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. Biting into the first pastel pink forkful was the moment of truth…

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

I cried tears of joy. Or were those actual tears because I just dirtied every dish with all this strawberry cake recipe testing? Hmm.

Let’s get down to business. Homemade strawberry cake is episode 1 in Sprinkled, my new video series! Watch me make the recipe below:

I find it challenging to pack real strawberry flavor into cake without the crutch of fake strawberry flavoring. My goal was to create a strawberry layer cake made entirely from real strawberries. We’re talking strawberries inside the cake and in the frosting as well. With the help of freeze-dried strawberries, I tackled strawberry frosting. I’ll get to that below. But for strawberry cake? Things have always been pretty lackluster in the flavor and texture department.

Strawberry Cake Problems

  • Chopping up strawberries and folding into cake batter works, but then you’re just eating vanilla cake with chunks of strawberries.
  • Pureeing strawberries and folding into cake batter has potential, but the texture is always off. There’s too much liquid. How about adding more flour to make up for that liquid? Then your cake is too dense. And the flavor is always lacking.
  • Strawberry jam could work, but I prefer to start with real strawberries.

So how can we pack real strawberry flavor into cake batter without adding too much liquid? REDUCE THE STRAWBERRIES DOWN. Ding ding ding! We have a winner.

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.

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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SHOP THE RECIPE

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

648 Comments

All Comments

  1. Hey Sally! Loooove your recipes, faithful follower here…I was curious as to why the freeze dried strawberries didn’t do well in the batter?? Do tell 🙂 flavor or texture? I would imagine the consistency you would want is basically powdered strawbs for the batter, which could act like a flour ? Maybe less flour? I don’t know, I’m spitballing here…

    1. Hi Valerie! The addition of freeze dried strawberry powder left a chewy and dense texture in the finished cake. And I had to add quite a bit of it to produce a noticeable strawberry flavor. I just wasn’t happy with the result.

      1. Thank you! This saves me an undesirable test cake…ha! I love the idea for the frosting though. Must try for my sisters favorite cake is indeed strawberry, and no box stuff in this house!

        Could frozen strawberries cooked down be substituted for fresh? It’s winter in Maine, our strawberries don’t taste good…

  2. Can the cake be made on Wednesday, refrigerated until Saturday for the party? Or is it only good to make 1 day in advance, not 3?

    1. Wrap and Freeze the cakes, take them out morning of the day you need them. Assemble and frost while frozen. Will thaw completely in a couple hours.

  3. So I hadn’t grand plans for my 3 year olds birthday when she asked for a strawberry cake…and just realized I’m out of sour cream!! Would Greek yogurt totally blow it? (I make my own and it’s extra thick if that helps?)

  4. Hey Sally, The color of my cake is grayish and not as bright as yours. I did use the additional food coloring. Any idea how to remedy this?

      1. It’s the strawberries. If the strawberries are more white or lighter in the center, the puree won’t be as bright.

  5. This is the BEST strawberry frosting I have ever had! The frosting has such a pretty color and holds up better than most frostings that add fresh strawberries. The cake was equally delicious and very light. For people who aren’t getting a strong strawberry flavor from the cake, it could be because the strawberries you used weren’t very flavorful (it’s hard to find good strawberries this time of the year). Unfortunately, not all strawberries are the same, if your strawberries are still fairly white in the inside it may be a good idea to use a bit of strawberry extract. 

      1. Thanks. Made the frosting last night. Delicious!  However, I accidentally blended the desiccant packet in my first batch of freeze dried strawberries. Luckily I bought extra!  Lol

  6. This is absolutely gorgeous and oh so cute! Do you think this would work as a bundt cake? That would be equally as lovely!

  7. Hi Sally! I’m hoping to make this cake for my husband’s birthday on Thursday. I couldn’t find cake flour at the store tonight, but I do have whole-wheat pastry flour on hand. How do you think the cake would turn out with that? Or should I just not chance it and try a different store tomorrow? Thank you so much!!

