This homemade strawberry cake has layers of tender, bright pink cake and creamy strawberry frosting. Both the cake batter and the buttercream are infused with strawberry puree – making this cake absolutely beautiful and bursting with fresh strawberry flavor.
The Perfect Strawberry Layer Cake
This fresh strawberry cake is truly stunning. It stands tall with layers of moist and tender cake and swirls of creamy strawberry buttercream. I’ve seen lots of strawberry cake recipes made with cake mix and/or strawberry gelatin – but this recipe is 100% from scratch and made with real berries for a delicious strawberry flavor. It takes a bit more time than simply dying cake batter and icing with pink food coloring, but the delicious strawberry flavor is so worth it.
The cake itself is adapted from my favorite white cake recipe (white cake is a variation on vanilla cake, made with just egg whites). It’s tender and moist with a soft cake crumb. Then the strawberry flavor comes from adding strawberry puree to the batter. We’re using reduced strawberry puree in the batter to infuse the cake with strawberry flavor.
Then the strawberry buttercream is creamy, fluffy and tastes like fresh berries in sweet frosting form. It’s an American style buttercream infused with the same strawberry puree used in the cake batter.
Making the Strawberry Puree
Making the strawberry puree is by far the most tedious and time consuming part of this recipe. It’s not difficult, it just takes time. You’ll make a BIG batch of puree for this strawberry layer cake – it’s used for both the cake and the frosting.
- First you’ll core the strawberries to remove the centers, then process them in a food processor or blender until smooth. We’re using 2 lb of strawberries in total for the cake and frosting.
- Pour the puree through a metal sifter a little at a time. Press the puree through the sifter using a metal spoon to remove the seeds. At this point, you’ll have about 3 cups of puree.
- Then in a very large saucepan over low heat, boil down the puree to remove the excess liquid. You’ll gently stir the mixture as it boils and thickens. When it’s done, you should have about ¾ – 1 cup of thickened strawberry puree. It should be thick like jam and be a deep red color compared to the thin redish-pink puree you started with. This can take about 40 minutes. You can see what mine looked like below.
Removing the seeds is optional, but I typically do. I definitely prefer the texture of the cake and frosting without seeds – but it will save you some time to skip this step.
Important: Boiling down the puree until it’s thick and deep red is absolutely necessary. This step concentrates the strawberry flavor and removes excess liquid. If strawberry puree is added to the cake batter and frosting without being boiled down first, your cake will be lacking in strawberry flavor and the frosting will be watery and can separate.
Making & Assembling the Cake
After you’ve boiled down the strawberry puree – this recipe is very similar to most vanilla cake or layer cake recipes. You’ll make the cake batter first, then divide it evenly between two 8-inch round cake pans and pop them in the oven to bake. I’ve included other pan dimensions in the recipe notes below.
Then after the cake layers are done baking, you’ll make the frosting and assemble the cake. I typically make the puree and cake the day before I plan to serve it. Store the rest of the puree (that you’ll use for the frosting) in the fridge overnight, then make the frosting and assemble the cake the next day.
- Boiling down the strawberry puree is absolutely mandatory. Don’t skip this step.
- Using frozen berries is fine, but it will take longer for the puree to boil down because there’s more liquid.
- The butter, eggs, sour cream and milk should all be room temperature before getting started on the cake batter. Take them out of the fridge about 30 minutes before.
- If your cake layers are domed at the top, use a serrated knife to gently saw off the rounded top of each cake. Wait until the cakes are completely cooled before doing this.
- The puree should be room temperature before adding it to the frosting. If it’s a little cold, that’s ok, but it definitely shouldn’t be warm.
- The cake must be entirely cooled before frosting. Otherwise, the buttercream will melt.
- If you want to save a bit of time and a bit of money – make a half batch of strawberry puree. Use the reduced strawberry puree in the cake batter, and substitute the puree in the frosting with seedless raspberry preserves. I don’t recommend using preserves in the cake batter however.
- For more tips on making strawberry frosting – see my detailed post on how to make the perfect strawberry buttercream.
If you love this strawberry layer cake, be sure to try:
- Strawberry Cupcakes
- Strawberries and Cream Cake – this is a vanilla cake with pieces of strawberries in the batter and whipped cream and berries on top
- Strawberry Ice Cream Cake
- Strawberry Cheesecake
- Two 8-inch round cake pans (with high sides)*
Strawberry Puree - Makes Enough for the Cake and Frosting
- 2 lbs strawberries* (900 grams)
- 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour (312.5 grams)
- 1 ½ teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¾ cup unsalted butter (168 grams) softened to room temperature
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil (15 ml) or canola
- 1 ½ cups granulated sugar (300 grams)
- 5 large egg whites discard the yolks
- 3 tablespoons sour cream (45 ml)
- ¾ cup whole milk (180 ml)
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice (15 ml) freshly squeezed
- ½ cup reduced strawberry puree (120 ml - mine weighed a little over 100 grams) room temperature
- 2-4 drops red food coloring optional
- 1 ½ cups unsalted butter (340 grams) softened - but still slightly firm to the touch
- 4-6 cups powdered sugar (440 - 660 grams)
- 4-5 tablespoons reduced strawberry puree (60-75 ml) room temperature
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- a few drops red food coloring optional
- 1-2 tablespoons whipping cream (15-30 ml) as needed
Reduced Strawberry Puree
- Wash the strawberries and core the berries.
