This delicious from scratch Strawberry Cake recipe has no artificial colors or flavors! Paired with fresh strawberries and mascarpone buttercream.
“Blue Monday is a name given to a day in January (typically the third Monday of the month) claimed to be the most depressing day of the year.” (source: Wikipedia).
Well, here we are, the third week in January. We’re dealing with post-holiday doldrums, crappy weather (in most places), and NY resolutions that you’ve likely already broken or cheated on (it’s ok, happens to everyone). Are you feeling it? I know I certainly am.
Further in the article… “The date is generally reported as falling on the third Monday in January, but also on the second or fourth Monday, or the Monday of the last full week of January.” So, every Monday in January? Sounds about right!
This time of year is always challenging for me, so I try to focus on some bright and vibrant things to bake (you know, to help with those resolutions!). Today, I’m bringing you this cheery Strawberry Cake with Mascarpone Buttercream!
How to make this Strawberry Cake Recipe
A strawberry cake recipe has been on my radar since last year, but it kept getting postponed. I thought this would be the perfect way to say goodbye to the holidays and look ahead to better, non-January times.
Initially, I was planning on using pureed fresh strawberries in this cake and frosting, but I wanted to try something different to give it a more intense strawberry flavor and color (without using something like Jell-O or artificial color gel). I knew that fresh strawberries would not give me the result I wanted, so I decided to hunt down some freeze-dried strawberries.
It is ridiculously hard to find freeze-dried strawberries in Vancouver. I checked like 5 or 6 stores before giving up and ordering them online from Amazon. Apparently they are available on every corner in the US (exaggerating, but still). They are available in most grocery stores and you can get them for a deal at Trader Joe’s. I wish we had a Trader Joe’s here!!
Is there a difference between freeze-dried and dehydrated fruit?
Freeze-dried fruit is different from dehydrated fruit. Dehydration, which typically involves slicing fruit and then dehydrating it in an oven or a food dehydrator, removes about 90% of the moisture. Freeze drying, which involves freezing the sliced fruit (which releases more moisture) and vacuuming out the moisture, removes about 98%.
Though that may not seem like a huge difference, you cannot use regular dehydrated fruit in place of freeze dried in most recipes (including this one).
Freeze-dried fruit is less perishable, but often more expensive than dehydrated due to the process. And it is perfect for baking!! The flavor and colors that come through are amazing. I’ll probably still scour the stores here to see if I can come across some raspberries or blueberries to give them a try.
I bought sliced freeze dried strawberries because I wanted to chop some up for garnish, but you could just by freeze-dried strawberry powder for ease. I put the strawberry powder in both the cake layers and the frosting.
Initially I was going to pair this cake with a cream cheese frosting, but I decided to do mascarpone for something different but equally delicious. If you don’t like mascarpone, you could totally do a cream cheese frosting or even an American Butterceam or Swiss Meringue. All would work perfectly well.
I used whole eggs in this Strawberry Cake recipe, but using just egg whites would take away the yellowish tint from the layers. Either works perfectly fine, it’s just a matter of preference. I just didn’t want to waste good yolks! Use 5 large egg whites instead of 3 whole eggs if you’d like to go this route.
I sliced fresh strawberries to put in between the layers, but should have sliced them thicker. I used my food processor for ease, but should have adjusted the setting — oh well! Learn from my mistakes, people. Cut your strawberries thicker, and press them into the frosting between the layers.
This cake has an intense and wonderful strawberry flavor. The mascarpone buttercream is a perfect match. If you are a strawberry fan, you will LOVE it.
More Berry Cake Recipes you might like:
- White Chocolate Raspberry Cake
- Raspberry Mango Cake
- Lemon Blueberry Cake
- Blueberry Banana Cake
- Chocolate Raspberry Cake
- Chocolate Strawberry Cake
Tips for making this Strawberry Cake recipe:
- The recipe as-is will also work in two 8″ pans. For three 8″ pans, 1.5x the recipe.
- To make cupcakes, all you need to do is reduce the baking time — start checking at 15mins or so.
- You can purchase freeze-dried strawberry powder instead of whole freeze-dried strawberries, if it’s easier to find. Do not use dehydrated strawberries — they must be freeze-dried.
- If you like, you can add some pink or red color gel to the cake batter to make the color more vibrant.
- You can use 5 large egg whites instead of 3 large eggs so the yolks don’t affect the color.
