Homemade Strawberry Cake

The one thing that sets this strawberry cake apart from others? Reduce fresh strawberry puree down and add to the best white cake batter. Kiss your boxed strawberry cake buh-bye.

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.

How to Pack REAL Strawberry Flavor into Cake

  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. 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. 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.

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 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? They’re more commonly found than you think. I always find freeze-dried strawberries in my regular grocery store in the dried fruit aisle. Wegmans, Giant, Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, Amazon, and Target each carry them.

Instead of a thicker strawberry buttercream, I used my silky cream cheese frosting recipe. Tossed in the freeze-dried strawberry “dust” and milk 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. Have fun baking!

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Homemade strawberry cake

Homemade Strawberry Cake

  • Author: Sally
  • Prep Time: 1 hour, 30 minutes
  • Cook Time: 25 minutes
  • Total Time: 6 hours
  • Yield: serves 10-12
  • Category: Cakes
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: American

Description

The one thing that sets this strawberry cake apart from others? Reduce fresh strawberry puree down and add to the best white cake batter. Kiss your boxed strawberry cake buh-bye.


Ingredients

  • 2 and 1/2 cups (250g) sifted 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 note)*
  • optional: 1-2 drops red or pink food coloring

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
  • 12 Tablespoons milk
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • salt, to taste

Instructions

  1. Make the reduced strawberry puree and allow it to cool completely. See note. You can make it a few days ahead of time and store it covered in the refrigerator or cover and freeze it for up to 3 months. Thaw before using in the recipe.
  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. Stir in food coloring, if desired. (I use 1 small drop.)
  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 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.
  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.

Notes

  1. Make Ahead Instructions: 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 or unfrosted cake layers can be frozen up to 2 months-3. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator and bring to room temperature before decorating/serving.
  2. Cake Flour: Sift cake flour before measuring. 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 this homemade cake flour substitute.
  3. Whole Milk: If needed, buttermilk works in its place. I don’t recommend a lower fat milk.
  4. 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.
  5. 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 until you’re left with 1/2 cup or a little over 1/2 cup. This takes at least 25-35 minutes, but could take longer depending on your pan or how juicy your strawberries were. *Do not add sugar or anything to the puree or reduced puree– it’s just pure strawberries. 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. Allow to cool completely before using in cake batter. Make sure it’s room temperature when adding to the batter. You can make the reduced puree ahead of time and freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw, bring to room temperature, then use in the recipe. Discard any leftovers or spoon on ice cream/yogurt/add to smoothie. Yum! You can use frozen strawberries, but they will take longer to reduce even if you thaw them first.
  6. 9×13 Inch Cake: 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.
  7. 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.
  8. Food Coloring: If you want, you can add 1-2 small drops of pink or red food coloring for a lovely pink shade to the baked cake. I add 1 small drop of pink gel food coloring.
  9. 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, but you can 1.5x the recipe for a thicker layer.

Keywords: strawberries, pink

1118 Comments

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  1. Sonia Lightsey says:

    This is my husband’s FAVORITE cake! Thank you sooooo much for this recipe. It came out perfect thanks to your wonderful detailed instructions!

  2. Sally, could I use a raspberry puree in this cake instead of strawberries (still reducing the raspberry puree down, I’m assuming)? I really love raspberry and would love to make a pure raspberry cake! And what would you suggest I do for the frosting? Would the frosting from your lemon cupcakes with raspberry frosting work? And should I double or 1.5x the recipe to get enough to frost this entire cake? Thanks!

    1. 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! I know they are readily available in most grocery stores these days. Or 1.5x the raspberry frosting recipe. Let me know how it turns out!

  3. I made this for my daughters 2nd birthday! I had to give away the remaining pieces so I wouldn’t overindulge! The only thing, mine was more brown than pink. But the flavor was delicious and I loved that it baked perfectly round and flat and held up amazingly!

  4. Can you say jealous, that I am not eating this already! I need to check my pantry and grab some strawberries so I can make this tomorrow. The only problem is we have a large family so I might have to make two or it might all be gone after one meal.

  5. This one’s a winner — literally! I made this for my office’s Valentine’s bake off and walked away with first place. For a novice cake maker who felt very intimidated by taking on a cake, that was an amazing feeling.

