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. Hey Sally, I tried this cake before a week! It turned out very nice.. however I halved all of the measurements and found that it was sweet with nice structure, however taste of strawberries was not obvious (very mild). Can I increase the amount of reduced strawberries we put in the cake? In that case, how much can I increase? Also, my cake care definitely was not pink, it was rather grayish. I don’t want to add artificial colors. How do we add in natural pink color? 

  2. Making the strawberry puree and after 25 minutes it has the consistency of applesauce. So I put it on for another 10 minutes stirring every couple of minutes. The puree reduced and got darker but it is still the consistency of applesauce

  3. i tried this recipe a couple of times. my stawberry reduction turns out pink not red, and then i bake the cake, it turns brownish. why is this?

    1. The color of the reduction would depend on how red the strawberries were. You can always add a drop of pink food coloring next time if the cake color isn’t what you’d like. How did the cake taste? Thank you!

  4. I’ve made this last night for a birthday lunch today 🙂 Guests enjoyed it, particularly the cream cheese! I was not able to locate the freeze dried strawberries though 🙁 So I mashed strawberries and drained it and used that instead. Worked out, frosting wasn’t too liquidy. Curiosity though, how do you frost the sides of the cake? I found that part trick.. Thanks Sally for the wonderful recipe!

  5. Thank you Sally! Another great recipe. No, it doesn’t quite taste like the box strawberry cake (and I have many happy childhood memories of this), or any version with jello mix- but it shouldn’t! This tastes like real strawberry! The reduced puree is IT. I made a version before that had straight puree, and the flavor just wasn’t as pronounced- so I’d definitely say it is worth the extra effort to reduce and cool. I made it a day ahead and found that the strawberry flavor deepens and the cupcake moistens. The cream cheese frosting was an awesome pairing! I “taste tested” it a lot!

    I didn’t use food coloring and the cupcakes were a very pale dusty pink; with the bright pink frosting they were lovely! My son wanted these for his birthday and loved them!

  6. Hi Sally! I made this recipe over the weekend and the flavour is aaammmaaazziiinnngggg. But the cake texture was really dense. I substituted greek yogurt for sour cream, is that the reason?

  7. i buy freeze dried strawberries cheaply at aldi’s! international store so readers not in the US may look for them there. used them in the frosting for pistachio cupcakes you’ve previously posted and the flavor is amazing!!!! tasted like strawberry icecream. good to know not to use in cake batter because that was on my future baking list. thanks for all your testing and trials saving me time and money!

  8. Hi Sally! I need to make strawberry cupcakes, would you recommend this recipe, or the strawberry cupcake recipe you posted back in 2015? They both look divine but I have had issues with putting fresh strawberries in my cake batter before too so reducing down the puree is intriguing! Which do you think tastes better? Thanks!

    1. I would try this recipe as cupcakes. You can pack more strawberry flavor in without altering the texture by reducing them down 🙂

  9. This may sound crazy, BUT I’m actually looking for a thick, moist strawberry cake recipe. Yours looks pretty good. Do you think I can add in whole eggs for more density/thickness? If so, how many? 

  10. Hey Sally! I was so excited to check out your strawberry frosting recipe that I ran out and grabbed the ingredients. As I’m getting started to bake, I realized that I accidentally bought dried strawberries instead of freeze-dry strawberries. Have you tried this before? Is is going to be a catastrophic difference if I proceed with these instead of the freeze dried?

      1. Thank you for your prompt reply! I just finished making the frosting with freeze dried strawberries. And it’s delightful! Strawberry cream cheese frosting is one of my favorites and I love your trick with the strawberries. Thanks for sharing!

  11. I’m just frosting this (omg the taste I just had was delish already). What  do you think of putting extra strawberries sliced between the two layers?

  12. I just baked some of these in mini form. It turned out spectacular!! Everyone at work loved them! 🙂 It made about 75 mini cupcakes for me and I doubled the frosting and I had more than enough to frost all of them with. I topped them with a drizzle of white chocolate and a small fondant red heart (of course since its almost Valentines Day!!) This recipe is the BEST homemade strawberry cake that I’ve ever made. Thanks for doing all the hard work to bring it to us! 🙂

  13. Thank you Sally for all of the great recipes you share , everyone thinks I,m a great baker because of you :).
    My daughter’s birthday is in two weeks from now and I’m planing to challenge my self and make a two tier cake, can I double this recipe and use it ? or use the red velvet cake recipe ? and do you have any advise for me ?

    1. If you have a larger capacity mixer you should be able to double it. If not, I recommend making it twice so that you do not over-mix the batter!

