Strawberry Layer Cake With Cream Cheese Frosting

This two layer strawberry cake is made all from scratch – no cake mix, no strawberry Jello. And of course you can’t forget the homemade cream cheese frosting.


Strawberry Layer Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting with no cake mix and no strawberry jello

Trusting your gut is a very powerful feeling. Sometimes you can’t explain it other than it just feels right. When I decided to study abroad in Ireland seven years ago, it wasn’t so much about the traveling or experiencing another culture. I imagined myself studying there, walking around campus, being a student of another country. That’s how I knew I had to go because it felt like I already belonged there. Then when I was looking for apartments in my current town, I fell in love with the one I’m in now because it felt right. Sometimes, I use that same gut feeling in baking as I did with this Strawberry Layer Cake. Although my first attempt was good – not perfect but still a good cake – I kept thinking about it. It wasn’t pink enough. It wasn’t strawberry enough. The next morning I woke up with several ways to improve it and knew if it bugged me that much to the point where it was the first thought in my head for the day, I knew I had to remake it. Today I’m proud to bring you a Strawberry Layer cake made from scratch – no cake mix, no strawberry Jello. Good ol’ flour, sugar, eggs, butter, fresh strawberries, and of course homemade cream cheese frosting.


Strawberry Layer Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting with no cake mix and no strawberry jello

When you think of strawberry cake, you probably think of those very vibrant pink layer cakes paired with either vanilla or cream cheese frosting. However, most of the time it also comes from a box. Is it possible to recreate this cake from scratch not only with its pink look but also be prominent in strawberry taste? Answer – yes.


Strawberries for Strawberry Layer Cake from scratch

As I researched strawberry cake recipes, I noticed that a good bit of them still used strawberry Jello. I wanted my strawberry flavor to come from fresh strawberries, not gelatin. The first time I made this cake, I used whole eggs and strawberry puree. Although the cake came out fine, it had more of a greyish pink color and subtle strawberry flavor. Not what I was looking for in a strawberry cake.


Strawberry Layer Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting with no cake mix and no strawberry jello

I decided to focus more on making it a white cake with strawberry puree in hopes that the pink will be more vibrant. I swapped out the whole eggs for egg whites (so the yolks didn’t affect the color) and cooked the strawberries down, very similar to a jam. Usually strawberry preserves have a more concentrated flavor than straight up pureed strawberries, so I thought cooking them would help. And it did. Yes, I did cheat a little and added some red food coloring, but I did achieve the brightness and flavor I wanted.


Frosting strawberry cake with cream cheese frosting

Now that the cake was perfect, time to decorate. Or pretend to decorate, in my case. Strawberries and cream cheese frosting go so well together, almost like peanut butter and jelly or wine and cheese. The trick to frosting any cake is to create a crumb layer. You want to very thinly cover the cake just enough to secure the crumbs and not use more than half of your frosting doing this. Otherwise, you won’t have enough frosting left for the outside. I used little pieces of parchment paper underneath the cake to keep the cake stand clean. After frosting, just pull those pieces out from underneath, and it’s like you were never there with your spatula.


Strawberry Layer Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting with no cake mix and no strawberry jello

