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!

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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


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


  • 2 and 1/2 cups (263g) 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 (about 25g) 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


  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.


  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 rinsed and hulled 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


  1. I made this cake for my mothers birthday, and although it tasted great, I didn’t love the texture. Every time I try and make a white/vanilla type cake, I find it to be dense and not as moist as I’d like. I am always expecting that light pillowy texture of box mix, but can’t achieve it. I usually stick to carrot cake, pound cake, bunt cake, because those are by nature dense. Do I need to get over comparing homemade to box mix? Thanks!

    1. Hi Michelle! A few things tend to produce denser tasting cakes: over-mixing the batter, over-creaming the butter/sugar, or not measuring the flour correctly. I suggest spooning and leveling the sifted cake flour. If you didn’t do it that way already!

  2. Okay so I made this a couple of days ago and I must have over mixed it. Yes i know you had on there dont over mix. And i really tried not too. But i must have muffed up. My heart is broken. 🙁 That is my sad face. It was dense and a bit dry. I also did it in a 9 x 13 glass pan as i didnt have the room in the fridge for a two layer cake pan. Oh and mine was not that pink. But i did not have red food coloring on hand. I did make the puree and it was yummy. I used strawberries from the freezer and made sure to pat them dry. Now the icing was so yummy so good. I could just eat that by itself. And Walmart carries the freeze dried strawberries by the way. Up near the produce. So was it dry because of over mixing? I swear I followed the recipe. I even know how to make cake flour too. Help? I dont know if I will ever endevor to do this agian. I will have to get over my heart break first. So sad:( Well of course we are still eating it. Because well why waste cake?

    1. Hi Suzanne! Thank you for trying my strawberry cake recipe. It could have been overbaked. How long did you bake it in the 9×13?

      1. It called for 40 minutes and i did it for 36 minutes instead. So it should have been less than that.

  3. In the process of reducing the strawberries… It has been at least forty-five minutes, and they still don’t look anything close to the pics. They’re bubbling so much that it’s splattering onto my stove, so I sssume the heat is up high enough. Have I done something wrong, or do I just keep letting it cook? 

    1. Just keep letting them cook until they reduce down.

      1. After about an hour and fifteen minutes, I gave up. They had thickened, but still nowhere near the consistency in your pics, and not a deep red color. I put them in the fridge to cool overnight. 

  4. I seem to always have that issue with cake pans, even the high quality ones! I now try to remember to grease and use parchment rounds at the bottom every time I use them. 

  5. Oh my goodness. My husband always wanted a real strawberry cake. So I’d buy one and it was only ever a white cake with strawberries on top. Bleh. This year he’s going to get the most strawberry birthday cake he ever imagined. Made the cake, made the butter cream frosting, oldest dog always gets the batter bowl. Thank you so much for the recipe.

  6. Cammie McClure says:

    Hi Sally, my son’s Birthday is this Friday and asked for a strawberry cake with cream cheese frosting. I have never made one from scratch but I wanted to try one but I wanted a real strawberry cake, like you, and I got a new stand mixer for Christmas that I’m itching to use. So I googled it and I think it was meant to be because yours is the first one to show up and is exactly what I was looking for. I do have a question about the cool time. Do you let the cake cool completely in the pan or take out after about 10 minutes then cool on racks?  I saw others had trouble removing the cakes and I just want to be sure. Thank you Sally I can’t wait for everyone to try this cake!! 

    1. Hi Cammie! I always always always let cakes completely cool in the pans. As long as you grease your pans well, there should be no sticking issues. Great question! I hope your son loves the cake 🙂

  7. I am so excited about this cake! I’ve been thinking of what to make for my daughter’s first birthday cake and i have found it!! I can just imagine her digging her little hands into this pretty pink cake!

  8. Hey Sally, I tried this cake before a week! It turned out very nice.. however I halved all of the measurements and found that it was sweet with nice structure, however taste of strawberries was not obvious (very mild). Can I increase the amount of reduced strawberries we put in the cake? In that case, how much can I increase? Also, my cake care definitely was not pink, it was rather grayish. I don’t want to add artificial colors. How do we add in natural pink color? 

