Strawberry Cake (Like Box Mix But Better)

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This sweet and tender Strawberry Cake is a fresher, yummier version of your favorite box mix! The rose-colored cake is beautiful, and it’s full of natural strawberry flavor. It’s modeled after the flavor of a box mix and layered with a simple cream cheese frosting, making it the cake of my childhood dreams!

A Piece of Strawberry Cake on a Plate with a Sliced Strawberry Beside It

Easy Homemade Strawberry Cake

This strawberry cake is made to emulate a box cake mix, but it’s SO MUCH better! It’s also a simple recipe, so you won’t miss the boxed version at all. Plus, you get the benefit of a homemade cake with fresh strawberries, which really changes the game!

There’s something so satisfying about a sweet strawberry cake paired with tangy cream cheese frosting. This one not only tastes amazing, but it uses pink food coloring so it looks the part, too. When you see the color of this cake, you think strawberry – and boy does it deliver!

Why Create a Homemade Version of a Box Mix?

Strawberry box cake was one of my favorites growing up. I didn’t bake from scratch as a kid. Even though I now love baking from scratch, I still love the nostalgia of that box mix. This cake mixes both things – homemade and box mix. In this strawberry cake from scratch, you can have the best of both worlds with fresh strawberries that have been reduced AND some strawberry extract. The combination makes for amazing strawberry flavor that’s reminiscent of a box mix, but truly fit for the strawberry lover. You can’t beat a fresh homemade cake, and this one blows the box mix out of the water!

A Strawberry Layer Cake Garnished With Fresh Strawberry Slices

What’s the Difference Between this Strawberry Cake and My Others?

I made this cake for those that want a strawberry cake, but recognize that a cake only flavored with fresh strawberries can sometimes lack the flavor that you’re looking for. For a cake to be flavored with only fresh strawberries, you need REALLY good strawberries. Plus, they don’t actually make a cake with super pretty pink color. So if you’re looking for the best strawberry flavor, regardless of having the perfect strawberries and a pretty pink color, this is for you.

Not all of my cakes use strawberry extract, but I wanted this one to have that strong, strawberry like-a-box-mix flavor. It still uses the strawberry reduction, but it’s not 100% natural like my original Strawberry Cake, which is great when strawberries are in season. But when they’re not, a cake that uses both natural and artificial strawberry flavors is the way to go. You still get that natural flavor, but it’s enhanced by the extract.

Another naturally and artificially flavored cake that I love is this Strawberry Crunchy Layer Cake. It was inspired by the Good Humor Strawberry Ice Cream Bars, and it’s layered with a classic vanilla cake. Compared to the two other strawberry cakes, this one has a similar flavor and texture to the strawberry crunchy cake but as a fully strawberry cake.

A Slice of Strawberry Cake on a White Dessert Plate

Recipe Ingredients

This cake keeps it simple when it comes to the ingredients. Here’s what you’ll need to make the cake and the frosting:

For the Strawberry Cake Layers

  • Strawberries: Be sure to get ones with nice flavor. You should be able to smell them right in the container.
  • All-Purpose Flour
  • Baking Powder: To help the cake rise.
  • Salt: For flavor. Often overlooked, but super important.
  • Unsalted Butter: Bring your butter to room temperature.
  • Sugar
  • Vegetable Oil: For extra moisture.
  • Strawberry Extract: You’ll need 4 teaspoons.
  • Vanilla Extract
  • Eggs: Large eggs.
  • Milk: For a moist and fluffy cake.
  • Pink Food Coloring: You’ll need about 8-10 drops, depending on what shade you’re going for.

For the Cream Cheese Frosting

  • Cream Cheese: Bring to room temperature.
  • Butter: Room temperature.
  • Powdered Sugar: For volume and consistency.
  • Vanilla Extract

A Strawberry Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting on a White Cake Stand

How to Make this Strawberry Box Mix Cake

This 3-layer cake is easy to make and assemble. It’s stacked up with layers of frosting in between, then topped with more frosting and fresh strawberries!

