Fresh Strawberry Cake

by Shawnda on January 21, 2009

in Cakes, Cupcakes & Brownies,Fruit,Strawberries

Fresh Strawberry Cake

I want to share with you my absolute most favorite recipe for homemade strawberry cake. For some reason, good from-scratch strawberry cake recipes are really hard to find. There are a wealth of recipes that use strawberry-flavored jello, strawberry extract, and a boxed cake mix but what if you want to make a cake to put a dent in that gallon bag of strawberries you have in the freezer?

If you ask me, strawberries just might be the world’s most perfect fruit. Well, pretty darn perfect as long as they’re ripe and clean :) Decadent enough to be considered dessert on their own, they most certainly don’t need artificially flavored Jello and food coloring to bring out the best in them.

If you are still looking for a good, completely-from-scratch strawberry cake without Yellow No. 5 and Red No. 6, this should go on the top of your must-try list. The cake is nice and moist, has a prominent strawberry flavor, and it’s pink! From nothin‘ but strawberries.

“This is so cool! Listen to this: Potatoes, sunflower oil, and salt. That’s all!”

My husband was really excited. I stared at him from across the booth at Jason’s Deli, no doubt a little puzzled at the time. He was reading the ingredients on a bag of potato chips and was completely blown away that the manufacturer was only selling us potato chips in our bag of potato chips.

I was a little surprised myself. Ingredient labels on packaged foods can sometimes be a little daunting – and sometimes extremely disappointing (cough Central Market and their pistachio-less Pistachio Muffins cough).

I’m most definitely not anti-packaged foods. I always have a couple boxes of Duncan Hines cake mix in my pantry. There’s nothing worse than being wide awake at 1am and having nothing sweet to munch on or getting smacked with a chocolate craving when the weather is too bad to leave the house. French Vanilla cupcakes, straight out of the oven, are the best! And your house still smells wonderful when you come downstairs the next day. That being said, I do mostly bake from scratch because it’s fun.

You know, “fun” to realize that you don’t have enough sugar, “fun” to get started and realize that there is actually an over-night step involved, or “fun” to realize that what you thought was a box of cake flour in the bottom drawer of the pantry was actually a misplaced box of Lucky Charms. You know. “Fun.”

This has been the most popular recipe on my site for over 3 years now. I’ve tried to condense the most common questions and comments from the comments below into a FAQ. Please do take a second to skim through so you get the best tasting cake from your efforts!

Strawberry Cake FAQ

Can I use other fruits in this recipe?
Yes I have made blackberry cupcakes before. I’ve also made cherry cupcakes, but decided that a slightly different method made the best fresh cherry cupcakes.

Why is the cake in the picture three layers and the recipe only for two?
Because I doubled the recipe (4 layers) and froze the extra layer. If you want a 3-layer cake, you can do the same. Or just increase the recipe by 50% for the third layer (you’ll need 3 pans).

Why is my cake a different color than yours?
All of the color and flavor comes from the berries. Use the best, ripest berries you can find during strawberry season – all red berries with little/no white. Out-of-season berries that have been shipped half a world away won’t give you a pretty pink cake or much strawberry flavor so consider using frozen (no sugar added) berries instead. If your color/flavor is lacking, it was the berries.

For the strawberry puree, I’ve found that cooking the strawberries down gives the cake a more vibrant color (see the cupcake picture above) and a stronger strawberry flavor. To do this using fresh strawberries, rough chop the strawberries, toss with sugar, and let sit for an hour or so until nice and juicy. Add 1/4 cup water and then simmer in a small sauce pan for 15-20 minutes, until the berries are very soft.

To do this using frozen strawberries, place the thawed berries and any accumulated juices into a small sauce pan and then simmer 15-20 minutes, until the berries are very soft.

Pour into a fine strainer set over a bowl. With a rubber spatula or spoon, scrape and press the strawberries through the strainer until all of the juice is in the bowl and you’re only left with the juiceless pulp (don’t rush this step – it’s important). Discard the pulp and transfer the juice back to the sauce pan. Reduce the liquid down to 1/2 cup and cool. Proceed with the recipe, using 1/2 cup of milk.

