Learn how to make a fresh, beautiful, naturally pink Strawberry Frosting using either fresh, frozen, or freeze-dried berries! Recipe includes a how-to video!
A Fresh, Naturally-Flavored Strawberry Frosting
Today’s strawberry frosting is a sort of choose-your-own-adventure recipe. When I set out to write this post, I didn’t plan on offering two variations of this recipe, but after lots of taste-testing, I decided both versions were too good not to share.
My strawberry frosting can be made using either fresh, frozen, or freeze-dried strawberries. No matter which method you choose, I guarantee it will yield an authentic, fresh strawberry flavor with a natural bright pink color, perfect for covering your favorite cakes or cupcakes (hint: pair it with my dark chocolate cupcakes for a chocolate/strawberry cupcake… yum!).
Today we start with a buttercream frosting base which we then infuse with the real fresh taste of strawberries. Let’s get to it!
What You Need
- Strawberries. For today’s recipe you will only need one or the other: freeze dried strawberries or fresh strawberries (or frozen, quartered strawberries, which we will treat exactly the same as we would fresh berries). I detail the differences in the frostings made with either further on in the post, but you really can’t go wrong either way.
- Powdered sugar. An essential ingredient for nearly all of my frosting recipes, this thickens the icing. Do not try to substitute granulated sugar, which will not work.
- Butter. Another classic buttercream frosting ingredient, you’ll want this to be softened, but not so soft that it’s melting/oily. I opt for unsalted butter and then add salt to best control the flavor of the frosting.
- Vanilla and salt. These two ingredients are added in small quantities to enhance the flavor of the frosting. While you could omit the vanilla extract for a purely strawberry flavor, I found in this recipe the vanilla enhances and deepens the berry flavor, rather than detracting from it.
- Cream. Heavy cream is only necessary if you are using freeze-dried strawberries. Because they are completely dehydrated and so have no moisture to them, they tend to make the frosting dry. A splash of cream will bring the frosting back to a smooth, spreadable, easy-to-pipe consistency. If you don’t have cream, milk will work, but you will need a bit less as it is thinner.
As always, this is just an overview of the ingredients I used and why. For the full recipe please scroll down to the bottom of the post!
How to Make Strawberry Frosting Using Fresh or Frozen Berries
For fresh or frozen berries, the steps will be the same. If you’re using frozen strawberries, you do not need to thaw them first.
- Start with quartered berries (with the stems removed) and add them to a small saucepan. Add a splash of water, too. Ultimately our goal is to cook the excess water out of the berries, but adding an extra bit in the beginning keeps the berries from sticking to the saucepan and burning.
- Cook over medium heat. Once the berries begin to release their juices (the pot will suddenly have a lot of red liquid in it!) grab a potato masher or fork and mash the berries.
- Continue to cook until most of the water has cooked out, the liquid is thick and resembles a paste, and you basically can’t cook it anymore without the mixture sticking to the pot. Place it in a heatproof dish and let it cool completely!
- Prepare your buttercream frosting as usual (creaming the butter, gradually adding powdered sugar, and adding a bit of salt and vanilla) and then stir in the (cooled!) strawberry paste.
SAM’S TIP: It’s important that your fresh strawberry buttercream be thoroughly mixed, but when using fresh fruit try not to over-mix as sometimes, when over-beaten, the frosting can separate. This is not a risk when using freeze-dried berries.
…And Using Freeze-Dried Berries
- Measure out 1 cup of freeze-dried berries and toss them in a food processor, blending them until you have nothing but a fine dust remaining.
- Prepare your buttercream frosting as usual (creaming the butter, gradually adding powdered sugar, and adding a bit of salt and vanilla) and then stir in the strawberry powder. This strawberry frosting will be thicker than the one made with fresh berries, so in order to make it spreadable/pipe-able, you’ll want to thin it by blending in a bit of cream until you reach a smooth consistency.
What’s the Difference in Frosting made with Fresh or Freeze-Dried Berries?
Alright, so you have options here, but what’s the difference between the two frostings, anyway? The frostings shown above were made with fresh and freeze-dried strawberries, respectively, and no artificial coloring was added. Here’s the rundown on the differences between the two
What to know about fresh/frozen strawberry buttercream:
- This is shown on the above cupcake on the left. It is a paler pink in color with small, pretty specks of fresh, brightly colored berries.
- If you use fresh, ripe berries that have a brilliant flavor, you may notice that the frosting has a more natural, authentic flavor. This is a great frosting if you have great-tasting, fresh summer berries you’d like to use!
- It’s a bit more fussy and time-consuming to make. Cooking all of the water out of the berries takes more time and must be done properly or your frosting could be runny.
- It tends to be a bit softer than the freeze-dried strawberry buttercream and doesn’t hold up quite as well to the heat.
What to know about strawberry frosting made with freeze-dried berries:
- This frosting is depicted in the cupcake on the right above. It is a deeper, much more vibrant pink in color and is mostly uniform in color with much smaller, less noticeable specks of red strawberry throughout.
