The one thing that sets this strawberry cake apart from others? Reduce fresh strawberry puree down and add to the best white cake batter.
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…
I cried tears of joy. Or were those actual tears because I just dirtied every dish with all this strawberry cake recipe testing?
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.
How to Pack REAL Strawberry Flavor Into Cake
- Puree fresh strawberries.
- Reduce down on the stove.
- Let cool.
- 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.
Take that strawberry puree—don’t add anything else to it—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. We also do this with champagne in my mimosa cupcakes and champagne frosting. And with Guinness in Guinness chocolate cake, too.
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.
The reduced strawberry puree will go into the cake batter. No need to strain the seeds first—they disappear when the cake is baked.
Because 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
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 single drop of pink gel food coloring.) Expect a velvety and slightly thick cake batter.
- No artificial strawberry flavor.
- Nothing from a box.
- Just pure strawberries.
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 flavoring, I took a trick from Sally’s Candy Addiction: strawberry dust! Grab some freeze-dried strawberries, grind them up, and mix that magic dust 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 strawberries are a YES for frosting!)
- Where to buy freeze-dried strawberries? I find freeze-dried strawberries in my regular grocery store in the dried fruit aisle. I’ve also seen them in health food stores. Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, Amazon, and Target all carry them, as well.
- Baker’s Tip: Do not use “dried strawberries” which are like raisins, dried apricots, and dried pineapple. They have a gummy texture and don’t grind into a powder. You need freeze-dried strawberries, which have all of the moisture removed. They’re the same strawberries you use in strawberry and cream cookies.
Instead of a thicker strawberry buttercream, I used my silky cream cheese frosting recipe. Added in the freeze-dried strawberry “dust” and milk and was left with a frosting so pink, Barbie would be jealous!
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
Homemade Strawberry Cake
- Prep Time: 1 hour, 30 minutes
- Cook Time: 25 minutes
- Total Time: 6 hours
- Yield: serves 10-12
- Category: Cakes
- Method: Baking
- Cuisine: American
The one thing that sets this strawberry cake apart from others? Reduce fresh strawberry puree down and add to the best white cake batter.
- 1 pound (454g) fresh strawberries, rinsed and hulled
- 2 and 1/2 cups (285g) 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 step 1)
- 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
- 1–2 Tablespoons milk
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- salt, to taste
- Make the reduced strawberry puree first, and let cool: Puree 1 pound of rinsed and hulled strawberries. You should have a little over 1 cup. Stirring occasionally, simmer the puree over medium-low heat until you’re left with 1/2 cup or slightly more (you need 1/2 cup for the cake). This takes at least 25–35 minutes, but could take longer depending on your pan or how juicy your strawberries were. Allow to cool completely before using in cake batter. 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. Allow it to come back to room temperature before adding to the cake batter. (See Notes for further make-ahead instructions.)
- Preheat oven to 350°F (177°C). Grease two 9-inch round cake pans, line with parchment paper rounds, then grease the parchment paper. Parchment paper helps the cakes seamlessly release from the pans. (If it’s helpful, see this parchment paper rounds for cakes video & post.)
- Make the cake: Whisk the cake flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together. Set aside.
- Using a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a paddle 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 room-temperature 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 of pink gel food coloring.)
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Cover leftover cake tightly and store in the refrigerator for 5 days.
- Make Ahead Instructions: The cake layers can be baked, cooled, and covered tightly and stored at room temperature overnight. Likewise, the frosting can be prepared, then covered and refrigerated overnight. Let it sit at room temperature to slightly soften for 10 minutes before assembling and frosting. Frosted cake or unfrosted cake layers can be frozen for up to 2–3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator and bring to room temperature before decorating/serving. See How to Freeze Cakes for instructions. You can also make the reduced strawberry puree ahead of time and store it covered in the refrigerator for up to 3 days, or freeze it for up to 3 months. Thaw, bring to room temperature, then use in the recipe.
- Special Tools (affiliate links): Stand Mixer or Handheld Mixer | 9-Inch Round Cake Pans | Cake Turntable | Straight Spatula for frosting | Round Cake Carrier for storage | Food Processor | Pink Food Coloring
- Cake Flour: I strongly suggest using cake flour in this recipe. If you can’t find it, try this homemade cake flour substitute.
- Whole Milk: If needed, buttermilk works in its place. I don’t recommend a lower-fat milk.
- Where to Buy Freeze-Dried Strawberries: I always find them in my regular grocery store in the aisle with the dried fruit. Target, Whole Foods, and Trader Joe’s carry them, and I’ve also found them in some health food stores. 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.
- Can I use frozen strawberries for the puree? You can use frozen strawberries, but they will take longer to reduce even if you thaw them first.
