Strawberry Crunch Cake

Can you hear the ice cream truck music in your head? Slicing into this fragrant strawberry crunch cake will bring you right back to those summer days! Strawberry, vanilla, and nostalgia are all stacked up in an amazing cake!  

This Strawberry Crunch Cake is based on the classic strawberry crunch ice cream bars. It comes together with a few simple ingredients using my easy doctored box cake mix recipe, real strawberries, shortbread cookies, and a batch of easy buttercream. Cover it in a layer of homemade strawberry crunch topping to make a beautiful layer cake!

The best part of this recipe is using a cake mix for dependability and ease. You can make this cake from scratch by using my homemade white velvet cake and fresh strawberry cake as well. You will need to make a strawberry reduction for either recipe you use, so make it ahead of time. 

Strawberry Crunch Cake Ingredients

ingredients for strawberry crunch cake.Strawberries: I am using strawberries in 3 ways for this recipe. Fresh (garnish), frozen (reduction), and freeze-dried (crunch). I use thawed frozen berries to slightly speed up the reduction process. The cell walls of the frozen berries have already broken down, so once the heat is applied it can get right to evaporating water and intensifying flavor.

Strawberry Emulsion: This is an optional ingredient, but I really like the distinct strawberry flavor it gives the cake and crumbles. It adds a little extra pop of color, smells amazing, and tastes like my favorite ice cream bar would taste. Combined with real strawberries it enhances the natural flavor. 

Box Cake Mix: A doctored cake mix that is well-used by bakers all over the world that produces a delicious cake that tastes almost like scratch. The dependability of the mix allows additions like the strawberry puree and it still bakes great. This is why I chose to use a box mix for this cake, so I could use one recipe of cake and still get 2 different flavors of cake. It saves time and stress. I like Duncan Hines white cake mix as a base, but any brand will work. 

Shortbread Cookies: Shortbread cookies have a high butter content and stay crunchy while they stick to the cake. Many other recipes use golden Oreos and vanilla pudding mix, but I like the flavor of shortbread or vanilla wafers. You also save time by not having to scrape Oreos. I use Keebler because they’re easy to buy at the grocery store, but you can use your preferred brand of shortbread cookies. Or you can make your own shortbread cookies, just leave the lemon out of my recipe.

Making Strawberry Crunch Cake

Starting one day ahead for this recipe is a good idea. The reduction should be made far enough in advance that it has time to fully cook and cool before using it in the cake mix. Then make the cakes, chill them, make the strawberry crumble, make the buttercream, and decorate.

Making Strawberry Reduction

  1. Defrost the strawberries or chop up your fresh strawberries. 
  2. Add the strawberries and sugar to a heavy bottom saucepan and stir them together.hand adding sugar to a pot with strawberries.
  3. Cook over medium heat until they begin to break down and release their juices. pot of cooking strawberries.
  4. Add in lemon zest, juice and salt and turn off the heat. hand adding lemon extract to a pot with cooking strawberries and lemon zest.
  5. Blend the berries until smooth using an immersion blender. If you do not have one, carefully pour the berries into your blender. Pot of cooked strawberries being blended with an immersion blender.
  6. Over low heat, bring the berries back to a simmer and allow them to reduce by about half (20-30 minutes).blended strawberry mixture slowly simmering in a pot.
  7. Stir occasionally to prevent the berries from burning. The reduction should look like tomato sauce, not watery. 
  8. Let it cool before using. Reserve ¼ cup of the reduction to be used in the strawberry cake layer. If you are making the reduction ahead, cover it with plastic wrap and refrigerate until you are ready to use it. It can be kept in the refrigerator for up to a week or in the freezer for up to 3 months.pouring strawberry puree into a glass bowl to cool.

