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The one thing that sets this strawberry cake apart from others? Reduce fresh strawberry puree down and add to the best white cake batter.

overhead image of homemade strawberry cake on a marble cake stand

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…

slice of homemade strawberry cake on a white plate

I cried tears of joy. Or were those actual tears because I just dirtied every dish with all this strawberry cake recipe testing?

Let’s get down to business. 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.

carton of strawberries

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.

Strawberry puree in a food processor

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.

strawberry puree in a glass measuring cup

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 in a glass bowl

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.

strawberry cake batter in round cake pans

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!

Homemade strawberry cake on a wood and marble cake stand

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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overhead image of homemade strawberry cake on a marble cake stand

Homemade Strawberry Cake

  • Author: Sally
  • Prep Time: 1 hour, 30 minutes
  • Cook Time: 25 minutes
  • Total Time: 6 hours
  • Yield: serves 10-12 1x
  • Category: Cakes
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: American


The one thing that sets this strawberry cake apart from others? Reduce fresh strawberry puree down and add to the best white cake batter.


  • 2 and 1/2 cups (285g) 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 (about 25g) 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


  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.


  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: 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!
  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 rinsed and hulled 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

Reader Questions and Reviews

  1. I love this recipe, and the cream cheese recipe, divine! My favorite. Its always a big hit. However I do have a question. I have to make this as a number cake for this weekend. Im baking this in a 9*13 cake pan. But, will this be sturdy enough to carve and not crumble down on me? One time i tried a recipe for moist vanilla cake and it literally ended up in crumbs as i was trying to place the number on top of the first number layer. But my Puertorican style vanilla cake held up beautifully (it’s a bit dryer until you add simple syrup).

  2. I made this for a client and they loved it thank you for sharing this recipe!

    1. Are there any changes necessary if baking at 5000 ft. altitude (Albuquerque, NM)?
      Thank you!

    1. Hi Autumn, freeze dried strawberries are used in the frosting here, but fresh strawberries made into a puree are required for the cake.

  3. Hi Sally, I would like to make the 2 x 9” layers thicker. How much should I increase the recipe by, and how much longer should I bake. Will be baking the 2 layers on alternate shelf, ok to use fan force and at what temperature?
    Will be baking the cakes and fully ice and decorate with buttercream the night before. OK to refrigerate the finished cake overnight sealed in a cake container? Then leave out room temp the next day for 2 hrs before serving. Will this affect the texture of the cake? Or should I just leave overnight in room temperature? Thanks.

    1. Hi Helen, you can try increasing the amount of batter to create thicker layers, but we don’t recommend filling your cake pans more than half way for fear they won’t bake through evenly/properly. You could also 1.5x times the recipe to make a third layer for a taller cake. We do recommend baking them on the same self for even baking. All of the recipes on this site are written for conventional settings, but if you do use convection settings for baking, lower your temperature by 25 degrees F and keep in mind that things may still take less time to bake. You can decorate the cake the night before and store in the refrigerator overnight, taking it out just a bit before serving to come to room temperature. Hope this helps!

  4. Made this for my daughter’s 5th birthday! It was the best cake we’ve ever had. My kids can’t have artificial colors or gluten so I subbed for gluten free all purpose flour and I did add a few drops of natural pink food coloring to the batter. She was thrilled. We will be using this one for special occasions regularly!

  5. I’m following recipes but my cakes are sinking in the middle while baking. What am I doing wrong?

    1. Hi Jennifer, Sinking cakes are often because the outer edges are fully cooked but the center is not. This can be from simply not baking it long enough, or because your oven is too hot causing it to rise rapidly even though it’s not actually cooked in the center. Sometimes sunken cakes can also be due to over-beating the batter. Be sure to mix until the wet and dry ingredients are just incorporated. You can visit out post on 10 Tips for the Perfect Cake for more troubleshooting. I hope this helps!

    1. Hi Renea, the reduced puree will be very thick and also a deep red. The photos in the blog post give a good idea of the thickness/result you’re looking for. Hope you enjoy this cake!

