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Finding a really good yet easy strawberry cake recipe is not as simple as you might believe. Strawberry is a fan favorite for summer, but infusing that tangy, sweet berry flavor into a cake proved a bit challenging.
I love a good cake mix hack, so when I started researching and trying out strawberry cake recipes, I started there. To be honest, it wasn’t good. In fact, it was pretty awful. I tried the strawberry box cake mix as well as taking a really good vanilla cake mix and adding in strawberries. They were both absolutely terrible.
So I’m going to give you my honest opinion on this. If you want a good strawberry cake, you need to make it from scratch. You also want to cook the strawberries down to a jam like substance, only with less moisture.
Strawberry cake frosted with strawberry frosting and decorated with strawberry bits left behind after pulverizing our secret ingredient.
Time for some tough love. While today’s cake is billed an easy strawberry cake, getting strawberry flavor into the cake part of this is pretty tough.
- Adding cut fruit to cake batter is a sure fired method for disappointment. You’ll wind up with soggy cake full of globs of unflavorful chunks that used to be strawberries.
- If you think running the raw fruit through the food processor first and then pouring that mess into the cake batter is going to be any better, let me stop you right there. You’ll wind up with a cake that won’t bake. Remember that in baking the ratios of wet to dry ingredients is critical, so dumping a pureed mess into a batter only adds water which is going to totally throw off the wet to dry proportions.
Ok, ok, ok….so if the raw fruit isn’t going to work, what do we do? We cook the fruit, of course!
To prep the strawberry component of the cake, we cut the berries into smallish pieces and put them in a heavy sauce pan, cover them in sugar and cook them down.
Bring them to a light boil and allow the water to cook off. When the berries start breaking down, use a potato masher to break them into little bits. Don’t cook on high heat, because they will burn. A medium low heat, cooking low and slow is the best way to craft your strawberry paste.
Mixing the Strawberry Cake Batter
This cake is essentially a vanilla cake with the strawberry paste we made in the last step. It imparts a lovely flavor and it colors the batter a pretty pink. You don’t even need to use food coloring to get that pretty shade.
A couple of words on ingredients:
- As a fan of the Great British Bake Off, I switched to using what they call Castor sugar in just about all of my baking. In American terms, it’s the same thing as Super Fine sugar. It’s a finer grain than standard granulated sugar. It essentially dissolves easily into the wet ingredients and creates a smoother, better mixed batter. The only issue I’ve had using it is that it tends to clump over time as it sits in the storage container. So I sift all my castor sugar before mixing it into the batter or dough. Then it’s totally smooth. I bake using weight, in this case grams, so measurements are unaffected by whether I sift before or after measurement. If you use volume, or cups, then sift first and measure from the smooth sugar.
- Use the best quality of eggs you can get your hands on. Baking is special and so your ingredients should be the best you can afford. Always take your eggs out ahead of time so they are room temperature when you use them.
Let’s show some love for small cakes.
I have a small family and find that dessert recipes are generally written for a platoon of people. Or a family with a couple of teenagers. I don’t have either, so I often size my cake recipes down. I developed today’s strawberry cake for 2 6″ cakes.
I love 6″ cakes! The pans are from Wilton and easy to find in a craft store on the cake aisle or on amazon. Today’s recipe uses two 6″ pans. If I bake a full sized cake recipe, then 3 6″ pans work wonderfully. A 3 layer cake looks impressive, and is perfect for a special party or celebration.
The icing on the cake
A strawberry cake would not be complete without a rich Strawberry Frosting.
- Make this strawberry frosting similar to my raspberry buttercream frosting using a nearly identical secret ingredient: freeze dried strawberries. They are a power house of flavor, and adding them to the powdered sugar as another dry ingredient in the frosting gives both a beautiful color and fantastic flavor. I pick up mine in Trader Joe’s but if you don’t have one nearby I can share a link to them for you.
- The frosting is a mix of cream cheese and butter. The cream cheese provides a tang that cuts the sweetness of the powdered sugar and complements the strawberries.
- Preparing the freeze dried strawberries is a two step process. First, pulverize them in the food processor into a dust. The sift the dust to separate the strawberries from the seeds. This yields a smoother frosting. Save those chunky bits left in the sieve to sprinkle on top of the cake as a pretty garnish.
Tips for decorating the cake:
- The pink frosting is perfectly lovely on its own, but a pretty garnish makes an enchanting and finished presentation. It’s always a good practice to use something in the recipe itself as the garnish, and in this case a sliced strawberry with the sprinkled chunky leftovers from the pulverized dried fruit looks appealing. Instead of sprinkles, the pink powdered strawberries look amazing, so don’t throw out the leftovers.
- Fresh flowers and cake go together. But you must careful about using flowers. Commerical flowers are treated with fungicides and herbicides, and must not come into contact with food. I shudder seeing people using grocery store roses, the most toxic cut flower available. Sad but true. So you either need a barrier between the flowers and the cake, or you need organic flowers. I grow several varieties of herbs and flowers in my garden, so these sweet petunias were perfect as a final decoration.
