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

1212 Comments

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  1. Looking forward to making this cake. Freeze dried strawberries found at Big Lots and Trader Joe’s. I’ll be keeping a supply. Have you used any other flavors of the dried fruits? Blueberry?

  2. I love strawberries, so when my mom asked me what kind of cake she could bake me for my quarantine birthday, I sent her this recipe! My mom usually doesn’t follow recipes exactly, but promised me she would for this. She followed the recipe and We all LOVED it, even my daughter and husband, who are neither cake nor strawberry people. My husband is a professional chef and it takes a lot to please him! He had three pieces the night of my birthday and two more the next day. (No judging!) He told my mom he could eat this cake everyday for the rest of his life.

  3. Hi there! I was surprised to see you use the wire whip attachment for mixing the batter. I wouldn’t have thought to use that, as I usually use the flat beater.
    Is there an advantage to using the wire whip for mixing this batter?
    Bee-utiful video BTW. So engaging to watch!

    1. Hi Paula! Either work. This batter is particularly light and I find the whisk attachment helps break up the the varying texture of the wet ingredients a little better. Glad you enjoyed our video!

      1. This was a winner! It took a little longer to make than I had anticipated but that’s to be expected when using all “real ingredients”. My husband, who does not like strawberry anything, said this was delicious and promptly had 2 slices.
        I followed everything* to a T—but omitted the red coloring from the cake since the frosting does have a natural beautiful pink color on its own and I don’t mind the rather tan color of the cake. I was very thankful for the measurements for the amount of purée and the powdered strawberries as my prepared amounts were a little off.
        *One extra step I did, was I used the extra purée as a thin fruit layer in the middle. I had an extra 1/4 cup purée so I added about 2 Tbsp of sugar (since it tasted really tart on its own). I then spread a thin layer of the purée in the middle (on each bare cake layer) I then spread the frosting in the middle as well. The sweet frosting really paired well with the (slightly tart) strawberry purée in the middle. And I didn’t have to waste the purée.
        The cake is tender, super moist, and the absolute best white cake I’ve ever made. Thank you so much!!
        PS I used the wire whip for all of the mixing and it worked great.

  4. This is the first cake from scratch I have ever attempted. It took time patience and a lot of rereading lol. The instructions were easy to follow, i was just a tad nervous. Well let me tell you, it was very well received! I was so proud and now I come back to your web site when I want to impress. Thank you :]

  5. OK, I did my very best to read everything before sending this question. That being said I’m on an iPhone and there’s a possibility I missed something! My question is: can the purée be frozen to be used at a later date?
    I have strawberries that are perfect for this and I don’t want them to go to waste, but the problem is I don’t have anyone here to eat the cake at this point in time.#quarantineissues 😉

  6. i made this recipe for my daughter’s 12th birthday today. I live in Germany so brick cream cheese isn’t available at regular supermarkets so I just used cream cheese in the frosting and left out the milk. I used the metric measurements for the ingredients so there was no need for spoon & level. The reduced puree took longer than a half hour with the fresh berries I had. I also used raw cane sugar on the cake. It turned out delicious and not too sweet like many American recipes where i usually reduce the amount of sugar by at least a third.

    Awesome and very easy to follow recipe! Thanks

  7. I made this cake for my birthday last year and it was fabulous. Everyone who tried it and loved it. My friend is requesting that I make the same cake but using raspberries instead of strawberries. Do you think I could do a direct substitution with raspberries? Otherwise, what would you suggest? I do see that you have a raspberry frosting, I may try that. I did order freeze-dried raspberries and I would love to use those. I also have the raspberry preserves. Her birthday is this week so any help you can provide would be great.

    1. Hi Tonya, I have not tested this recipe with raspberries but other readers have reported that they tried it with success. Reducing fresh raspberries on the stove may take longer since they have a higher water content and the freeze dried raspberries for the frosting should work beautifully. Let me know if you try it!

  8. Hi! Excited to try this. I am NOT a baker so I have some questions…

    1) Is the DIY cake flour as affective as actual cake flour? I’d prefer the DIY method, but if it will impact the integrity of the cake noticeably, then I’ll get some

    2) I’d like to make the cake elements a few days in advance. In that case, should I freeze the cake layers and frosting? How do I freeze them – separately in air tight containers?

    Thanks!

  9. Just baked this as my first cake from scratch, and it’s delicious! Great way to take my mind off of things. The only issue I faced is that the freeze-dried strawberries were difficult to get into a fine powder in my Ninja blender and stuck a lot to the sides of the blender. I ended up just using them as crumbs and it turned out just fine, but I’m wondering if you have any tips on this?

