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.

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!

Print
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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
  • 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.


Ingredients

  • 2 and 1/2 cups (285g) 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

1362 Comments

  1. I’ve made this cake and it was delicious! Sally, have you tried cooking the strawberries in the Instant Pot and then cooking down the sauce to thicken?

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Gayle, We are so happy you enjoyed the cake! We don’t have an instant pot to try it but I don’t see why that wouldn’t work.

      1. Thanks for your prompt response. I’ll try it and let you know

  2. I’d like to bake this for my twin sons’ birthday this weekend. We don’t have freeze dried strawberries, can I use pureed strawberry in the frosting as well? 🙁

  3. Love the idea of the strawberry reduction – have now begun using the same process for other fruits used in baking, too. Never knew freeze dried strawberries with no sugar existed until I read this recipe. Thanks for all the innovative recipes you create!

  4. Made this cake for my daughters 3rd birthday. She requested a strawberry cake and I couldn’t be happier that I found your recipe!! I didn’t tweak anything and it was the best cake I’ve ever had and made. Everyone at the party raved about it too.

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      We’re glad to hear it was such a success for you, Candice. Thank you for giving this recipe a try!

  5. I made the sour cream icing for my daughter’s store bought cake and no one knew where the cake had come from! Was a massive hit and was so delicious!!!

  6. is there any way i could make this with raspberries instead of strawberries?

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Jade! Raspberry puree works like a charm in this recipe. Substitute the same amount for the strawberry puree and reduce it down. You can buy freeze-dried raspberries! I know they are readily available in most grocery stores these days. Or 1.5x the raspberry frosting in this recipe. Let me know how it turns out!

  7. Hi Sally,

    I made this cake for my child’s birthday. It was awesome and a big hit at home..thank you !!

  8. Hi Sally,
    I was wondering if I could use the ratio and technique in this recipe to make pandan cake (I dont know if you’ve ever heard of pandan leaves but it’s quite popular here in SE Asia)?
    Most recipe calls for pandan juice’s thick bit; so I figure I could swap the strawberry puree w that, and add pandan flavoring? Your insight means so much. Thanks

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Aini, We have never tried baking with it before, so we’d hate to steer you in the wrong direction. It would require recipe testing for us to give you a confident answer. Let us know if you find a good recipe or try it yourself!

  9. I made this cake for my granddaughter’s 5th birthday.

    Everyone raved about the cake. I followed the recipe and did not change anything.

    The cake was moist and not too sweet.

    I used pink icing to ice the cake. I sprinkled colourful sugar stars on top to decorate.

    The only difficulty that I had was obtaining the freeze-dried strawberries, which I found in an organic food store (in Bowness), as no other grocery store here in Calgary, Alberta had this item.

    I like these recipes because they are clearly written and give good explanations, as to why something should be done like the recipe. My next project will be gingerbread men.

  10. I made this today. This was my first time using cake four and sifting. The texture of this cake is…all things good! I don’t know how to describe it…soft and moist and it tastes like strawberries! I made the strawberry buttercream icing the night before. I added more butter but it was great and so pretty. Thank you for the recipe. I’ll use your site again.

  11. Hi! I’d love to make this for my daughter’s upcoming birthday. Can I substitute for coconut sugar?

  12. Hi could I replace cake flour for all purpose? What would be the ratio?

  13. I tried to make this cake for my sons birthday party but it didnt come put right and I’m not sure why. I followed all the directions, the only thing I did different was use granulated cane sugar and I used frozen strawberries. The end result was a cake that looked sunken in, the edges were crispier, chewy, and raised higher than the center of the cake. And the cake didn’t taste of strawberry at all. It tasted alot like cornbread to me. I dont know what happened

    1. Mine came out with a cornbread taste too. Frosting was great, cake wasn’t strawberry at all. I too followed all the directions but only difference was frozen strawberries. Frozen must not actually work for this recipe. So much for out of season strawberry cake…

  14. Could i use some of the puree strawberries in the frosting? I dont feel like the freeze dried strawberies gave it enough flavor ?

