Homemade Strawberry Cake

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This is the BEST strawberry cake!! Made completely from scratch with real strawberries! Topped with strawberry cream cheese frosting. Recipe on sallysbakingaddiction.com

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 and 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? Hmm.

This strawberry cake is made completely from scratch with real strawberries! Topped with strawberry cream cheese frosting. Recipe on sallysbakingaddiction.com

Let’s get down to business. 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.

New Game Plan

  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.

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. This process takes about 30 minutes. 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 right 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.

The 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.

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? 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!

Instead of a thicker strawberry buttercream, I used my silky cream cheese frosting recipe. Tossed in the freeze-dried strawberry “dust” and was left with a frosting so pink, Barbie would be jealous!

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. Kiss your boxed strawberry cake buh-bye.

Update: Homemade strawberry cake is episode 1 in Sprinkled, my video mini series! Watch me make it below.

Homemade Strawberry Cake

Ingredients:

  • 2 and 1/2 cups (250g) sifted cake flour (measured correctly)*
  • 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)*

Strawberry Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 1 cup (10-12g) 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

Directions:

  1. Make the reduced strawberry puree and allow it to cool completely. See note.
  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.
  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. 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.
  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.

Make ahead tip: 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 can be frozen up to 2 months if you have room in the freezer. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator and bring to room temperature before serving.

Recipe Notes:

  1. 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 a DIY version: measure 1 cup of all-purpose flour. Remove 2 Tablespoons. Mix in 2 Tablespoons of cornstarch. Sift it. Measure 1 cup. This sifted 1 cup equals 1 cup of cake flour. I suggest doing this 3x, then remove 1/2 cup since you need 2 and 1/2 cups in this recipe.
  2. 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.
  3. To make the 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 for 25-30 minutes until you're left with 1/2 cup or a little over 1/2 cup 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. Use 1/2 cup in the cake. Discard any leftovers or spoon on ice cream/yogurt/add to smoothie. Yum!
  4. To bake in a 9x13 pan: Simply pour the batter into a greased and lightly floured 9x13 pan and bake for 40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  5. 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.
  6. 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 1 small drop.

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Here are some items I used to make today’s recipe.

KitchenAid Stand Mixer | Ninja Food Processor | Measuring Cups | Egg Separator | Glass Mixing Bowls | 9-inch Cake Pans | Marble Cake Stand | Eat Dessert First Fork

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606 Comments

All Comments

  1. This might seem silly but you use granulated sugar in your recipes. Does this mean regular old granulated sugar you use in your coffee or caster sugar? Just wondering what difference it makes if so 🙂

  2. Hi Sally! Big fan of your recipes! tried making this cake today and although it tastes great when I was trying to transfer it from pan to plate half of it came out and half was stuck (not nearly either). I did grease and flour the pans. I’m sure it’s something I did in the process of making the cake. Am an amateur baker after all. What do you think? I definitely want to try making it again but I just need to know what might have gone wrong. Please help Sally or anyone else who might know! Thank you!!!

    1. What type of pan are you using? While the cake certainly is moist, I haven’t had issues with it sticking so much before. You can always line with parchment paper too!

      1. Oh thanks! I’ll try again with parchment paper. Also i added a tad bit of water to the strawberries before blending and then thought that wait that’s probably not necessary. Should I have done that or is there enough water in the strawberries to blend them up? I used a round baking pan btw (not sure size but I think it was around 8-9 inches I’m sure. 

      2. I’m having sticking issues as well. Followed the recipe to the T and used Crisco and flour to grease the pan. Half of it stuck. Same thing with your vanilla cake. As a result came out a crumbly mess. 

        The pan I’m using is dark grey non-stick. Could this be the issue?

    2. I seem to always have that issue with cake pans, even the high quality ones! I now try to remember to grease and use parchment rounds at the bottom every time I use them. 

  3. Hi, do you reduce straberries with sugar or just with water? sorry, I have never done strawberry reduction. Could you please provide details?

      1. Thank you so much 🙂 this was one of the quickest reply.. Thank you for getting back within 8 hours! very kind of you!!

  4. Hi Sally, I’m a big fan!
    Is there a reason why you chose cream cheese frosting instead of buttercream? I don’t usually use cream cheese frosting because I tend to taste the cheese, would the cake be too sweet with a buttercream frosting?
    Thanks!

    1. Buttercream would be great! I wanted something creamier for this cake. And I love cream cheese + strawberry combo. Just a personal preference. 🙂

  5. Also, what if I don’t have access to sour cream. I commented on instagram on your picture… because I really want to try this recipe, what substitute would you recommend for sour cream?

  6. Sally the bread bowls and creamy chicken noodle soup was a huge hit with my family, thank you so much for your wonderful instructions. But, I have a question my son-in-laws birthday is tomorrow and he wants Strawberry Cake and I just saw this on your blog. Can you use the egg whites in the carton as I will be making swiss buttercream frosting, and I really don’t want all the egg yolks to deal with after I am done with the cake and frosting? Thank you for all your quick responses. Sure has helped me with my last minute preps of your recipes.

      1. Thank you again, did the strawberries yesterday they look like they will work great, thanks for posting that post on how to reduce them down more than just puree. But, waited till this morning to do the cake I will put it in the freezer while making the buttercream. Just to firm it up and less crumbs. Thanks again for your great recipes.

  7. Hi Sally. Could you tell me half cup of strawberry purée is in grams please. Looking forward to making this cake. 

    1. Hi. In my experience, since there’s not that much of a difference in size, I’d reduce the baking time by 5 minutes or so. 

  8. I made the recipe three times to make two 3-layer cakes, one for my Mom and the other for my Mother-in-law. Their bdays are just two days apart and this cake was a hit! I will definitely be making it again and again! Thanks Sally!

