One of the recipes I’m most proud of is homemade strawberry cake.
From-scratch strawberry cake has always left me defeated because (1) the flavor is usually lackluster and (2) the texture is too wet from the strawberries. Strawberry cakes that have a delicious texture typically rely on artificial flavors. My goal was to produce a soft, fluffy, and moist strawberry cake made from real strawberries. Best texture with zero artificial flavor. Was that too much to ask?
Nope. I did it. And you tried it. And you loved it. You told me it’s “unbelievable” and “phenomenal” and “as if someone had taken Breyers strawberry ice cream and put it into a cake.” 🙂 It’s one of the best cakes I’ve ever made. You can watch me make the strawberry cake in episode 1 of Sprinkled, my mini video series!
The secret to packing real strawberry flavor into cake batter without adding too much liquid is to REDUCE THE STRAWBERRIES DOWN. This little trick is a complete game changer and vastly improves both the flavor and texture of strawberry cake. Today we’re doing the same exact thing, but in cupcake form.
To make the homemade strawberry cupcakes extra special, we’re topping them with white chocolate strawberry frosting made from pure white chocolate and freeze-dried strawberries– yet another trick to fantastic strawberry flavor. I admit that the cupcakes don’t have a super strong strawberry flavor– you’ll taste it, but it’s truly brought out when paired with our strawberry frosting.
Before we get to the frosting, let’s begin with the cupcakes!
The first step is to grab fresh strawberries, puree them into a liquid, then reduce the puree down on the stove for about 20 minutes. Do you see the photo above? That is heavily concentrated pure strawberry flavor– about 1/4 cup of reduced strawberry puree. After making the strawberry cake, readers have said it’s helpful to make the reduced strawberry puree the night before so it has time to cool down.
As a refresher: If we added the strawberry puree without reducing it down first, it would completely ruin the texture of the cupcake and the strawberry flavor would be almost absent. Reducing it is the secret.
What are we doing with the reduced strawberry puree? We’re adding it to my homemade vanilla cupcakes. This recipe produces very soft cupcakes, but I found that the reduced strawberry puree weighed it down. To compensate, I made adjustments to the wet ingredients and increased the baking powder for extra lift.
The rest of the cake batter is carefully formulated; each ingredient serves a crucial purpose to the outcome of the cupcakes. Cake flour produces fluffy cupcakes, 3 egg whites provide structure without weighing the crumb down, sour cream for moisture and to lighten the crumb, milk to thin the batter out, creamed butter and sugar for a buttery and cakey base. They’re all powder ingredients, so I don’t recommend straying from the recipe below!
The cupcake batter is smooth, creamy, and moderately thick. The reduced strawberry puree tints it pale pastel pink. For a more vibrant color, I suggest adding a drop or 2 of pink or red food coloring. I added 1 drop of “dusty rose” gel food coloring.
Tip: Fill the cupcake liners only about 2/3 full to avoid overflowing.
WHITE CHOCOLATE STRAWBERRY FROSTING
The best strawberry cupcakes require the best frosting!! And if that frosting is as bubble gum pink as Barbie’s corvette, well, that’s even better! This white chocolate strawberry frosting is creamy, lush, and completely PACKED with real strawberry flavor. We’re using two secret ingredients:
- Freeze-Dried Strawberries
- Pure White Chocolate
Freeze-dried strawberries: Like strawberry cake, strawberry frosting has always left me disappointed. What’s the issue? Two things, actually. (1) The strawberry frosting would curdle from the added moisture and (2) no amount of fresh strawberries could get me the strawberry flavor I craved. The solution is freeze-dried strawberries. Grind them into a powder and use in place of some of the confectioners’ sugar.
Where to buy freeze-dried strawberries? In the dried fruit aisle. Wegmans, Giant, Trader Joe’s, Target, and many other major grocery stores carry them. Keep your eyes peeled– they’re more commonly found that you think!
Strawberry dust for our white chocolate frosting! ↑
White chocolate: For an indulgently creamy and velvety strawberry buttercream, let’s add pure white chocolate. Grab a white chocolate baking bar from the baking aisle. Two, actually. Most are sold as 4 ounce bars and you’ll need 6 ounces for the frosting. (Hold onto the extra 2 ounces for garnish.) Chop up and melt down. Let it cool for a few minutes, then mix directly into the strawberry frosting.
You’re in for a real treat. ↓
Remember the extra 2 ounces of white chocolate? Melt it down and coat some fresh strawberries for the perfect finishing touch to our white chocolate strawberry cupcakes. So beautiful, so simple, so strawberry!
I used piping tip Wilton 8B for the frosting. Start in the center of the cupcake and swirl upward. Love this piping tip, definitely a fave!!
Do you follow the Canadian bakery Jenna Rae Cakes on Instagram? I looooove their gorgeous creations. I got the cupcake decoration inspiration from them!
Between the reduced strawberry puree, white chocolate, and strawberry powder– it seems like a lot of finicky steps. And you’re right… these white chocolate strawberry cupcakes definitely require some effort. The good news is that you can get started on almost everything ahead of time (see my make ahead instructions) and the great news is that the result of your hard work is PINK CUPCAKES.