Strawberry Layer Cake With Cream Cheese Frosting
 
Author:
Serves: 8-inch two layer cake
Ingredients
Strawberry Cake
  • 1 cup sliced fresh strawberries* (see Note)
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 2 cups all purpose flour, sifted (when measuring, spoon the flour into the measuring cup and level it off. Do not scoop the measuring cup and pack down the flour)
  • 1 1/2 cups + 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick or 4 ounces) unsalted butter, softened
  • 4 egg whites, room temperature
  • 1 cup whole milk, room temperature (do not sub low fat or fat free milk)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Red food coloring (optional)
Cream Cheese Frosting
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick or 4 ounces) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Instructions
For the cake:
  1. Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly grease two 8-inch round cake pans and line the bottoms with parchment paper.
  2. In a large saucepan, stir together the strawberries, 2 tablespoons sugar, and water. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Boil for 5 minutes or until the strawberries cook down and start to thicken. Remove from the heat and let cool 15 minutes. You should have roughly 1/2 cup cooked puree.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, mix together the flour, 1 1/2 cups sugar, baking powder, and salt. Beat in the butter until just combined and moist crumbs form - do not overmix (it will not form a smooth dough, just little pebbles).
  4. In a large measuring cup or bowl, whisk together the egg whites, milk, and vanilla. Add about half of the mixture into the mixing bowl and beat until just incorporated (do not overmix). Add the remaining milk mixture and repeat. Add the cooked strawberry puree. If desired, add about 3-5 drops of red food coloring.
  5. Divide the batter between the two cake pans and bake 25-30 minutes or until the tops are brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool for 15 minutes then invert cakes onto cooling racks. Cool completely.
For the frosting and assembly:
  1. In a large mixing bowl, beat together the cream cheese and butter until smooth. Beat in the powdered sugar, salt, and vanilla until light and creamy, about 2-3 minutes.
  2. If the cake layers are not flat, trim some of the cake off of the top until flat.
  3. Place one cake layer on a cake stand or plate. Slide pieces of parchment or wax paper underneath the cake for easy clean up later. Spread some of the frosting on top of the cake. Top with the remaining cake layer. Spread a thin layer of frosting all over the cake, sealing in the crumbs (don't use more than half of the frosting). Refrigerate 15 minutes.
  4. Finish covering the cake with the remaining frosting. Carefully remove the paper pieces. Refrigerate until the frosting is firm. Store the cake covered in the refrigerator. For best results, let the cake sit at room temperature for 30 minutes before serving.
Notes
*Make sure your fresh strawberries are ripe and juicy. If they are underwhelming in strawberry flavor, the cake will also be underwhelming in strawberry flavor. If it's not strawberry season, you can substitute frozen strawberries (the fruit, not the kind frozen in syrup). Thaw completely and drain all extra liquid before using.

Source: Adapted from Simply from Scratch Recipes Vol 2 (Amazon affiliate link)
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Want more cake recipes from scratch? Check these out:



Strawberry Shortcake Layer Cake


Devil’s Food Layer Cake with Whipped Chocolate Buttercream Frosting


Chocolate Caramel Cheesecake Cake


Chocolate Chip Cookie Cake with Cookie Dough Frosting


Mini Layered Guinness Cake with Irish Cream Ganache Frosting


Carrot Cake Cheesecake

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Comments

  1. Love this post! I trust my gut too… I had a gut feeling about the apartment I just moved into but looked at two others that same day. Both were wrong for very different reasons and I knew I should have just trusted my gut. Sometimes it’s hard to shut off the series of “what if…” that comes after the gut feeling, but I’m learning more and more to just trust it! Glad you did with this gorgeous cake :)

    • I am the same way! Right now I’m making a decision and I’m 100% positive on something. Except the cautious part of me wants to have a back up plan “just in case.”

  2. Janet T says:

    Wow, what a pretty cake. I am going to print out this recipe and make it for the 4th of July family gathering.

  3. This sounds amazing – I’ve actually never had strawberry cake, but I need to change that and happen to be going to a berry farm today, yay! I love that this is all normal ingredients, and that frosting….well. :)

    • I love berry farms! Seriously it’s like therapy picking out in the fields. And even if you just buy a quart, I love walking around and checking out the produce.

  4. A beautiful strawberry cake. Thanks so much.

  5. what a pretty cake!

  6. Hear hear for following your instincts! This cake is gorgeous, Carla. That red colour totally pops (a lil bit of food colouring ain’t cheating, in my opinion ;) and I bet this tastes incredible. I’m loving the strawberry cake/cream cheese frosting combo. I wish I lived near you so that I could’ve helped you eat the two cakes!

  7. What a gorgeous, inviting cake!! I’ve made a strawberry cake, too, but I forgot if I used Jello or not. I must try out this recipe. The white cake part looks similar to my go-to, white cake recipe, so I know it must be fantastic, light, with a moist crumb…and with those bits of strawberries in there? YUM! Pinned and bookmarked!

  8. Trusting your gut is one of the most valuable things you can do. I remember a long, long time ago, a friend asked me how to know if her fiancé was the one. I told her that if she had to ask, she shouldn’t marry him. That was her gut talking and my backing it up. She didn’t listen to either of us and was divorced within a few years.

    I’m glad you listened to yours on this cake, Carla! I love that you created a gorgeous strawberry cake naturally. I can just imagine the flavor by looking at its fabulous pink color! Wish I could try a slice!