- This flavor tends to be more consistent and is a great option if it’s not berry season!
- Freeze-dried berries are less fussy. Yes, there’s the business of pulverizing or grinding them into powder, but other than that there’s no cooking and it’s just a quicker, cleaner, and more foolproof process.
- This frosting tends to be firmer/sturdier than fresh strawberry frosting and holds its shape a tad bit better. While no frosting holds up well in the heat, this one performed a smidge better in my hot studio than its fresh counterpart. While the fresh buttercream started to melt into itself in the heat, this frosting held its shape without issue.
Whichever strawberry you choose to start with, I’m sure you’ll love the end results. Enjoy!
Pair this frosting with one of these recipes!
Let’s bake together! I’ll be walking you through all the steps in my written recipe and video below! If you try this recipe, be sure to tag me on Instagram, and you can also find me on YouTube and Facebook
Strawberry Frosting (with fresh, frozen, or freeze-dried berries)
- 4 oz quartered fresh or frozen strawberries OR 1 cup freeze-dried strawberries 113g fresh or 16g freeze-dried
- 1 cup unsalted butter softened (226g)
- 4 cups powdered sugar 500g
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (optional, see note)
- ⅛ teaspoon salt
- 2-4 Tablespoons heavy cream or milk only if using freeze-dried strawberries
- Potato masher (only if using fresh/frozen berries)
For fresh/frozen berries
- Place quartered strawberries in a small saucepan over medium heat and add 1 Tablespoon of water (this will keep the berries from burning to the bottom of the pan).
- Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the berries release their juices, then grab a fork or potato masher and mash the berries into a pulp.
- Continue to cook, stirring constantly, until mixture is reduced in volume and thickened to a thick paste (similar in consistency to tomato paste) and most of the water is cooked out.
- Place in a heatproof container and let cool to room temperature before proceeding. You can speed up the process by placing the strawberry reduction in the refrigerator.
- Combine softened butter, a bit of the powdered sugar (about 1 cup) and vanilla extract (if using) and salt in a large bowl and use an electric mixer to beat until creamy and well-combined. Gradually add remaining powdered sugar until it has all been added.
- Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl and add the cooled strawberry paste. Stir until completely combined, pausing to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed. Don't over-mix, but ensure all ingredients are thoroughly combined.
- Pipe or spread frosting onto cake or cupcakes. Enjoy!
For freeze-dried berries
- Place freeze dried berries in a small food processor and pulse until they’ve become a fine powder. Set aside.
- In a large bowl, combine butter, about 1 cup of powdered sugar, vanilla extract (if using) and salt until completely combined. Gradually add remaining powdered sugar until all has been added.
- Add strawberry powder and stir until combined. The frosting will become stiff. Gradualy add heavy cream, one tablespoon at a time, until you’ve reached a desirable, pipe-able consistency (I typically need 3 Tablespoons of cream, but your mileage may vary and add the cream slowly).
- Pipe or spread frosting onto cake or cupcakes. Enjoy!
Serving sizeThis recipe makes enough frosting to generously cover 12 cupcakes (as seen in the video and photos) or modestly cover 24 cupcakes. It will also cover a 1-layer 13×9 cake or a 2-layer 8” or 9” cake (but you will not have extra frosting left to decorate the top/sides of the cake).
ButterButter must be softened, but should not be so soft that it’s melty/oily or your frosting may be runny/greasy.
Vanilla extractAdding vanilla diminishes some of the fresh flavor of the strawberry but rounds out the overall flavor. For a true, more potent strawberry flavor, omit the vanilla extract. For a sweeter strawberry/vanilla flavor, add the vanilla.
Fresh berries and smooth frostingPersonally I like the more rustic look of the buttercream that has bits of fresh berry streaked throughout. For a more consistent look (especially if you plan on using a small piping tip for this frosting) you can first process the berries in a food processor until they are a puree before cooking.
Storing/making in advanceFresh strawberry frosting will keep at room temperature for up to one day or in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. If making in advance, store in an airtight container with a piece of plastic wrap directly against the surface. You will need to let the frosting soften for a bit at room temperature and then stir before using. Strawberry frosting made with freeze-dried berries will keep at room temperature for up to 3 days or in the refrigerator for up to a week or longer. If making in advance, store in an airtight container with a piece of plastic wrap directly against the surface. You will need to let the frosting soften for a bit at room temperature and then stir before using.
Piping tips:For the fresh strawberry frosting I used an Ateco 849 tip. For the strawberry frosting made with freeze-dried berries I used an Ateco 848 tip. The 848 tip is my all-around favorite tip that I use for most of my frostings. I’ve linked to it in the “Equipment” section above.
Nutritional information is based on third-party calculations and should be considered an estimate only. Actual nutritional content will vary based upon brands used, measuring methods, cooking method, portion sizes, and more.