Homemade Strawberry Cake

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

This is the BEST strawberry cake!! Made completely from scratch with real strawberries! Topped with strawberry cream cheese frosting. Recipe on sallysbakingaddiction.com

This strawberry cake completely blew me away. After years of mediocre from-scratch strawberry cakes, my expectations were pretty low. It was time to taste test my efforts. Biting into the first pastel pink forkful was the moment of truth…

This strawberry cake is made completely from scratch with real strawberries! Topped with strawberry cream cheese frosting. Recipe on sallysbakingaddiction.com

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

Let’s get down to business. Homemade strawberry cake is episode 1 in Sprinkled, my new video series! Watch me make the recipe below:

I find it challenging to pack real strawberry flavor into cake without the crutch of fake strawberry flavoring. My goal was to create a strawberry layer cake made entirely from real strawberries. We’re talking strawberries inside the cake and in the frosting as well. With the help of freeze-dried strawberries, I tackled strawberry frosting. I’ll get to that below. But for strawberry cake? Things have always been pretty lackluster in the flavor and texture department.

Strawberry Cake Problems

  • Chopping up strawberries and folding into cake batter works, but then you’re just eating vanilla cake with chunks of strawberries.
  • Pureeing strawberries and folding into cake batter has potential, but the texture is always off. There’s too much liquid. How about adding more flour to make up for that liquid? Then your cake is too dense. And the flavor is always lacking.
  • Strawberry jam could work, but I prefer to start with real strawberries.

So how can we pack real strawberry flavor into cake batter without adding too much liquid? REDUCE THE STRAWBERRIES DOWN. Ding ding ding! We have a winner.

How to Pack REAL Strawberry Flavor into Cake

  1. Puree fresh strawberries.
  2. Reduce down on the stove.
  3. Let cool.
  4. Stir into cake batter.

Puree 1 pound of ruby red strawberries. You’ll need a food processor or blender for this step and again when you make the frosting.

Take that strawberry puree and reduce it down on the stove. This, my friends, is where all the magic happens. Like I mention above, you want a lot of concentrated flavor within a little amount of liquid.

You’ll begin with 1 cup of hot pink puree and reduce down to 1/2 cup. After 30 minutes, it will be very thick and very red. Add this thick and highly concentrated strawberry flavor to your cake batter, instead of the thinner strawberry puree.

The reduced strawberry puree will go into the cake batter. No need to strain the seeds first — they disappear when the cake is baked. Since the reduced strawberry puree needs to completely cool down, I suggest getting started the day before. Just let the reduced strawberry puree sit in the refrigerator overnight and make the cake batter the following day.

Strawberry Cake Batter

The cake batter starts from my white cake. This vanilla flavored cake proved to be the best jumping off point for a strawberry cake. I kept the majority of the recipe the same, but I removed some of the wet ingredients to make room for 1/2 cup of reduced strawberries. The cake is light, springy, soft, and fluffy.

The reduced strawberry puree will tint the cake batter a lovely pastel pink and, if you want, you can add a small drop of pink or red food coloring to brighten that hue. Not necessary, of course. (I added a teeny drop.) Expect a velvet-y and slightly thick cake batter.

  • No artificial strawberry flavor.
  • Nothing from a box.
  • Just pure strawberries.

The Strawberry Frosting

You can taste the fresh strawberry flavor in the baked cake, but the flavor is REALLY brought out when you combine it with strawberry frosting. Like strawberry cake, strawberry frosting has always left me feeling a little defeated. Fresh strawberries were the issue. The frosting would always curdle from the added moisture. And no amount of fresh strawberries could get me the strawberry flavor I craved. Instead of settling for artificial strawberry flavor, I took a trick from Sally’s Candy Addiction: strawberry dust! Grab some freeze-dried strawberries, grind them up, and toss it into the frosting.

(I actually added freeze-dried strawberries to cake batter as one of my test recipes. This was an awful decision and an epic fail. The cake was atrocious. Texture, taste, and appearance. Just… no. But freeze-dried strawbs are a YES for frosting!)

  • Where to buy freeze-dried strawberries? They’re more commonly found than you think. I always find freeze-dried strawberries in my regular grocery store in the dried fruit aisle. Wegmans, Giant, Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, Amazon, and Target each carry them.

Instead of a thicker strawberry buttercream, I used my silky cream cheese frosting recipe. Tossed in the freeze-dried strawberry “dust” and milk and was left with a frosting so pink, Barbie would be jealous!

Let’s Review

The tricks to homemade strawberry cake and frosting made with real strawberries? (1) Reduced strawberry puree in the cake batter and (2) freeze-dried strawberries in the frosting. Have fun baking!