What is this “cooked puree” business? That wasn’t here last time I made this cake.
See the previous question. If you use the cooked puree method described above, you’ll use 1/2 cup cooked puree + 1/2 cup milk. If you use the original method described in the recipe below, you’ll use 3/4 cup fresh puree + 1/4 cup milk.

What did you fill the cake in the picture with?
I used Quick Buttercream Frosting and leftover strawberry puree (from the recipe below).

What frosting do you recommend?
Quick Buttercream Frosting (pictured) and Cream Cheese Frosting are our two favorites.

What can I do with the extra strawberry puree
You won’t have extra puree if you use the cook method. Otherwise, fold it into some of the frosting or use it between the cake layers (as pictured).

Is the cake strong enough to support fondant and tiering?
Yes! I’ve done both with no problems.

Can I make the cake into cupcakes?
Of course! Check the cupcakes for doneness around 20 minutes.

How can I make this cake gluten-free?
I have no experience with gluten-free baking, but Marianna has offered some great tips in her comments below.

Fresh Strawberry Cake

A completely from-scratch, fresh strawberry cake. No jello, food coloring, or artificial flavors!

Ingredients

  • For the strawberry puree:
  • 24 oz very ripe strawberries, hulled (or no-sugar-added frozen strawberries)
  • 1-2 tsp sugar (optional)
  • (see FAQ above for alternate strawberry puree method)
  • For the cake:
  • 1/4-1/2 cup milk, at room temperature
  • 6 large egg whites, room temperature (4 whole eggs can be substituted, per reader comments)
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 1/4 cup cake flour, sifted
  • 1 3/4 cup sugar
  • 4 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 12 Tbsp unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks), at room temp

Instructions

  1. If frozen strawberries in whatever form (sliced, whole, etc) and in whatever container/bag you have them in. Pour into a fine strainer placed over a bowl and let sit. Lightly toss the strawberries occasionally to remove any pockets of excess liquid. Reserve the liquid for another use or discard (see FAQ above for alternate use of the liquid).
  2. If using fresh strawberries, just hull, slice and toss with a teaspoon or two of sugar and cover. Let them sit at room temperature for a couple of hours, until nice and juicy.
  3. Place strawberries in a food processor or blender and puree.
  4. Reserve 3/4 cup puree for the cake. (If you are using the cooked puree method from the FAQ above, you will only use 1/2 cup puree.)
  5. Use leftover puree to fill the cake or fold into the frosting, if desired (you will not have leftover puree if you use the cooked puree method). It's also fabulous spooned over ice cream... and eaten straight with a spoon.
  6. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and prepare two 8- or 9-inch pans: spray inside with baking spray with flour (or use some sort of grease/flour combination).
  7. In small bowl, combine puree, milk (if you used the cooked puree method in the FAQ above, you'll use 1/2 cup of milk and 1/2 cup of puree; if you did not cook your puree, use 1/4 cup of milk and 3/4 cup of puree), egg, vanilla and mix with fork until well blended. In bowl of stand mixer, add sifted flour, sugar, baking powder and salt and mix to combine. Continue beating at slow speed and add butter. Mix until combined and resembling moist crumbs.
  8. Add wet ingredients and beat at medium speed for about 1 minute or until full and evenly combined. Stop mixer to scrape down the sides of the bowl and hand beat for 30 more seconds.
  9. Note: The batter will not get any pinker in the oven so if you're disappointed in the color from your berries, maybe consider adding a drop or two of pink or red food coloring.
  10. Divide the batter evenly among the pans and smooth tops.
  11. Bake for about 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean (time will vary). Let cakes rest in pan for about 10 minutes and turn out onto wire racks. Let cakes cool completely (about 2 hours).

Notes

Yields: 1 2-layer cake (8 or 9 inches) or 24 cupcakes

Adapted from Cook's Illustrated Classic White Cake and Good Things Catered

Estimated time: 40 minutes

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