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

1237 Comments

Comments are closed.

  1. Thank you so much for this recipe!!! I triple the pureed strawberries and freeze the rest every couple of months, sometimes weeks. I get requested to make this cake for every family and friend’s birthday event. Now I definitely come here to check out new baking dishes.

  2. Holy. Cow.

    1. About to attempt this will the cake freeze?

  3. Karen pohlman says:

    I have not tried your Strawberry Cake but thank-you for the tip on freeze dried strawberries. I made a raspberry icing and it curdled. Now I will use the freeze dried raspberries instead. Thank you so very much

  4. Wow, wow, wow! I can’t bake very well yet I made this and my husband and I can agree it’s the best cake we have ever tasted!! Thank you so much

  5. Question: I have made strawberry cake (different recipe ) twice using a strawberry reduction and the strawberry flavor was practically nonexistent. Since then I’ve continued with the reduction but have had to add pure strawberry extract to get any strawberry flavor at all in such a cake. Not trying to be offensive here, but given my experience with strawberry cakes over the years will your cake actually have any strawberry flavor? Would you describe it as mild, moderate, or strong? Thank you!

    1. This recipe makes the very BEST cake I have ever had. The strawberry flavor is perfect. I would say that flavor is strong. It is wonderful!

  6. I used this recipe but swapped out raspberries instead and it is AMAZING! You just need to strain all the seeds out first.

  7. Hi Sally.
    This looks amazing. I’ve just made the strawberry purée. Yum. It’s cooling now, overnight.
    One thing I’d Locke to ask, what size baking pan you used? 23cm or 31cm? It says 9 inches once and then later on 9×13 inches….sorry, I have both sizes here and just want to make sure I’ll be using the correct one in the morning.
    Thank you so much.
    Greetings from Australia
    Mel

    1. Hi Mel! Use 9-inch (23cm) round cake pans. I also have a recipe note for how to turn this into a 9×13 inch rectangle cake. But the written recipe is for 2 9-inch (23cm) pans.

      1. Hi Sally.
        Thank you!
        I’ve made your cake now and it is absolutely amazing. (I used my 30cm pans and the dough rose to 3cm height, in each) next time I’ll try the smaller pans.
        Adding the strawberry purée really is a game changer.
        The sponge was so flavoursome. Strawberry intense, that’s all I say.
        Thank you for a fabulous recipe. I shall follow you on FB and try some more. 😉

  8. Everything you said it was. One of the best frostings I have ever had.

  9. will this cake batter half, just needing one layer?

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      You can cut the recipe in half, Cynthia.

  10. Hello Sally! I’m a huge fan of all your recipes; not only do they turn out tasting delicious and looking superb, but you’re so thorough with all of your directions, alternative ingredient suggestions and troubleshooting tips! It’s so helpful!

    I’ve made this lovely cake before and it was a huge hit! I’m wanting to make a hybrid cake, so to speak, alternating a layer of strawberry cake with a layer of vanilla cheesecake, topped with another layer of strawberry cake.

    My question for you is, do you think this specific cake recipe is firm enough to hold the weight of a cheesecake, or should I make a different type of cake, one that is perhaps more dense, like a pound cake? I’d hate for my cake to cave in due to a heavy middle layer of cheesecake. Any tips or suggestions would be much appreciated! Thanks!

  11. Looks amazing! I’m planning to make this as a 2-tiered birthday cake. Should it work ok for that? Thank you!

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Jess, I’ve made this cake as a tiered cake and it worked well! Use this recipe for the bottom and then you can use the batter for these strawberry cupcakes for the top as it fits perfectly into three 6 inch layers. See the post for Simple Homemade Wedding Cake to see how to properly support the tiers. Happy baking!

  12. Meaghan Dawson says:

    I make this every year for my daughter’s birthday at her request. It’s amazing. So much fresh strawberry flavor it’s practically bursting. The only thing I do slightly differently (more because I’m lazy than anything else) is just cook down frozen strawberries and mash them into a puree instead of blending first. But with or without that shortcut, it’s amazing!

  13. Sally, I LOVE your site! I love that you make everything from scratch. I had a question about the food coloring. I have made this cake twice and I love it. I used two drops of pink gel food coloring and mine still is not the nice pink color. How do I know how much to use without affecting the texture of the cake?

  14. I made this cake twice. I have advice for those trying :
    1. Follow the original recipe. Don’t DIY your flour, go to the store and get cake flour NOT pastry flour, they are different. You can find the cake flour (I used King Arthur) and the freeze dried strawberries at whole foods otherwise order them. It’s worth the wait.
    2. Use fresh strawberries and buy two pounds. You’ll have left overs but you can use it on other stuff. Have a milkshake or freeze it for later. Make sure you reduce the strawberries enough.
    3. Make sure your cake pans are 9″ pans. The first time I used 8″ pans and it added 7 minutes on my cooking time. If you use 8″ pans add 7 minutes to your cooking time. Check with a toothpick in the center for doneness.
    4. This batter is very thick. It will not pour into the pan. If it does it’s too wet. You should have to work it in the pan with a rubber spatula while at the same time lifting and dropping it.
    5. I have an expensive KitchenAid mixer with all the bells and whistles, but my little Hamilton Beach hand mixer is way better for making this cake. You just have to be careful not to over work the flour. Feel free to beat the crap out of the eggs butter and sugar.
    This is one of the best cakes I have ever had. I would pay for this cake. You cannot buy this cake. Go make this cake and show it off. If you fail try again. It’s worth mastering. It will be something you share with people the rest of your life.

    1. I forgot to rate this cake. It’s a five star recipe.

  15. I am thrilled with this cake! The flavor is spot on, no need for extra strawberry flavoring. Because of picky family members I used the alternative (aka not cream cheese) frosting she linked to. Superb as well! I am never going back to boxed strawberry cake! Now I wanna go buy other freeze dried and fresh fruits and play with other flavors here.

  16. I wanted to make something special for my hubby’s birthday and he wanted a strawberry cake; I have never baked anything before so I tried to follow your recipe as closely as possible including all the tips… The only thing better than the cake is the great instructions! Thank you so much for putting this out there, this cake and frosting is absolutely delicious, never could you ever get something this good in a store.

  17. This strawberry cake is truly the best of the best on your website and that says a lot because all your recipes have been fantastic!!! I use your white chocolate strawberry frosting to go with it and this tastes like it’s just out of a fancy bakery. Your recipes take all the guesswork out of baking because I know you have already solved any problem I could encounter. Many thanks!!

  18. The cake looks perfect and fabulous to bake for a special day. Yes, its definitely the best strawberry Cake. Lovely!!

  19. Can you use this recipe in a bundt cake?

    1. Hilari @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Donna, This strawberry cake batter fits nicely into a 10 cup or larger bundt cake pan. I’m unsure of the exact bake time but it will increase due to the large amount of batter in one pan.

  20. Hi Sally, thank you very much for giving this “too-afraid-to-bake” girl some confidence in the kitchen :-). I have a question for you regarding the strawberry cake. I made a large cake by making the batter twice and filling my cake pan 2/3 full. It came out delicious and the texture was perfect. I let it cool completely at room temp overnight, then frosted with your vanilla frosting the next day. Then I refrigerated it. Once I refrigerated it, however, it got REALLY dense. Did I do something wrong?

    1. I should mention that the reason I know the texture was perfect before refrigerating is because I used a stencil to cut the cake (my daughter’s bday) before frosting. The cake I cut away from the stencil is what we ate at room temp.

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