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

1646 Comments

  1. Do we strain the puree or can I, because I don’t like seeds?

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Amy, No need to strain the seeds first — they disappear when the cake is baked.

  2. Hi Sally! This isn’t related to the strawberry cake but I was wondering, if I wanted to make strawberry no churn ice cream, could I fold in the reduced strawberry to the mixture to make it work? Or would regular pureed strawberries work? Thank you!

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Mariam, You can see how we cook blueberries down to use in our Blueberry Crumble Ice Cream. You can simply swap the blueberries for strawberries in that recipe. Enjoy!

  3. I make cake for different occasions but eat very little of it. This cake is one I think about and want! I made it in 6 inch cake pans and froze one of the layers for later. Well later came sooner than I thought. Two weeks later I had it out, adding the left over frosting. Best cake EVER!

  4. lucy Bryant says:

    can i use this recipe for 2 layer 6 in. cake if so how long do i bake

  5. Carol Skewes says:

    There are a lot of great instructions for this recipe. Very easy to follow. And it is as delicious as everyone says.

  6. Ms. Sally, Is it okay to use strawberry yogurt on this instead of plain yogurt? Or even in baking in general, can I use strawberry yogurt? TYSM in advanced! Will make this for a friends birthday!

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Rjane, strawberry yogurt should work OK in this recipe, but generally plain yogurt is best. The sweetened strawberry yogurt can change the taste and texture of baked goods.

      1. If I have extra strawberry purée, can I use this in the frosting in replacement of the dried strawberry powder?

      2. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

        Hi Casey, we don’t recommend it — when we’ve tested it, the frosting gets curdled with the added moisture. Best to stick with freeze dried strawberries for the frosting! You can always freeze the leftover puree to use for a later time if you’d like. It stays good in the freezer for up to 3 months.

  7. Anna Eldeen says:

    How can I make enough batter for 3 9″ pans and 2 4″ pans? It’s for my daughter’s birthday.

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Anna! Here is everything you need to know about converting recipes to different Cake Pan Sizes. Happy baking!

  8. Hey Sally! I’ve ran into an issue and this cake was one that I had the issue on, I’ve got a density issue. I seem to be making dense cake, this one wasn’t as dense, but still had a packier result. I was careful to measure the ingredients for accuracy and added a smidge more baking power and flour in the event the puree wasn’t cooked long enough. I’ve used both all purpose and cake flower, same results. I did a coconut and it came out fluffy and moist with the same pool of ingredients. So I don’t think I have some that have gone bad. The cakes are all full of flavor, just dense. Any suggestions?

    P.S. My office is gaining weight as I test out your stuff, no complaints from anyone on the taste! 😉

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Joshua, so happy to hear that you’re enjoying our recipes! If your puree wasn’t cooked long enough, it would be extra wet, which could definitely weigh down your cake. Also be sure you using cake flour and sifting it before measuring. For more troubleshooting tips you can see the post How to Prevent a Dry or Dense Cake.

  9. Hi Sally! I’m trying to make this for my bday tomorrow, i just pureed and reduced the strawberries but i’m worried that the reduced one tastes too sour.. the strawberries that I got looked fine though. Would this lose the strawberry taste of the cake itself? Thank you!

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Denice, 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 right now depending on where you live. 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 definitely don’t skip that! Happy birthday 🙂

  10. Followed the recipe exactly and mine came out brown and unappetizing looking. I’m it tastes fine, but it was for a 4 yr old who requested a pink cake…I’m going to have to trash So disappointing! Does everyone else use more than the recommended amount of food coloring or something??

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Michelle, we’re so sorry you had trouble with the color of your 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. We recommend gel food coloring.

  11. Seema Siegrist says:

    Hey Sally, does this recipe work with cupcakes? Thanks!

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Seema, absolutely! This recipe makes 2 and 1/2 dozen cupcakes. See recipes notes for more details, or for 14-15 cupcakes, follow our strawberry cupcakes recipe, which is adapted from this strawberry cake. Enjoy!

  12. Hi Sally! I seem to have run out of all berries, can I make this cake without the purée ? I have the dried for the frosting though

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Samira, without the strawberry puree, the cake won’t have a strawberry taste. Instead, we’d recommend making our vanilla cake (as simply leaving out the strawberry puree would make this recipe too dry) and topping with the strawberry frosting if you prefer. Hope this helps!

  13. Do I times and a half this recipe if I wanted to make a three layer cake?

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Yes, that should work. Happy baking!

  14. Hi Sally!
    Are there any substitutes (or recommendations) if I can’t get my hands on freeze-dry strawberries for the frosting? I’m in the middle-east now and don’t think they have any here.

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Kariman! Unfortunately, freeze dried strawberries are really the best for this frosting. Are you able to order any online? That might be your best bet!

