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

1444 Comments

  1. Can I use whipping cream in lieu of whole milk? ( only have that or skim and I know that skim is not the way to go)

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Illya, whipping cream is too thick and heavy for this cake batter. A lower fat or nondairy milk will work in a pinch.

  2. Excellent recipe! I recently made this and was extremely pleased with the results. The strawberry was pronounced and had a very natural taste that wasn’t too sweet or overbearing. I will definitely be making this again!

    1. Can this be made with 3 8in cake pans?

  3. Made this cake today for my in-laws anniversary dinner. It was so delicious. I only added 1 cup of powdered sugar to the frosting and it was perfectly sweet. Like others have said, the frosting in this cake is really what makes this strawberry cake stand out! The frosting is so good I had to stop myself from eating it straight out of the bowl . Thank you for the recipe and all your hard work that went into creating this. I will be making this again and again.

  4. Can you use frozen strawberries for the purée?

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Erin, You can use frozen strawberries, but they will take longer to reduce even if you thaw them first. See recipe notes for more details.

  5. I loved this recipe. I used it for a competition and everyone loved it. I used your strawberry sauce recipe in between the layers and it made the cake really stand out with strawberry flavor

  6. This cake came out beautifully for Valentine’s Day! Would it be possible to add mini chocolate chips to the batter without compromising the integrity of the cake?

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Caroline, We are so happy you enjoyed this cake! You can add mini chocolate chips. 3/4 – 1 cup would be plenty.

  7. The cake is delicious but it turned out very sticky. I had to freeze it get it out of the pan and then it fell apart. I was able to frost one layer but ended up making cake pops with the other. The only change I made to the recipe was the amount of sugar in the frosting. I only used 3/4 cup and it was definitely sweet enough. I don’t what went wrong.

    1. Anyone know what could’ve gone wrong?

  8. I made this absolutely incredible cake yesterday for Valentine’s day with my three year old and was thrilled with it. I grew up eating box strawberry cake every year for my birthday and though I knew it would be special, could not believe just how great it was. My kids and husband have already requested it for my daughter’s upcoming birthday. Another winning recipe, Sally. Thank you.

  9. I made this recipe for my husband for Valentine’s Day. I was so excited to bake it after having found it on your blog and watching your video. I could just tell how much love and effort was put into the creation of this recipe. I made the 9×13 pan version. This left me with so much extra frosting that next time I will half the frosting recipe. It was the best strawberry recipe ever! Thank you so much for sharing! Will make again and again!

  10. Hi,
    Wanna bake the cake in 3 ×6inch round cake pan….for this how much flour is needed?

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Mary, for a 6 inch version of this cake, we recommend using our Strawberry Cupcakes recipe. It’s the perfect amount of batter for three 6 inch pans. Happy baking!

  11. The strawberry flavor in this cake is so perfect! The texture and smell are lovely. I didn’t have whole milk so I used buttermilk and it came out just fine. Another hit 🙂

  12. Very light, nicely flavored cake. It was an instant hit! One thing to consider is reducing 2 pounds of strawberries instead of one pound; I had to reduce an additional pound of strawberries because the first only yielded 1/4 cup. Other than that recipe went smoothly and frosting was amazing.

  13. Hi! What could be a good substitute for the frosting? I wanted to pair it with either a white chocolate ganache or that whipped. what would you suggest? because I don’t have freeze dried strawberries available

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Twisha, white chocolate ganache would be delicious, or even a simple vanilla buttercream would be a good option. Let us know what you try!

  14. Can you substitute other fruit if you reduce it like you did the strawberries?

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Kelly, absolutely! While we haven’t tested it ourselves, many readers reported success using raspberries and blueberries in the same way. You can also find freeze dried raspberries and blueberries for the frosting. Let us know if you give it a try!

  15. This cake recipe is the best! I make it every year for my son’s birthday and simetimes for Easter. This year I didn’t want cake left over, with no family celebrating with us…so I made the strawberry cupcake recipe but used the cream cheese frosting. So good…Iadded a drop of leftover puree in the middle of cupcakes as well! The best Sally! I would add a picture, but don’t know how! ‍♀️

  16. Hi there, my puree is looking purple! I had to use frozen strawberries and it’s taking forever to cook down but it got dark. Will my cake be purple?

