Fresh Strawberry Cake with strawberry cream cheese frosting is here to give us a reason to celebrate each and every day. It’s made exclusively from real strawberries (no mixes, gelatin, or artificial food coloring required) and is one of my most treasured dessert recipes.
To date, I’ve used this same fresh strawberry cake recipe to make cakes for all kinds of special life events, ranging from bachelorette parties to my niece’s birthday party to my own wedding anniversary.
It’s also an ideal recipe to make on any given day when you feel like celebrating life. Homemade cake has a way of turning even the most routine evening into a joyful mini-event. (There’s cake? It might not have felt like a party before, but it sure does now!)
Instead of making a strawberry cake recipe using cake mix, this homemade strawberry cake is fresh, moist, and its flavor and color come entirely from real strawberries. It’s more beautiful than a box mix recipe, and it’s also incomparably more delicious. Make this strawberry cake from scratch; I promise you won’t regret it.
I adore this cake. It is sublime, and every time I eat it, I can’t help but close my eyes, take a moment to appreciate its idyllic fluffy, buttery texture and pure strawberry flavor, and think to myself, this is love.
A Fresh Strawberry Cake Fit for Heaven
If you told me that in heaven instead of growing fruit, the strawberry bushes sprout fresh strawberry cake, I would believe you. It is divine.
For as much as I love dessert—and thus cake appears in my personal renditions of heaven—I am excruciatingly picky about cake in particular, more so than any other type of dessert.
To be truly fantastic, a cake must be:
- Moist. Yes, I am using the “m” word. Nothing disappoints quite like a dry cake.
- The Right Kind of Sturdy. While I want my cake to be tender, it also needs to hold up to to my fork. My ideal cake has some substance, but it is still light and airy enough to melt on your tongue.
- Frosted. Cream cheese frosted, specifically. For this strawberry cake, I made an easy fresh strawberry cream cheese frosting. It will take all of your willpower not to sit on your counter with the bowl on your lap and quietly, quickly eat it all with a spoon. (Do sneak a few bites though; you’ll be glad.)
- From Scratch. If I am going to eat cake, I want it to be The Real Deal. It’s why I made this fresh strawberry cake with only fresh strawberries, no food coloring (were you expecting a hot pink crumb? You’ll have to add gelatin or use an artificially colored mix), and ditched the box.
- As Low Maintenance as Possible. Let’s be honest; cake is kind of a pain and everyone knows it. The effort that goes into a from-scratch cake like this one is part of what makes it special and why whoever is lucky enough to have a slice will appreciate you for making it. AT THE SAME TIME, I never ever want to make a recipe more difficult than it needs to be, including homemade strawberry cake. This recipe does take some time, but it is highly doable.
My Tips to Bake the Best Fresh Strawberry Cake
A few simple steps make this strawberry cake taste like it came from a bakery.
- Use Fresh OR Frozen Strawberries. Both yield great results, so pick whichever option gives you the best-quality berry. In the spring and summer, I go for fresh strawberries since they are in season. In the winter, I find I get better (and less expensive) results using frozen berries. If using frozen, thaw the strawberries completely first.
- Measure Your Strawberry Puree. I’ve suggested an approximate amount of whole berries you’ll need to yield the strawberry puree called for in this recipe, but be sure to double check before adding it to the batter.
- Don’t Skip the Egg Whites. How do you make a fluffy cake? This recipe calls for one whole egg and two egg whites. The egg whites help the cake rise and make it light and fluffy, while the yolk from the whole egg adds richness.
- Alternate the Dry and Wet Ingredients. Critical to ensuring the best-ever texture.
- Don’t Overbeat the Batter. As soon as the flour disappears, the cake is ready to bake.
How to Make Strawberry Cake at Home
Part of what makes this strawberry cake special are the simple ingredients and ideal texture. Each ingredient plays an important role.
This from-scratch strawberry cake includes only the steps that are absolutely necessary to yield the delicious results that will make you proud of your own baking prowess (like alternating between adding the dry and wet ingredients) and skips the ones that aren’t (no separate egg-white whipping, thank goodness).
- Strawberries. The shining star of this homemade cake recipe. Strawberries make the cake moist, flavorful, and a beautiful pink color. You can use fresh strawberries or frozen and thawed strawberries. I’ve also made this recipe with raspberries with excellent results.