- 1 and 3/4 cups (200g) cake flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup (115g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
- 1 cup (200g) granulated sugar
- 3 egg whites, at room temperature
- 1/4 cup (60g) sour cream or plain yogurt, at room temperature
- 1 and 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 1/3 cup (80ml) whole milk, at room temperature
- 1/4 cup reduced strawberry puree (see note)*
White Chocolate Strawberry Frosting
- 1 cup (10-12g) freeze-dried strawberries*
- 1 cup (230g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
- 2 cups (240g) confectioners’ sugar
- 6 ounces (170g) white chocolate, melted and slightly cooled (see note)*
- 1/4 cup (60ml) heavy cream, half-and-half, or milk
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- optional: fresh strawberries coated with 2 ounces melted white chocolate
- Make the reduced strawberry puree and allow it to cool completely. See note for instruction.
- Preheat the oven to 350°F (177°C). Line a 12-cup muffin pan with cupcake liners. Line a second pan with 2-3 liners – this recipe makes 14-15 cupcakes. Set aside.
- Whisk the cake flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together. Set aside.
- Using a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, beat the butter and sugar together on high speed until smooth and creamed, about 2 minutes. Scrape down the sides and up the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed. Beat in the egg whites on high speed until combined, about 2 minutes. Beat in the sour cream and vanilla extract. Scrape down the sides and up the bottom of the bowl as needed. With the mixer on low speed, add the dry ingredients until just incorporated. With the mixer still running on low, slowly pour and mix in the milk *just* until combined. Do not overmix. Whisk in 1/4 cup of reduced strawberry puree, making sure there are no lumps at the bottom of the bowl. Batter will be slightly thick.
- Pour/spoon the batter into the liners. Fill only 2/3 full to avoid baking over the sides. Bake for 20-22 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. For around 35 mini cupcakes, bake for about 11-13 minutes, same oven temperature.
- Allow the cupcakes to cool completely before frosting. Time saving tip: When the cupcakes are almost finished cooling, melt the white chocolate used for the frosting. You can melt it in a double boiler or use the microwave. I melt it in the microwave in 20 second increments, stopping and stirring after each. Let it cool down for 15 minutes before using in the frosting in the next step.
- Make the frosting: Using a blender or food processor, process the freeze-dried strawberries into a powdery crumb. You should have around 1/2 cup. Set aside. In a large bowl using a hand-held or stand mixer fitted with a paddle or whisk attachment, beat the butter for 1 minute on high speed until completely smooth and creamy. Add the confectioners’ sugar, strawberry powder, melted and cooled white chocolate, 2 Tablespoons heavy cream, vanilla extract, and salt and beat on medium-high speed until combined and creamy. Add 2 more Tablespoons of heavy cream to slightly thin out, if desired. Taste, then add another pinch of salt if desired.
- Frost cooled cupcakes and serve. I used Wilton 8B piping tip and nestled a white chocolate covered strawberry in the center.
- Cover and store leftovers in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
Make ahead tip: I recommend making the reduced strawberry puree, as directed in the recipe note, 1 day ahead of time so it can cool down. Cupcakes can be made ahead 1 day in advance, covered, and stored in the refrigerator. Frosting can also be made 1 day in advance, covered, and stored in the refrigerator until ready to use. Frosted or unfrosted cupcakes can be frozen up to 2-3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator.
- Cake flour: If you cannot get your hands on cake flour, you can make a DIY version from all-purpose flour and cornstarch. Measure 1 cup of all-purpose flour. Remove 2 Tablespoons. Mix in 2 Tablespoons of cornstarch. This equals 1 cup of cake flour. I suggest doing this twice, mixing it all up in 1 bowl then removing 1/4 cup since you need 1 and 3/4 cups in this recipe.
- To make the reduced strawberry puree: puree 1/2 lb of strawberries. You should have a little over 1/2 cup. Stirring occasionally, simmer the puree over low-medium heat for 20 minutes OR until you’re left with 1/4 cup or a little over 1/4 cup. Allow to cool completely before using in cake batter. I recommend making the reduced puree the day before so it has plenty of time to cool down. I cover and place in the refrigerator overnight. Use 1/4 cup in the cupcake. Discard any leftovers or spoon on ice cream/yogurt/add to smoothie. Readers have used thawed frozen strawberries with luck, but I personally have not tried it. I always use fresh. Report back if you try it!
- White chocolate: For best taste and texture, I strongly recommend using pure white chocolate. It’s usually sold in 4 ounce bars in the baking aisle. I love Ghirardelli, Bakers, or Nestle brands. You only need 6 ounces for the frosting, but save the extra 2 ounces for coating fresh strawberries as garnish!
- Where to buy freeze-dried strawberries? I always find them in my regular grocery store in the dried fruit aisle. Wegmans, Giant, Trader Joe’s and Target carries them. Keep your eyes peeled– they’re more commonly found that you think! Do not use the chewy/gummy dried strawberries. You need FREEZE-dried strawberries which grind into a powder. If you can’t find them anywhere, just leave them out of the frosting and add another 1/2 cup of confectioners’ sugar.
- If desired, add a drop or 2 of pink or red food coloring to brighten the color of the cupcakes and/or frosting. I added 1 drop of “dusty rose” gel food coloring to the cupcake batter and to the frosting.
- Why is everything at room temperature? All refrigerated items should be at room temperature so the batter mixes together easily and evenly. Read here for more information.
- What to do with leftover egg yolks? Here are recipes using egg yolks.
- Be sure to check out my 10 tips for baking the BEST cupcakes before you begin!
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SHOP THE RECIPE
Here are some items I used to make today’s recipe.
Glass Mixing Bowls | Ninja Food Processor | Pyrex 2-cup Glass Measuring Cup | Americolor Pastel Gel Food Coloring | Cupcake Liners | Cupcake Pan | Wilton 8B Icing Tip | Icing Bags | Cooling Rack | Wooden Cake Stand
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