Best Homemade Strawberry Cake

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This homemade strawberry cake recipe truly stands out from the average strawberry cake thanks to its fresh flavor and bright pink color. Rather than relying on artificial flavors or frozen berries that release water, this recipe uses fresh local strawberries that have been cooked into a delicious sweet glaze. The glaze is then swirled into the cake batter and used to soak the layers, resulting in supreme moisture and real berry taste in every bite.

Most strawberry cakes are made using a box cake mix and strawberry Jell-O to create flavor. The texture of box mixes tends to be too dense and the flavor from Jell-O is too artificial. Other recipes try masking canned strawberries with heavy frosting.

Our gourmet strawberry cake recipe avoids shortcuts for flavor that is as vibrant as its pink color. Here’s what sets it apart:

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Fresh Strawberry Puree

  • Starts with 1 pound of ripe, red strawberries
  • Berries are washed, hulled, sliced and simmered into a sweet glaze
  • Intensifies moisture, flavor and color

Bright Pink Cake Layers

  • Fresh strawberry puree swirled into fluffy white cake batter
  • Subtle fruit flavor in each tender, delicate crumb
  • Food coloring unnecessary but can enhance the pink hue

Sweet Strawberry Syrup

  • Remaining fresh berry glaze poured over cake as syrup
  • Soaks into layers to keep them extra moist
  • Heightens fresh strawberry taste in the finished cake

While it requires more effort upfront to prepare the strawberry puree, the work is well worth the wait when you bite into the tender layers swirling with fruit flavor as sweet as summer.

Strawberry Cake Ingredients

While this recipe has more steps than a typical cake, don’t let that intimidate you! The ingredients are simple ones you likely have on hand.

Cake:

  • 1 pound fresh strawberries
  • 1 1⁄2 cups (12 oz.) unsalted butter, softened
  • 3 cups granulated sugar
  • 6 large egg whites
  • 1 cup milk
  • 3 1⁄2 cups (14 oz.) cake flour
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon salt

Glaze:

  • Strawberry puree (reserved from the 1 pound of berries)
  • 1⁄4 cup strawberry juice
  • 1 cup powdered sugar

You’ll also need:

  • Vanilla extract
  • Almond extract (optional)
  • Pink food coloring (optional)
  • Lemon juice

Key Ingredients:

  • Strawberries: This recipe works best with fresh, ripe strawberries at the peak of summer season. The variety of berry makes a difference, with sweeter types like California-grown strawberries being ideal. However, even when out of season, frozen strawberries still pack great flavor. Thaw them completely and drain off excess liquid before using.
  • Butter & Eggs: Always use unsalted butter so you control the sweetness. Let it soften before creaming. Egg whites give the tender crumb; save yolks for another use.
  • Cake Flour: Lower protein than all-purpose flour makes it perfect for cakes. The soft wheat prevents gluten development and denseness.
  • Baking Powder & Salt: Leavening agent gives lift while salt enhances overall flavor.

The simple combination of quality ingredients above separates this as the best homemade strawberry cake you’ll ever make!

Make the Strawberry Puree

The key component setting this apart from an average strawberry cake is the homemade strawberry puree. Making your own allows you to control the freshness and flavor quality compared to store-bought strawberry pie filling.

Here are step-by-step instructions for making strawberry puree:

  1. Rinse and pat dry 1 pound of fresh strawberries. Remove the green tops and slice the berries. Work over a bowl to collect excess juice too.
  2. Transfer the sliced strawberries and 2 tablespoons of juice to a saucepan. Add 1⁄2 cup sugar, 2 teaspoons lemon juice and a pinch of salt.
  3. Heat the strawberry mixture over medium, stirring frequently, until the berries soften and release more red juice. Bring to a gentle simmer and cook for 10-15 minutes.
  4. Mash the softened berries lightly with a potato masher or fork. For a smoother puree, use an immersion blender right in the saucepan.
  5. Continue simmering uncovered for 15-25 minutes until reduced by half into a thick, spreadable glaze-like sauce.
  6. Remove pan from heat and set aside to cool the strawberry puree completely before use in the cake batter.

This yields about 1 cup of concentrated fresh strawberry puree. A portion gets folded into the batter, another added for syrup, and the rest swirled into the frosting if desired.

The sauce consistency should coat the back of a spoon similar to jam. If it seems too thin, keep reducing over low heat. If it gets too thick, stir in drops of reserved strawberry juice until reaching the right spreadable texture.

Let the homemade strawberry puree cool completely before drizzling over cake layers or incorporating into buttercream. The flavor intensifies after several hours in the fridge too.