- Flour + Whole Milk. All-purpose flour helps give the cake structure and milk provides moisture. As I mentioned above, this cake has the perfect sturdy yet soft texture. Use whole milk for the best results. Even if you don’t buy it regularly, go ahead and spring for a small carton. I promise it is worth it.
- Vanilla Extract. Vanilla + strawberries = heaven.
- Butter. To give the cake the body and texture it needs. Also, FLAVOR. Butter is delicious.
- Sugar. For both sweetness and for texture. I do not recommend any substitutions for the sugar.
- Egg + Egg Whites. For volume, texture, and moisture.
- Strawberry Cream Cheese Frosting. To create the ultimate strawberry cream cheese frosting, I combined butter, reduced-fat cream cheese, powdered sugar, more fresh strawberry puree, salt, and vanilla extract.
- How Do You Thicken Cream Cheese Frosting? If you like your cream cheese frosting to be extra thick, gradually beat in additional powdered sugar until your desired stiffness and sweetness is reached.
- Line a 9-inch cake pan with parchment paper and coat with nonstick spray.
- Puree the strawberries. Set aside a portion for the cake and for the strawberry cream cheese frosting.
- Whisk together the dry ingredients. In another bowl, whisk the wet ingredients.
- In a stand mixer, cream the butter until fluffy, then add the sugar and cream again. Stop the mixer and add the egg whites, then beat until incorporated. Add the whole egg, mixing until combined.
- Time to alternate! Slowly add half of the dry ingredients, then the wet ingredients, then the remaining dry ingredients. Stop mixing as soon as the flour disappears.
- Pour the batter into the cake pan, smoothing the top. Bake at 350 degrees F for about 30 to 35 minutes. Let it cool completely.
- Prepare the frosting: Using a stand mixer, beat the butter, cream cheese, and strawberry puree, then slowly beat in the powdered sugar. Increase the speed, and beat until smooth. Don’t overbeat it!
- To frost serve: Place the cake on a serving plate. Spread the frosting generously all over the cake, and garnish with fresh strawberries.
- Refrigerate until you’re ready to serve. When you want to serve it, let it sit at room temperature for at least 15 minutes (you can taste flavors more fully if the cake isn’t ice cold). ENJOY!
Bake This Recipe as a Strawberry Layer Cake (or a Sheet Cake or Cupcakes!)
As written, this recipe will yield a single 9-inch round layer or a 2-layer mini 6-inch cake. Because the cake is rich and buttery (and because I don’t always feel like fussing with cake layers), I bake it as a single layer most often.
That said, if you’d like to bake a fresh strawberry layer cake (or even strawberry cupcakes or a strawberry sheet cake) you can absolutely use this recipe! Here’s how:
- To Make a 2-Layer Strawberry Cake: Double the cake and frosting recipe.
- To Make a Mini 2-Layer Cake (6 inches): Bake as directed, dividing the batter between two 6-inch cake pans like these. Increase the frosting recipe by 1.5 (or double it if you like a large amount of frosting).
- To Make a 3-Layer Strawberry Cake: Triple the cake recipe; increase the frosting recipe by 2.5 (or triple it if you like a large amount of frosting and want to be sure to have enough).
- To Make a 9×13-inch Strawberry Sheet Cake: Double the cake recipe (if you have a little extra batter, you can bake it as cupcakes); increase the frosting by 1.5 times (for a thinner layer) or double it (for a thicker layer).
- To Make 12 Cupcakes: No change to the cake batter. Bake the cupcakes at 350 degrees F for 22 to 25 minutes. Double the frosting.
For an Extra Special Fresh Strawberry Filling
This cream cheese frosting is made with fresh strawberries, so you’ll achieve a fresh strawberry filling by making the recipe as directed.
- That said, you can also make this a strawberry layer cake with fresh strawberries in the middle (be sure you are following one of the two-layer cake options listed above).
- Slice the strawberries thinly and pat them dry. Place the first cake layer on your plate and spread frosting over the top. Arrange the berries in a single layer on top of the frosting, then add the next cake layer. Continue frosting/layering as you please.
Do You Have to Refrigerate a Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting?
You do need to refrigerator this cake with cream cheese frosting. Here are some tips for how to store it and what you could do with any leftover cream cheese frosting:
- To Store. Without the optional sliced fresh strawberries added, this cake will last in the refrigerator for five days. Sliced fresh strawberries will last in a cake for three days in the refrigerator. They will soften and make bits of the cake moist, but it will still be delicious.
- To Freeze. Fully frosted or unfrosted cake can be frozen for up to 2 months. Let it thaw overnight in the refrigerator, then bring to room temperature prior to serving.