- 9×13-Inch Cake: Simply pour the batter into a greased 9×13-inch pan and bake for 40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
- Cupcakes: Fill cupcake pans 2/3 full with batter. Bake for 20–22 minutes. Makes 30 cupcakes. For 14–15 cupcakes, follow my strawberry cupcakes recipe, which is adapted from this strawberry cake.
- Food Coloring: If you want, you can add 1–2 small drops of pink or red food coloring to deepen the pink color of the cake. I add 1 small drop of pink gel food coloring.
- 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, or you can 1.5x the recipe for a thicker layer.
Keywords: strawberries, pink
Reader Comments & Reviews
What could you do to have a 3 layer cake for birthday?
Hi Brenda, You can make 1.5 times the recipe for three layers. Enjoy!
This was delicious, but I did make substitutions. Used almond flour and brown rice flour to keep it gluten free, coconut sugar to keep it refined sugar free, and almond milk instead of regular. In the frosting, I left the sugar out completely and sweetened with honey. I thought the texture was perfect; it was moist and surprisingly fluffy. Not sure what happened for the reviews that said it was dense? And I used the wrong flours.
Only complaint is that, while the cake was super tasty, it wasn’t super strawberry-y. Our fresh strawberries weren’t great, so it might have been that, but I think I’d buy an extra pound and decorate with them next time we make this recipe.
Based on all of the positive reviews I wanted to love this cake. I followed the ingredients and directions to a T, but unfortunately my cake turned out overly dense and with little strawberry flavor. The strawberries that I reduced were very red and ripe, so I don’t think that was the problem. It was a fail for my husband’s birthday cake 🙁
This was a great cake recipe and actually really easy and quick for it all to come together since about half of the ingredients had to be at room temp. I made the strawberry purée, then measured the room temp ingredients out and left it all while I prepped the freeze dried strawberries, dry ingredients and cake pans. Probably all came together in an hour. It came out pretty tart, close to a lemon cake in flavor, I’d say. We decorated with chocolate covered strawberries and it looked and tasted amazing! I would recommend following the recipe exactly
Could I substitute cake flour for gluten free flour and it would still work out?
The cake taste delicious, but there were a lot of air pockets. I tried releasing the air by dropping the pan on the counter prior to baking, but when baking they were still there. Did I mix my batter too much? Everything else was fine, but I dislike the air pockets!!! As for flavor, this was the best strawberry cake recipe I have found!!!
Do you think this could be baked in a 10×15 sheet pan like a Texas sheet pan cake or would there not be enough batter? This looks absolutely delicious! Thanks!
Hi Linds, We have not tried making a sheet pan cake out of this recipe. The pan capacity for a half sheet pan is probably somewhere between 1.5 and double this recipe (our cake pan sizes & conversions guide should help here, too). We usually caution against doubling cake recipes as it’s too much batter for most mixers to work with and we run the risk of over or under mixing the batter resulting in a dense cake. If you do double it (or make it twice and combine them) and have leftover batter you can use it to make some extra cupcakes!
The icing was very yum, but the cake was not so good. The texture was very dense and it seamed to have barley risen.
Today I took this two layer cake to share at a Bunco party. It got several rave reviews and requests for the recipe. One gal and her sister-in-law were present with the sister-in-law’s birthday coming up soon. The birthday gal’s request was to have this cake for her birthday–it looked just like the picture!
I wonder if this recipe would work making (2) two-layer 6″ cakes (4 6″ layers total), or if any adjustments would be needed. Thanks! Can’t wait to try it.
Hi Sally, you could use this batter for 4, 6 inch layers, filling your pans half way and using any leftover batter for a few cupcakes. Or, we recommend using our strawberry cupcakes recipe – it makes the perfect amount of batter for a three layer 6 inch cake. You can read more about using cupcake recipes to make 6 inch layer cakes in this post. Let us know how it goes!
Typing with my mouth FULL. These are delicious. Thank you for sharing your recipe!
I made this cake today and my family loved it. My variations include the use of brown and white sugars and I also put sliced strawberries in the batter and poured the rest of the batter on top to cover up the strawberries. I will make this cake again. Delicious . Thanks for sharing.
Is this frosting recipe the right consistency for piping?
Hi Jen, our strawberry buttercream recipe is stiffer and perfect for piping.
This cake was incredible. I would eat it everyday for the rest of my life if I could. Thank you, Sally!
I have loved all of your recipes so far, and am excited to make this for my daughter’s birthday! We will have 25 people – with this cake can I make it 4 layers? Or better to make 2 cakes of 2 layers each?
Thanks so much!
Hi Em, rather than doubling, we recommend making two separate batches. A four layer cake should hold up just fine, but you may want to use cake dowels for extra support. You can see how we do that in our wedding cake post. Hope it’s a hit for your daughter’s birthday!
Can you use round cake pans?