  9. Janet T says:

    This is a wonderful cake, it is so moist and the frosting is divine. I made it yesterday and am very pleased, it’s the kind of cake that makes you want to sneak a slice of in the middle of the night. :)

  10. Gorgeous cake! Looks like you found the perfect ingredients!

  11. I made this cake this morning, for myself! Its amazing! Thank you!!

  12. Hi, just wanted to tell you how delicious this cake is. I just made a small 8 inch round layer cake for my aunts birthday tomorrow, with the left over batter I got seven delicious cupcakes out of it! Thank you so much for sharing your recipe with us. Yummy!

  13. You used cup measurements, I generally use Gram or weight measurements. Should I worry about the difference? 1 packed up vs 1 sifted cup of flour are completely different things.

  14. Carla, can I use frozen strawberries if I can’t get fresh? If so, do I need to do anything differently? Thank you.

    • Make sure you buy the bag of frozen fruit (not the strawberries in syrup), thaw them completely, drain any excess liquid that may have formed, and pat dry.

  15. Batter was too thick. Maybe use 1 1/2 c of flour not 2

  16. Made this cake the other night and loved it! Only problem was that I couldn’t taste the strawberries and neither could my family. Thankfully the cream cheese frosting still made it good. I’d suggest using more strawberries, maybe an extra half cup or so.

    • Oh interesting – that’s the first I’ve heard that. Could you tell me more about the strawberries you used? Were they fresh or frozen? If they were fresh, were they ripe and juicy (I ask because I had to buy strawberries out of season recently for a recipe, and the flavor was underwhelming because they weren’t in season). Your feedback will help me improve this recipe. Thanks!

  17. Michell Sanglez says:

    I’m sad…. i tried this tonight but it didn’t come out fine. I mean it taste wonderful, but it’s so gummy, it doesn’t feels like a cake :( .. what was wrong? :( The must sad part it’s that it’s hard for me to get fresh nice strawberries, and I lucky did yesterday… :(

    • I’m sorry to hear you had difficulties with this cake. The most common reason for a gummy cake is overbeating the batter, usually when flour is involved. The gluten can get tough and result in the rubbery texture that you experienced. Another reason could be not measuring the flour properly (you want to spoon in the flour, not scoop and pack it down).

  18. I want to make this cake but I only have 9 inch cake pans. Would it be okay to use those?

  19. This looks amazing! I’d like to try making a checker board cake with a strawberry cake layer and vanilla layer. Do you think I could just divide the batter in two then adding the strawberry puree in only one? Would the vanilla layer be lacking in taste? Sorry I’m a novice at this but I can’t wait to try this recipe!

    • I’ve never done a checkerboard cake before, but yes, you should be able to divide the batter into two bowls then flavor them separately (don’t forget to cut the strawberry puree in half). Since this recipe is based off of a white cake, the vanilla layer should be fine. However, if you feel that it may need a boost, you can an extra 1/4 teaspoon to the batter after dividing (bonus points if you have a vanilla bean and can scrape the seeds into the batter).

  20. I love strawberry cake, it has been a long time since I have had this..

  21. i am very new to art of baking..till now i would have experimented many times and most of the times the results were poor and rest just fine.
    Just believe me i had my cake super soft and super moist.
    I made it for our wedding anniversary and it came out really delicious.
    Thanks allllot.

  22. How many drops of red food coloring did you use? Also did you sift the flour, salt, ect. before mixing with the sugar?

    thanks

  23. I was so excited about the prospect of a strawberry cake from scratch. Unfortunately, after a day in the kitchen I am back at square one. The batter certainly tasted delicious, but the cake itself came out very gummy.

    • I’m sorry to hear you had difficulties. The most common reason for a gummy cake is overbeating the batter, usually when flour is involved. The gluten can get tough and result in the gummy texture that you experienced. Another reason could be not measuring the flour properly (you want to spoon in the flour, not scoop and pack it down).

      • I may try again but split the recipe in half just to test. I used a scale to measure the flour exactly, so that wasn’t it.

        • What kind of milk did you use? After some more reading, if you used low fat milk and not whole milk, it is possible that using less milk fat could have affected the texture (it’s more sensitive to overbeating than using whole milk due to the fat content).