  10. My niece requested strawberry cake with rainbow frosting and I’m excited to try this recipe— do you recommend adding the freeze-dried strawberries to the entire batch of frosting and then splitting it and adding the colors, or only adding them to the pink and using plain cream cheese frosting for the other colors? Is there another frosting that pairs well with the cake?

    1. The strawberry dust is a very bright pink so I recommend using it between the cake layers and then leaving some of the frosting that you wish to color plain. You can use cream cheese frosting or my Favorite Vanilla Buttercream.

  11. I made these as cupcakes last night. Amazing! However I still am not sure I could really taste the strawberry. However I made them without the frosting. I am interested in using the reduced strawberry puree to make strawberry pancakes. What do you think? I can find strawberry puree pancake recipes, but want them to be VERY strawberry. Thanks for the recipe!

  12. Could I use evaporated milk instead of whole milk? I’m not going out for groceries very often, and am reserving fresh milk for drinking/cereal only. Oddly enough, I have freeze dried strawberries. Thank you.

    1. Hi Melinda, I have not tested this recipe using evaporated milk. Are there instructions on the can how to blend it with water to reconstruct the milk? If so you can try testing it that way. Let me know if you try it!

  13. By far the best strawberry cake recipe. SOOOO good. Thank you! You made my 11-year-old boy happy on his birthday. 🙂

  14. I made this cake for my granddaughter’s 16th birtday. The frosting was very good! The cake tasted like a bran muffin. This was disappointing.

  15. My friend made a strawberry cake with a lemon glaze and it was the best combination I’ve ever tasted! She said she makes her glaze from powdered sugar and lemon juice. She said she makes this cake for a relative’s restaurant and it’s always the first to go before the other cakes.

  16. Looking forward to making this for my birthday on Saturday Question: My daughter and I are having fun piping and wonder how the cream cheese icing would do with it?

    1. Hi Karin! Cream cheese frosting pipes much better (and holds its shape) if you refrigerate it for 30-60 minutes before piping.

  17. Hate to leave a bad review because it’s probably my error but I followed the recipe exactly and ended up with two cakes with an undercooked sunken middle and overdone edges. Toothpick test failed after thirty minutes but took them out to prevent edges from burning. Pretty disappointed. Was going to be a Mother’s Day treat! Any tips for next time?

  18. Do you need to bring the puree to room temperature after being in fridge? Or can you put it in cold?

  19. I am becoming such a huge fan! Your recipes are spot on and I love your meticulousness! This strawberry cake is not only gorgeous, but absolutely delicious!

  20. This Strawberry cake is delicious. Thank you for this recipe. So many people start with a box recipe and I was so happy to find a recipe from scratch. I made this for my mother for Mother’s Day and it was great!!!

  21. Hi Sally, this came out so well! I have a couple of questions though, you mention 2.5 cups flour or 250gm, is there a typo somewhere? I measured 2.5 cups and it was closer to 350 gms than 250. I went with 350gms and it was just fine! Also, to make this faster, can I use 5 whole eggs and if yes, do I leave out the sour cream? THANKS!

    1. Hi Shrey! I’m happy to help. 2.5 cups of sifted cake flour is close to 250g. I don’t recommend whole eggs– the egg whites provide most of the fluffy texture.

  22. Have you tried using strawberry jam. This already has a lot of the water removed and typically prepared under vacuum to retain the flavour. If you use the jam and cut back the sugar, that might be an easier solution.

    1. I have, yes, and the flavor doesn’t really come through as much as pure reduced strawberries.

  23. Thank you for this recipe. I love strawberries and wanted a good strawberry cake from the strawberries we picked. I’ve only had cream cheese frosting on red velvet cupcakes and didn’t like it but it turns out I don’t like strawberry cream cheese frosting either! Would you recommend using your “The BEST Strawberry Frosting” or your “Favorite Vanilla Buttercream” and added the powdered freeze dried strawberries?

  24. I would love it if next time you could actually show the texture of the batter. Like, zoom in on it more. But other than that I loved this recipe!

  25. SO good! The only thing I did different. I used 1 cup of ground up freeze dried strawberries in the frosting. I couldn’t resist. I reconstituted one of the bags and layered between layers. So good. I bought Thousand Island (Amazon) freeze dried strawberries they tasted wonderful. Organic and no sugar. Thank you for the wonderful recipe!

  26. Hi Sally,
    I love your chocolate ganache. I was thinking to put it in between the layers of the 2 cakes. What do you think?

  27. Hi Sally, all of your recipes are perfect so I cant wait to try this one!! Fresh strawberries in my country have been a bit yucky this time of year, so I was wondering if I could use defrost some frozen strawberries (the type used in smoothies and compotes) and use those to make the puree instead? Thanks in advance xx

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

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