Making Cake Layers

  1. Prepare 3 six-inch round cake pans with cake goop or parchment paper. hands brushing cake goop into a cake pan with a pastry brush.
  2. Add the white cake mix, flour, sugar, salt, sour cream, melted butter, milk, egg whites, and vanilla into the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment and mix for 2 minutes on medium speed. hand pouring a box of white cake mix into a stand mixer bowl.
  3. Divide the batter into 2 of the 3 prepared pans, if you are using a scale each pan should hold about 17 ounces (or 3 cups) of batter. Leave the remaining third of the batter in the mixing bowl.cake pan with cake batter being weighed on a scale.
  4. Add ¼ cup of the strawberry reduction and the (optional) ½ teaspoon of strawberry emulsion to the reserved batter and stir until combined. Add a drop of red food coloring (optional) to counteract the berries turning slightly purple when they bake. hand mixing strawberry puree and emulsion into cake batter.
  5. Pour the strawberry cake batter into the third prepared pan.pouring strawberry cake batter into prepared pan.
  6. Bake the cake layers at 335° for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. The strawberry cake may finish before the white cakes. The added liquid changes the chemistry slightly.hands placing baked white cakes on a cooling rack.
  7. Let the cakes cool until you can touch them (about 10 minutes) and flip them out onto a cooling rack until completely cooled.hands flipping out a baked cake from the cake pan.
  8. Wrap in plastic wrap and flash freeze for up to an hour before layering the cake. 

Making Strawberry Crunch

  1. Add the shortbread cookies to the food processor bowl. Pulse until medium crumbs are formed. Don’t worry if your crumbs aren’t all uniform, but break up the bigger pieces with your hands. hands adding shortbread cookies to a food processor.
  2. Add the strawberry extract or emulsion to the cookie crumbs and pulse until small crumble pieces are formed and place them in a separate large bowl. Be careful not to create a fine texture, or it will not be crunchy.hand adding strawberry emulsion to the food processor.
  3. Add the freeze-dried strawberries to the food processor and pulse until the crumbs are roughly the same size as the shortbread crumbs. Add the strawberry crumbs to the shortbread crumbs. Pro-Tip: Blend your freeze-dried strawberries straight from the bag and work quickly, as they tend to absorb moisture in the air and will become gummy in your food processor. hands pouring freeze dried strawberries into a food processor.
  4. Add the melted butter to the bowl of crumbs and mix until the butter is evenly distributed and the crumbs are evenly saturated. Set aside while you layer your cake. hand pouring melted butter into a bowl with food processed shortbread cookies and freeze dried strawberries.
  5. If you plan to use the crumbs at a later time, store them in an airtight container or Ziploc bag, they are shelf stable for a week. Or keep them in the freezer to avoid them going stale.  hand holding finished strawberry crunch topping.

Assembling Strawberry Crunch Cake

  1. Starting with a trimmed white layer of cake, smooth a thin even layer of easy buttercream frosting over the cake, and then pipe a dam of buttercream around the edge. You can use any frosting that you like for this cake, whipped cream or cream cheese frosting would also be delicious.hands trimming the dome off a layer of white cake.piping a buttercream dam around a layer of cake.
  2. Spread about 3 tablespoons of strawberry reduction in the center of the dam. hands pouring strawberry puree onto a cake layer with a buttercream dam.
  3. Spread another layer of buttercream on the bottom of the strawberry layer of cake and place it on top. This seals the cake to avoid the strawberry reduction from soaking into the cake layer. hands spreading buttercream onto the bottom of the strawberry layer of cake.
  4. Continue the same layering process with the strawberry flavor cake and then again with the top layer of white cake. hands adding strawberry puree to the next layer of cake.
  5. Give the whole cake a crumb coat to seal and set the buttercream and chill it in the fridge for 15 minutes. hands crumb coating the stacked cake with buttercream.
  6. Frost the cake with the final even coat of buttercream and smooth.hands using a bench scraper to smooth the sides of the cake.
  7. Holding the cake over a sheet pan or large bowl of strawberry crumble, gently coat the sides of the entire cake. You will want to do this while the buttercream is still “sticky,” if it is too cold the crumb will have a harder time sticking to the cake. hands pressing strawberry crunch to the outside of the cake.
  8. I used a pastry ring to guide where I wanted the crumble to go on top of the cake. I did not want any crumbles to fall where I was going to pipe dollops, as they would lift off. Sprinkle strawberry crunch crumbles on the top center of the cake. a hand sprinkling strawberry crunch into a ring on top of the cake. hands removing the ring from the top of the cake.
  9. Using a fluted tip, pipe buttercream dollops around the top edge and place a cut strawberry in each dollop. hands placing a strawberry onto buttercream dollops on top of the cake. picture of finished strawberry crunch cake.

Tips For Success

FAQ

Can I make a scratch cake instead of using a box mix? 