  24. wow i made this cake and dint last a day it was gone in less then 2 hours about to make it again thank you

  25. What fat content milk can I use? I have 1% and 2% in the frig.

    • I use whole milk, but sometimes I bake with 2% if the store is out of whole milk in my size. Just be sure to not overmix the batter as overmixing with less fat may mean a tougher cake, but it should be fine otherwise.

  26. What do you think about using chocolate frosting with this strawberry cake. This is my 4year is request for his birthday cake? Will the chocolate overwhelm the strawberry?

  27. Can I use cake flour? If so, would I need to
    adjust the measurement? I don’t have a sifter. Thanks!

  28. I would like to know if you can use Almond Breeze milk in the Strawberry cake.

    • I’ve only made this cake using dairy milk. I know most almond milks can be substituted for dairy milk, so my guess is yes. Just be careful you don’t overbeat the batter especially after the flour is added since almond milk has less fat than dairy milk.

  29. Hey there-I’ve made this recipe about 5 times…the first two times it was perfect, fluffy, moist, excellent. The next the three times it hasn’t really risen to fluffy-ness and has been very spongey. Thoughts?

    • It’s either because of the ingredients you used (substitutes, expired baking powder, etc.) or it’s in your technique. It is very critical that you do not overmix, which I mentioned in the recipe. If you could let me know what you did differently from the first two times, that would give me a better idea.

  30. Esmeralda Sanchez says:

    I tried making this cake today, per request of my nephew as a birthday cake, as we are celebrating it tomorrow on Easter. My sister wanted a cake that was completely from scratch and we had very high hopes for this cake. Little did i know that the cake was going to be a complete disaster. It was completely chewy and tasted like pure flower. I could not even taste the strawberries. I followed the recipe exactly as it stated and even made sure not to over batter the mixture. It was completely gross. I regret wasting my time, money, and ingredients on this cake. COMPLTELY DISAPPOINTED!!!!!!!!

    • I’m sorry you had some difficulty with this recipe, but it certainly does not taste like flour. What brand of flour do you use? How do you measure your flour – do you spoon it into your measuring cup and level it off or did you scoop your measuring cup and pack it in there? I’m wondering in your attempt to not overmix that perhaps you undermixed the flour – was it fully moistened or were there pockets of dry flour? For the strawberries, did you use fresh or frozen? If you used fresh, were they juicy berries eaten straight from the carton? Or were they underripe and underwhelming in juice? Did you use whole milk and not low fat or fat free milk? Another possibility is your location. Where do you live? Do you live in an area like Colorado with high altitude? Was it really humid the day you baked the cake? Your answers can help me figure out what went wrong.

  31. Christina says:

    YUM! Tried a test cake before my daughters birthday next month. It is so so yummy. We are going to have one happy 3 year old. Thanks for the recipe!

  32. i made this cake the other day and liked it. I subbed in cake flour because it was either that or bread flour and my strawberries were not the best so I added a little (scant 1/4 tsp) almond extract to draw out the favors and give it some oomph. It totally worked and I had lots of strawberry flavore. I might have cooked my strawberries a bit longer than the recipe called for too.

    I found the cake to be on the firm side because of the fruit and it is also quite moist. I did think it was just a tad too sweet for me so when I make it again, I’ll back off the sugar a bit. I might also add a bit of lemon to bring out the tartness of the berries and see if that helps with the sweetness. I also found this cake holds in the fridge really well and is at least two times tastier after a night in the fridge. Even two night didn’t hurt it one bit.

    Thanks for a great recipe. It is a keeper.

    • Cake flour would def be the one I would choose over bread flour. I do like your addition of almond extract! Glad you enjoyed the cake after making it work with what you had in your kitchen.

  33. The strawberry cake was great! Thanks for the recipe.

  34. Hi – This cake looks amazing and II will be making it for my daughter’s birthday next week!! Just wondering – during the step where it says to whisk together the egg whites, milk and vanilla – do you whisk this until the whites are stiff like a meringue or just until the ingredients are mixed together?

  35. 2nd time making this cake. Everyone loved it and requesting it again. However, this time I used frozen strawberries and forgot to drain the extra water out first. My batter is way to runny. Any wat to save it or do I need to start over?

    • Sometimes you can add extra flour to help compensate for that, but I’m not sure how it’ll affect the texture. You can try adding an extra 1/4 or 1/2 cup flour.

