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

1639 Comments

  1. Do you always use full-fat sour cream?

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Amy, yes, unless otherwise noted, full-fat is always best!

  2. I LOVE this recipe! So full of flavor with a beautiful shade of pink 🙂 Question – is there an approx. weight for the egg whites? I’d like to use some saved egg whites this time around but not sure how to measure that out.

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Jessica! Egg weights can vary, but a single egg white from a large egg usually weighs about 30g, give or take.

  3. Can this recipe be double, tripled , etc?

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Amy! Working with double or triple the amount of batter risks over or under-mixing, which would ruin the texture of the finished cake. Rather, we suggest making the batter twice or three times in separate batches for the best results.

  4. So if making batches do we do something to store cake batter when making second batch, like for it to not like deflate,taste gummy,etc?

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Amy, if not baking all the batter at once, you can leave it covered with a clean towel at room temperature until ready to use.

  5. Why does my batter look broken. I’ve made this cake twice before and today it looks like it’s separating?

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Ro, are all of your ingredients at room temperature? Batter can look “broken” when the ingredients are varying temperatures. If you keep mixing, they should eventually come together — mix until just combined, so as not to over mix.

  6. I absolutely love this recipe! I have made it twice and will be making it again on Sunday for my husband’s birthday. Sally’s tips on how to make this are pure greatness and so very helpful. I am so glad I found her website!

  7. Hi! I’m making this for my son’s 3rd birthday tomorrow. The strawberry purée is tasting kind of bitter, despite using sweet fresh berries to start. Is this normal?

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Hilary! 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!

  8. Hi Sally! Can I cover this cake with fondant? Your red velvet cake recipe which I covered in fondant was a success. Thank you for sharing your recipes.

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Yes, sure can!

  9. I just made this and I have to say it is amazing and probably one of the best cakes I have ever made. Perfect crumb and real strawberry flavor, not too sweet, and all from scratch. I used boxed egg whites with no issues. I made it in 2 8 inch cake pans and used the extra for 5 cute little cupcakes. I will 100% make this again. Thanks Sally!

  10. I love this recipe so much and used it so much I know it by heart! I make this do often that I keep a big batch of the purée in the freezer. If I’m looking for a recipe I haven’t tried yet my go to is Sally.

  11. Whenever I have a special occasion, I always turn to your recipes, Sally. You have never failed me.
    For this particular recipe, I had no fresh strawberries, but a can of frozen strawberry daiquiri mix and a package of dehydrated strawberries. I followed your recipe, substituted 1/2 cup thawed un-diluted daiquiri mix for the reduction in the wet ingredients, and the dehydrated, pulverized strawberries in the dry ingredients.
    Once again, you had the best recipe. By far, the most incredibly delicious strawberry cake I have ever had!

  12. Hello! Could you possibly turn this recipe into two 9×5 loaf pans? Or would using your cupcake recipe be better for loaf pans? Thanks!

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Miranda, dividing between a few loaf pans should work (fill half way). We’re unsure of the exact bake time though. Keep a close eye on them and use a toothpick to test for doneness!

  13. Hey Sally,
    I had a friend request a homemade strawberry cake… to feed 50 people! Whew! I’ve read the comments about making different batches when doubling or tripling, so I know that much. But I’m looking to make 5x the recipe and maybe do 3 10-inch rounds. Any suggestions on bake time and temp for that?
    Thanks!

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Sarah, we’re unsure of the exact bake time for 10 inch rounds, but it would be a bit longer than as written to account for the extra batter. Keep a close eye on them and use a toothpick to test for doneness. Same baking temperature, though!

  14. Adrienne H says:

    For the strawberry cream cheese frosting, does it have an overly cream cheese flavor? I’m making the cake for mother’s day and am trying to determine whether on making this frosting or the strawberry buttercream you linked. Is there a distinct difference? I use cream cheese for red velvet and carrot cakes where there is big cream cheese flavor. Is the flavor subtle or very pronounced? Thanks in advance.

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Adrienne, we wouldn’t say that the cream cheese flavor is overpowering, but it adds a delicious tang. Either frosting would be delicious on this cake!

  15. Josephine says:

    I made this cake today and it was awesome. I did not split the layers. I made 2 frosting. One was the recipe and the other was a lemon cream cheese which I used as a filling and crumbcoat. Moist and flavorful. Thank you for the recipe

  16. Christie McLin says:

    Can I use strawberry flavored yogurt instead of the plain? (It is what I have in the fridge now.) Thanks!

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Christie, 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.

  17. This cake and the lemon-coconut cake are my favorites! I made both over 3 times already and are my birthday staples. Absolutely love them! A little hack I use to save time is to use homemade strawberry jam for both the cake and the frosting. It saves me a lot of time and doesn’t change the cakes consistency and tastes delicious!

  18. This cakes looks amazing! Any recommendations for high altitude, should I change any of the amounts? Also, can I use whole eggs, not just the whites? Can’t wait to make this today!

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Eddi! Using only egg whites ensure that the crumb is not weighed down by the fat in egg yolks — we recommend sticking to the recipe as written for best results. We wish we could help on the topic of high altitude, but we have no experience baking at high altitude. We know some readers have found this chart helpful: https://www.kingarthurflour.com/learn/high-altitude-baking.html Hope the cake is a success!

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