Prepare the Cake Batter

Baking the perfect sponge cake layers sets the foundation for strawberry cake success. Follow these steps:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease two 8-inch cake pans with butter and line the bottoms with parchment.
  2. In a mixer bowl, beat 1 1⁄2 cups room temperature butter on high speed for 2 minutes until creamy. Gradually beat in 3 cups sugar until light and fluffy.
  3. On low speed, mix in 2 teaspoons vanilla and 1 teaspoon almond extract if desired. Scrape down the sides as needed.
  4. With mixer on low, add 6 large egg whites one at a time, fully incorporating after each addition. Stop and scrape down the sides.
  5. In another bowl, whisk together 3 1⁄2 cups cake flour, 4 teaspoons baking powder and 1⁄2 teaspoon salt.
  6. On low mixer speed, alternate adding the dry ingredients in 3 additions and 1 cup whole milk in 2 additions – beginning and ending with dry ingredients.
  7. Remove bowl from stand mixer. Gently fold in 1⁄2 cup cooled strawberry puree until just swirled throughout bright white batter.
  8. Evenly divide batter between the prepared cake pans. Bake for 25-30 minutes until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.
  9. Allow cakes to cool in pans for 10 minutes before inverting onto a wire rack. Cool completely before filling and frosting.

The key for fluffy cake layers is creaming the butter properly and not overmixing once adding the dry ingredients and milk. Gently folding the puree leaves streaks of fruit.

Make Strawberry Frosting or Glaze

What sets this strawberry cake over the top is the strawberry syrup soaking into the cake layers and sweet strawberry frosting binding them together into a showstopping dessert. You have a few tasty options for finishing this cake with strawberry flair:

Strawberry Whipped Cream Frosting

  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1⁄3 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1⁄2 cup strawberry puree
  • Whisk ingredients until stiff peaks form then frost cake layers

Cream Cheese Strawberry Frosting

  • Beat together 1 (8oz.) block softened cream cheese and 1⁄2 cup butter
  • Gradually beat in 4 cups powdered sugar
  • Mix in 1⁄4 cup strawberry puree and 1 tsp vanilla
  • Frost cake after chilling for at least 2 hours

Sweet Strawberry Glaze

  • Whisk together 1 1⁄2 cups powdered sugar and 3 tablespoons strawberry juice until smooth
  • Thin with extra juice as needed for thick but pourable glaze
  • Pour evenly over top of cake letting it drip down sides

Consider mixing 1 cup frosting or glaze with half of the remaining strawberry puree for extra fruit flavor if desired. The glaze soaks into the cake while frosting sticks between layers.

Choosing frosting over glaze makes the exterior cake coating opaque pink instead of revealing the crumb. Either homemade strawberry topping complements the tender berry-flecked vanilla cake perfectly.

Once your tender strawberry cake layers have baked and cooled completely, it’s time to assemble them into a luscious layered dessert.

  1. For a flatter cake, use a serrated knife to level off rounded or uneven tops from each cake layer. Slice each round horizontally in half to make 4 thin layers total.
  2. Set aside the cake layer with the smoothest, flattest top to be your top layer. Place the bottom layer cut-side up on your serving platter or cake stand.
  3. Use a pastry brush to soak the first layer all over with 1⁄2 cup of the reserved strawberry glaze. Let it fully soak in before adding more.
  4. Evenly spread frosting or glaze over the moistened layer using an offset spatula or knife. Add 1-2 tbsp strawberry puree over the frosting for extra moisture and flavor.
  5. Repeat this glazing, frosting, and pureeing process working in order from bottom layer to top. Stack each round directly over the previous filling layer.
  6. Apply a very thin “crumb coat” of frosting all over the final stacked cake to seal in any crumbs. Chill for 30 minutes.
  7. Add your finishing layer of fluffy strawberry frosting, glaze, or fresh berries right before serving. Garnish the cake edges with sliced berries too if you wish.

The finished layered strawberry cake should be a showstopper dessert with bright pink cream swirling with red fruit juice between moist tiers of vanilla-scented cake. Your homemade cake will impress any guest while delivering on fresh flavor better than a bakery could!

Strawberry Cake Tips

Follow these handy tips for strawberry cake success:

Use Fresh Berries When Possible

Strawberry season lasts from March through September depending on your region. Locally-grown ripe berries heighten the flavor quality and color vibrancy. California and Florida grow the sweetest strawberries.

Frozen Berries Work Too

Out of season, frozen strawberries make a fine substitute. Thaw completely before using as they release more liquid once defrosted. Drain excess juices off before pureeing.

Avoid Artificial Strawberry Flavor

Pass on cake mixes that rely on strawberry Jell-O powder or jams full of high fructose corn syrup for flavor. Homemade puree made with minimally processed berries ensures the best fresh taste.

Boost the Vibrant Pink Color

The natural anthocyanins that give strawberries their red color often bake out to gray. While not affecting flavor, a drop of pink or red food coloring solution will maintain a brightly-hued cake if desired.

Refrigerate Any Leftovers

With all the fresh fruit baked into this tender crumb, leftovers should be well sealed in the refrigerator to enjoy for several days after. The berry glaze and frostings pair well with yellow, white or chocolate cakes too!

Adhering to the recipe guidelines will reward you with the new favorite cake that outshines grocery or bakery versions. Be sure to enjoy strawberry cake the day of baking for the perfect tender texture and balance of flavors at their peak.

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