Make the Cakes

  1. Make Strawberry Puree: To make the strawberry reduction for the cake layers, add the strawberries to a food processor or blender and puree until smooth. You should have about 1 1/4 cups of puree. Strain it through a fine mesh sieve and you should end up with about 1 cup of puree.
  2. Reduce Puree Over Heat: Add the puree to a medium-sized saucepan and cook over medium heat. Allow the mixture to come to a slow boil, stirring consistently to keep it from burning, until it has thickened and reduced by half to 1/2 cup, about 15-20 minutes. To measure, pour the puree into a measuring cup. If it’s more than 1/2 a cup, add it back to the pan and continue cooking. When the puree has thickened and reduced, pour it into a measuring cup or bowl and allow it to cool to at least room temperature.
  3. Prepare Oven: Preheat the oven to 350°F and prepare three 8-inch cake pans with parchment paper in the bottom and baking spray on the sides.
  4. Combine Dry Ingredients: Combine the flour, baking powder and salt in a medium-sized bowl and set it aside.
  5. Combine Wet Ingredients: Add the butter, sugar, oil, strawberry extract and vanilla extract to a large mixer bowl and beat together on medium speed until light in color and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes. Do not skimp on the creaming time.
  6. Add Eggs: Add the eggs one at a time, mixing until mostly combined after each. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed to be sure all ingredients are well incorporated.
  7. Mix In Half of Dry Ingredients: Add half of the dry ingredients to the batter and mix until mostly combined.
  8. Add Milk, Strawberry Reduction & Food Coloring: Slowly add the milk, strawberry reduction and 8 drops of food coloring and mix until well combined.
  9. Finish Adding Dry Ingredients: Add the remaining dry ingredients and mix until well combined and smooth. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed to be sure all ingredients are well incorporated. Do not overmix the batter.
  10. Add More Food Coloring: Gently fold in additional food coloring until you have your desired shade of pink.
  11. Bake: Divide the batter evenly between the cake pans and bake for 22-25 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out with a few crumbs.
  12. Let Cool: Remove the cakes from the oven and allow them to cool for about 2-3 minutes, then transfer them to cooling racks to cool completely.

Make the Frosting

  1. Beat Butter & Cream Cheese: Add the cream cheese and butter to a large mixer bowl and beat until well combined and smooth.
  2. Add Half of Powdered Sugar: Add about half of the powdered sugar and mix until well combined and smooth.
  3. Add Vanilla: Add the vanilla extract and mix until well combined.
  4. Finish Adding Powdered Sugar: Add the remaining powdered sugar and mix until well combined and smooth. Add more or less powdered sugar, as desired for consistency purposes.

Assemble Your Cake

  1. Flatten Cakes: Use a large serrated knife to remove the domes from the top of the cakes so that they’re flat, if needed.
  2. Layer Cake & Frosting: Place the first cake on a serving plate or a cardboard cake round. Spread about 1 cup of frosting evenly on top of the cake. Add the second layer of cake, another cup of frosting, then the final cake layer.
  3. Frost: Frost the top and outside of the cake.
  4. Decorate: To make the line pattern in the side of the cake, run a 9-inch offset spatula around the outside of the cake while turning your turntable. Start with the line at the bottom and work your way to the top. Pipe shells of frosting on the top edge of the cake and the bottom, then decorate with strawberries, if desired.

A Piece of Strawberry Layer Cake on a Plate with One Bite on a Fork

Tips for the Best Strawberry Cake

To ensure the success of your strawberry layer cake, check out my tips and tricks for this recipe.

  • Use Fresh Berries: Fresh, ripe strawberries will give you a lot more flavor than their frozen counterparts. It helps if the strawberries are in-season, but if they’re not, don’t worry. The extract will pick up the slack!
  • Reduce Puree to Half a Cup: If you don’t fully reduce your strawberry puree, the mixture will be too thin and watery. Keep cooking and stirring it until you have half a cup.
  • Use Gel Food Coloring: Gel food coloring is generally more pigmented than liquid food coloring, so if you only have the liquid kind, use red instead of pink. Add coloring until you’re satisfied with the shade of your batter.
  • Make Strawberry Reduction in Advance: This strawberry reduction can be made a day ahead of time and stored in the fridge.
  • Tips for Frosting the Cake: Not confident working with frosting? This tutorial for Frosting a Smooth Cake will teach you everything you need to know!

A Cake Stand Holding a Frosted Strawberry Layer Cake

Serving Suggestions

You can change up how you serve this cake based on the occasion, or just to have fun with it! Here are some ideas:

  • Frost with Chocolate Buttercream: If you’re not a fan of cream cheese frosting or simply want to add a chocolatey twist, try layering and frosting your strawberry cake with Chocolate Buttercream instead!
  • Top with Mixed Berries: Any fresh fruit would taste amazing on top of this cake. Feel free to add raspberries, blueberries or whatever else you like!
  • Frost with Strawberry Frosting: If you’re making a strawberry dessert, why not go all out? My Homemade Strawberry Frosting also tastes incredible with this cake.

How to Store Homemade Cake

This cake should be stored in an airtight container in the fridge. It should last for 3-4 days, but keep in mind the fresh strawberries on top may not keep as well.

Can I Freeze This Cake?

I don’t typically recommend freezing a full cake. The individual layers can be wrapped up and frozen prior to frosting. You can also wrap individual slices of the full cake in plastic wrap before storing them in an airtight container. Frozen strawberry cake will last for up to 2 months; let it thaw out in the fridge before enjoying.