    1. Hi Jen! I wouldn’t use whole wheat pastry flour. The texture could be completely off and for a birthday cake, I definitely wouldn’t risk it 🙂

    1. Hi Moesha! You can divide this batter between 3 cake pans for thinner layers. Or you can make the batter twice and divide between 3 cake pans. Use any leftover batter for cupcakes.

  8. Do you think frozen strawberries would work for the purée?   I’ve been buying really delicious frozen, organic strawberries and the out of season fresh strawberries are so unreliable.  My soon-to-be three year old granddaughter just asked for strawberry cake for her birthday.  Thank you!

  9. Sally, I love this cake!  I would like to offer it in a cake testing for a wedding i’m doing in June!  It is strawberry season and it fits!  Please may i have your opinion?  Would you make this in a 12” by 3” pan that will be the bottom tier of a three tier cake? If yes, do you have any tips?  Love you books, blog and facebook group!

    1. Hey Cathy! I think the 12×3 inch pan is a great place to start. Could you bake it as a practice round first? I’m just not 100% sure.

  10. Because you’re meant to have your hand mixer/stand mixer on high speed when adding the egg whites, are you meant to allow them to froth up? As you mentioned that it should take two minutes.

  11. Hi Sally, I’ve been trying to find a strawberry banana cake recipe to make for my son’s birthday, per his request. This cake looks amazing! Do you think if I added a 1/2 cup of mashed banana to the strawberry puree that it would make the cake too heavy? 

    1. Hi Sarah! It would be too heavy. Strawberry banana cake would take some testing. But I’d love to know if you try anything.

  12. Hello, Sally!
    Do you think this cake would still work if I only refrigerated the purée for a few hours instead of overnight? Thanks!

      1. Thank you, Sally!
        I just made the cupcakes for my little sister’s 3rd birthday party. I am actually giving up sweets, so it took  all of my willpower not to lick the icing off my finger, but they certainly smell delicious!

  13. I want to make this recipe as cupcakes for my work. If I make and frost them the night before will they keep in the fridge overnight and not be stale?
    -Jenny
    P.S. I absolutely LOVE your recipes and reading your blog!!!!

    1. Hi Jenny! I would loosely cover them in the refrigerator if you can. Or you can cover and store unfrosted cupcakes overnight at room temperature, then prepare the frosting and frost the following day.

  14. 2.5 cups is not 250 grams. 1 cup of flour from what I read on the net is between 120 and 128 grams, making 2.5 cups 300 – 320 grams. That’s a lot more than 250.

  15. I baked this cake in a tube pan. It took 44 minutes at 350F. It was moist and a lovely shade of pink without the dye. It was a bit dense. If I do it again, I will either let it sit in the pan for 10 minutes before baking to let the leavening have time to work before it bakes or I will add more baking soda. Maybe a quarter teaspoon. I topped it with a warm semi sweet chocolate ganache and my brother loved it for his birthday. Thank you so much for this recipe.

  16. Sally,
    I must say this cake is absolutely luscious. I cooked my purée for a little for an hour because I was timid to let it boil too high. The smell in my house was intoxicating. That cooked down purée is a game changer. My cupcakes (I used cupcake pans instead of round tins) were so light & fluffy with a small crumb and packed full of flavor. Once topped with that frosting they tasted like the ripest, juiciest, sweetest strawberry I’ve ever eaten! I even made them again a day later because a friend requested them. Thank you so much for your hard work and dedication.

  17. Hi Sally, I love the new format and because this strawberry cake is in the new format I’m making it. It looks so darn good and strawberries are in season. Great hard work on your blog site. Keep up the good work.

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Questions

  1. Not a big strawberry fan, could I sub raspberries my absolute fave berry of all time? At a minimum I’d have to strain seeds, just not sure it’s going to be a thick puree…

    1. Hi Susan,

      I have a friend who loves raspberries so I was thinking of doing exactly what you asked here. Did you end up trying it? Would love to hear how it worked out.

      Thanks!
      Devin

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