This recipe has been a hit every time I’ve made it! Planning on making it again for a friend’s birthday tomorrow and turning it into a letter cake. Any recommendations on bake times for a sheet cake?
Hi Morgan, the instructions for making it as a sheet cake are in the Notes section of the recipe: 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.
I was so excited to make this cake and just realized I forgot to add the 1/2 cup of milk. Its sitting right on my counter! Is there anything I should do post baking to make up for this? Planning to use your strawberry buttercream frosting.
Hi Peggy, the cake will likely be a bit dry without the milk. You could try brushing your cakes with a simple syrup to help bring back some moisture, but the texture of the cake itself will not be as soft. Hope you still enjoy the cake!
If planning to freeze the cake, should I brush with simple syrup before freezing or after thawing?
Sally, this Strawberry Cake is DELICIOUS !!!! I made it for my husband and he really liked it too. Thank you for such perfection in all you do!!!
is there a substitute for the purée that will give it the same taste?
Hi Jas, the reduced strawberry puree is key for giving the cake the best strawberry flavor. We do not recommend any substitutes.
Could I use 8” pans? How long would the bake be?
Hi Beth, yes, you can use 8 inch pans. We’re unsure of the exact bake time, but it will be slightly longer because the layers will be slightly thicker. Keep a close eye on them and use a toothpick to test for doneness.
I baked this tasty cake for my grandchild on her Bday ❤️❤️ Very delicious and fluffy!! Thank you so much for sharing such wonderful recipes
A friend asked if I could make a strawberry cake for a family member’s birthday. They loved it…and the frosting is incredible.
Thank you for this Wonderful recipe. Family says to make it again!
I forgot the strawberry reduction on the counter the entire day. Can I still use it?
So delicious! This cake was the perfect compromise for my family: some of us lprefer denser cake and others a lighter, fluffier cake. This landed right in the middle. And the flavor is amazing! I did end up using all the condensed strawberry puree, of which I had 3/4-1 cup, to give it a more intense flavor, and it was perfect. Even my 20 year old son who doesn’t particularly care for any cake, scarfed down a large slice and said that I need to make this cake again. Note: My daughter requested lemon cream cheese frosting, so this review is for the cake only.
You said you used 3/4 to a cup of the strawberry puree? Was that the actual liquid puree not reduced? If it was what liquid ingredient, if any, did you cut out? I’m assuming if you use straight unreduced strawberry puree you would have had to have taken out one of the liquids or run the risk of the batter being to liquidy. Which would have left you with an uneven bake. I’d love to try it your way (more strawberry flavor of course ) but I’m at a loss as to what you actually did. Would you please share further? Thanks!
I made this recipe exactly as stated only in cupcakes. It was DELICIOUS ! The girl I made it for loved them.
Wish I could upload a picture! I will definitely keep this recipe for YEARS!!
I absolutely loved the frosting, but the cake was a miss for me. Maybe because it was a bit cold when we served it, but I don’t really think that was the issue. It was very dense, I prefer a fine crumb and a light springy texture. I also found the strawberry flavor muted, which surprised me. The batter was absolutely delicious before it was baked, but just didn’t translate once it was baked. I’m wondering if I’d have more success just adding pulverized freeze dried strawberries to a white cake recipe? I’m a huge fan, this one just wasn’t quite what we were looking for but I know I will make the frosting again for sure.
This recipe was absolutely delicious. Cake came out moist and definitely tasted way better than a strawberry cake from the store. My only problem is my cake came out kind of spongy and I don’t know why. I followed the recipe correctly.
Amazing. I wish I could post a picture of how cute it turned out for my birthday cake. Absolutely love this recipe, very fresh taste for summer and will make it again.
I’m currently eating some of these cake leftovers right now. The taste is phenomenal. The cake itself is not very fluffy and light, but frankly, if it were lighter and fluffier, it wouldn’t be as delicious. The flavor in both the cake itself and the frosting is unparalleled. This is such a special cake! Love it; thanks for the always winning recipes, Sally! I made this the first time for a party and it turned out perfect.
After making this cake so many times, I could ALMOST do it without looking…ALMOST. I had a sleepover for my nieces & we stayed up making these into CUPPY CAKES! FIRST batch 2-12 cup pans…ALL SUNK in the middle! I was at a LOSS for words! WHAT did they do? 2 hours ago, I COULD NOT sleep. SO, of course, I make them AGAIN. THIS time, same as ALWAYS…GREAT! NO sunken middle. When one of the girls woke & smelled, them, she said in the sweetest voice, Aunt MiMi…yours’s are so PURTY! She THEN said, I THINK we turned them too soon! I SMILED as I KNEW something was off! They turned them around for even baking. Her mother had HER do that sometimes so SHE told them to turn them. I guess the air & movement did it. LOL. HAVE A GREAT DAY my FELLOW SALLY ADDICTS!