Yes! I recommend using my White Velvet Cake for the white layers and my Strawberry Cake for the middle layer. You will need to make Strawberry Reduction for either recipe you use, so make it ahead of time. I chose a box mix for this cake because I actually wanted to mimic the flavors of the ice cream bar, which uses some artificial colors and flavoring. 

Can I use fresh strawberries for strawberry crunch?

The advantage of freeze-dried berries for the crunch is that they are already crunchy, fresh berries are going to be great for the reduction and the decor, but they will make the cookies in the crunch soggy. If you do not have freeze-dried strawberries, you can use about 3 tablespoons of strawberry jello powder, just omit the strawberry emulsion.

What is strawberry crunch made of?

Strawberry Crunch, or Strawberry Shortcake Crumble, is a mixture of ground-up shortbread cookies, freeze-dried strawberries, and butter. This nostalgic topping is perfect when sprinkled over ice cream, mixed into yogurt, or used to decorate cakes and cupcakes.

Fresh strawberry cake recipe

Doctored Strawberry Cake

Freeze Dried Strawberry Cake

White Velvet Buttermilk Cake

Did You Make This Recipe?Leave a rating and tell me how it went!

Strawberry Crunch Cake

Can you hear the ice cream truck music in your head? Slicing into this fragrant strawberry crunch cake will bring you right back to those summer days! Strawberry, vanilla, and nostalgia are all stacked up in an amazing cake!  
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Serves: 8 cups
Calories: 901kcal

Ingredients

Cake Layers

  • 1 box white cake mix duncan hines
  • 5 ounces (142 g) all purpose flour (1 cup)
  • 7 ounces (198 g) granulated sugar (1 cup)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 9 ounces (255 g) sour cream (1 cup) room temperature
  • 4 ounces (113 g) unsalted melted butter (1/2 cup)
  • 8 ounces (227 g) milk (1 cup) room temperature
  • 4 large egg whites room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 ounces (57 g) strawberry reduction 1/4 cup
  • 1 drop red food coloring optional (for the strawberry layer)
  • 1/2 teaspoon strawberry emulsion optional (for the strawberry layer)

Strawberry Reduction

  • 36 ounces (1020 g) fresh or frozen strawberries (5 cups) thawed
  • 4 ounces (113 g) granulated sugar (1/2 cup)
  • 2 teaspoons lemon zest
  • 1 Tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 pinch salt

Strawberry Crunch

  • 1 ounce (28 g) freeze-dried strawberries (1 cup)
  • 8 ounces (227 g) shortbread cookies (2 1/2 cups)
  • 1/2 teaspoon strawberry emulsion (or extract) optional
  • 1/4 cup (4 Tablespoons) unsalted melted butter

Equipment

  • 3 6" x 2" pans
  • Food Processor or blender optional
  • Stand Mixer optional

Instructions

Strawberry Reduction Instructions

  • Defrost the strawberries or chop up your fresh strawberries. 
  • Add the strawberries and sugar to a heavy bottom sauce pan and stir them together.
  • Cook over medium heat until they begin to break down and release their juices. 
  • Add in lemon zest, extract and salt and turn off the heat. 
  • Blend the berries until smooth using an immersion blender. If you do not have one, carefully pour the berries into your blender. 
  • Over low heat, bring the berries back to a simmer and allow them to reduce until about half (20-30 minutes).
  • Stir occasionally to prevent the berries from burning. The reduction should look like tomato sauce, not watery.
  • Let it cool before using. Reserve ¼ cup of the reduction to be used in the strawberry cake layer. If you are making the reduction ahead, cover it with plastic wrap and refrigerate until you are ready to use it. It can be kept in the refrigerator for up to a week or in the freezer for up to 3 months.

Strawberry Crunch Cake Instructions

  • Prepare 3 six-inch round cake pans with cake goop or parchment paper. 
  • Add the white cake mix, flour, sugar, salt, sour cream, melted butter, milk, egg whites, and vanilla into the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment and mix for 2 minutes on medium speed. 
  • Divide the batter into 2 of the 3 prepared pans, if you are using a scale each pan should hold about 17 ounces (or 3 cups) of batter. Leave the remaining third of the batter in the mixing bowl.
  • Add ¼ cup of the strawberry reduction and the (optional) ½ teaspoon of strawberry emulsion to the reserved batter and stir until combined. Add a drop of red food coloring (optional) to counteract the berries turning slightly purple when they bake. 
  • Pour the strawberry cake batter into the third prepared pan.
  • Bake the cake layers at 335°F for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. The strawberry cake may finish before the white cakes. The added liquid changes the chemistry slightly.
  • Let the cakes cool until you can touch them (about 10 minutes) and flip them out onto a cooling rack until completely cooled.
  • Wrap in plastic wrap and flash freeze for up to an hour before layering the cake. 