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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. Cake Flour: Sift cake flour before measuring. I strongly suggest using cake flour in this recipe. It’s sold right next to the all-purpose flour in the baking aisle. And you use it a lot in my recipes! In a pinch, you can use this homemade cake flour substitute.
  3. Whole Milk: If needed, buttermilk works in its place. I don’t recommend a lower fat milk.
  4. Where to Buy Freeze-Dried Strawberries? I always find them in my regular grocery store in the dried fruit aisle. Wegmans, Giant, Trader Joe’s and Target carries them. Keep your eyes peeled– they’re more commonly found that you think! Do not use the chewy/gummy dried strawberries. You need FREEZE-dried strawberries which grind into a powder. If you can’t find them anywhere, just leave them out of the frosting and add another 1/2 cup of confectioners’ sugar.
  5. Reduced Strawberry Puree: puree 1 lb of strawberries. You should have a little over 1 cup. Stirring occasionally, simmer the puree over low-medium heat until you’re left with 1/2 cup or a little over 1/2 cup. This takes at least 25-35 minutes, but could take longer depending on your pan or how juicy your strawberries were. *Do not add sugar or anything to the puree or reduced puree– it’s just pure strawberries. I always make the reduced puree the day before so it has plenty of time to cool down. I cover and place in the refrigerator overnight. Use 1/2 cup in the cake. Allow to cool completely before using in cake batter. Make sure it’s room temperature when adding to the batter. You can make the reduced puree ahead of time and freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw, bring to room temperature, then use in the recipe. Discard any leftovers or spoon on ice cream/yogurt/add to smoothie. Yum! You can use frozen strawberries, but they will take longer to reduce even if you thaw them first.
  6. 9×13 Inch Cake: Simply pour the batter into a greased and lightly floured 9×13 inch pan and bake for 40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  7. Cupcakes: Fill cupcake pans 2/3 full with batter. Bake for 20-22 minutes. Makes 2 and 1/2 dozen cupcakes. For 14-15 cupcakes, follow my strawberry cupcakes recipe, which is adapted from this strawberry cake.
  8. Food Coloring: If you want, you can add 1-2 small drops of pink or red food coloring for a lovely pink shade to the baked cake. I add 1 small drop of pink gel food coloring.
  9. No Cream Cheese in Frosting: If you’d like to skip the cream cheese in the frosting, use my strawberry buttercream recipe instead. You’ll have enough for a thin layer of frosting, but you can 1.5x the recipe for a thicker layer.

Keywords: strawberries, pink

1235 Comments

  1. Hi Sally..the recipe looks great..iv always been looking out for the perfect strawberry cake recipe..guess my search has finally ended..I wanted to halve the recipe…what do I do about the eggs?

    1. Hilari @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Lorraine, use 2 egg whites and 1/2 of another egg white for 2 and 1/2 total egg whites. Hope you enjoy this cake!

    2. Lorraine,

      When I bake things that require egg whites, I always get the liquid egg whites because 1. I hate separating eggs and 2. I always feel bad about throwing the yolks away and never no what to do with the yolks. If you used the liquid egg whites, it tells you on the carton how much equals 1 egg white (i think its 3 tbsp). This could make it easier for you to cut this recipe in half and not half to try and get half of an egg white separated. I also use the liquid egg whites when making meringue or anything like that. Its just so much easier!

  2. I made these as cupcakes for a friends birthday and they absolutely blew everyone away. They turned out just perfect! Thanks to your amazing recipes I’m getting quite the reputation as a baker!

    1. Kathy Schiller says:

      Hello Sally…my son wanted a strawberry cake for his birthday and I did not want to make a box cake. Your recipe was amazing and everyone loved it. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Can you make extra reduction and put it in the frosting instead of the dried strawberries?

    1. Hi Jamie, you could, yes, but adding extra moisture to the buttercream can cause the butter to curdle. Additionally, the buttercream won’t have the same intense strawberry flavor that it has when made with freeze-dried strawberries.

  4. My cake cake out too soft! And fell apart when adding icing? How can I fix it? More flour?

    1. Brianna, did you make any changes to the recipe? Did you use eggs? Was it baked long enough for a knife stuck in the middle to come out clean? Did you let it cool completely before frosting? These are all things I would check first. I’ve never heard of a cake falling apart when going to frost before unless one of these things occurred. Let us know so we can offer you other suggestions if it was something else.