  6. Hiya Sally,
    Can you please tell me if this cake is sturdy enough to make a 3 or 4 layer cake?

    1. Hi Tash, many readers have made 1.5x the batter for a three layer cake. Let us know what you try!

  7. Hi Sally
    I made this last year for my daughters birthday and it tasted delicious! I love all your recipes! This year I wanted to do something slightly different and possibly do raspberry and white chocolate cake with white chocolate ganache on top. Would that work?

    1. Hi Shannon, those flavors sound like a delicious combination! Let us know how it goes 🙂

    1. Hi Sarah, we developed this recipe to use all natural flavors. For a strawberry pudding cake, we would search for a recipe that uses the ingredients you’re hoping to use instead. Hope you find one you love!

      1. This strawberry cake batter fits nicely into a 10 cup or larger Bundt cake pan. We’re unsure of the exact bake time but it will increase due to the large amount of batter in one pan. Enjoy!

  8. I just pureed 1 pound of strawberries and ended up with over 2 cups of strawberries! Should I reduce all of this down to 1/2 cup, or reduce the 1 cup?

    1. Hi Clare! We would reduce just over 1 cup of the strawberry puree – otherwise it will take quite some time to reduce to a half cup with the larger amount. Hope you love this cake!

  9. This recipe sounds delicious. I am fearful my strawberries do not have a rich strawberry flavor because it is so hard to get good berries this time of year. Any suggestions to assure a yummy strawberry flavor? Thanks!

    1. Hi Sue, You can add more strawberry flavor using strawberry extract. You could try to reduce the vanilla to 1 tsp and add 1/2-1 tsp strawberry extract. Let us know if you give it a try!

  10. Can we use oil instead of butter..because I feel butter in cakes makes the cakes hard in fridge and with oil makes them soft even at fridge

  11. I loved the flavor of strawberry in this cake and how moist it is. However, I followed all the instructions but using your gram measurements instead of cups and it was way to sweet for me. I used organic cane sugar…not sure if that can affect it. Can I ask what kind of sugar you used and which cake flour? I want to make this for my sons birthday and this was a trial. I want to try to make it again using maybe the cup measurements because I did realize that that the grams for the flour requested would be much less in cup measurements (example 2.5 cups would be about 310 in grams of flour). PLEASE HELP.

  12. Hi, I’m considering making this for my daughter’s birthday cake. We have a teddy bear mold I was hoping to use. Is the cream cheese frosting thick enough to be able to pipe “fur” on using a piping bag and “grass”-style tip (#233)?

    1. Hi Lois, cream cheese frosting doesn’t hold its shape as well as traditional buttercream frosting, so we’d recommend using this strawberry buttercream recipe instead. Hope it’s a hit!

    1. Hi Kriz! This recipe isn’t formulated to use strawberry preserves – we suggest searching for a strawberry cake recipe made with strawberry preserves to ensure the best results!

  13. I followed your recipe word for word and made this cake for my moms birthday. Everyone loved it and my mom told me I have come so far with my baking. Your video explaining the order of adding things taught me a lot. Thanks so much Sally!

  14. The cake did not rise, I tried it second time. Also used cake flour this time. What could be the reason?

    1. Hi Prerna, are your baking powder and baking soda fresh? Even if not technically expired, we find they start to lose their strength after about 3 months. Those will be crucial in helping your cake to rise. Also, be sure not to over mix your batter, which can lead to dense and squat cake layers. You might find this article on 10 baking tips for perfect cakes helpful for next time. Thanks for giving this one a try!

  15. I’ve made this recipe once and it was delicious!
    I’m planning to make it again, but for a larger cake, so I’m doubling the recipe. Is it possible to use whole eggs instead of just egg whites in this recipe? I’d prefer not to waste so many yolks 🙁

    1. Hi Nicole, we don’t recommend using whole eggs as it will weigh down the crumb. Here are all of our recipes using egg yolks for your leftovers (or lemon curd is always a wonderful option!). Also, we recommend making two separate batches rather than doubling for best taste and texture. Hope this helps!

