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

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

1555 Comments

  1. This looks so good. I was thinking of making it for Easter this weekend, but would want to use 2 6″ pans (I’m doing mostly “small” desserts this year). Do you know how long I would bake these for in 6″ pans? Thanks in advance for any info!

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Sue, you can use our handy Cake Pan Sizes and Conversions guide to help scale this recipe down for 2, 6 inch pans. Or, you can use our Strawberry Cupcakes recipe instead — it’s the perfect amount for 3, 6 inch pans. You can make the two layers you desire, and use the leftover batter for a few cupcakes. Hope this helps!

      1. Thank you so much! VERY helpful!

  2. Hi Sally!
    I just made the puree and plan to make the cake tomorroww. My 1 cup of puree yielded just under a 1/2 cup once reduced. Can I add apple sauce or oil to make it exactly 1/2 cup? Should I get more strawberries tonight?!
    Thanks!

    1. Hi Ashley, you can certainly reduce down more strawberry puree to yield exactly 1/2 cup if you’d like, but the cake will be just fine with a little less than 1/2 cup. No changes necessary.

  3. Mia Yungtum says:

    This recipe was a delicious and fun cake to make. The strawberry flavor in the cake was really good, and the frosting was perfect, but not too sweet. I recommend this recipe for any occasion! 🙂

  4. My 10 year old daughter loved making this as a homeschool project, but she got really carried away making a double batch of the frosting. Can the leftovers be frozen or will that mess up the consistency?

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Mary! Cover extra frosting tightly and store up to 3 months in the freezer. After freezing, thaw in the refrigerator then beat the frosting on medium speed for a few seconds so it’s creamy again. After thawing or refrigerating, beating in a splash of heavy cream or milk will help thin the frosting out again, if needed. (It stiffens in the refrigerator.) Enjoy!

  5. Hi there! Would pastry flour work in this recipe? I’ve read that it has slightly higher protein content than cake flour, but could maybe be substituted. I definitely don’t want my cake to be tough/dense, so I’ll go out and buy cake flour if needed! Thanks 🙂

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Andrea, pastry flour isn’t quite as light as cake flour. You can use it as a substitute in recipes calling for cake flour, but the baked good won’t taste quite as light – best to stick with cake flour in this strawberry cake if possible!

      1. Thanks for the quick reply! Ok, cake flour it is. I dare not mess up this lovely cake 🙂

  6. I’m a little unclear on the amount of freeze dried strawberry that I need. When I look at conversion charts it says 1 cup is 225 g. If I’m using an already powdered strawberries (like nutristore) do I only use 25 grams? Thank you!

    1. I believe the weight should be the same still. If you took 225g of freeze dried strawberry and powdered it, it should still be 225g in weight? The volume is different, yes, but weight should remain the same.

  7. Would plain Greek yogurt work instead of normal yogurt? I accidentally bought Greek 🙁 Could I thin it out somehow?

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Andrea, plain Greek yogurt will work just fine!

      1. Woo hoo!! Thanks so much.

  8. Laura M Williams says:

    I have multiple food allergies, (dairy, white sugar, and others…) I was able to modify this with almond milk, and coconut sugar, I also added strawberry extract (coconut sugar is a pretty strong flavor to mask) and used more strawberry puree to replace the sour cream…. It turned out DELICIOUS!!! thank you so much for the recipe!

  9. Hi Sally, do you know whether this cake can be made using gluten free flour please?

  10. I made this cake yesterday as an ombre-style Easter cake for my family and I am over the moon with how it turned out! My family loved it as well.

  11. The recipe looked overwhelming as it involved food processing, puréeing etc … but it was very straight forward and simple to make! I’m an amateur baker and love me some sweet things, but found this cake too sweet even at 2 cups of confectionary sugar with the frosting and 1.5 cups of sugar in the batter. Still edible though! Just taste test as you add the sugar. Beautiful cake with a nice natural strawberry flavor! I would def make this again! Thank you Sally! Great to see recent comments even though this recipe post is from 2018!

  12. This is an amazing cake! Every time I make it, folks absolutely flip out over it. I made the strawberry puree ahead of time and froze it in 1/2 c portions–much easier. Bought freeze dried strawberry powder from Amazon for the frosting– a nice short cut. Thank you!

  13. Can I do this cake in 3 layers instead of 2? How long would I bake 3 9” cake pans?

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Anne, you could, but the layers would be pretty thin. It would be best to 1.5x the recipe in order to have enough batter for three layers. Hope this helps!

  14. David from Texas says:

    This was only my third-ever made-from-scratch cake. I had to use the paddle instead of the whisk attachment to get the sugar and butter to mix as well as the other ingredients later. I had to bake a little longer than suggested and still it may be a little bit under-baked. However, it tastes really good! I haven’t made the frosting yet, but can’t wait to get the entire thing finished.

  15. Made this cake for Easter weekend…success!!

  16. Thank you, Sally for this awesome recipe!! The cake was light and spongy and the frosting super flavorful! I didn’t get as much strawberry flavor in the cake though…thinking of using 2 lbs of strawberries and reducing them to 1/2 cup next time. Also maybe because I used a plant-based food color, I didn’t get any pink in my cake after it was baked. I also halved the amount of confectioners sugar in the frosting and the sweetness was just right for me.

    Oh and I baked it in a bundt pan for 45 mins and it came out perfect!! Love your recipes and can’t wait to try more. 🙂

  17. Angela Johnson says:

    I noticed in the notes it has a different baking time of 40 mins for a 9 x 13 cake pan. My thought is this is an error. Right?

  18. Fabulous cake! I made it an 8 inch 3 layer cake paired with Sally’s strawberry buttercream and it was perfect for our Easter lunch dessert! I will definitely keep this recipe!

