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 (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

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

1544 Comments

  1. Kathryn Hemphill says:

    I made extra strawberry reduction because I thought I was going to make two recipes. Do you think if I heated it up on the stove with some sugar it would be good for between the layers? This is my second time making this cake, it’s so delicious!

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Kathryn, we’re so glad you love this cake! We haven’t tested a filling made with the strawberry reduction. You may want to add some cornstarch for structure and lemon juice for flavor like in this recipe: https://www.carveyourcraving.com/strawberry-filling-for-cake/ Let us know how it goes if you give it a try!

  2. I made the cake, used 2 extra drops of pink food gel. The cake batter looked nice and pink like the pictures on your website, but after they came out of the oven 25min later, the pink color is gone! What could have gone wrong??

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Hermine! The color will fade a bit when baking and will also depend on the brand of coloring you’re using. You can definitely add some more food coloring next time for a brighter pink color.

    2. Could the strawberry cake and frosting be made into cake pops?

      1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

        Hi Cynthia, we haven’t turned this cake into cake pops yet – but you definitely can! Keep in mind that one 9 inch layer will make about 40 cake pops so you can cut this recipe in half if you would like. For the frosting go by feel – add it in slowly until you get the perfect consistency. You’ll want to significantly decrease the amount of frosting as the cake is pretty moist already. Let us know if you give it a try!

  3. I’ve just made this cake, and it looks and smells delicious! I have one question, which is not unique to this cake. What do you use to “cover cake tightly”?

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Virginia, an air tight container or plastic wrap is great. We love Press n Seal.

  4. This is a fantastic recipe with loads of of strawberry flavor. I found that 10-12 g of freeze dried strawberries wasn’t even close to 1 C, and 1 C ground into a powder, wasn’t close to 1/2 C. Anyways, I ended up grinding up an entire 10 oz (32 g) package into a powder and still wasn’t quite at 1/2 C, but the frosting tasted great anyways.

  5. I would like to make this cake gluten free. Usually I just sub out AP flour with KAB Measure for Measure. Since this recipe calls for cake flour could I adapt the Measure for Measure as one might AP flour. Or just make a straight substitution? Thank you!

    1. Sub out some of your gluten free AP flour for corn starch. Ratio should be 82% AP and 18% corn starch

  6. Hello – I made this cake today and it was delicious. When it came to frosting, I was worried there might not be enough frosting for the two layers and I also worried it would be too heavy. I added a little milk like you suggested, but then decided to add some homemade whipping cream to the frosting until it was a bit lighter. It was SO delicious!! It made the frosting more fluffy and the combination was perfect (when I made the whipping cream, I added some vanilla and powdered sugar).

    1. How much whipping cream did you add?

      1. Hi – I poured about pint of heavy cream into a bowl and whipped it and then added some powdered sugar and and vanilla extract to taste and then I slowly folded it in to the frosting in the recipe – to taste and to feel. You’ll know it when you get there if that make sense? I just slowly add a big dollop at a time, folded in gently and then when it was the perfect texture, I stopped adding. Hope this helps!!

  7. This turned out so delicious! The cake was so moist and you could really taste the real strawberry flavor! The seeds in the puree didn’t quite disappear for me, but they gave a nice random subtle crunch in the cake that we actually liked! I would recommend putting the food coloring because without it, my cake looked a little greyish but not unappealing.

  8. Michaela Nobin says:

    Hey Sally, i dont have time to make a strawberry reduction. Would it change the texture/flavour if i were to use strawberry jam?

    1. Hi sally ..very much like your recipes,especially this cake which i wanted to bake for so long and soon wl surely do it now that i have much time due to lockdown. I hv a question though .Do you use only egg white in this recipe or i hv misunderstood..love n sunshine from Mauritius ..nadine

      1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

        Hi Nadine, Yes only the egg whites! Using only egg whites ensure that the crumb is not weighed down by the fat in egg yolks. This works in many of our recipes including Favorite White Cake (which is where this strawberry cake recipe started!).

  9. If I wanted to make it a bit taller, would there be enough batter for 3 round 8″ pans or would the layers be too thin to work? Should I make more batter?

