Homemade Strawberry Cake
What distinguishes this strawberry cake from others? Reduce the fresh strawberry puree and fold it into the best white cake batter.
This strawberry cake completely surpassed my expectations. My expectations were pretty low after years of mediocre from-scratch strawberry cakes. It was time to put my efforts to the test. The moment of truth came when I bit into the first pastel pink forkful.
I shed happy tears. Or were those real tears shed because I had just ruined every dish with my strawberry cake recipe testing?
Let’s get this party started. Watch as I prepare the recipe below:
Without the crutch of fake strawberry flavoring, I find it difficult to pack real strawberry flavor into cake. My goal was to make a strawberry layer cake entirely out of fresh strawberries. We’re talking about strawberries both inside the cake and in the frosting. I attempted strawberry frosting with the help of freeze-dried strawberries. I’ll get to that later. But what about strawberry cake? In terms of flavor and texture, things have always been lacking.
Strawberry Cake Problems
- Although chopping strawberries and folding them into cake batter works, you’re still eating vanilla cake with strawberry chunks.
- The idea of pureeing strawberries and folding them into cake batter promises, but the texture is always off. There is an excess of liquid. What about adding more flour to compensate for the liquid? Your cake is then too dense. And there’s never enough flavor.
- Strawberry jam might work, but I’d rather start with fresh strawberries.
So, how do we incorporate real strawberry flavor into cake batter without using too much liquid? REDUCTION OF STRAWBERRIES Ding, ding! We’ve got a winner.
How to Pack REAL Strawberry Flavor into Cake
- Pure fresh strawberries.
- Reduce down on the stove.
- Let cool.
- Stir into the 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 your strawberry puree and reduce it on the stove. This is where the magic happens, my friends. As previously stated, you want a lot of concentrated flavor in a small amount of liquid.
Begin with 1 cup of hot pink puree and work your way down to 1/2 cup. It will be very thick and very red after 30 minutes. Instead of the thinner strawberry puree, use this thick and concentrated strawberry flavor in your cake batter.
The cake batter will include the reduced strawberry puree. There’s no need to strain the seeds because they’ll disappear when the cake bakes. Because the reduced strawberry puree needs to cool completely, I recommend starting the day before. Simply store the reduced strawberry puree in the refrigerator overnight before making the cake batter the next day.
Strawberry Cake Batter
My white cake serves as the foundation for the cake batter. This vanilla cake proved to be the best starting point for a strawberry cake. I kept the majority of the recipe the same, but I reduced the number of wet ingredients by 1/2 cup to make room for 1/2 cup of reduced strawberries. It’s light, springy, soft, and fluffy.
The reduced strawberry puree will tint the cake batter a lovely pastel pink, and you can brighten it with a small drop of pink or red food coloring if desired. Of course, this is not required. (I added a small amount.) The cake batter will be velvety and slightly thick.
- There is no artificial strawberry flavor.
- Nothing came from a box.
- Simply strawberries.
The Strawberry Frosting
The fresh strawberry flavor comes through in the baked cake, but it really shines when combined with strawberry frosting. Strawberry frosting, like strawberry cake, has always left me feeling defeated. The problem was with fresh strawberries. Because of the added moisture, the frosting would always curdle. And no amount of fresh strawberries could satisfy my strawberry craving. Instead of using artificial strawberry flavor, I used a technique I learned from Sally’s Candy Addiction: strawberry dust! Grind up some freeze-dried strawberries and mix them into the frosting.
(One of my test recipes included freeze-dried strawberries in the cake batter.) This was a terrible decision and an epic failure. The cake was disgusting. Texture, flavor
Where can I find freeze-dried strawberries? They’re more common than you might think. I always find freeze-dried strawberries in the dried fruit aisle of my local grocery store. They are available at Wegmans, Giant, Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, Amazon, and Target.
I used my silky cream cheese frosting recipe instead of thicker strawberry buttercream. I tossed in the freeze-dried strawberry “dust” and milk and was left with a pink frosting that Barbie would envy!
What are the secrets to making homemade strawberry cake and frosting with real strawberries? (1) strawberry puree reduced in the cake batter and (2) freeze-dried strawberries in the frosting Have a great time baking!
Strawberry Cake From Scratch
The one thing that sets this strawberry cake apart from others? Reduce fresh strawberry puree down and add to the best white cake batter.
- 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.
- Preheat the oven to 350°F (177°C). Grease and lightly flour two 9-inch cake pans.
- 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 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.)
- 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 of 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.
- Instructions for Making Ahead: The cake layers can be baked, cooled, and tightly covered at room temperature overnight. Similarly, the frosting can be made ahead of time, then covered and refrigerated overnight. Allow it to soften for 10 minutes at room temperature before assembling and frosting. Layers of frosted or unfrosted cake can be frozen for up to 2 months-3. Thaw in the refrigerator overnight and bring to room temperature before decorating/serving.
- Cake Flour: I highly recommend using cake flour in this recipe. In the baking aisle, it’s right next to the all-purpose flour. And you use it frequently in my
- If whole milk is unavailable, buttermilk can be substituted. I do not advocate for low-fat milk.
- Where Can I Find Freeze-Dried Strawberries? I always find them in the dried fruit aisle of my local grocery store. They are available at Wegmans, Giant, Trader Joe’s, and Target. Keep an eye out for them- they’re more common than you think! Use the chewy/gummy dried strawberries instead. You’ll need FREEZE-DRIED strawberries that have been ground into a powder. If you can’t find them, simply leave them out of the frosting and add an additional 1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar.
- Puree 1 pound rinsed and hulled strawberries to make reduced strawberry puree. You should have slightly more than 1 cup. Simmer the puree, stirring occasionally, over low-medium heat until you have 1/2 cup or slightly more than 1/2 cup. This takes at least 25-35 minutes, but it may take longer depending on the size of your pan and how juicy your strawberries were. * There is no sugar or anything else added to the puree or reduced puree; it is simply pure strawberries. I always make the reduced puree the day before so it can cool completely. I wrap it in plastic wrap and place it in the refrigerator overnight. In the cake, use 1/2 cup. Allow cooling completely before incorporating it into the cake batter. When adding to the mix, make sure it’s at room temperature.
- 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.
- 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.
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