- Pulse in a food processor or blender until smooth.
- To remove the seeds pour the puree through a metal sifter, pushing it through with the back of a spoon. Do this a little at a time. This step is optional, but I prefer the cake and frosting texture without seeds.
- Add the puree to a large saucepan over low-medium heat.
- Bring to a gentle boil while stirring. The mixture will boil gently as it thickens. This will go slowly at first and then start to go more quickly.
- Once the mixture is thick like jam and dark red, remove from the heat. It will need to boil for likely 30-45 minutes. You should have less than 1 cup of thickened puree. Mine was about ¾ cup and very dark red. Cool fully at room temperature.*
- Preheat the oven to 350F (160C) degrees.
- Line the bottom of two 8-inch cake pans with rounds of parchment paper. Grease and flour the sides.
- In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Give the bowl a whisk.
- In a separate large bowl, beat the butter and sugar until fluffy (about 1-2 minutes). Beat in the oil.
- Beat in the egg whites 1 at a time, turning off the mixer and scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Mix in the sour cream.
- In a large measuring cup or medium bowl, whisk together the milk, lemon juice, reduced strawberry puree and optional food coloring.
- With the mixer on low speed, beat about ⅓ of the flour mixture into the butter mixture. Then mix in about ⅓ of the milk and strawberry mixture. Turn off the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl. Repeat the process until all the flour mixture and milk mixture are incorporated. Do not over mix the batter.
- Divide the batter evenly between the 2 pans and smooth the top.
- Bake in the preheated oven for 30-35 minutes, or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean or with a few cake crumbs.
- Cool the cakes completely in the pan, then gently inserted onto a wire rack.
- In a very large bowl, beat the butter until smooth and fluffy.
- Starting with the mixer on low speed, mix in 2 cups powdered sugar.
- Mix in the salt and 2 tablespoons of reduced strawberry puree (it should be room temperature).
- Beat in the rest of the powdered sugar about 1 cup at a time, alternating with 1 tablespoon of reduced strawberry puree until the desired sweetness and thickness is reached. You can beat in a few drops of red food coloring if you'd like a brighter pink color.
- Optionally, beat in 1 - 2 tablespoons of whipping cream if you feel your frosting is a little thick.
Assembling the Cake
- Once the cake layers are completely cooled, use a serrated knife or cake leveller to gently saw off the domed top of each cake layer.
- Place one layer top side down on the plate or cake stand that you plan to serve it on.
- Frost the top of the layer with about ⅓ of the frosting.
- Place the second cake layer on top, top side down.
- Frost the sides with about ⅓ of the frosting. If you notice that the cake crumbs are lifting up and getting into the frosting - frost the sides with a very thin layer of frosting and place in the fridge for 30 minutes. Then frost the sides again with a thicker layer of frosting.
- Frost the top of the cake with the remaining frosting, swirling as you go.
- Cake Pan Sizes: Cake can be made in two 9-inch round cake pans. The bake time will be around 25 minutes. The recipe can also be made in a 9x13 inch pan. Grease and flour the bottom and sides of the pan. The bake time will be around 40 minutes. If using a 9x13 inch pan, divide the frosting recipe in half. Therefore, you'll only need 1 ½ lbs of strawberries to make the reduced puree.
- If you'd like to save a bit of time and money, you can use 1 lb of strawberries to make the strawberry puree. Use the reduced puree in the cake batter. Then use 4-5 tablespoons of strawberry preserves in the frosting, instead of reduced strawberry puree.
- The butter, sour cream, milk and eggs should be room temperature before making the cake batter. Take them out of the fridge about 30 minutes before making the cake batter.
- The reduced strawberry puree should be room temperature before adding it to the cake batter and frosting. If you've made it in advance and stored in the fridge, take it out of the fridge about 60 minutes before making the cake batter. If it's still warm, ensure that it's cooled to room temperature. This is especially important for the frosting.
- Make Ahead Tips:
- The reduced strawberry puree can be made up to 3 days in advance. Cool fully, then store in the fridge in an airtight container. Remove from the fridge and bring to room temperature before making the cake batter.
- Cake layers can be made 1 day before serving. Cool fully, then wrap each layer individually and store in an airtight container at room temperature.
- Unfrosted cake layers can be wrapped tightly (individually), placed in a freezer container and frozen for up to 2 months. Thaw in the fridge.
- Frost the cake the day you plan to serve it.
- Storage: Store frosted cake covered at room temperature for up to 8 hours. Store leftovers covered in the fridge. Remove from the fridge about 30 minutes before serving to let the cake come to room temperature.