  5. Angela Henderson says:

    Hi Sally,

    I love love love this cake! And I really appreciate your video tutorial tips – I had no idea about spooning and levelling as a technique to measure flour! Such a huge difference!
    I wanted to share one thing that I think worked in this recipe. I couldn’t find freeze dried strawberries so I dehydrated strawberries in the oven – cut in 1/8″ slices on 200 degrees for 2.5 hours. I wasn’t sure this would work but I pulse them up in a food processor and crossed my fingers. I was delighted, the strawberries softened in the icing and offered a tangy – slightly chewy – texture/flavour….But seriously this recipe is outstanding!

  6. Patricia Eleonore says:

    Hello Sally
    Thank you so much. That recipe looks great. Have to try and will give you a feedback.
    Have noticed no oil. Can I use margarine instead butter? Will this bring a change in the texture?
    Mauritius is a hot country. The cream cheese frosting may melt if not refrigerate. Therefore I guess butter in refrigerator will harden the cake.

    Thank you again for sharing your baking tips. Greatly appreciate.
    Best regards
    Patricia
    Best regards

    1. Hi Patricia, I do not recommend margarine in this cake recipe– stick with butter here.

  7. Hi Sally!
    I’m planning to make this cake tomorrow (currently making the strawberry purée) and wanted to use 6 inch cakes pans. Should I divide the batter between three or four pans?
    Thanks!

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      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 🙂

  8. Hi Sally,
    Can I make this with raspberries instead?

    1. Hilari @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Lilit, We 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 us know if you try it!

  9. This looks so delicious! I want to make it for my 1 year old daughter’s birthday this week. Do you think it would effect it much if I reduced the sugar amount (aside from making it less sweet haha)? What would you recommend? Thanks!

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Kristin, 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.

  10. The reduced strawberry puree didn’t make the cake taste like strawberries at all. Hopefully the frosting is works out better.

  11. Valarie Walker says:

    I used your white cake recipe and boy did I hit jackpot….ITS THE BEST….light,moist,fluffy & and easy to make..trying the strawberry next….thanks for sharing

  12. Hi, Sally! I’v been a fan of your recipes for a while now. We have a carton of strawberry sauce (syrup?) at home and we’re looking for possible ways to use it! I was wondering if I’d be able to use it for this recipe?

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Isabelle, Unfortunately it wouldn’t work in this cake. Strawberry syrup is mostly sugar – and you would need to add A LOT of it to get a strawberry flavor. Here we want pure concentrated strawberry flavor without adding anything extra or adding too much liquid. I bet your strawberry syrup is fantastic drizzled over ice cream or even a slice of cake!

      1. Thank you for responding! Will that be the same case for when I use the syrup on frostings/buttercream?

      2. Thanks so much for responding so quickly. I’ll go with the layers. Can’t wait to try it!

  13. PERFECTION! I followed this recipe to the letter and it was amazing. My husband said it was the best thing I’ve ever baked and … I bake a lot. I’ve been searching for years for a strawberry cake that 1. Tasted like strawberries and 2. Wasn’t loaded with artificial everything.

    Make the reduction the day/night before if possible! I didn’t read through all the tips until the morning of, so it ended up an all day affair. The reduction ended up taking nearly an hour to reduce (I think the reduction time will vary depending on how much water content your strawberries have which will vary by season and region). Also I was worried that I was going to burn them, so I kept the heat on the lower end (they did not burn).

    Seriously don’t change or sub anything people! Thank you Sally for all the trouble shooting and bakes you went through to come to the holy grail of strawberry cakes.

  14. Hello Sally! Is there any chance I could use strawberry jam in the frosting in place of the freeze-dried strawberries? Thank you!

  15. This recipe looks fantastic! Can it be done as a pound cake as well?

    1. Hilari @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Anne, turning this recipe into a pound cake would require additional recipe testing. For a loaf style cake, you could divide the batter between a few loaf pans. I’m unsure of the exact bake time though.

  16. Hey Sally!
    I started making this cake & realized I had ran out of sour cream! I have no sour cream or yogurt.. is there another substitution I could use?
    Thanks!

    1. Hilari @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Morgan, You could try using buttermilk in place of the sour cream AND the milk. So, 5/6 cup of total buttermilk.

  17. Meghan Pugliese says:

    Could I use just a white cake mix for the base? Omit the dry ingredients and still end up with same results? Thanks!

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Meghan, We haven’t tested this with a store bought cake mix so I’m unsure of the results.

  18. Hi Sally,
    I’m planning to make this cake for my daughter’s 3rd birthday this weekend. I live in the Netherlands, and -thanks to Corona related travel restrictions- have run out of the baking powder I usually bring over from visits to the US. Here I can easily find Cream of Tartar and have been using that as the basis of a substitution mixture (blended with baking soda). Do you think it would work here? And what would your advice be regarding any modifications? I won’t have time to run a test batch, so I’d appreciate any tips to avoid a catastrophe! Thanks in advance.