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Lauren, the layers will be slightly thinner, but you can divide between 3 8-inch cake pans (the bake time will also be shorter). Or, for thicker layers, we’d recommend 1.5x the batter and dividing it equally among the three pans (the bake time here will be a bit longer for the thicker layers). Hope this helps!

  10. It turned out terrible. Dense and tough, I could have used it as a giant hockey puck. I watched the video and did it just as she suggested. When she was mixing it with the balloon whip on the mixer at high speed, I thought it was over mixing it but figured she knew what she was doing. Nope, just as I suspected it overworked the batter, developed the gluten and made for a nasty, tough, dense cake. So disappointed, especially since this was supposed to be a special cake for my husband’s birthday. We threw it out after (trying to) eat two slices.

    1. David the same thing happened to me. The cake was tough, dry, and dense. A total flop.

  11. Im making this cake for my sons birthday and i was wondering If i used 2 round 9 inch pans would it change the bake time and if so, how long do you suggest?

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Jessica, this recipe as written is for 2, 9-inch round cake pans. If you follow the recipe and bake times in the blog post, you should be set. Hope this cake is a hit for your son’s birthday!

  12. Could I replace cream cheese with mascarpone, and could I make four 6 inch rounds instead of two 9 inch round ?

    1. Hi Tatiana, mascarpone should work just fine replacing the cream cheese in the frosting. This amount of batter will yield a little more than 4 6 inch cakes. You can always use my strawberry cupcakes batter to make a 3 layer 6 inch cake. See my 6 inch cakes post.

  13. Sue Elenkiwich says:

    Hi,I am going to make this for a birthday. Would beating the egg whites and folding them in at the end make the cake lighter? Thanks,Sue

    1. Hi Sue, it would, yes. But I don’t find that necessary with this recipe. Feel free to try it though!

  14. The cake was nice and moist, but the strawberry flavor was lacking. I was truly disappointed, as I puréed the strawberries and cooked them down as instructed, hoping for that deep strawberry flavor. Half a cup of the strawberry reduction did not seem like enough, but I didn’t want to change the recipe and cause it to flop. I’ll definitely add more strawberries next time.

    1. April, I had the same issue. I followed the recipe exactly, with a lot of time reducing the puree. My cake, although moist, has very little flavor and is a dingy pink color. I didn’t want to add any artificial coloring because they are toxic to our systems. I’m so disappointed because it is for a special birthday, I put A LOT of time and precision into it and I made a point of not using the fabulous strawberry cake box mix (for a better healthy choice)

  15. Have you made this with duck eggs before?

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Laura! We haven’t tested this cake recipe with duck eggs. Let us know if you do!

      1. I did and they were divine!!!
        Thank you

  16. Hi Sally!
    Do you think this would work with a wider array of berries instead of just strawberries?
    I am thinking of mixing blackberries, strawberries, and raspberries for a richer colour and more forest-like aroma. Thoughts?

    Thank you!

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Sil! 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!

  17. Hi!
    How much less wet ingredients would you use since you are adding the puréed strawberries ?

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Chantell! If you’re following the recipe as written you won’t need to make any adjustments.

  18. I was extremely precise, following the recipe to the letter. I didn’t use any added coloring because I don’t want artificial ingredients in my food, so as a result, the color is a deadish-looking pink. Very disappointing. Had it been a nice pale pink, that would work. More than this is the lack of strawberry flavor. I made extra reduction and therefore cooked the puree longer. I had made a reduction another time for a strawberry frosting and it was excellent. Why is there so little flavor in the cake? This was meant to be for a special birthday party, sigh. So my question: The reduction looks almost like a paste in your photo. Mine was a thick sauce. Should I have gone for more of a pasty consistency? The texture of my cake is very light because I made sure to put the time into each step. This part was successful.

    1. Hi Susana, thank you for trying the recipe. The consistency of your strawberry puree sounds right. If you ever try the cake recipe again, see if increasing the amount of puree helps. I would use 3/4 cup and reduce the sour cream to 2 or 3 Tablespoons.

