So many strawberry cake recipes call for boxes of artificially flavored gelatin but this vegan cake is made with real strawberries, has loads of strawberry flavor, and is free of animal products. Borrowing from the method used to make applesauce cake, this cake is made with a strawberry sauce, resulting in a moist cake bursting with strawberry flavor!
I’ve been on the hunt for a really good strawberry cake recipe for a while. The first time I made one, I added diced fresh strawberries hoping that somehow the flavor of the berries would permeate the cake. While we enjoyed eating it, it wasn’t something I wanted to make again for a couple of reasons – the strawberry flavor was not strong enough and the berries made the cake surrounding each berry wet and a bit gluey.
For my next attempt, I used freeze-dried strawberries. A lot of them. I’m too embarrassed to say what I paid for them, as it was a shocking amount but as my daughter had requested a strawberry cake for her birthday that year and I wanted to make sure it tasted like strawberries without artificial flavorings. So I bought a giant tin of berries. I used a lot in the cake, and while the texture was greatly improved and the color was a pretty light pink, I still wasn’t satisfied with the flavor.
Fast forward six months and I’m still thinking occasionally about strawberry cake (yes, I’m an obsessive food nerd.) It occurred to me that if I wanted to maximize the strawberries in a cake without making it totally gluey or breaking the bank on even more freeze dried strawberries, I should just cook a lot of strawberries down like I’d do with apples to make applesauce. This isn’t rocket science or in any way complex, but I was pretty excited to give it a try. So I dug out my applesauce cake recipe and swapped out the applesauce (and the spices) for strawberry sauce. It was love at first bite! The cake is moist just like applesauce cake and the flavor is most definitely strawberry. The color isn’t the cotton candy pink like artificially flavored strawberry cakes, but rather something that resembles a light red velvet cake – pink velvet?
I layered this one with a vegan strawberry cream frosting which was flavored with freeze dried strawberries. They gave the frosting a really nice strawberry flavor and the pretty pink hue. I’ve tried using different forms of strawberry in frosting and freeze-dried is hands down the best way to go, especially when using a vegan cream cheese which makes for a softer frosting to begin with. Not a lot of moisture is needed when making frosting, so adding a strawberry sauce for flavor would be tricky – not enough would be added to get the flavor and spreadable consistency, and if enough was added for flavor, the frosting would be runny.
Needless to say, I’m really happy with how this cake turned out. If you don’t have any vegan cream cheese for the frosting, try using a vanilla vegan buttercream with the addition of 36 g of powdered freeze dried strawberries. If you give this recipe a try, I hope you enjoy it as much as we did!
Strawberry-Sauce Cake with Strawberry Cream Cheese Frosting
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- 2 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp salt
- 3 lbs frozen strawberries (~8 cups)
- 2/3 cup neutral vegetable oil (e.g. avocado, canola, etc)
- 4 tbsp white vinegar
- 2 tbsp vanilla extract
Strawberry Cream Cheese Frosting:
- 36 g freeze-dried strawberries
- 227 g vegan cream cheese
- 1/2 cup vegan butter
- 4 cups confectioner's sugar
- 1-3 tbsp plant-based milk
- 1 tbsp vanilla extract
- fresh strawberries for garnish
For the Strawberry Sauce:
- In a medium-sized pot over medium-low heat, cook the strawberries for 35-45 minutes, stirring occasionally and watching to make sure they don't burn. Reduce them until you have just barely over 3 cups of sauce. This takes time - if the sauce isn't reduced enough, the sauce won't be thick enough and the resulting cake will be gluey rather than just perfectly moist. Let cool completely. Purée the sauce and measure out 3 cups for the cake recipe.
For the Cake:
- Preheat the oven to 350° F. Line three round 8 inch cake pans with parchment paper and grease the sides.
- In a large bowl, sift in the dry ingredients and whisk to blend. In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the wet ingredients. Pour them into the dry ingredients, and stir with a large spoon just until blended. Pour the batter equally among the 3 pans and place in the middle rack of the oven.
- Bake for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean (a couple of cooked crumbs is okay). Let cool for 20 minutes before turning out on a cooling rack. Cool completely before frosting.
For Strawberry Cream Cheese Frosting:
- Place the freeze-dried strawberries in a blender and process until they become mostly powder. A few small pieces is okay, but any larger pieces may end up a bit chewy in the frosting.
- In a stand-mixer fitted with a paddle or whisk attachment (or large bowl using a beaters) beat the vegan cream cheese and vegan butter for 1 minute on high speed until smooth. Add the confectioner's sugar a cup at a time, strawberry powder, and the vanilla and beat on medium-speed until combined and creamy. Add 1 tbsp at a time of plant-based milk if the frosting is too thick. Depending on the brand and consistency of vegan cream cheese and vegan butter, you may or may not need to add any milk. Vegan cream cheese frosting is similar to true dairy cream cheese frosting in that it does not get quite as fluffy as vegan buttercream.
- If the cakes are domed on top, slice a thin layer off the tops with a long serrated knife so that they are flat. As this is a very moist cake, it shouldn't have much dome.
- Place a small dollop of frosting on the serving plate to prevent the cake from sliding around. Place one cake layer on the plate and evenly cover with frosting. Try using an ice cream scoop, using 2-3 scoops of frosting in between each layer. This helps ensure even amounts of frosting between each layer which is apparent once the cake is cut. Repeat for the second layer. Use the same number of scoops for the top layer but work it down the sides of the cake as well - the frosting will be very thin - you're creating a crumb coat. This traps the cake crumbs so that they don't get caught in the final frosting layer which can appear a bit messy. Chill the cake in the fridge for about an hour, then apply the final frosting to the top and sides of the cake, smoothing out with an offset spatula or cake scraper. You may not need all of the frosting. Top with fresh strawberries. Cover leftover cake with plastic wrap and store in the fridge.