This 100% from-scratch Strawberry Cake recipe has no Jell-O or artificial flavors! It’s a moist cake flavored with real strawberries, filled with a fresh strawberry jam, and covered with a whipped cream cheese frosting. Recipe includes a how-to video!
A Delightfully Fresh Strawberry Cake
I gave this strawberry cake recipe a makeover a few years ago, and I’m so excited to be sharing it with you again today! This cake is packed full of fresh strawberry flavor (none of that artificial stuff or Jell-O), from the cake itself to the jam filling. To finish, we’ll seal it all in with a whipped cream cheese frosting that’s not too sweet. Sounds heavenly, right?
I’ll give you a fair warning: this recipe requires quite a lot of steps and will dirty a few dishes. But it’s all worth it to get the BEST natural strawberry flavor (more on that below), a light, spongey texture (I took a few notes from my white cake for this) and a whipped, flavorful frosting (similar to what’s on my Chantilly cake!).
How Do You Get Strawberry Flavor Naturally?
So, how does my strawberry cake achieve its strawberry flavor without Jell-O or artificial ingredients? With fresh strawberries, of course!
If I’m being honest though, it’s not as simple as it sounds. In fact, it took a lot of attempts to get the flavor and texture of this strawberry cake just right.
Sure we could just blend our berries and add them to our cake batter, but too much pulp can weigh down the cake, making it too wet and spongey. To remedy this, we’ll take an extra step to strain out the juice from the pulp and use that in the cake instead. And we’ll even go one step further to cook down that juice to really concentrate the strawberry flavor.
However, there is still a lot of flavor in the pulp, and I didn’t want to just throw it away, so we’ll save it to make a homemade jam filling! We’ll spread this between our cake layers for an extra burst of strawberry flavor.
Side note: if you’re a total strawberry fiend, you could even try frosting this strawberry cake with my strawberry frosting–yum!
What You Need
Here are the key ingredients in today’s perfect strawberry cake recipe:
- Strawberries. Almost all of your flavor for this cake comes from the strawberries. Because of this, the more ripe, juicy, and flavorful your strawberries are, the better and more strawberry-like your cake will taste. Store-bought berries in the middle of December will work, but they will not yield as tasty of a cake as finger-staining, sun-ripened berries you picked yourself. THIS IS THE MOST IMPORTANT TIP I CAN GIVE YOU!
- Milk. I recommend using whole milk for a perfectly moist and soft strawberry cake. Several of you have asked if non-dairy milk can be substituted, and I haven’t tried this myself, so I can’t say for sure. If you do make my strawberry cake recipe with non-dairy milk, please let me know how it turns out for you!
- Cake flour. Because the strawberries can make this cake heavy, I recommend using cake flour for this recipe. If you don’t have it, you can still use all-purpose flour–just use the instructions in the recipe notes.
- Egg whites. Since egg yolks could also weigh down this cake, we’ll use only egg whites and make sure to whip them to stiff peaks before folding them into the batter. Note that I’ve included some recipes to use up the extra egg yolks in the recipe notes below.
- Food coloring. This is optional, but it makes your strawberry cake look nice and pink when it would otherwise be pretty dull. If you’re using food coloring, I strongly recommend using a few drops of pink gel coloring. If you use liquid food coloring, you will need to use red, and quite a lot of it.
- Cornstarch. This will help to thicken our strawberry jam.
- Lemon juice. A splash of lemon juice brightens the jam and keeps it from being too sweet.
- Cream cheese. We’ll beat this with some powdered sugar and vanilla extract until it is smooth and creamy. This creates a flavorful base for our frosting.
- Heavy cream. After its whipped to stiff peaks, we’ll incorporate our cream with the cream cheese mixture to make a beautifully light, airy, and flavorful frosting.
SAM’S TIP: If you’re not a fan of the frosting I’m using here, you can always try my standard cream cheese frosting, buttercream frosting, or Swiss meringue buttercream. Whichever type you use, make sure your cake is cooled completely before decorating, otherwise the frosting will melt.