    1. Hi Shelby, 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 can be hard to find right now depending on where you 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 definitely don’t skip that! If needed, you could add more strawberry flavor using strawberry extract. You could try to reduce the vanilla to 1 tsp and add 1/2-1 tsp strawberry extract. Let us know if you give it a try!

  16. Dear Sally,

    Thank you for sharing your lovely recipe. May I ask for some more tips if I use frozen strawberries instead of fresh?

    Wishing you more success!


    1. Hi Maricar, You can use frozen strawberries in order to make the puree (not in the frosting, though). See recipe notes for more details — it may take longer to reduce down, even if you thaw them first.

  17. Like the flavor of this cake and frosting. I would like to know if you have any tips for the freeze dried strawberries after grinding them? I’ve used them before, in the same form, and they always cake together. TIA

    1. Hi Linda, if the freeze dried strawberries are caking together, it’s possible they were ground for a bit too long. For next time, you can try grinding them for just a bit shorter and that should help. You can also try sifting the powder to help break it up a bit. Finally, it might be worth trying a different brand of freeze dried strawberries. Some brands might simply grind up better than others. Hope this is helpful!

  18. Hi Sally

    My cakes didn’t rise, I used the same recipe with cake flour. Any idea what I could have done wrong?

    1. Hi Julie! The consistency of this homemade cake batter would be very different than a what you would find in a boxed cake mix – we haven’t tested it but don’t recommend giving it a try.

  19. Hello, can you explain what the problem would be with substituting a pure fruit (no sugar or sweetener added) spread for the puree. Strawberries are not in season and not very flavorful, and it also adds quite a bit of time to the process to puree, boil down, and chill puree before starting. I want natural flavor (not drops), but not sure I want to take all the extra time to make the boiled down puree.

    1. Hi Elle, after much recipe testing, we found reducing the strawberry puree to be the best way to get a strong strawberry flavor but without compromising the texture of the cake. We did try just pureeing the strawberries in the batter, but it was always too much liquid and additional flour to offset made the cake too dense. For best results, we recommend following the process for reducing the strawberry puree. It can be done a day ahead of time so that it’s one less step to do the day you’re making the cake. Let us know if you decide to give it a try.

  20. Hi

    My cakes didn’t rise but taste was great, I used the exact same recipe with cake flour and egg whites and reduced strawberry liquid too. Any idea what I could have done wrong? Asking coz I wanted to try your vanilla cake but not sure if it will rise too. This is the second time I tried this recipe

  21. Hello,
    I made the cake it came out very dense I’ve never had a cake come out dense ugh…I’ll try to sift the cake flour and see if it helps. Everyone loved the cake I and two others not like it dense.

    I used frozen strawberries made a large batch of puree just incase I had to remake the cake which I’ll do today.
    I’d like to know what the model of the ninja processor machine you used in video to grind the freeze dried strawberries. I used my big ninja blender processor but it didn’t work great I had to sift out larger grind pieces.
    Fingers crossed the next cake comes out fluffy and will try extract to add more flavor punch.

    1. Hi Michelle, I use the Ninja Master Prep blender/food processor in the video. I still have and use this often when grinding freeze-dried strawberries. For the dense texture, I wonder if the batter was over-mixed or perhaps the butter was too warm to cream properly. Something that always helps with this cake batter (I use it for other flavor cakes) is reducing the egg whites down to 4 instead of 5. No other changes necessary. Additionally, see if this page helps: How to Prevent a Dry or Dense Cake

    1. Hi Zarah, Hi Lara, This batter will be too much for a 6 inch cake. You can use it and fill your pans 2/3 full and then use the leftover batter for some cupcakes. OR use this recipe for strawberry cupcakes which yields the perfect amount of batter for three 6 inch layers! Here is everything you want to know about making 6 inch cakes.

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