- Incorporate a rustic touch to your frosting technique. The precision and smoothness of cakes I see on instagram blow me away. The workmanship is incredible, and completely impractical. Enjoy baking your cakes and relish in simpler decorations. Focus on flavor and texture instead of perfection. People will love your pretty cake topped with flowers and herbs fresh from you own garden.
Strawberry cake and frosting flavored with real strawberries.
For the Cake:
- 1 and 1/2 cups (190g) all purpose flour
- 1 and 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 stick, 1/2 cup, (115g) unsalted butter
- 1 and 1/4 (230g) super fine sugar
- 2 whole eggs
- 1/4 cup (50g) sour cream
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1/3 cup (80g) whole milk
- 1/4 cup reduced strawberry sauce
For the Frosting:
- 1 cup (10g) freeze dried strawberries
- 4 ounces or 1/2 block cream cheese
- 1/2 cup, 1 stick, (115g) unsalted butter
- 3 cups (360g) powdered sugar
- 1–2 tablespoons milk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- Pinch of salt
For the Strawberry Sauce:
- 1 pint of strawberries
- 1 cup granulated sugar or enough to cover the sliced strawberries in the saucepan
- Juice of half a lemon
Make the Strawberry Sauce:
- Core and slice the strawberries and place in medium sized, heavy sauce pan. Cover completely with granulated sugar.
- Put heat on medium low and allow strawberries to bubble as they heat.
- As the strawberries break down over the heat, use a manual potato masher to break down the strawberries and mix thoroughly with the sugar. As strawberries cook down, add the lemon juice.
- Simmer the strawberries down for about 20 minutes.
- Once thoroughly cooked down, allow the strawberries to cool down and then press the strawberries through a sieve. This separates the remaining liquid from the whole strawberry pieces. Use the solids in the cake recipe. Reserve the liquid for an ice cream topping or use with your breakfast yogurt or oatmeal.
Make the Cakes:
- Preheat over to 350°F (177°C). Prepare cake pans with butter, flour and parchment.
- Whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt together. Set aside.
- Using a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter and sugar together until smooth, about 2 minutes. Sugar will be dissolved completely into the butter. While creaming, add the vanilla.
- Scrape down the sides of bowl and add the eggs one at a time beating until completely incorporated.
- On medium low speed, add the sour cream and mix until incorporated.
- For the last ingredient additions, add the flour in 1/3 increments alternating with milk, with mixer on low. Mix only until ingredients are incorporated. Do not over mix.
- Fold in the strawberry sauce until completely incorporated. Add a drop or two of food coloring if desired.
- Pour batter evenly between the two prepared 6″ cake pans. Bake the cakes on the middle rack of the oven for 22-27 minutes. When a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, cakes are done. Allow cakes to cook on a wire rack.
- When cakes are cooled, use a cake leveler to even the cakes and remove domes so cakes are flat and even.
Make the Frosting:
- Using a food processor, pulverize the freeze dried strawberries. Once completely pulverized, run the powder through the sieve to separate strawberries from the seeds. Use the powder the in the frosting and reserve the seeds for decoration on the top of the cake if desired.
- Cream room temperature frosting and butter together in mixer using the paddle attachment. Add the vanilla during the creaming process.
- Add sifted powdered sugar and strawberry powder in two additions until the dry ingredients are incorporated. About 2 minutes. Add milk only to thin frosting to spreadable consistency.
Assemble and Decorate the Cake:
- Level cakes with a cake leveler.
- Place first layer on a plate and cover the top with frosting. Place the second layer on top and finish frost. Crumb coat if desired before finishing the final decoration.
- Once frosted garnish as desired. I sprinkled the strawberry seeds over the top and added a couple of flowers picked from my garden.
- Any leftover cake should be kept in an airtight container and refrigerated.
- Please see my complete instructions for decorating a layer cake if you desire more information on assembly and decoration.
OK, so this is a lot of steps. Believe me, I know. So do what I do which is split up the work. Bake the cakes, make the sauce and make the strawberry powder on one day. Then make the frosting and do the decorations and serving the next day. We see people cranking out layer cakes like it’s nothing on Instagram, and it minimizes the time and effort that go into making the complete cake. Split your work up to make it easier for you to do. I have complete instructions of making and decorating layer cakes for home bakers.
I always pick up my freeze dried strawberries and raspberries when I’m in Trader Joe. Which is not often anymore, but they last well in pantry storage. If you can’t get to a shop to find them, they are available here.
Other cake options:
- Make cupcakes by filling your wrappers about 2/3s full and bake for about 20 minutes.
- Frosting: Cream cheese frosting is on the looser side so it doesn’t pipe well. It simply won’t hold it’s shape well enough to justify piping decorative frosting. So if you want to pipe frosting, as you would do with cupcakes, use my Raspberry buttercream frosting and sub in the dried strawberries.
- If you want a 9×13 cake or full sized 9″ layers, double the recipe.
Adapted from Sally’s Baking Addiction. I love Sally!
Keywords: Easy Strawberry Cake