  10. Hi Sally!
    Just started making the Strawberry cake for my wife’s birthday (today!!). Of course I missed the note about making the puree the day before. I’m in the process of reducing right now. Can I put it in the freezer to speed up the cooling or will that change the consistency?
    Thanks!

  11. I think I was expecting too much! Sally I’ve never been anything but thrilled with any of your recipes! The batter smelled so great and idea of concentrating the strawberries made so much sense….Mem…..the frosting was absolutely amazing though and I’m def making that again!

  12. My strawberry puree did not reduce by much and definitely didn’t get as thick as your picture. I heated on medium low in a small saucepan for almost 40 minutes. Any idea what the problem might be? Should i heat longer?

    1. Yes, depending on the berries and the heat of your stove they can take longer. Just keep going and they will eventually reduce!

  13. THIS WAS EVERYTHING I HOPED FOR !!! I made this cake for my stepson and he LOVED IT. I had been eyeing this recipe for a while but I was a little Intimidated by it.. I did mess up beating the sugar and butter but it can only get better as I keep learning. I am beginner and it was a little overwhelming but it was totally worth it to see his little face thank you so much Sally

  14. Hi Sally, I’m looking to make this cake this coming weekend and wanted to put something in between the cake layers. I was wondering if you had any suggestions, I thought maybe a no bake cheese cake or maybe just some macerated strawberries? Can you give me some guidance on what you would recommend?

  15. I have a question! I just finished baking my cakes and they are done but the color is a golden brown, they are still cooking so I dont know how pink they are in the middle but I added 2 drops of food dye (realized they were organic plant based after). Does the type of food dye matter? It might not have been strong enough to make the batter pink.

    1. Hi Alyssa, I always use and recommend gel food coloring. The colors are much brighter and more vibrant than liquid and you don’t need to add as much.

  16. Hi Sally I made your strawberry cake today. It was delicious. But my cake did not stay pink. I followed recipe to the t and also added on drop of red food coloring. The color is almost like the color of banana cake. Any tips to keep it pink?

  17. Hi Sally,
    My 10-year-old son and I made this strawberry cake this weekend because he loves strawberries. As you can imagine, we tasted each step of it along the way and everthing was fantastic! Although the batter turned out a dingy brown (despite the red food coloring), the end product also tasted great. However, it was a bit too sweet for us (and our friends), even using the cream cheese frosting. If a recipe is too sweet, can you just cut down on the sugar (e.g., by half) or does the missing amount then somehow need to be compensated for (e.g., with more flour)?

    1. Hi Meg, I’m so glad that you enjoyed it! The sugar is responsible for the moisture and texture of the cake as well as the flavor. You can try slightly reducing it but it may not be as moist. You can also add a bit more salt to cut the sweetness and perhaps try a Swiss Meringue Buttercream frosting instead.

      1. Thanks so much for your quick reply! One more question: If I use your Swiss Meringue Buttercream frosting recipe, can I still add the freeze-dried strawberry powder in it for that extra strawberry kick? If yes, how much should I put in and should I leave something else out?

  18. Hi can I make the puree a couple days ahead of when I need it? My strawberries are at their ripest and I can’t get out to buy more closer to the day I need the cake.

  19. Sally, I am finding bags of freeze dried strawberries in 1 oz and 2 oz sizes. Any idea how much I’d need to get 1 cup?

    1. 1 ounce is plenty. The bags I usually purchase are 1.2 ounces and I always have some leftover.

  20. Hi Sally, I do not have freeze dried strawberries for the icing. Can I use strawberry jam instead? Or any other suggestions? Many Thanks!

  21. Hi Sally,

    I am planning to bake a doll cake for my daughter’s birthday in a pyrex bowl for the skirt shape. Can you please tell me how long I should bake the cake for since the center might need longer baking time? Should the baking temperature change as well? Maybe 25f lower? I don’t want to risk burning the edges & bottom. Please advice! Thank you!

    1. Hi Divya, That sounds very cute! I have not ever baked this cake in a round bowl so I’m unsure of the bake time needed.

    2. Divya I would suggest using different size cake pans. Layer them and use a knife and trim the edges to the shape of the skirt. I dont know if the pyrex bowl the middle will cook

  22. Hi Sally,
    I just love your deep dish pizza or your pizza recipe. This is my first time trying your cake recipes for my husband’s birthday. I have replaced the fruit to raspberries since I found only the freeze dried raspberries. And I halved the recipe since with the lockdown it’s just my husband and myself. I am done baking the cakes and they are beautiful cooling now. I was just wondering if I can add a chocolate element like a chocolate fudge sauce or melted cooking chocolate between the cakes with the cream cheese frosting. Please do let me know.

    1. Hi Sahana, I hope your husband has a great birthday and that you both enjoy the cake. You can certainly add chocolate between the layers. Chocolate Ganache would be wonderful. Just make sure it’s cooled so that it doesn’t melt your frosting. You can use it on top of the cake as a drip also. Enjoy!

  23. 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.

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

  24. 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!

  25. 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.

  26. 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.

  27. 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.

  28. 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.

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