    Thanks for this delicious recipe and slew of resources, Sally! Your thorough directions, thoughtful recipe notes, and ‘Sprinkled’ video helped me feel confident to take on something new, and I’m so glad I did. 🙂

  6. I just made this for my Mom’s 91st birthday and it’s a winner! I’m not a baker at all, but got inspired to actually make a cake after watching the British baking show. Your directions and helpful hints were perfect for someone who cooks but doesn’t bake! Thank you!

  7. The cake and frosting was fabulous!!! Everyone loved! I made it in our Mickey Mouse mold cake pan so I could have it be like Minnie for my daughter’s 4th birthday. Hardly in cake leftover! Thank you!!!

  8. Today is my birthday and I jokingly told my boyfriend to make me a strawberry cake before I went to work this morning. This heavy equipment operator who’s never baked before spent five hours making this cake to surprise me when I got home. It is literally the best cake I’ve ever had, thank you so much for the recipe!

  9. I have to tell you what a blunder I made with this cake… So, I thought the recipe called for 1/2 cup of corn meal (I didn’t have cake flour), so ummmm, well… I made the batter and right before I was going to pour in the strawberry mixture I realized what I had done, and decided to pour raspberry jam into the mix and make muffins, and they were amazing!!!! So, I went back and made your recipe just the way you said to… Loved it, so now I have 2 recipes that I can use… yippee!

    1. Haha! What a happy mistake, Laurie!!

  10. Sally, Every year I ask my son what cake he wants for his birthday. This year he said Strawberry cake. Not shortcake, just Strawberry. I thought, oh dear, I don’t want to make a box cake, it won’t taste right. So the only website I thought of was yours! The freeze-dried strawberries was a challenge but I found Banana-Strawberry freeze-dried mix and picked out the strawberries! Worked! Sally I just want to thank you! The cake was amazing! Delicious! My Son LOVED IT and so did everyone else! Everyone said it was so good! It looked amazing as well! Thank you for all your amazing recipes! Next week another birthday and another cake!:)

  11. Hi Sally

    Going to make this cake on a Saturday for Sunday birthday. Do I need to chill the cake after icing it? Thanks 🙂

    1. Not necessary unless you need to store it for 1-2 days before serving.

  12. Hi Sally,
    My daughter requested a strawberry cake with chocolate frosting. Have you ever tried that combo with this cake? Would you use a basic chocolate frosting or a ganache? Thanks!

    1. It’s delicious either way! The frosting is where a lot of the strawberry flavor comes in so I would actually suggest to make it with that frosting and then pour a chocolate ganache on top of the whole thing!

  13. Cake was very good. Came out moist with a good crumb. The frosting was a very nice pink and fluffy and not overpowered by cream cheese flavor. With the leftover egg yolks and extra strawberry reduction I made strawberry curd and layered it between the cakes. Very good strawberry flavor through it all. My compliments on your recip.

  14. Hi Sally, my daughter is turning 4 and her party is at the weekend. She has requested a strawberry cake and I found your recipe and thought, perfect. However her cake is going to be covered and decorated with fondant. Do you think this recipe will take the weight of fondant icing? Sorry if this is a repeated question, I’ve looked through so many comments and not seen it asked! Thank you in advance

    1. Yes, this should hold up to fondant! I hope she has a great birthday!

      1. Thank you for your reply! That’s great, I’ll let you know how it goes!

  15. Can strawberry preserves be used in place of the purée? Or is it too sweet?

    1. They can, but there isn’t enough strawberry flavor. The cake will taste like vanilla cake. I recommend sticking to the recipe. 🙂

  16. How many quarts of strawberries equal 1 pound? Also, just want to note I made your lemon blueberry cake for a wedding cake and it was a HUGE success. Love your recipes….thank you.

    1. Quarts are a measure of volume and pound is a measure of weight, so the answer depends on the size of the berries! A quart can vary usually between 1 and 2 pounds. I’m thrilled that the lemon blueberry cake was a success!