- In hindsight, I should have either cut my strawberries thicker or added more of them between the layers. The thickness or amount is up to you, but note that adding too much can make the cake a bit unstable and hard to stack (it will slide around) — try to press the berries into the frosting to avoid this.
- I added in the strawberry dust from the bottom of the freeze-dried strawberry container into the frosting, as I wanted some seeds showing throughout it.
- Learn how to keep your cakes moist using Simple Syrup.
- To help ensure your cake layers bake up nice and flat, see my Flat Top Cakes post.
Strawberry Cake with Mascarpone Buttercream
Freeze-Dried Strawberry Powder
- 3 oz freeze-dried strawberries approx. 4.5 cups *
- 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup freeze-dried strawberry powder
- 2 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 3/4 cup unsalted butter room temperature
- 1 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 3 large eggs or 5 large egg whites, room temperature
- 1 1/2 tsp vanilla
- 1 1/2 cups milk room temperature
Strawberry Mascarpone Buttercream:
- 1 1/2 cups unsalted butter room temperature
- 6 oz mascarpone cheese room temperature
- 4 cups powdered sugar
- 1-2 Tbsp heavy whipping cream
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1/4 cup freeze-dried strawberry powder more if desired
- 6 large fresh strawberries thinly sliced
- freeze-dried strawberries finely chopped, optional
- thyme sprigs optional
- Pulse freeze-dried strawberries in a coffee grinder or food processor to a fine powder. Pass through a fine mesh strainer. Measure out 1/2 cup for the cake batter and 6 Tbsp for the frosting (more if desired). Set aside.
- Preheat oven to 350F. Grease and flour three 6″ cake rounds and line with parchment.
- In a medium bowl, whisk flour, 1/2 cup strawberry powder, baking powder, and salt. Sift to ensure it’s well combined. Set aside.
- Using a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream butter and sugar on med-high until pale and fluffy (approx 3mins). Reduce speed and add eggs one at a time fully incorporating after each addition. Add vanilla.
- Alternate adding flour mixture and milk, beginning and ending with flour (3 additions of flour and 2 of milk). Fully incorporating after each addition.
- Bake for 35-40 mins or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out mostly clean.
- Place cakes on wire rack to cool for 10mins then turn out onto wire rack to cool completely.
Strawberry Mascarpone Buttercream:
- Beat butter until smooth. Add mascarpone cheese and beat until smooth and combined.
- Slowly add in powdered sugar (1/2 cup at a time). Add vanilla and 1 Tbsp cream and beat on med-high for 5mins. Reduce speed to low and beat for 2mins. Add more cream if desired.
- Strawberry powder to be added during assembly below.
- Place one layer of cake on a cake stand or serving plate. Top with approximately 1 cup of buttercream, spread evenly. Top with a thin layer of sliced strawberries.**
- Repeat with remaining layer and apply a thin layer of frosting all over to crumb coat the cake. Chill for 20mins.
- While cake is chilling, add 1/4 cup strawberry powder to the remaining frosting. Beat to combine.***
- Frost the top and sides of the cake and smooth with an icing scraper. Using a 1M tip, pipe dollop ruffles onto the top of the cake. If desired, sprinkle top with chopped freeze-dried strawberries and garnish with thyme sprigs.
** The thickness or amount is up to you, but note that adding too much can make the cake a bit unstable and hard to stack — try to press the berries into the frosting.
*** I also added in the strawberry powder from the bottom of the freeze-dried strawberry container as I wanted some seeds throughout the frosting.
Kim L says
Loved the frosting but cake was extremely dense. But flavor was ok. I did nit read the comments and my mind told me to add something else to it because it seem to be turning out as a dense cake as I prepped it.
Hi Kim! Glad you loved the frosting. My cakes tend to be more on the dense side rather than light and fluffy, and this one moreso because of the added freeze dried berry powder.
Followed recipe exactly & though it looked beautiful, it turned out extremely dense. More like a bread than a cake. Frosting was an A+ though.
Hi Jessica! This cake is more dense than my normal cakes due to the FD berry powder in the cake batter. I’m glad you loved the frosting!
Wendy Wheeler says
I love that you do 1X, 2X, 3X ingredients for your recipes but with this strawberry cake recipe you do not say what size pans to your with 2X and 3X… I have a really hard time figuring this out… please tell me what size pans to use with the increases… love your recipes!!!!!
Hi Wendy! Converting pan sizes is always tricky. Here are some sites I use as a guideline:
I loved the mascarpone frosting (I used 1 oz freeze-dried strawberries and 1 tsp strawberry extract) but the cake was heavy and dense with a poundcake texture. For me the frosting is a keeper but not the cake.
