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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%)