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Vma! Frozen strawberries will take longer to cook down. Are they burning? You want to cook them low and slow to prevent any burning.

      1. Yes, I thought it was pretty low but I also stepped away for a couple min so it did start bubbling so that must be it. Ugh might still try to use it and pass it off as a prune cake 🙂

  17. I made this cake tonight and it came out nearly perfect. The only downside is that both cakes sunk in the middle. Could this be due to the higher altitude in my area? I am at about 4500-4600 ft elevation. Do you think this could possibly be in, and if so, do y it have any tips to help the cake hold a bit better? Such as more flour, additional egg, etc., to help the structure. Thank you!

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Tina! I wish we could help, but have no experience baking at high altitude. I know some readers have found this chart helpful: https://www.kingarthurflour.com/learn/high-altitude-baking.html

      1. This was very helpful! I did the cake again this morning following the modifications for altitude baking, and it was much better and less sinking; thank you! I will tag @sallysbakingaddiction on a picture on IG!

      2. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

        So happy it turned out! We’re actually @sallysbakeblog on IG. Can’t wait to see your photo!

  18. Hi, I’d like to use this recipe to make a four tiered/level cake for my daughters 1st birthday.

    Would the 4 levels of cake be strong enough to sit on top of each other or would I need to insert those little cake tube things? I hope this question made sense!

    Thanks
    Amy

    I’d like to make this cake for my daughters 1st birthday, it’s strawberry themed.

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Amy! We recommend using dowels if stacking this cake. You can read more about stacking cakes in this post.

  19. Oh wow! This cake knocked it out of the park! Made if for my pink obsessed 5 year old for her birthday. It was delicious and beautiful. I will definitely be making this again in the spring!

  20. Stephanie Estrada-Martinez says:

    Hi! Is the frosting pipeable enough for decorating a cake?

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Stephanie, Cream cheese frosting is fine to pipe simple designs. You can even fill your piping bag and place the bag into the refrigerator before piping to help it hold it’s shape. However for more intricate designs we recommend you stick with buttercream. We do have a strawberry buttercream too!

  21. Oh Sally… the time I had making this cake!

    I live in Montana, and it’s February, so not a good time for fresh strawberries, but my coworker is moving on and she loves strawberry cake. I was volunteered to make something for her farewell pot luck lunch.

    I went to five stores, all of which either did not carry freeze dried strawberries or were sold out. I finally bought a box is Special K cereal with freeze dried strawberries and hand picked them out.

    Made the reduced strawberry purée… after an hour of stirring I forgot about it and it burned. BADLY. Made another batch the next morning (good thing I bought two pounds of fresh strawberries) but sadly, the flavor was lackluster.

    The cake itself is fine, and I think it’s because I’m using sad strawberries that are not ripe or flavorful in the dead of winter here in Montana. That being said, the icing is fantastic and is my saving grace (worth digging through the cereal!).

    I look forward to my redemption of this cake in the summer when I can get gorgeous fresh strawberries from the local farmer’s market.

  22. Anita L Klein says:

    How do you feel about this combination? Best White Cake (my favorite!), lemon curd between layers, and Strawberry frosting on top? Kind of going for a strawberry lemonade vibe here.

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      That sounds incredible, Anita! Happy baking!

  23. If my puree isn’t reducing down to paste-like (been reducing for an hour!) Can I use less milk when I make the cake since the puree is thinner?

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Stacey, are you using frozen strawberries by chance? They will take a bit longer to reduce — plus, it can take longer depending on your pan and how juicy the berries are. We wouldn’t recommend reducing the milk at all as it plays a key role in the texture.

  24. Sheila McKeehan says:

    I made this recipe for my son’s birthday as a two layer cake. It was amazing. I would like to take one to work but would prefer to make a bundt. Has anyone tried this? If so, can you recommend a baking time? Thanks!

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

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

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