  19. I have a few questions about this recipe. What about beating the egg whites to stiff peaks before folding into the batter? Also, what about adding freeze dried strawberry powder to the dry ingredients for #1 natural color and #2 more strawberry flavor? I used another strawberry cake recipe and it was way too dense. The recipe had no baking soda just 4 Tbsp baking powder and A/P instead of cake flour. Searching for a better recipe and I know I can count on you!

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Robbone! Beating the egg whites would make the cake a bit fluffier, but we don’t find that necessary with this recipe. Feel free to try it though! We haven’t tested strawberry powder in the batter so can’t say for sure. I fear it would alter the texture of the cake batter too much. We hope you love this strawberry cake recipe!

  20. I was craving strawberry cake so I made this one for Easter. It was delicious! My family loved it. I can’t wait to try more of your recipes!

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      So glad you loved it, Kari!

  21. Do you weigh your flour? my cake turned out to be a little dense. Amazing flavor just a little dense

  22. Mary Jane Wolfe says:

    Sorry to have to say this, but my family hated this cake. I am a seasoned cook The, so I followed directions to a “T.” The layers were too dense and very little strawberry flavor. I would suggest you double the amount of reduced strawberry puree or make a syrup to pour over the layers with strawberries and sugar. The cake was beautiful to look at but such a disappointment as our Easter cake. My family is used to a perfectly moist, tender cake every time. We were all crestfallen with this one. We might have liked it better if we had used your frosting recipe, but I made a Strawberry buttercream frosting instead because of a family member’s preference. Sorry to have to give a negative comment as I have never done this before. But maybe it will be a help to someone else. Nothing happens by accident. Happy baking!!!

  23. This recipe is absolutely fantastic!! Not only was the end product out of this world, everything is written out for you and there’s no way you can screw it up! I made it for Easter/my son’s 30th birthday and it was a huge hit! Thank you for sharing such an incredible recipe! I can’t wait to make it again! It will not disappoint anyone, ever!

  24. Can’t wait to try this recipe!!!
    Can you use frozen instead of fresh strawberries in the cake batter?

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Gloria! Yes, you can use frozen strawberries for the puree that goes into the cake batter, but they will take longer to reduce even if you thaw them first. See recipe notes for more details. Enjoy!

  25. I am confused. 16 oz of strawberries is 2 cups. When I reduce it down for 30 minutes it is 8 oz or 1 cup and not 4 oz which is a half a cup. Should I continue to reduce it down to 4 oz or half a cup for a double layered cake?

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Karen, happy to help. You’ll want to first puree the 16oz of strawberries using a food processor or blender. That will give you about 1 cup of puree, which you will then reduce down on the stove to about 1/2 cup of reduced strawberry puree. You’ll want to add only 1/2 cup of puree into the batter, otherwise it would be adding too much liquid. Hope this is helpful!

  26. Made this yesterday. I used Nigella Lawson’s advice on how to make cake flour by adding cornstarch to plain flour. The cake’s flavour and scent were superb, thanks so much, but the colour of the sponge was a dark beige rather than pink. Also I used the leftover purée for the icing as freeze dried strawberries were not easily available but did not need any milk to thin the cream cheese. It was runnier than should have been. Is there a way to think this? Thanks in advance.

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Louiza! We’re so glad you enjoyed this strawberry cake. 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. As for the frosting, adding the leftover puree will certainly make it a bit more liquid-y (rather than using the freeze dried strawberries), but you can try adding more confectioners’ sugar to help thicken it up. If you can order freeze dried strawberries online for next time, we’d highly recommend it for best results!

  27. I made only the cake and not the frosting as we were decorating it for my daughter’s birthday. I used a vanilla buttercream. The cake barely tasted like strawberry. I was definitely disappointed, maybe i should have used all the purée from. 1 lb of strawberries instead of just 1/2 cup of the reduced purée. Maybe the frosting is what has a real strawberry flavor.

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Dannah! Did you happen to taste the strawberries before you made the puree? When they are in season, sweet summer berries will give you the best flavor, but they can be hard to find. The better the berries, the better the flavor of the cake! And while you will be able to taste the fresh strawberry flavor in the baked cake, the flavor is REALLY brought out when you combine it with strawberry frosting, so we recommend you try it next time!

  28. Hi Sally! Could you kindly tell me, if I wanted to make this a 3 tier 6 inch round cake, if I could just split this recipe into the 3 pans, and for how long do you recommend them to bake for? Thank you! P.S. We love your site! You and your recipes are the best!

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Amy! The cake batter from our Strawberry Cupcakes recipe would be the perfect amount for a 3 layer 6 inch cake. You can follow the baking instructions from this 6 inch cakes post. Enjoy!

  29. Pamela Bryant says:

    My granddaughter requested a strawberry cake for her birthday. I had already looked at this recipe so I decided to try it. I made 3 eight inch layers. For the frosting I was going to double it to make sure I had enough. Well, I doubled the cream cheese and butter but had a “brain freeze” and didn’t double the sugar or milk. It was delicious! The cake was a hit. Even my son who said he didn’t normally like strawberry cake thought it was delicious. I made some chocolate dipped strawberries to go with it.

  30. Hi, I wanted to make this cake for a birthday and was planning to make it a 3 layer cake using my 8 inch cake pan. Would I need to double the recipe?

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Drea, You can use the recipe as is for three thinner 8 inch layers. The bake time would be less so keep an eye on them and use a toothpick to check for doneness. You can also make 1.5 times this recipe for three layers (doubling would be too much). With 8 inch pans your bake time may be a minute or two longer as your layers will be slightly thicker.

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