  14. I just made this into cupcakes for my son’s Valentines day party at school tomorrow! I am so stoked because the recipe doesn’t require red dye, which is pretty hard to come by in a pink recipe. One of the kids is allergic to red dye in his class, so I’m so happy to have found something “Valentine-y” for him to take!

  15. Hi Sally
    I was wondering how I could use fresh but frozen strawberries I have 4 containers and would like to know how I could use them in this recipe

  16. I made this in the 9×13 form for a Galentine’s brunch this past weekend and it was a huge hit. In prepping for the event, I had made a different strawberry cake recipe and this one is SO MUCH better. Like, in a completely different league. It’s clear how much thought and troubleshooting you put into this one. It totally shows. The batter was heavenly, the finished cake was awesome, and–girl–that frosting. Lordamercy, that frosting is good. Thanks so much for the amazing recipe!

    1. I’m so happy you enjoyed it so much! All the recipe testing for this one was totally worth it – especially when I read how much others enjoyed it too! 🙂

  17. I made this cake last night for my mom’s birthday in a heart shape because it’s close to Valentine’s Day 🙂 It was so incredibly delicious, one of the best cakes I’ve ever had. However, if I were to do it over, I may add a 1/2 teaspoon or so of strawberry extract. The cake itself did not have a potent strawberry flavor but the icing made up for it! It was so moist- I love using sour cream in cakes! This will be my new go to recipe for strawberry cake. Thanks Sally!

  18. I made this last night to bring to work today and it was a HUGE hit!  Everyone loved it. One of my co-workers is allergic to red dye, so I left that out, so the color of the cake wasn’t as pink as yours, but the flavor is spectacular. I made mine in a heart-shaped pan for Valentine’s Day. When I make it again, I’m going to slice some extra strawberries to put between the layers.
    Great recipe!

  19. Hi Sally I tried your recipe and it came out delicious!!!!!!! I mixed cool whip with my frosting and it is great. I from now on will leave the yolks out of my cakes. Thank you for posting such a wonderful recipe!!!!

  20. Friday night I food processed the freeze-dried strawberrie, puréed the strawberries in the processor next then reduced them. I left all the needed ingredients on my kitchen counter overnight creating room temp items.  The next morning I mixed & baked.  I prepared this recipe in the form of cupcakes for my niece’s baby shower. Very much enjoyed by everyone! I am so pleased to have this recipe. I will be baking this moist, yummy strawberry cake many times. I look forward to “fresh strawberry growing season” when the wonderful fresh strawberry flavor will reveal itself even more!  Thank you for sharing your magic! A happy baker, Deb

  21. Hello my Wife made me this Strawberry Cake for Valentine’s Day it is outstanding. She also posted it on our blog Two Frys this tasted so good she’s a fan of yours , Allen in N.Y.

  22. Thanks so much for this recipe! I’m in college and just started learning to cook and bake. My friend asked me to make a strawberry cake for their birthday and I said yes before realizing the difficulty. This recipe was a life saver. I’ve been exploring your other recipes and have this site bookmarked. You’re really creative and have a very in depth understanding of the chemistry behind baking, which makes your recipes and advice so fantastic. People often dismiss baking as something frivolous but it’s actually very difficult and takes someone of very high intelligence to tamper with the science behind it successfully. Thank you very much!

    1. Thank you, Alyssa for the kinds words! I’m so happy that the strawberry cake was a hit and that you seem to enjoy my nerdy science explanations 😉 Let me know what else you try!

  23. My daughter asked for a strawberry cake for her birthday. I’ve seen lots of recipes floating around there, but I stumbled upon this one shortly after she told me what flavor she wanted.

    Her birthday is tomorrow, the cake is frosted and ready – looks good! I use natural sugar and gluten-free flour, both which darken the batter, so it’s not a delicate pink like yours, but I don’t mind! I licked the cake batter and noticed, as other said, that the strawberry flavor is not pronounced. I think the strawberry frosting helps make up for that, but I also decided to spread some strawberry jam (along with the little bit of leftover strawberry puree mixed in) in-between the layers, on top of a thin layer of frosting. Just an idea for another level of strawberry!

  24. Hi I want to bake this cake to cater for around 15 people. Would you recommend doubling all ingredients for it? And how long would I need to cook it for? Thanks in advance 

    1. Hi Anisah! I’ve only ever made the strawberry cake as a layer cake or as a 9×13 cake (see note for that size). You can cut the 9×13 cake into smaller pieces to yield 15. Or make 2 cakes.

  25. Thank you for such a lovely cake recipe! I had fun baking this strawberry cake for my MIL’s birthday today! The cake is perfectly sweet and is one of the best cakes I’ve ever made. Rave reviews from the family tonight! 

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