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
I believe I followed the recipe, but the cake did not come out light and fluffy, but rather like a bundt cake. What did I do wrong?
We’re happy to help troubleshoot. Are your baking powder and baking soda fresh? We find they start to lose their freshness after 3 months, even if the expiration date is later. Be sure to spoon and level (or use a food scale) to measure your flour, so that there isn’t too much in the batter. As you mention, being very careful not to over mix will help with the rising as well. These posts on how to prevent dry and dense cakes and 10 cake baking tips may be helpful resources as well.
Do you have any substitutes that you would recommend for the dairy ingredients to make this a dairy free cake?
We haven’t tested any dairy free ingredients in this cake but let us know if you do!
Hi! My daughter loves this, but every time I make this cake it barely rises. I follow your directions as exactly as I can, but I’m not sure what I’m doing wrong. I’m careful not to over mix, I use cake flour and had my egg whites very frothy. I did mix the dry and milk in with the mixer, just barely, and incorporated the strawberry by hand. Could that be the problem? I love how moist your cakes are, but mine never seem to rise.
Hi Ellen! We’re happy to help troubleshoot. Are your baking powder and baking soda fresh? We find they start to lose their freshness after 3 months, even if the expiration date is later. Be sure to spoon and level (or use a food scale) to measure your flour, so that there isn’t too much in the batter. As you mention, being very careful not to over mix will help with the rising as well. These posts on how to prevent dry and dense cakes and 10 cake baking tips may be helpful resources as well. We’re glad this recipe is a favorite for your daughter!
Hello Sally cani make this into 3 levels
Hi Camilla, for a 3 layer cake, you can make 1.5x the batter to evenly distribute across your 3 pans. Enjoy!
Hi Sally, I followed the recipe exactly and the sponges looked fine when I got them in the oven. However I found the the colour was more brown than yours, and far less vibrant. Any idea why that might be?
Hi Jo, for next time, you could try adding just a bit more food coloring to help bring out the pink color. It’s definitely normal for them to brown a bit once baked. Hope you enjoy the cake!
I want to make this but need it to be gluten free! Could I sub bobs red mill 1:1 for the cake flour?
Hi Naomi, We haven’t tried this recipe with that substitution, so we’re unsure of the results. Although some readers report using an all-purpose 1:1 gluten-free flour in many of our recipes with success, you should expect slightly different results anytime you substitute ingredients. Let us know if you do give it a try!
The cake is nice but I dunno where I went wrong, the middle of the cake sunk
Hi Genny, when cakes sink in the middle, it usually means they are slightly underdone. A few extra minutes in the oven should help for next time!
Okay thank you Sally
Can this cake be made in a bundt pan
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. Enjoy!
HI – First time reviewer here! Let me start by saying, thank you, thank you, thank you! I have such a hard time finding blog recipes that are “keepers”, but I finally have one with this strawberry cake. My daughter adores all things strawberry, so I gave this one a go for her 4th birthday. I made the cupcake version and the only adjustment I made was cutting out a bit of the sugar in the icing to suit my guests. I was able to pipe it on the cupcakes too which made them look adorable. They were such a hit – My husband loved them (and requested more), my guests loved them, and most importantly, my daughter loved them! I will be making this one again and again. =)
Made as a special birthday cake for my daughter who loves strawberries! Delightful. Quick tip- to get the most out of your strawberries: twist off stems and use a wide straw to punch down through the strawberry. This removes stem area and preserves more of the delicious berry!
This recipe is phenomenal. The flavour is out of this world and so light and fluffy.
I was wondering if you have tried a raspberry cake at all? Using raspberry purée instead?
Hi Megan, raspberry puree works like a charm in this recipe! Substitute the same amount for the strawberry puree and reduce it down. You can buy freeze-dried raspberries for the buttercream — they are readily available in most grocery stores these days. Or 1.5x this raspberry frosting recipe. Let us know how it turns out!
This cake is delightful. I made it for my office’s Halloween baking competition and won first prize! I followed the recipe to a T, opting to use a 9×13 pan and baking for exactly 40 minutes (per the recipe notes) which resulted in a springy sponge with a light texture. I was worried the frosting was too sweet, but it balanced well with the cake. I had a couple tablespoons of purée leftover after making the batter, so I mixed those leftovers with a little powdered sugar and water to make a sort of glaze that I splattered all over the cake to fit with the Halloween theme of our bake-off. I will definitely be making this cake again, thanks for the great recipe!
Hello, can I us frozen strawberries that we picked up this summer?
Hi Lenka! You can use frozen strawberries, but they will take longer to reduce even if you thaw them first.
I just made the cupcake recipe into 6 inch cake layers and used this cakes frosting recipe. The frosting tastes s very gritty its unappealing so I added some strawberry reduction to it. I did use already ground freeze dried strawberries as the last time i ground freeze dried strawberries they didnt grind down to a fine powder. I think ill try it with strawberry reduction as my frosting flavor. Ugh of course this is my sisters bday cake for today. I pray she doenst get upset about the frosting. Havent tasted the cake yet forgot to add some pink food coloring because the strawberry cupcake recipe didnt list that in the ingredients.
Any suggestions on the powder situation in the frosting??? Im open to suggestions.
Thank you for a reply.
Looking to make this cake for a birthday. I need 5 six-inch cakes. How much batter should I make and what would be the baking time? Please and thank you!
Hi Dani, here’s everything you need to know about cake pan sizes and conversions, and here’s our guide for baking 6 inch cakes!