  9. Baked this cake and was prepping the frosting ingredients when I realized I bought Vanilla flavor instead of extract. I’m out of extract; is it possible to use the vanilla flavor instead?

  10. I made this cake for my mothers birthday, and although it tasted great, I didn’t love the texture. Every time I try and make a white/vanilla type cake, I find it to be dense and not as moist as I’d like. I am always expecting that light pillowy texture of box mix, but can’t achieve it. I usually stick to carrot cake, pound cake, bunt cake, because those are by nature dense. Do I need to get over comparing homemade to box mix? Thanks!

    1. Hi Michelle! A few things tend to produce denser tasting cakes: over-mixing the batter, over-creaming the butter/sugar, or not measuring the flour correctly. I suggest spooning and leveling the sifted cake flour. If you didn’t do it that way already!

  11. Okay so I made this a couple of days ago and I must have over mixed it. Yes i know you had on there dont over mix. And i really tried not too. But i must have muffed up. My heart is broken. 🙁 That is my sad face. It was dense and a bit dry. I also did it in a 9 x 13 glass pan as i didnt have the room in the fridge for a two layer cake pan. Oh and mine was not that pink. But i did not have red food coloring on hand. I did make the puree and it was yummy. I used strawberries from the freezer and made sure to pat them dry. Now the icing was so yummy so good. I could just eat that by itself. And Walmart carries the freeze dried strawberries by the way. Up near the produce. So was it dry because of over mixing? I swear I followed the recipe. I even know how to make cake flour too. Help? I dont know if I will ever endevor to do this agian. I will have to get over my heart break first. So sad:( Well of course we are still eating it. Because well why waste cake?

    1. Hi Suzanne! Thank you for trying my strawberry cake recipe. It could have been overbaked. How long did you bake it in the 9×13?

  12. In the process of reducing the strawberries… It has been at least forty-five minutes, and they still don’t look anything close to the pics. They’re bubbling so much that it’s splattering onto my stove, so I sssume the heat is up high enough. Have I done something wrong, or do I just keep letting it cook? 

      1. After about an hour and fifteen minutes, I gave up. They had thickened, but still nowhere near the consistency in your pics, and not a deep red color. I put them in the fridge to cool overnight. 

  13. Oh my goodness. My husband always wanted a real strawberry cake. So I’d buy one and it was only ever a white cake with strawberries on top. Bleh. This year he’s going to get the most strawberry birthday cake he ever imagined. Made the cake, made the butter cream frosting, oldest dog always gets the batter bowl. Thank you so much for the recipe.

  14. Hi Sally – I’ve been on the hunt for a good strawberry cake for years that didn’t involve jello or other artificial ingredients. I found one that was OK but essentially was a vanilla cake with bits of strawberry in it. Your suggestion of reducing the strawberries is genius! My 11 year-old daughter loves strawberry cake so I decided to test this recipe over the weekend by making cupcakes. I sent the cupcakes to school with her and she said they were “a hit and the best strawberry cupcakes ever!” The only suggestion she came back with was if there was a way to make the frosting a little less sweet. When I tasted the cupcakes, I had to agree. Do you have any suggestions on the ratios for the frosting to lessen the sweetness? This recipe will now be my go-to recipe for strawberry cake. BTW – the best part of reducing the strawberries is that the house smelled AMAZING!

    1. Hi Amy! I loved reading this, thank you so much for reporting back. How about you add a little more strawberry “dust” and a little less confectioners’ sugar. Perhaps another 1/4 cup of dust and 1/2 cup less of sugar. You can reduce the milk a little bit as well, just in case your frosting is too thin without the extra sugar.

  15. This sounds incredible, Sally!! I can’t wait to try it at some point! I saved it to my Pinterest ‘Cakes’ board! Thank you for sharing your successes…makes it easier for us 😉

  16. Hi Sally, tried this recipe. The cake was amazing. Used plain yoghurt instead of Sour cream.I know you have mentioned regular sugar, but the sugar we have is very sweet with large grains. It does not melt easily. End up up having grains on the crust . Can I use castor sugar instead? 

  17. Hi Sally, my son’s Birthday is this Friday and asked for a strawberry cake with cream cheese frosting. I have never made one from scratch but I wanted to try one but I wanted a real strawberry cake, like you, and I got a new stand mixer for Christmas that I’m itching to use. So I googled it and I think it was meant to be because yours is the first one to show up and is exactly what I was looking for. I do have a question about the cool time. Do you let the cake cool completely in the pan or take out after about 10 minutes then cool on racks?  I saw others had trouble removing the cakes and I just want to be sure. Thank you Sally I can’t wait for everyone to try this cake!! 

    1. Hi Cammie! I always always always let cakes completely cool in the pans. As long as you grease your pans well, there should be no sticking issues. Great question! I hope your son loves the cake 🙂

    1. Using egg whites is the best way to achieve a fluffy and soft cake. It will ensure that the crumb is not weighed down by the fat in egg yolks.

  18. This cake was FABULOUS! My 6 year old requested a strawberry cake this year for her birthday and it took quite some time to find a recipe that didn’t include artificial colors/flavorings. This cake is IT. Flavor was amazing, color was beautiful – the frosting was a light pink and SO flavorful. Love it. It’s going in the family cookbook. Thank you!

  19. So excited to try this!!!!! Test baking this cake this Saturday. And then baking it for my boyfriend’s birthday (main event) in February! Will report back 🙂 Quick question though, freeze dried strawberries…is that in the frozen food area?

  20. I am so excited about this cake! I’ve been thinking of what to make for my daughter’s first birthday cake and i have found it!! I can just imagine her digging her little hands into this pretty pink cake!

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