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.

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

  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—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!

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!

Homemade Strawberry Cake

Recipe by LailaCourse: Cakes
Servings

10-12

servings
Prep time

1

minute
Cooking time

25

minutes
Calories

300

kcal

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

Ingredients

  • Strawberry Puree
  • 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 buttersoftened 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 C

  • 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 buttersoftened to room temperature

  • 3 cups (360g) confectioners’ sugar

  • 1–2 Tablespoons milk

  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

  • salt, to taste

Instructions

  • 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 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 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.

Notes

  • 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.

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about the author:
Author Name
Sally McKenney is a professional food photographer, cookbook author, and baker. Her kitchen-tested recipes and thorough step-by-step tutorials give readers the knowledge and confidence to bake from scratch. Sally has been featured on Good Morning America, HuffPost, Taste of Home, People and more.
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