Print
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A Slice of Strawberry Cake on a White Dessert Plate
Recipe

Strawberry Cake (Like Box Mix But Better)

  • Author: Lindsay
  • Prep Time: 1 hour 20 minutes
  • Cook Time: 45 minutes
  • Total Time: 2 hours 5 minutes
  • Yield: 14 slices 1x
  • Category: Dessert
  • Method: Oven
  • Cuisine: American

Description

This sweet and tender Strawberry Cake is a fresher, yummier version of your favorite box mix! The rose-colored cake is beautiful, and it’s full of natural strawberry flavor. Layered with a simple cream cheese frosting, this is the cake of my childhood dreams!


Scale

Ingredients

For the Strawberry Cake Layers

  • 2 1/2 cups (330g) quartered strawberries
  • 2 1/2 cups (325g) all purpose flour
  • 2 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup (168g) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups (310g) sugar
  • 3 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 4 tsp strawberry extract
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 4 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup (180ml) milk
  • 810 drops pink food color

For the Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 16 oz (452g) cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1 1/4 cups (280g) butter, room temperature
  • 12 cups (1380g) powdered sugar
  • 2 1/4 tsp vanilla extract

Instructions

  1. To make the strawberry reduction for the cake layers, add the strawberries to a food processor or blender and puree until smooth. You should have about 1 1/4 cups of puree. Strain it through a fine mesh sieve and you should end up with about 1 cup of puree.
  2. Add the puree to a medium sized saucepan and cook over medium heat. Allow the mixture to come to a slow boil, stirring consistently to keep it from burning, until it has thickened and reduced by half to 1/2 cup, about 15-20 minutes. To measure, pour the puree into a measuring cup. If it’s more than 1/2 cup, add it back to the pan and continue cooking.
  3. When the puree has thickened and reduced, pour into a measuring cup or bowl and allow to cool to at least room temperature. This strawberry mixture can be made ahead, if you like, and stored in the fridge.
  4. To make the cake layers, preheat oven to 350°F (176°C) and prepare three 8 inch cake pans with parchment paper in the bottom and baking spray on the sides.
  5. Combine the flour, baking powder and salt in a medium sized bowl and set aside.
  6. Add the butter, sugar, oil, strawberry extract and vanilla extract to a large mixer bowl and beat together on medium speed until light in color and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes. Do not skimp on the creaming time.
  7. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing until mostly combined after each. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed to be sure all ingredients are well incorporated.
  8. Add half of the dry ingredients to the batter and mix until mostly combined.
  9. Slowly add the milk, strawberry reduction and 8 drops of food color and mix until well combined.
  10. Add the remaining dry ingredients and mix until well combined and smooth. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed to be sure all ingredients are well incorporated. Do not over mix the batter.
  11. Gently fold in additional food color until you have your desired shade of pink.
  12. Divide the batter evenly between the cakes pans and bake for 22-25 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out with a few crumbs.
  13. Remove the cakes from the oven and allow to cool for about 2-3 minutes, then remove to cooling racks to cool completely.
  14. To make the frosting, add the cream cheese and butter to a large mixer bowl and beat until well combined and smooth.
  15. Add about half of the powdered sugar and mix until well combined and smooth.
  16. Add the vanilla extract and mix until well combined.
  17. Add the remaining powdered sugar and mix until well combined and smooth. Add more or less powdered sugar, as desired for consistency purposes.
  18. To put the cake together, use a large serrated knife to remove the domes from the top of the cakes so that they’re flat, if needed.
  19. Place the first cake on a serving plate or a cardboard cake round.
  20. Spread about 1 cup of frosting evenly on top of the cake,
  21. Add the second layer of cake and another cup of frosting.
  22. Top the cake with the remaining layer and frost the outside of the cake. Refer to my tutorial for frosting a smooth cake, if needed. To make the line pattern in the side of the cake, run a 9 inch offset spatula around the outside of the cake while turning your turntable. Start with the line at the bottom and work your way to the top.
  23. Pipe shells of frosting on the top edge of the cake and the bottom, then decorate with strawberries, if desired.

Notes

Makes 12-14 slices.

Keywords: strawberry cake, homemade strawberry cake, strawberry cake mix, best cream cheese frosting, strawberry layer cake, strawberries and cream cake, easy strawberry cake

An Image of a Slice of Strawberry Cake Over an Image of the Whole Cake

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Recipe rating

15 Comments
  1. Tammy

    Hi, Lindsay!
    Can I use this recipe for cupcakes? I’ve tried other recipes for cupcake recipes, but they strawberry flavor is always muted. I think the strawberry extract is key!
    Kindly,
    Tammy

Lindsay
About Lindsay

I'm a wife and mom to twin boys, a baby girl and a sweet black lab with a serious sweets addiction! Bring on the sugar!

Scripture I’m Loving

“Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” Romans 12:12