Strawberry Layer Cake – Homemade strawberry cake, entirely from scratch, layered with strawberry cream cheese into a perfect 3-layer cake.
Happy Valentine’s Day! It’s a day to celebrate the ones you love and there’s no better way than with this Strawberry Layer Cake. Not only are the colors just what you want on this day of love, but the strawberry flavor in each bite will make any and all who try it feel all the feelings.
I have always loved strawberry cake, but I’m not a fan of the artificial color and flavors that some can have. As such, I have made a version that is flavored and colored with 100% real strawberries – no food coloring, Jell-O, or extracts here.
Without further ado, here is my Strawberry Layer Cake!
Developing the strawberry flavor
The strawberry flavor in this cake comes from two types of strawberries:
- Fresh strawberries that are pureed and cooked down
- Freeze-dried strawberries that are ground up
Strawberries are filled with tons of water so we need to remove most of it to ensure the cake keeps the right texture but filled with lots of strawberry flavor.
Making the cake
The cake recipe is a classic one, made with cake flour, egg whites, sugar, and butter. The cake flour and egg whites help produce a light crumb on the cake and fluffy texture.
The batter is mixed in a stand mixer. The reduced strawberry puree is added in before adding the dry ingredients to make sure it’s mixed in well. We want to make sure we mix the dry ingredients VERY LITTLE so that the gluten doesn’t develop and create a tough cake texture.
The batter is split among 3 9-inch cake pans and baked in a preheated oven for about 20 minutes.
Making the frosting
The cake frosting starts with butter and cream cheese. Both must be room temperature before whipping so that they get perfectly fluffy.
After they are at the right texture, ground freeze-dried strawberries are added, along with powdered sugar, vanilla, milk, and salt. Mix on low until combined and then increase the speed to whip up the frosting for a couple minutes.
Assembling the cake
The cake layers need to cool completely before assembling with the frosting, otherwise the frosting will melt off and create a gross mess.
The steps to assembling a cake are simple:
- Place the bottom layer on a cake stand
- Top with frosting and spread into an even layer
- Place middle layer on top, followed by more frosting
- Place top layer on top and frost the cake on top and on the sides
- Chill and repeat another coat of frosting and smooth out
- Decorate with stars on top, if you desire
Tips & Tricks
- Grease pans well. Do not skimp on this step – trust me. You should grease your pans with nonstick spray AND add a sheet of parchment to the bottom. To get the parchment to fit just right, trace a circle using the bottom of the cake pan and cut it out.
- Locating freeze-dried strawberries. I found some in the produce section of my grocery store. You can also find on Amazon, if you have trouble finding locally.
- Use a flat, metal spatula for decorating. I have a large, flat metal spatula for icing cakes. It helps smooth out the frosting and create even layers.
- Add food coloring, if desired. The cake comes out very pale pink. If you want a stronger pink color, use a drop of pink/red food coloring in the batter. Or you can add in a little extra strawberry powder from the ground freeze-dried strawberries.
Strawberry Layer Cake
For the cake:
- 1 pound fresh strawberries washed and hulled
- 2½ cups cake flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ¾ cup butter unsalted, softened
- 1¾ cups sugar
- ⅓ cup sour cream
- 5 large egg whites
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- ½ cup milk
For the frosting:
- 1 cup freeze dried strawberries
- ½ cup butter unsalted, softened
- 8 ounces cream cheese softened
- 3 cups powdered sugar
- 1 tablespoon milk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- ⅛ teaspoon salt
For the cake:
- Start by pureeing the strawberries in a blender until completely smooth. Pour mixture into medium saucepan and set over low heat. Stir occasionally as the mixture reduces and thickens. It will take about 30 minutes to reduce the mixture by half. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare 3 9-inch round cake pans by spraying with nonstick spray and lining with a round cut out of parchment paper. Set aside. In a medium bowl, mix cake flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
- Add sugar and butter to a mixing bowl fit for a stand mixer. Using the paddle attachment, cream together until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add sour cream and mix until combined. Add half of egg whites and mix until combined. Add rest of egg whites, vanilla extract, and cooled strawberry puree and mix until combined.
- Add 1/3 of dry ingredients to batter and mix until combined. Add half of milk and mix until combined. Add another 1/3 of dry ingredients and mix until combined. Add rest of milk and mix. Finally, add last 1/3 of dry ingredients and mix until smooth.
- Split batter evenly among the 3 prepared pans and spread tops smooth. Bake cakes in preheated oven until set, about 20 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool about 10 minutes. Then, remove from pan and place on a flat surface (like a baking sheet or clean counter) to cool completely before assembling the cake.
For the frosting:
- Once the cake is cool, prepare the frosting. Place freeze-dried strawberries in a food processor and grind until they turn to powder. Set aside.
- Add cream cheese and butter to the bowl of stand mixer. With the paddle attachment, beat on medium high until ultra creamy, about 5 minutes. Add in powdered sugar, powdered strawberries, and beat another 2 minutes. Add vanilla, salt, and milk and mix until combined.
For the cake assembly:
- Place bottom layer of cake on a cake stand. Top with about ¼ inch of frosting, in one even layer. Top with another layer of cake and frosting. Finish with the last cake layer. Top the cake with a thin layer of frosting. Line the side of the cake with a thin layer of frosting. This first layer of frosting is the crumb layer. Place cake in refrigerator until the frosting is firm. This allows the crumb layer to set before adding the final layer of frosting.
- Once the crumb layer has set, finish cake with a final layer of frosting. If you have enough frosting remaining, consider decorating the top with stars or other piping that you desire. Chill to set frosting for 30 minutes before slicing.