Can the freeze dried strawberries be added to cool whip as a replacement for the frosting?
Hi Michael, we can’t see why not. Or you could try adding freeze dried strawberries to our homemade whipped cream, if you’d like.
Hello! I’ve made this cake many times and it’s always amazing! I need to make a 12 inch round cake using this recipe. Should I just double the ingredients? Thanks!
Hi Melory, here’s everything you need to know about cake pan sizes and conversions. Note, we always recommend making separate batches rather than doubling in order to prevent over or under mixing. So glad this cake is a hit!
This cake came out fantastic! I was wondering if I could use this same recipe but with blueberries instead of strawberries?
Hi Sydney, Yes! Many readers have had success making a blueberry cake in the same way, with reduced blueberry puree in the batter and freeze dried blueberries in the frosting. Let us know if you give it a try!
Hello! Would I be able to pour this recipe into two 9×13 cake tins? And what would the baking time then be? Thanks 🙂
Hi Kirby, this batter as written is enough for on 9×13 pan. 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. For two pans, we recommend making two separate batches.
40 minutes seemed a long time. I checked mine at 33 minutes and they were done!
This is the best strawberry cake I have ever made. I am an experienced baker but my family always likes to request cakes I haven’t made yet. It was easy to follow recipe. The strawberry taste was out of this world! Only change I made was to thinly slice strawberries to put between the layers with the frosting. This will definitely be made again.
I loved it! After trying your chocolate cake recipe, I looked for the Strawberry cake. My cake turned out beautiful! The flavor was amazing and the Strawberry frosting with the feeze dried strawberries, my daughter wants just to dip fruit in. It tasted like heaven.
I have a question, the texture of my cake was a little heavier than what I wanted, I know this was something I did. Please tell me what would do that? I felt at the time of mixing my butter was not mixing just right. Too warm? Would that cause it? Or I didn’t cook the strawberries down enough? I want to make sure I correct it for next time. Side note…I had a friend, older gentleman tell me it was hands down the very best Strawberry cake he has ever tasted in his life, bought or homemade! 10 stars!
Hi Tanya! Make sure to start with proper room temperature butter and be very careful to not over-mix your batter. So glad you loved this cake!
I loved this recipe the sponge is delicious. I paired it with Lemon cake sponge layers on either side for my daughters birthday cake. Everyone loved it.
I love all of Sally’s recipes so much! I have a question. The recipe says that it makes enough for 2, 9” rounds. I have to make one 12 inch round. Is one batch enough batter for the 12 inch round or would I need to make one and a half batters? Thank you!
Hi Jeanmarie, Here is everything you need to know about converting recipes to different Cake Pan Sizes.
Can you use strawberry powder as a substitute for the strawberry puree?
Hi Gaile, we don’t recommend it. Sally actually tested this recipe using the freeze dried strawberry powder, and the taste, texture, and appearance were lacking. The reduced strawberry puree is key to this cake’s success. Hope you’ll give it a try!
In the picture did you use two 8 inch round pans? 9inch? How long to bake those for? Also, will the frosting recipe be enough to frost in between the two rounds and then the outside with a fairly thick layer? Or do I need to 1.5 the frosting or even double it?
Hi Kortni, the photos are of two 9 inch cake rounds. See step 5 for baking time instructions — “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.” The frosting as written will be enough to frost the cake as shown in the photos, but feel free to 1.5x the recipe if you’d like a bit more.
This was an excellent recipe, finally a strawberry cake that isn’t insanely dense AND is full of real strawberry flavor. Definitely a win.
Can I freeze this cake after assembling? I need to travel with it across the country.
Hi Pam, while you can freeze assembled cakes, the frosting/decoration does not always look the same once thawed. If possible, we recommend freezing the cake layers and frosting separately. Here is everything you need to know about how to freeze cakes.
Hello, can I replace the strawberry purée with strawberry emulsion, and even if I do will it still come out well and what’s the quantity please
Hi Freda, Emulsion would not be a good replacement for the puree and it would take extensive recipe testing for us to be able to confidently recommend how to change the recipe. If you can’t make the puree, we recommend finding a recipe that is formulated to use strawberry emulsion.
Sally, I just want you to know that this is the cake my daughter always asks me to make for her birthday. This is the 4th year in a row that I am baking it. Everyone is always floored by how delicious it is! Such a fabulous recipe, and sentimental for me as well. <3
We’re so honored this recipe is part of your family’s birthday traditions, Jessica. Thank you for sharing and for making and trusting our recipes!
Can I just use whole eggs for this recipe? If so how many would it be.
Hi Sophia, the egg whites help produce a soft, fluffy cake. We don’t recommend using whole eggs in this recipe, as the yolks will weigh down the crumb.
Could plain “Greek” yogurt be substituted for sour cream? Love the tartness.
Yes, plain Greek yogurt is a fine substitute here. Happy baking!
I made this a few weeks ago and it was a big hit. I want to make cupcake versions tomorrow, I’ll use the white chocolate strawberry recipe for the cake (because I want to make 14 cupcakes) but I really want to stick with this strawberry cream cheese frosting. Will it be okay on top of cupcakes and will it be waaaaay too much if I use the quantities for this cake? If I halve it will that be enough for 14? Thanks for another great recipe – nothing on this website has failed me so far.
Hi Sofi, halving the frosting recipe should be just about right for 14 cupcakes. If you plan to heavily frost them, we’d 1.5x the recipe just to be safe!