  17. Just a heads up. So far I’ve made this cake with strawberries, raspberries (without the seeds), blueberries (without the skins) and their freeze dried counterparts. The first two came out great with wonderful flavor. No, I didn’t add any extracts to help the flavor profile. When it came to the blueberry, the flavor was just not there. That was really disappointing because I love blueberries. The fact that it didn’t work has nothing to do with Sally’s recipe. It’s just that the freeze dried blueberries don’t seem to have enough flavor in them. Just wanted to let people know before you go out and buy those freeze dried blueberries. I bought a bag of freeze dried cinnamon apple slices and pineapple chunks. I’ll be testing those out soon. I’ll come back to let you know how it went. Till then, Happy Baking and Thanks again Sally…

    1. Did your blueberry version end up more of a purple color or blue?

  18. The icing is 5 stars all the way–so delicious!

  19. I made this receipe for my daughters 12th birthday this past weekend. I doubled the recipe and added the leftover puree to the frosting and it DID get very loose(liquidy) but I then used it as a strawberry- cream filling. Everyone LOVED it!!

  20. This was a delicious cake! Moist, light and fluffy with a good strawberry flavor. I substituted strawberry extract for the vanilla. I will say the color of the cake was a tannish-gray and not pink at all. Definitely nothing like the photo in the post. Next time I would add a bit of food coloring as the color didn’t present as very appetizing. Other than that, this cake was fantastic.

    1. So glad you enjoyed it! I use pink food coloring for the cake batter. Not necessary, but definitely brightens up the hue. Thank you!

  21. The cake is delicious, but the frosting is the real star. Together an amazing cake. Didn’t add any food color. Cake was tan, but I didn’t mind the color…it looked more natural. I can’t wait to try this again when my strawberries are ready for harvest.

  22. I made this for my step daughter’s sweet 16. In her words, “IT WAS TO DIE FOR”. Everyone loved it. It has such a natural strawberry flavor. I also did not add any food coloring and it had a nice pale pink hue. I thought it was a beautiful cake all natural!

  23. Could this recipe be converted to a 12 x 17 inch jelly roll /half sheet pan? I would love to make it for large crowd and easily cut into small pieces….as well as have to cake to icing ratio of jelly roll size cake. What modifications might you make? I always tell people that I’ve never made a single recipe off your site that was not totally delicious!! Thanks so much for all your fantastic recipes!

    1. Absolutely! This cake batter, as written, fits nicely into a 12×17 inch pan. Bake until the top springs back and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

  24. The flavor was great – the strawberry reduction was brilliant; however, the baked cake wasn’t pink *at all.* I wasn’t upset about that, but my preschool birthday girl was pretty bummed.

    1. Hi Anne! Sally mentions this in the video and in the post, but adding some red or pink food coloring to the batter really helps to brighten the pink hue! The strawberries aren’t quite enough to give the cake layers a very pink color. Gel food coloring is what I would recommend, as you need a smaller amount (as it’s more concentrated than liquid coloring) and thus won’t alter the batter. Of course, you can use liquid coloring too, just not too much so the consistency of the batter doesn’t change. Hope this helps!

  25. We got given several pounds of strawberries and I didn’t feel like making strawberry shortcake so found this recipe. A keeper! It was light and moist.
    For frosting I used icing sugar, just a bit of butter to bind it, and about a 1/4 cup of leftover strawberry purée as didn’t get to the store. My 16 year old thought it was a delicious combo. I could just eat the cake by itself personally, lovely light strawberry flavour. Will never make the box mix again. Thank you! Now I get to try some of your other recipes…. hmmmmm!!

  26. The texture of mine was very moist. But a bit dense. And I was sure not to overmix dry ingredients. Surprised with the use of egg whites and cake flour.

  27. Hi there! I’m about to make this cake and I was wondering…. can I use frozen strawberries for the puree? Thanks!

    -Carmen

    1. You can use frozen strawberries, but they will take longer to reduce even if you thaw them first.

  28. Can I use frozen strawberries for the recipe

    1. You can use frozen strawberries, but they will take longer to reduce even if you thaw them first.

  29. My cake turned out dry. I baked it just until a toothpick came out clean – which took about 5 minutes extra than the recipe called for. I weighed all the ingredients and they were at room temperature. What did I do wrong?

    The frosting was to die for!!!

  30. Sheree Hutchens says:

    Was wondering if I could use this recipe to make your cake balls? If so what modifications should I make? Can they still be made ahead and frozen?

    1. Hi Sheree! You certainly can. I recommend reducing the strawberry frosting because you need very little when making cake pops. I’m unsure of the exact amount, but let me know what you try. Here is my tutorial for homemade cake pops.

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