Hi Sherry! Sorry to hear you didn’t love the cake. It is on the dense side due to the freeze dried strawberries. Glad you loved the frosting!
So… I’m thinking about doing this frosting recipe with your vanilla cake recipe… what are your thoughts, Liv? Every single cake I’ve ever done from you always turns out perfectly. So I don’t want to mess with a good thing, but I wonder if this cake is ‘too’ much strawberry? Or is it more just strawberry through and through? My birthday is this weekend and I want a girly, fun cake but don’t want to overwhelm with strawberries (even though I love them!)
Thank you for your thoughts in advance! <3
Hi Bonnie! I think you cant go wrong with either. If you LOVE strawberry then this one would be a delicious combo but the frosting would pair really well with my vanilla cake too, if you want a contrast 🙂 Hope you have a wonderful birthday!
Once the cake is decorated can it be left out on the counter or does it have to be refrigerated?
I’ve made this recipe twice now and my cake is almost muffin like, but still very delicious. I will be making cupcakes for a co-worker this weekend. But have a problem with the frosting drying out on the decorated cake in the fridge.
Hi Ashley! It’s best to refrigerate due to the mascarpone in the frosting. This type of frosting will “crust” as it sets. It’s due to the powdered sugar. The fridge shouldn’t make a difference to this but the frosting will be firmer when chilled. If you bring the cake/cupcakes to room temperature before serving it should soften up again 🙂
If I made cupcakes with this instead, how many would it make?
Hi Leah! It should make 18-24 depending on size.
Curious about using this frosting with chocolate cake instead of the one you prescribe for your chocolate strawberry cake? Just bc some folks had trouble with the other frosting and mascarpone sounds decadent.
Hi Anisha! This frosting will work great too!
I randomly found freeze dried strawberries at HomeSense today. Looking forward to trying out this recipe for my daughter’s third birthday. She’s asking for a pink cake! Pink is not my thing, but this sounds tasty.
Anything special for freezing this cake, or is it the same as your others? I’m due to have a baby a few weeks before her birthday, so I’d like to get it made up ahead of time since I can’t see doing too much baking with a brand new baby.
Hi Shélah! The cake and components should freeze fine no problem!
* The cooled cake layers can be baked ahead of time, double wrapped in plastic wrap, and frozen for up to 3 months. Take out 2-3 hours before assembly.
* The frosting can be placed in an airtight container and refrigerated for 1 week for frozen for 3 months. Bring to room temp and rewhip before using.
* The finished cake (whole or sliced, stored airtight) can be frozen for up to 3 months.
So I added a bit more strawberry powder to the cake batter. Wanted it very very strawberry. The cakes didn’t seem to rise. Otherwise I followed the recipe to the T. Could adding the extra Strawberry powder caused this?
Hi Jennifer! Yes, that would definitely do it. The cakes are already on the denser side due to the strawberry powder that’s in there so adding more of it would affect the rise and consistency. Be sure to check that your baking powder is still fresh though, just in case.
If I make this with two 8×2 rounds, is the cooking time the same? Thank you!
Hi Whitney! Baking time should be similar but be sure to check on them as they are baking to be sure.
Hey FYI! They sell freeze dried strawberries at the dollar tree (small bags but less expensive than Trader Joe’s) for a budget-friendly option 🤗
Hi Savannah! Awesome, thanks for the tip!
I’m about to make this double with less sugar in the frosting, blackberry blueberry lemon curd between layers, and a layer of pistachio cardamom cake in the middle fof a 3-tier 9″ birthday cake. Hooray! I’ll comment later to tell if it worked!!!!!
Hi Sarah! Sounds amazing. Let me know how it turned out!
How much freeze dried strawberry powder is in the cake and frosting by weight as opposed to volume? Making this for Valentine’s Day
Hi Tia! I never got the weight amount when I made it but I cross-referenced it with another recipe of mine and it says that 1/4 cup is 30g.
Thank you! That seems like it makes sense, I referenced the King Arthur ingredient weight chart, which only listed blueberry powder and a 1/4 cup is 28g
Was wanting to know if using cake flour what amounts would I use? The same as you say flour? Also, if I use cake flour can I cover in fondant without falling apart?
Hi Marie! Just swap the AP flour for cake flour and it should be fine. The cake should still be sturdy enough for fondant.