  36. Melinda says:

    I’m baking this cake tonight for my father in laws birthday. This is my first time making a strawberry cake, typically when I bake cakes I use cake flour. Can I use cake flour with this recipe? If so should I change the flour ratio?

    • To substitute cake flour for all-purpose flour use 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons cake flour for every cup of all-purpose flour. Hope that helps!

  37. I just wanted to share that I’m attempting this as our ‘gender reveal’ cake! Obviously we’re having a little girl, and we couldn’t be more thrilled to celebrate with something homemade to share with our family.

    I noticed the layer of cream cheese in between; do you think I could thinly slice strawberries also for some extra color and texture? Or will the layers slide? It has to be sturdy and stay fully iced on the outside so as to not reveal the inside until we’re ready… Thanks again!

    • First, congratulations to you! I’m honored you’re using my cake for the gender reveal :) As for your question, as long as the strawberries are flat and roughly the same thickness, you should be ok with the cake not sliding.

  38. Absolutely delicious! I tried this yesterday using the juiciest and sweetest strawberries i picked from the farm a couple of days ago.. I’m so happy to find your recipe! You are awesome!! Cheers!

  39. I tried this recipe tonight, and it did not turn out well. I am wondering if this is because of the tablespoon of baking powder your recipe calls for. Is this a typo? The flavor was good, but the consistency was not good for me. The cake never rose and the batter never reached a homogenized consistency. I will definitely try this again, but I am hoping you will provide more insight into what I might have done that would cause it to be this way. I did test my baking powder after the dismal outcome of this cake, and the powder is definitely still active and good, so if the issue is with the powder, it seems like it would have to be associated with the unusually high (in my experience at least) volume of baking powder called for in this recipe. Thanks.

    • If you are absolutely sure the baking powder is still good, then I don’t think that’s the culprit as baking powder causes the cake to rise, and you said your cake didn’t rise. You say your batter didn’t reach a homogenized consistency – I’m not sure how to help troubleshoot without being in the kitchen with you. Did you substitute anything? What kind of milk did you use? How did you measure your flour? Did you sift your flour? In your attempt to not overmix, perhaps you undermixed? Did you use egg whites from large eggs from the store (as opposed to medium eggs or even farm fresh eggs where sizes vary)? I’m sorry I can’t help further, but I do not have enough information.

      • It is possible that I under mixed the batter, I’m definitely not ruling that out. I used no substitute ingredients, whole milk, and farm fresh eggs (my parents’ chickens lay eggs typically as big as the “large” variety found in supermarkets). I sifted the AP flour before measuring it, added to a measuring cup with a spoon and leveled it, then added salt and baking powder and sifted again before mixing with the butter. If you and others have successfully made this recipe, I know it can be done. I’ll try again. You never did say, though, is the ingredient listing for one tablespoon of baking powder correct? In my experience (and reading), using too much can be as bad as using too little, because the batter will rise too quickly and then fall. Thanks for responding.

        AF

        • Yes that is the amount I used. If it was too much, the cake would have either collapsed in the middle or overflowed out of the pans. You said it didn’t rise nor was a homogenized consistency.

  40. I want to try to make this cake for my mother in law’s birthday. It’s the only one I’ve found that doesn’t use jello and doctor up a boxed cake mix. I have a question, I only have 9 inch cake pans and this recipe says to use 8. How do I fix the recipe so it works?

    • The recipe will still work; the layers will just be slightly thinner. I don’t know the amounts you would need to make normal sized layers in 9 inch pans because I don’t own 9 inch pans to test it.

      • Thanks anyways. That’s ok. I just got some 8 in cake pans. I didn’t realize how small the cake is. I thought it would be bigger the pictures look bigger or I’m just used to 9 inch cakes.

  41. I tried making this for practice before my mother-in-law’s birthday and it came out great! I used strawberries from the grocery store finding the ripest they had since strawberry season just got done with. The flavor wasn’t overwhelming nor underwhelming came out great thanks! I’m sure she’ll like this cake.

  42. Thank you so much for this recipe. I made it for my granddaughter’s 4th birthday party today, and everybody raved about it. The strawberry reduction really does the trick. I used 2 whole eggs because I didn’t care so much about the pink of the cake, and it was still pretty and pink inside. This one is a keeper!

  43. Darnell Moser says:

    Carla,

    I like your natural approach to food and cooking. Keep up the good work!

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