  19. hi sally, i was wondering for the icing of the cake instead of using freeze dried strawberries can we use the puree if we have enough left over?

    thanks

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hello! For best flavor, texture, and consistency, we recommend sticking with freeze dried strawberries in the buttercream.

  20. Gotta say I love your recipes and instructions and I think you are doing a great job.
    I intend to make a strawberry cake with chocolate sour cream frosting and am glad you have a fresh, not from the box,recipe for the cake.
    I have a question though would this reducing method work for other berries or fruits?

  21. Annette Sandoval says:

    This recipe did not live up to my expectations. I’d like to preface this by saying that I am an experienced baker and have made many cakes from scratch. The cakes turned out an unappealing tan color although the batter was a nice pink. The texture was not light and fluffy, in fact, I can’t even describe it as it was unlike any cake I’ve ever baked, very strange. Also the cake had no flavorI should have stopped there but made the cream cheese frosting, which by the way was delicious and I will use again. I frosted the cake which looked pretty. Once it was cut into, there was such disappointment. We tasted it, but I literally threw it into the trash along with the recipe. The only thing that may I think could have contributed to this is that the strawberries were red but not very ripe.

  22. Hi! Would it work to cut the recipe in half for a 1-layer “snack” cake?

  23. Charlotte A Sanders says:

    Oh my gosh!!!! The absolute best lightest home made cake I have ever made or eaten!!!! I used your substitute cake flour added a little lemon extract since I didn’t have strawberry for the icing but followed all other ingredients and measurements. I am so impressed. Delicious!!!!! I will be back to your site!

  24. Theresa- the strawberry aficionado says:

    I made this cake with the strawberry buttercream icing and it was simply amazing.
    It was a really moist cake with such a good strawberry taste. Delish!

  25. Hi Sally, I made this cake with a vanilla buttercream frosting, and everyone loved it! The problem I’m having is the icing is literally falling off the cake. Do you have any suggestions?

    1. We made the frosting in the recipe and added some homemade whipping cream and folded it in to taste and texture. That way it stayed on the cake and was so delicious!

  26. I am terribly confused by the strawberry powder information for the frosting. The ingredient lists 1 cup freeze dried strawberries (10-12g) and the Instructions say this should yield 1/2 cup of powdery crumb. Several times, I’ve used two 34g packages of freeze dried strawberries (total 68 g) and amounting to about 4 cups before processed to yield me a robust 1/2 cup of crumb. So my measurements before pureeing are about 4 times yours. Grateful for your clarification here and always for your recipes and tips (including not to put excess strawberry powder crumb in cake batter which I almost did until I read your note that it was an epic fail…you saved me!)

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Heather, Thank you so much for bringing this to our attention. The freeze-dried strawberries certainly weigh very little, so let us review our notes again to see if there’s a discrepancy. You’d think the weight would be universal across all brands but let us do a little digging. We hope you enjoyed the cake and thank you again for the feedback!

  27. Great recipe. The frosting really exceeded expectations; using freeze-dried strawberries is genius. You do have to at least double the amount in the recipe calls for though, as a few people noted.

  28. Yanira Rojas says:

    Love it, Love it, Love it!!!! My husband and my son were amaze how soft and exquisite this cake is!

  29. Hi sally can’t wait to bake this cake for my newborn’s one month birthday. Quick question about the frosting can I use a mix of mascarpone cheese and whipped cream along with freeze dried strawberries. If it’s possible Can you please share the measurements

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Jay! What a sweet occasion for this strawberry cake. We haven’t tested a mascarpone cheese and whipped cream frosting, but let us know if you find one you love!

  30. Hi Sally,
    I just made this cake today as I wanted to try it out before I made it for a friend birthday as requested. This cake is absolutely amazing!!! Although my cake did not have the pink color I wanted, even after adding red food coloring, it doesn’t matter, the icing more then made up for it! The strawberry flavor is there in the cake and the icing! Thanks soo much for sharing your wonderful recipe!! I’ll make this cake and add a little more coloring.

    Xoxo

    Robin

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