Remember, 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 Cake
- Blend your strawberries, strain them, and cook the juice until it has reduced. Save the pulp for later.
- Combine the strawberry reduction with the milk and food coloring. Cream together the oil, butter, sugar, and vanilla in a separate bowl, and combine the dry ingredients in another separate bowl.
- Gradually alternate adding the dry ingredients and the milk mixture into the butter mixture. Stir on low speed after each addition until just combined.
- Whip your egg whites to stiff peaks and gently fold them into your batter. Divide the batter between greased, floured, and lined baking pans. Bake for 28 minutes at 350F or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a few moist crumbs.
- Whisk together the reserved strawberry pulp, ⅓ cup of sugar, lemon juice, and salt in a saucepan. Bring this mixture to a boil over medium heat, whisking constantly, until it thickens. Transfer the jam to a heat-proof bowl and let it cool completely in the fridge.
- Prepare your frosting by combining the cream cheese, ½ cup of the powdered sugar, and vanilla in a bowl. In a separate (preferably chilled) bowl, whip your cream and remaining powdered sugar, then combine both mixtures until fully incorporated.
- Once your cake and jam have cooled, assemble your cake, using your frosting as dam to hold in each layer of jam filling. Top the assembled cake with your remaining frosting, decorate, and chill it in the fridge until you’re ready to enjoy.
SAM’S TIP: This strawberry cake can be baked in 9 inch pans instead, but it will cook faster, so keep an eye on it if you use them.
Frequently Asked Questions
Yes, you can use frozen strawberries here–but remember, almost all of the flavor comes from the berries you use, and there’s no telling how flavorful your frozen berries will be. I highly recommend using in-season, fresh berries.
This strawberry cake recipe will work as cupcakes, but just know they won’t have nice domed tops. It will also work as a 9×13 cake.
Yes! Because the icing has both whipped cream and cream cheese, this strawberry cake needs to be refrigerated. Make sure you keep the cake covered in an airtight container to prevent it from drying out.
The jam and frosting can both be made a day in advance and stored in the refrigerator in an airtight container. The cake could be made a day in advance as well; allow it to cool completely then wrap it tightly with plastic wrap and store it at room temperature.
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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
- 1 ¼ lbs strawberries remove stems and quarter (570g)
- ⅔ cup whole milk
- ½ cup vegetable or canola oil (118ml)
- 4 Tablespoons unsalted butter softened (57g)
- 1 ¾ cup granulated sugar (350g)
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 3 cups cake flour¹ (330g)
- 1 Tablespoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 6 large egg whites² room temperature preferred
- Food coloring optional (I use two chocolate chip-sized drops of americolor gel “electric pink” food coloring).
- ⅓ cup granulated sugar (70g)
- 1 Tablespoon cornstarch
- ⅛ teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons lemon juice
- 2 cups cold heavy cream (475ml)
- 1 ½ cups powdered sugar, divided (190g)
- 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
- ⅛ teaspoon salt
- 8 oz cream cheese softened (226g)
- Preheat oven to 350F (175C) and prepare two 8” round cake pans by spraying with baking spray and lining the bottoms with parchment paper. Set aside.
- Place quartered strawberries in blender and puree until smooth. Run through a fine mesh sieve over a measuring cup until you have 1 – 1 ¼ cups of juice. Do not discard berry pulp, set this along with any remaining pureed berries for the jam filling.
- Pour strawberry juice into a small saucepan and cook over medium heat until reduced to ⅓ cup (pour into a measuring cup to check, if it’s not reduced enough, return to the saucepan and continue to cook until it is). This usually takes about 10 minutes.
- Once reduced, add ⅔ cup milk to the strawberry reduction and whisk together. If using food coloring, whisk that in here as well. Set aside.
- In a large bowl using an electric mixer or in a stand mixer, beat together oil, butter, sugar, and vanilla extract until completely combined.
- In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt.
- With mixer on low speed, gradually alternate adding the flour mixture and strawberry/milk mixture to the butter mixture, stirring until just combined after each addition. (I start and end with the flour and add the flour mixture in 4 parts and the milk mixture in 3 parts.)