- What Can I Do with Leftover Cream Cheese Frosting? If you have extra frosting, you can use it as a dip for fruit or pretzels. It would also be delicious spread on top of cookies or brownies.
More Special Strawberry Dessert Recipes and Favorite Cake Recipes
- Strawberry Oatmeal Bars
- Coconut Flour Cake
- Instant Pot Cake
- Almond Flour Cake with Lemon
- Lemon Layer Cake with Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting
- Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp
This fresh strawberry cake with cream cheese frosting is incredibly special to me, more so than many other desserts. Whatever occasion you find to make it—an anniversary, a birthday, an impromptu I’m in the mood for cake right now, so why not?—I know it will bring a bite of bliss to your kitchen too!
Fresh Strawberry Cake with Strawberry Cream Cheese Frosting
For the strawberry cake:
- 1 cup whole strawberries - divided (fresh, or frozen and thawed), plus additional for garnish
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 cup whole milk - at room temperature
- 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter - at room temperature (1 stick)
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 2 large egg whites - at room temperature
- 1 large egg - at room temperature
For the strawberry cream cheese frosting:
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter - at room temperature
- 3 ounces reduced-fat cream cheese - at room temperature
- 2 cups powdered sugar - plus additional if you prefer a sweeter or stiffer frosting
- 1 tablespoon strawberry puree - reserved from cake recipe
- 1 pinch kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line the bottom of a 9-inch round cake pan with parchment paper, then lightly coat with nonstick spray. Set aside.
- Place the strawberries in a food processor or blender and pulse until pureed. Set 1 tablespoon aside for the frosting, then measure out an additional 1/3 cup for the cake. If you are a little short of 1/3 cup, blend in a few more strawberries as needed.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside. In a small bowl, whisk together the milk, vanilla, and 1/3 cup strawberry puree. Set aside.
- In the bowl of an stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or a large mixing bowl), cream the butter on medium-high speed until it is light and fluffy. Slowly add the granulated sugar and continue to beat until fluffy and well combined. Stop the mixer and add the egg whites. Beat on medium, just until incorporated. Add the whole egg and mix again, just until combined.
- With the mixer on low, slowly add half the flour mixture and mix just until the flour disappears. Add in all of the strawberry mixture and mix just until combined. Slowly add the remaining flour mixture, scraping down the sides of the bowl with a spatula as needed. Stop mixing as soon as the flour disappears. If you have a bit of flour stuck to the bottom or sides of the bowl, finish stirring it in by hand.
- Pour the batter into your prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean and the top springs back lightly when touched, about 30 to 35 minutes. Place the pan on a cooling rack and let the cake cool in the pan completely. Do not be tempted to frost the cake before it is cool, or the frosting will turn into a big melty mess.
- While the cake cools, prepare the frosting: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or a large mixing bowl, beat the butter on medium speed until smooth and fluffy. Beat in the cream cheese, stopping as soon as the two are fully combined. Reduce the mixer speed to low, then gradually add the powdered sugar. Once it all has been added, increase the mixer speed to medium and continue beating until the frosting is smooth. Don’t overbeat it—once it looks nice and creamy and evenly blended, it’s time to stop. Beat in the strawberry puree, salt, and vanilla until evenly combined. If you'd like the frosting stiffer or sweeter, gradually beat in additional powdered sugar until your desired stiffness/sweetness is reached.
- To serve: Transfer the cake from the pan to a serving plate. Tuck strips of waxed or parchment paper underneath the bottom of the cake to keep the plate clean. Spread the frosting generously all over the top of the cake, then down and around the sides. Garnish with fresh berries as desired. Remove the strips of paper and refrigerate until ready to serve. Prior to serving, let the cake stand at room temperature for at least 15 minutes.
- Cake layer can be baked 1 day in advance—cool completely then wrap airtight and store at room temperature.
- Frosting can be prepared 1 day in advance—place in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
- Fully frosted or unfrosted cake can be frozen for up to 2 months—let thaw overnight in the refrigerator, then bring to room temperature prior to serving.
- *To make a 2-layer cake, 3-layer cake, sheet cake, or cupcakes, see notes in the blog post above.
- Recipe adapted from Sprinkles Bake Shop, via Martha Stewart
And for posterity, a look back! The first photos of my fresh strawberry cake…and of a certain couple too.
My original Fresh Strawberry Layer Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting, as inspired by our wedding cake.
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