  9. Shaiann Piper says:

    Making the strawberry puree and after 25 minutes it has the consistency of applesauce. So I put it on for another 10 minutes stirring every couple of minutes. The puree reduced and got darker but it is still the consistency of applesauce

  10. I’ve made this last night for a birthday lunch today 🙂 Guests enjoyed it, particularly the cream cheese! I was not able to locate the freeze dried strawberries though 🙁 So I mashed strawberries and drained it and used that instead. Worked out, frosting wasn’t too liquidy. Curiosity though, how do you frost the sides of the cake? I found that part trick.. Thanks Sally for the wonderful recipe!

  11. If I cannot find frozen dried strawberries what could I use instead for the frosting? I don’t live in the US

  12. Thank you Sally! Another great recipe. No, it doesn’t quite taste like the box strawberry cake (and I have many happy childhood memories of this), or any version with jello mix- but it shouldn’t! This tastes like real strawberry! The reduced puree is IT. I made a version before that had straight puree, and the flavor just wasn’t as pronounced- so I’d definitely say it is worth the extra effort to reduce and cool. I made it a day ahead and found that the strawberry flavor deepens and the cupcake moistens. The cream cheese frosting was an awesome pairing! I “taste tested” it a lot!

    I didn’t use food coloring and the cupcakes were a very pale dusty pink; with the bright pink frosting they were lovely! My son wanted these for his birthday and loved them!

  13. nicole skipper says:

    i buy freeze dried strawberries cheaply at aldi’s! international store so readers not in the US may look for them there. used them in the frosting for pistachio cupcakes you’ve previously posted and the flavor is amazing!!!! tasted like strawberry icecream. good to know not to use in cake batter because that was on my future baking list. thanks for all your testing and trials saving me time and money!

  14. Cammie Moomey says:

    Hi Sally! I need to make strawberry cupcakes, would you recommend this recipe, or the strawberry cupcake recipe you posted back in 2015? They both look divine but I have had issues with putting fresh strawberries in my cake batter before too so reducing down the puree is intriguing! Which do you think tastes better? Thanks!

    1. I would try this recipe as cupcakes. You can pack more strawberry flavor in without altering the texture by reducing them down 🙂

  15. I’m just frosting this (omg the taste I just had was delish already). What  do you think of putting extra strawberries sliced between the two layers?

  16. Alexis Oliphant says:

    I just baked some of these in mini form. It turned out spectacular!! Everyone at work loved them! 🙂 It made about 75 mini cupcakes for me and I doubled the frosting and I had more than enough to frost all of them with. I topped them with a drizzle of white chocolate and a small fondant red heart (of course since its almost Valentines Day!!) This recipe is the BEST homemade strawberry cake that I’ve ever made. Thanks for doing all the hard work to bring it to us! 🙂

    1. They sound so cute! If you post a picture to social media be sure to tag me so I can see them!

  17. Niki Daugherty says:

    I just made this into cupcakes for my son’s Valentines day party at school tomorrow! I am so stoked because the recipe doesn’t require red dye, which is pretty hard to come by in a pink recipe. One of the kids is allergic to red dye in his class, so I’m so happy to have found something “Valentine-y” for him to take!

  18. Hi Sally
    I was wondering how I could use fresh but frozen strawberries I have 4 containers and would like to know how I could use them in this recipe

  19. I made this in the 9×13 form for a Galentine’s brunch this past weekend and it was a huge hit. In prepping for the event, I had made a different strawberry cake recipe and this one is SO MUCH better. Like, in a completely different league. It’s clear how much thought and troubleshooting you put into this one. It totally shows. The batter was heavenly, the finished cake was awesome, and–girl–that frosting. Lordamercy, that frosting is good. Thanks so much for the amazing recipe!

    1. I’m so happy you enjoyed it so much! All the recipe testing for this one was totally worth it – especially when I read how much others enjoyed it too! 🙂

  20. I made this cake last night for my mom’s birthday in a heart shape because it’s close to Valentine’s Day 🙂 It was so incredibly delicious, one of the best cakes I’ve ever had. However, if I were to do it over, I may add a 1/2 teaspoon or so of strawberry extract. The cake itself did not have a potent strawberry flavor but the icing made up for it! It was so moist- I love using sour cream in cakes! This will be my new go to recipe for strawberry cake. Thanks Sally!