  15. Made this (cake only, used store bought frosting) for my son’s birthday and he loved it! The reduced strawberry puree was DIVINE and I was worried I wasn’t going to have enough for the batter with all the “taste testing” I did along the way 🙂 I didn’t add the food coloring but definitely wish I had. It came out the color of dirty rosy dishwater… I was worried at first because it didn’t look appetizing. However, the taste was just delicious and my kids loved it! Not too sweet like store bought cakes can be. So yes, make this, but DO add the food coloring if you want that classic pink presentation.

  16. Lesley Canner says:

    How long would I need to cook my cakes as I only have 8″ tins

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Lesley, You can use two 8 inch pans without changing the recipe – your layers will be a little bit thicker so may take an extra minute in the oven. Use a toothpick to check for doneness.

  17. Hi Sally! I made this cake during the summertime and it was delicious! Do you think I could replace the strawberry puree with a blueberry puree instead for a blueberry cake?

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Kortney, We haven’t tested different flavors, but other readers have reported success using blueberries. Let us know if you try it!

  18. Made this cake for my family & they loved it!! My uncle took half of it home! Thank you for the recipe!! Freeze dried strawberries for the icing is genius

  19. Made this for my daughter’s second birthday party and it turned out phenomenal. Everybody loved it and believe it or not it was the first cake I ever made from scratch! I had so much fun making it! P.s…the bag of freeze dried strawberries contained a moisture absorbing packet I didn’t notice and accidentally ground up! Thankfully, I had the remaining half bag left so I was fine.

  20. Do you think I could make the frosting chocolate, but still add the freeze dried strawberries? I think it would be delicious, like a chocolate covered strawberry!

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Rachel! We haven’t tested this frosting recipe with both chocolate and strawberries, but you may love these Chocolate Covered Strawberry Cupcakes!

  21. I just made the puree without a food processor or blender. I froze a fresh package of strawberries and then shredded them. It was PERFECT. Just thought I would pass this along for anyone who doesn’t own the right electronics!

  22. Hi Sally,,
    Loved this cake! Very light and fluffy! Will be making it again, quick question, do you think this cake can be decorated with fondant or is it too light for fondant? thinking of making for my daughter’s birthday and will be using fondant in the decoration.
    Thank you!

  23. Hi Sally
    The recipe calls for 1 cup of freeze dried berries but in the description it says 1/2 cup. I’ve seen the half cup repeated throughout recipe so I’m going with that.

  24. I made this cake for my granddaughters birthday, and it was a huge hit with my family. They all said it tasted like a strawberry milkshake

  25. Hi have you ever tried or do you recommend to use yours lemon buttercream frosting with this recipe? My daughter insists on a strawberry and lemon cake for her birthday next week…!

    1. Oh my gosh, this is genius!! Wegmans (a grocery store mostly in the northeast) sells strawberry lemonade cupcakes and they are amazing, definitely worth trying that combo!

      1. Thanks for the input! I am from Buffalo and very familiar with Wegmans… 🙂 I also need to use frozen strawberries because there are no fresh strawberries at the store these days… it will be an experiment for sure!

  26. Cristina Gomez says:

    I just made this cake !!!!!!
    Also my first recipe from your blog
    Thank you

  27. I made this cake using twice the amount of strawberries reccommended in the recipe and the cake tastes nothing like strawberries. I’m pretty disapointed because I followed the recipe completely. The cake itself is alright, but just missing flavor.

  28. I finally got around to baking this cake after a colleague made it for the office (pre-pandemic days of course) – her version was divine! Mine not so much, just wondering where I could’ve gone wrong. I used frozen strawberries and didn’t sift the cake flour as instructed…the cake wasn’t fluffy and moist, it was a bit dry and dense…perhaps I over mixed and/or over baked?? The frosting, however, was delicious! Would love to perfect this recipe as we have several summer birthdays!

  29. I made the cake. It will be difficult for me to make a different cake ever again. It was one of the best cakes I think I have ever had. Ever. Thank you so much for sharing this heavenly dessert!

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      So happy you loved this cake, Myla!

  30. I know strawberries are not sweet after we freeze them so will this still work with the frozen strawberries?

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Geraldine, you can use frozen strawberries, but they will take longer to reduce even if you thaw them first. See recipe note on “Reduced Strawberry Puree” for more details. Happy baking!

      1. Thank you for the quick response!

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