  15. I made this recipe for a backyard birthday celebration last night (yay, vaccinations!) to rave reviews. The (adult) birthday girl said she had always asked for a strawberry cake as a child because nobody else liked it, and she’d get more for herself – not this recipe! Even the “I’m not really a sweets person” devoured a cupcake. I found the cake to be somewhat dense, but not heavy. (And yes, I used sifted cake flour, weighed.) I was surprised at how long it took to reduce the strawberries to 1/2 cup (but the smell in the kitchen while doing so was divine!). The frosting was particularly delicious, although I used Neuchâtel cheese instead of the full-fat cream cheese specified in the recipe. Next time, I will try this frosting recipe on chocolate cupcakes, subbing dried raspberries for the strawberries.

  16. Sharon Carden says:

    Can the strawberry puree be frozen for later use?

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Sharon, absolutely! You can freeze the strawberry puree for up to three months. When ready to use, thaw, bring to room temperature, and then use in the recipe.

      1. Thank you so much. Our local strawberry patch has the BEST strawberries you’ve ever had and since they have a short growing season I would like to stock up on some puree.
        My daughter in law loves this strawberry recipe and I make cupcakes for her birthday with lemon icing, her request.

  17. I made this cake for someone’s birthday. I doubled the recipe and used three 9” pans. I also made a 6” pan and just saved that cake for later.
    Turned out great and I would use the recipe again.

    My only advice would be to not decorate the top with fresh strawberries unless you do that right before you serve the cake.

  18. Kathy Thomas says:

    Will these layers be ok to freeze for later?

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Definitely! Here’s the best way to freeze cake layers.

  19. I made this cake for a friends Birthday last year and it came out amazing! So much so that this year, she has requested the same cake. I chose not to use food coloring after seeing the pink hue in the batter last year but it did fade quite a bit when baked. This year I’ll had that teensy drop! Thank you for sharing this recipe.

  20. Thanks so much for this recipe! It was truly delicious and just what we were expecting! Instead of using freeze dried strawberries for the frosting, I used some of the puree that had been left over from the cake. It was delicious and turned out perfectly!!

  21. Hi Sally, I’m planning to make this lovely strawberry cake for a friend’s birthday and I would like to make it as a 3 layer cake. Any reason you made it two layers? Will the cake hold up to another layer? I like more layers and have no problems multiplying the recipe. Thank you!

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Dyana, you can certainly 1.5x this recipe to yield enough batter for 3, 9 inch round layers. Hope your friend loves this cake!

  22. Hi! I have yet to try this recipe, I wanted to ask – how much is 1lb of strawberries equal to in grams?

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Ariffa! 1 lb is about 454g.

  23. Christine Hernandez says:

    Since sweetness varies with strawberries, would it be possible to substitute the compote to the freeze dried strawberries in the batter?

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Christine, we don’t recommend it. We tried using freeze fried strawberries to the cake batter when developing this recipe, and the taste, texture, and appearance were lacking. For best results, we recommend sticking to fresh strawberries for the batter!

  24. Samantha Brown says:

    Hi Sally,
    Can this recipe be used to make into a Bundt Cake?

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Samantha! 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.

  25. This cake is delicious! I made it today for my daughter’s birthday. It was a beautiful color and had such a great strawberry flavor. I will definitely make it again. Thank you for the great recipe!

  26. Hi sally,
    If i half the recipe, how many egg whites should I use?
    And can I substitute the flour with gluten free flour?

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Harshna, for half the recipe, you’ll want to use 2.5 egg whites. For the 0.5 egg white, separate one egg white in a small bowl and then measure about half of it for the recipe. We haven’t tested this cake with gluten-free flour, but let us know if you give it a try. Happy baking!

  27. Hi sally,am from Nigeria and I don’t think we have frozen dried strawberries here. What can I use as supplement?

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Aisha, freeze dried strawberries don’t have a great substitute available for the frosting. If you’re unable to find some in the store or online, you can substitute for the same amount of confectioners’ sugar for a plain vanilla frosting. Or, if you have strawberry extract, you can try adding that to the frosting for the strawberry taste. Hope this is helpful!

  28. Hi Sally-I am going to bake this in a couple days for my boyfriend’s birthday. I always love your cake recipes and am excited to try this one. Question-Can I use boxed egg whites? If so, how many grams? Thanks so much for the great recipes!

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Ferrin! You can use carton egg whites if needed. The carton should give instructions for replacement quantities.

  29. Angela Wright says:

    I’m making this cake tomorrow for my daughter’s birthday. Has anyone used drops of beet juice to amp up the pink color of the cake?

  30. Hi Sally- excited to try this- how could I adjust this recipe to make it three of the same size layers rather than two? excited to make this for my birthday

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Rawan, you can try 1.5x this recipe to yield enough batter for three layers (be very careful not to overmix, which can cause a dense cake). Happy early birthday!

      1. Thanks Lexi, cannot wait to try! One more question please; would strawberry cream cheese around the outside of the cake and Sally’s strawberry whipped cream between the cake layers work out? Thanks!

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