Strawberry Crunch Instructions

  • Add the shortbread cookies to the food processor bowl. Pulse until medium crumbs are formed. Don't worry if your crumbs aren't all uniform, but break up the bigger pieces with your hands. 
  • Add the strawberry extract or emulsion to the cookie crumbs and pulse until small crumble pieces are formed and place them in a separate large bowl. Be careful not to create a fine texture, or it will not be crunchy.
  • Add the freeze-dried strawberries to the food processor and pulse until the crumbs are roughly the same size as the shortbread crumbs. Add the strawberry crumbs to the shortbread crumbs. Pro-Tip: Blend your freeze-dried strawberries straight from the bag and work quickly, as they tend to absorb moisture in the air and will become gummy in your food processor. 
  • Add the melted butter to the bowl of crumbs and mix until the butter is evenly distributed and the crumbs are evenly saturated. Set aside while you layer your cake. 
  • If you plan to use the crumbs at a later time, store them in an airtight container or Ziploc bag, they are shelf stable for a week. Or keep them in the freezer to avoid them going stale. 

How to Assemble the Strawberry Crunch Cake

  • Starting with a trimmed white layer of cake, smooth a thin even layer of easy buttercream frosting over the cake, and then pipe a dam of buttercream around the edge.
  • Spread about 3 tablespoons of strawberry reduction in the center of the dam. 
  • Spread another layer of buttercream on the bottom of the strawberry layer of cake and place it on top. This seals the cake to avoid the strawberry reduction from soaking into the cake layer. 
  • Continue the same layering process with the strawberry flavor cake and then again with the top layer of white cake. 
  • Give the whole cake a crumb coat to seal and set the buttercream and chill it in the fridge for 15 minutes. 
  • Frost the cake with the final even coat of buttercream and smooth. 
  • Holding the cake over a sheet pan or large bowl of strawberry crumble, gently coat the sides of the entire cake. You will want to do this while the buttercream is still “sticky”, if it is too cold the crumb will have a harder time sticking to the cake. 
  • I used a pastry ring to guide where I wanted the crumble to go on top of the cake. I did not want crumble to fall where I was going to pipe dollops, as they would lift off. Sprinkle strawberry crunch crumbles on the top center of the cake. 
  • Using a fluted tip pipe buttercream dollops around the top edge and place a cut strawberry in each dollop. 

Notes

Important Things To Note Before You Start
  1. The best investment you can make when you’re getting started with baking is a digital kitchen scale! Weighing your ingredients will help you avoid cake failure. Using a kitchen scale for baking is super easy and gives you the best results every single time. 
  2. Practice Mise en Place (everything in its place). Measure out your ingredients ahead of time and have them ready before you start mixing to reduce the chances of accidentally leaving something out.
  3. Need more help with making your first cake? Check out my how to decorate your first cake blog post. 
  4. Make sure all of your cold ingredients (e.g. butter, eggs, milk) are at room temperature or a little warm. Why? Because we want to create an emulsion and allow the ingredients to fully mix together. 
  5. Make your own pan release (cake goop!) The best pan release ever! 
  6. Chill your cakes before frosting and filling. You can cover a frosted and chilled cake in fondant if you wish. This cake is also great for stacking!
  7. You can buy pre-made strawberry shortcake crunch if you don’t want to make your own.

Nutrition

Calories: 901kcal (45%) | Carbohydrates: 140g (47%) | Protein: 11g (22%) | Fat: 35g (54%) | Saturated Fat: 18g (90%) | Polyunsaturated Fat: 4g | Monounsaturated Fat: 9g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 68mg (23%) | Sodium: 812mg (34%) | Potassium: 456mg (13%) | Fiber: 5g (20%) | Sugar: 84g (93%) | Vitamin A: 817IU (16%) | Vitamin C: 124mg (150%) | Calcium: 245mg (25%) | Iron: 4mg (22%)
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