- Place egg whites in a separate clean, dry bowl, and beat on high speed with an electric mixer until stiff peaks form.
- Using a spatula, gently fold egg whites into cake batter until completely combined (don’t use your electric mixer at this point or you will over-beat the batter). Divide cake batter evenly into prepared pans and bake on 350F for 28 minutes or until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean or with a few moist crumbs.
- Allow cakes to cool in pans for 10 minutes then run a knife around the edges to loosen cakes from pan and invert onto cooling rack to cool completely. While cooling, prepare the jam filling.
- Combine remaining strawberrry pulp, ⅓ cup sugar, cornstarch, lemon juice, and salt in a small saucepan and whisk to combine.
- Cook over medium heat and bring to a boil. Boil, whisking constantly, until mixture is thickened and the whisk leaves a trail through the jam (this takes about 5-10 minutes).
- Remove from heat, transfer to a heat-proof bowl, and place in the refrigerator to cool completely. Meanwhile, prepare your frosting.
WHIPPED CREAM CHEESE FROSTING
- Combine cream cheese, ½ cup (65g) powdered sugar, vanilla extract, and salt in a large bowl and use an electric mixer to beat together until creamy and smooth.
- In a separate bowl (preferably a chilled metal bowl), combine remaining (1 cup, 125g) powdered sugar and cold heavy cream. Beat with an electric mixer until stiff peaks form.
- With mixer on low speed, stir together the cream cheese and whipped cream until completely combined.
- Once cake and jam are completely cooled place one layer of cake on serving tray. Use a piping bag fitted with a round tip (I use an Ateco 808) to pipe a dam around the layer. Fill with your jam filling.
- Top with second layer of cake. Cover the entire cake with frosting.
- Refrigerate until ready to serve. Enjoy!
- Cake will keep refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 5 days.
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.
Oh one more question, can buttermilk be used in place of the milk?
I think it could work, but I would definitely do a test batch before going and doubling it and making a large cake first to make sure you are happy with it. 🙂
Hello, I need to make this in two 10″ square pans. Would I need to double the recipe or could I increase it by 50%? Also since this is a light and fluffy cake, will it stand up to 3 or 4 layers? And will it hold up under fondant or modeling chocolate?
Hi T’Andrea! I believe you would need to double the recipe to get 2 10 inch square pans. I think the cake should hold up to 3 or 4 layers. I haven’t tried it under fondant or modeling chocolate but it should be ok. I hope you love it! 🙂
can i substitute the all purpose flour with a cake flour substitute? as in the all purpose flour + cornstarch method? if so, what measurements should i follow? (the cake flour measurements it all purpose flour measurements?) thank you!!
Emily @ Sugar Spun Run
Hi Madison! Check the recipe notes for how to substitute all purpose flour 🙂
I’m going to bake your strawberry cake for my niece’s birthday. She actually requested this cake. I’ll also alternate the layers with layers of your white cake.
Between the layers, I’ll use your pastry cream and chopped fresh strawberries.
The family loves it! Thank you for these great recipes!!
Emily @ Sugar Spun Run
That sounds wonderful, Ines! So glad it’s a hit with your family ❤️
My cake turned out very dense. Any idea why? I used room temp ingredients and I did not over mix. I was bummed out because this is a labor intensive cake and I had high hopes.
Hi Lisa! I’m so sorry to hear this! A couple of things that could potentially cause issues are the egg whites not being at the correct consistency, a mismeasurement of an ingredient, or possibly over-baking. 🙁
I made this cake for my sisters 30th birthday, and it was delicious. I have never made a jam before so that part was new and slightly challenging but very satisfying. Once it all came together I was very pleased to see the jam didn’t just ooze out between the layers, I’ve had bad luck with my icing layers setting in the past! I did however pop the cake in the freezer once I put an initial crumb coat on for 10 minutes before icing the rest of the cake. Highly highly recommend the recipe, thank you very much!