  21. I made this last night to bring to work today and it was a HUGE hit!  Everyone loved it. One of my co-workers is allergic to red dye, so I left that out, so the color of the cake wasn’t as pink as yours, but the flavor is spectacular. I made mine in a heart-shaped pan for Valentine’s Day. When I make it again, I’m going to slice some extra strawberries to put between the layers.
    Great recipe!

    1. So glad it was a hit! Would be great with even more strawberries between layers!

  22. Natasha Crockett says:

    Hi Sally I tried your recipe and it came out delicious!!!!!!! I mixed cool whip with my frosting and it is great. I from now on will leave the yolks out of my cakes. Thank you for posting such a wonderful recipe!!!!

  23. Sally, I made this last night for my husband for Valentine’s Day. It was wonderful!
    I thought I had messed it up because I didn’t see that I needed a whisk attachment until later in the recipe. But, it turned out great in spite of it. It was so light, tender and moist. I tasted it just out of the oven and it was heavenly. It was so good even without icing that we ate it just as it was. So happy you shared this perfect strawberry cake!

  24. Friday night I food processed the freeze-dried strawberrie, puréed the strawberries in the processor next then reduced them. I left all the needed ingredients on my kitchen counter overnight creating room temp items.  The next morning I mixed & baked.  I prepared this recipe in the form of cupcakes for my niece’s baby shower. Very much enjoyed by everyone! I am so pleased to have this recipe. I will be baking this moist, yummy strawberry cake many times. I look forward to “fresh strawberry growing season” when the wonderful fresh strawberry flavor will reveal itself even more!  Thank you for sharing your magic! A happy baker, Deb

  25. Thanks so much for this recipe! I’m in college and just started learning to cook and bake. My friend asked me to make a strawberry cake for their birthday and I said yes before realizing the difficulty. This recipe was a life saver. I’ve been exploring your other recipes and have this site bookmarked. You’re really creative and have a very in depth understanding of the chemistry behind baking, which makes your recipes and advice so fantastic. People often dismiss baking as something frivolous but it’s actually very difficult and takes someone of very high intelligence to tamper with the science behind it successfully. Thank you very much!

    1. Thank you, Alyssa for the kinds words! I’m so happy that the strawberry cake was a hit and that you seem to enjoy my nerdy science explanations 😉 Let me know what else you try!

  26. My daughter asked for a strawberry cake for her birthday. I’ve seen lots of recipes floating around there, but I stumbled upon this one shortly after she told me what flavor she wanted.

    Her birthday is tomorrow, the cake is frosted and ready – looks good! I use natural sugar and gluten-free flour, both which darken the batter, so it’s not a delicate pink like yours, but I don’t mind! I licked the cake batter and noticed, as other said, that the strawberry flavor is not pronounced. I think the strawberry frosting helps make up for that, but I also decided to spread some strawberry jam (along with the little bit of leftover strawberry puree mixed in) in-between the layers, on top of a thin layer of frosting. Just an idea for another level of strawberry!

    1. I bet it’s delicious with the extra layer of jam! I hope she has a very happy birthday 🙂

  27. Thank you for such a lovely cake recipe! I had fun baking this strawberry cake for my MIL’s birthday today! The cake is perfectly sweet and is one of the best cakes I’ve ever made. Rave reviews from the family tonight! 

  28. Hey Sally! Loooove your recipes, faithful follower here…I was curious as to why the freeze dried strawberries didn’t do well in the batter?? Do tell 🙂 flavor or texture? I would imagine the consistency you would want is basically powdered strawbs for the batter, which could act like a flour ? Maybe less flour? I don’t know, I’m spitballing here…

    1. Hi Valerie! The addition of freeze dried strawberry powder left a chewy and dense texture in the finished cake. And I had to add quite a bit of it to produce a noticeable strawberry flavor. I just wasn’t happy with the result.

  29. Fantastic Cake! Made it for my daughters 4th birthday and it was a huge success! Thanks for a great recipe!!

  30. Forrest Sentell says:

    This is the BEST strawberry frosting I have ever had! The frosting has such a pretty color and holds up better than most frostings that add fresh strawberries. The cake was equally delicious and very light. For people who aren’t getting a strong strawberry flavor from the cake, it could be because the strawberries you used weren’t very flavorful (it’s hard to find good strawberries this time of the year). Unfortunately, not all strawberries are the same, if your strawberries are still fairly white in the inside it may be a good idea to use a bit of strawberry extract. 

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