    1. Hilari @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Hillary, We haven’t tested this cake with a cream of tartar/baking soda substitute for baking powder so I’m unsure of the results. If you try it, let us know how it goes. I hope your daughter has a wonderful 3rd birthday!

  19. Hey Sally!
    Quick question. I will be making this cake on Tuesday and want to complete it all in one day (no overnight).
    How long approx. would you say it takes for the cake to cool once cooked before putting the icing on?

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Taylor, You can let the cake cool at room temperature for about an hour and then to speed up the process place them in the refrigerator to finish cooling (probably about another hour). Happy baking!

  20. Lorena Montes says:

    Hello.
    I really like your recipes! I want to try several of them!!
    I really want to do this cake for my daughter’s birthday next month… can I use all purpose flour instead of the cake flour?
    Thanks, Lorena

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Lorena, If you don’t have cake flour, try using this cake flour substitute. This cake would be very dense with all purpose.

  21. Hi Sally, can I use frozen strawberries?

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

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

  22. Hi Sally, I’m going to make these in cupcake form for my daughter’s first bday. I can’t decide between your cream cheese or buttercream frosting. Does one work better than the other for cupcakes? Thanks!

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Julie, If you wish to use a more intricate piping tip for the cupcakes (like an open star) then the buttercream holds it’s shape better. If you are just going to use a knife or a plain round piping tip then you can use either!

  23. I was shopping for the freeze dried strawberries. I saw a package that stated it was UNSWEETENED. Can you tell me if you used sweetened or unsweetened freeze dried strawberries?

    1. I’m pretty sure most freeze-dried strawberries are unsweetened. Definitely purchase the unsweetened variety.

  24. I love this recipe. It is my go-to during strawberry season. And, the reduced strawberry puree was such a genius idea that I tried it with peaches to make a peach cake. I subbed a bit of the granulated sugar for brown sugar, since brown sugar and peaches just seem to go together. It was delicious! The flavor came through wonderfully. Thanks for a great recipe.

  25. Hi sally. I made this cake and it didn’t rise at all! I don’t know if I over-mixed the eggs with the sugar and butter or what I did. I used frozen strawberries that I reduced to 1/2 a cup so I don’t think it was too liquidy! Any tips?

    1. Hi Lindsey! Over-mixing could the issue, but what about your baking powder and baking soda? Are both fresh? I find they lose strength after about 3 months. If it’s helpful, review my How to Prevent Dense Cakes post. If the cake layers didn’t rise, I assume they were pretty dense and you’ll find a lot of solutions in detail over in that post.

  26. I’m allergic to corn so I can not use cake flour. I love the recipes I’ve tried from your website. Is there a good way to substitute all purpose flour for cake flour? I love that a lot of your recipes that generally call for corn syrup use sugar instead. Thank you!

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Marcie, You can use sifted all purpose flour but the cake will be more dense. If you are able to have pastry flour that may work as well as it’s another finer flour with less protein than all purpose. Let us know if you try it!

  27. Jeannie Alley says:

    Hi Sally,
    I am going to make your Strawberry cake for my grandson’s birthday.
    Sounds delicious!!! I need to use Gluten Free Flour. Do you have any hints for the change?

    1. Hilari @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Jeannie, we haven’t tested this recipe with gluten free flour. Some bakers have had success using 1:1 gluten free flour substitutes (like Cup4Cup) though. If you try anything let us know how it goes! Happy birthday to your grandson!

  28. Do you know how many cupcakes this exact recipe would yield?

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Olivia, This recipe makes 2 and 1/2 dozen cupcakes. See recipe notes for details.

  29. Hi Sally,

    I’m going to be baking this (tomorrow) for my daughter’s second birthday this coming weekend and I just realized I only have one pan. Can I bake this in batches?

    1. Absolutely. Keep the remaining batter covered at room temperature until the pan is ready again.

  30. Hi Sally,

    What purpose does sour cream serve in this recipe? Can I omit it (I don’t like dairy tangy-ness in my cakes). Thanks for lmk!

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Tatyana, We are only using egg whites here which keeps the cake super light. The sour cream adds back in the much needed moisture that we are missing by not using yolks. You can’t taste the sour cream at all!

      1. So, can I use 3 or 4 egg whites + 1 or 2 whole eggs to achieve the same result without sour cream? Thanks again!

      2. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

        I don’t recommend using whole eggs in this recipe. Feel free to try this vanilla cake recipe or batter from this 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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