This gluten free strawberry cake, made with real roasted strawberries nestled on top of a tender yellow cake, is packed with fresh strawberry flavor.
What makes this gf cake special?
We roast the berries in this gluten free strawberry cake before they’re nestled on top of the yellow cake batter, so their flavor is super intense. When they release more moisture during baking, they turn the very top of the cake custard-like.
The crumb is so moist that it keeps for days, just sitting there on the counter, loosely covered (if you have a cloche that fits over a cake plate, that’s perfect, but some plastic wrap will do just fine). Unlike some strawberry cakes made with artificial strawberry flavoring or jello, this cake is made with real, fresh strawberries.
Why roast the strawberries before baking them?
When it’s the height of strawberry season wherever you live, you can tell because the strawberries at your local grocery store are fragrant and bright red outside. If you close your eyes and walk close to an open container, you’ll smell their aroma.
There aren’t that many months a year when strawberries are at their peak—or even that the batch you buy is perfect for eating raw. But every strawberry, once roasted with a touch of sugar and salt, becomes fragrant and flavorful.
What happens when you cook strawberries?
When you roast the strawberries first, much of their juice is released, turning even the wimpiest strawberries into sticky, bright red delights, with the deep flavor to match.
Then just nest them, cut side down, on top of the smooth cake batter. I like to arrange them in nesting circles with a common center, but it’s just because it looks beautiful.
The result is a super moist and tender cake that stays fresh for days. This is a rare cake that I don’t mind storing in the refrigerator for a day or so, which can be drying.
If you’re looking for a pink cake with strawberries in the batter, rather than strawberries baked on top, we have that, too. Just click over to our recipe for gluten free strawberry cupcakes, which are made with our strawberry syrup.
Can you make this cake with frozen strawberries?
I think you probably can—but only if you can find frozen, halved strawberries. I haven’t tried this yet, but I have some suggestions to make if you’re considering it.
Berries shouldn’t be defrosted at all before baking with them. They get very soggy, which is why you can bake our gluten free blueberry muffins with frozen berries, but only if they’re still frozen when you add them to the muffin batter.
Frozen strawberries usually whole and can’t be halved while frozen. If you can find frozen strawberries that are already halved, I think you might be able to successfully roast them.
Follow the recipe as written, but work quickly with the frozen strawberries. Let them defrost in the oven, not on the counter.
Tips for success in baking this cake
A lovely, brown crust forms on the outside of this cake, as it takes a bit longer to bake than a “regular” gluten free vanilla cake. Of course, you don’t want the cake to burn before it’s fully baked.
To ensure it bakes evenly, without burning on the bottom, be sure to bake it in a light-colored metal pan. If the cake starts to brown too quickly on top, cover the top with aluminum foil as it finishes baking.
Determining doneness is a little more subtle than the classic method of inserting a toothpick inserted in the center comes out mostly clean. Since the top layer should have a bit of a custard-like texture, a toothpick or other cake tester won’t come out clean even when the cake is fully baked.
Instead, bake until the cake has pulled away from the side of the pan, is lightly golden brown all over (lighter in the center), and the center springs back pretty readily when pressed it gently with a finger. As long as the cake isn’t visibly sunken in the center, it shouldn’t collapse when it cools even if the center is slightly underbaked.
Ingredients and substitutions
The dairy in this recipe is in the form of butter and milk or buttermilk. To replace the butter, I’d recommend trying vegan butter. My favorite brands are Melt and Miyoko’s Kitchen.
For the milk, you can use any sort of unsweetened nondairy milk, as long as it’s not nonfat. If you’d like to use something like buttermilk, for a slightly more tender cake, use half nondairy milk and half nondairy plain yogurt, by volume.
There’s only one egg in this recipe, so you should be able to replace it with a “chia egg.” Place 1 tablespoon ground white chia seeds and 1 tablespoon lukewarm water in a small bowl, mix, and allow to gel.
Gluten Free Strawberry Cake | Real Roasted Strawberries
For the strawberries
1 1/2 pounds fresh strawberries, hulled and halved
2 tablespoons (24 g) granulated sugar
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
For the Cake
1 1/2 cups (210 g) all-purpose gluten-free flour (I used Better Batter; click through for full info)
1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum (omit if your blend already contains it)
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup (200 g) granulated sugar
8 tablespoons (112 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 egg (50 g, weighed out of shell) at room temperature, beaten
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup (4 fl. oz.) milk or buttermilk, at room temperature
Preheat your oven to 350°F. Grease a 9 inch round cake pan, and set it aside.
First, roast the strawberries. Line a large, rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper and set it aside.
In a medium-size bowl, place the prepared strawberries, granulated sugar, and salt, and toss to coat the berries. Place the coated berries in an even layer on the baking sheet, cut side down.
Place the baking sheet in the center of the preheated oven and roast the strawberries for 35 minutes or until they are very soft and their juice is reduced to a thick liquid. Remove the strawberries from the oven, and set aside to cool briefly.
Make the cake. In a large bowl, place the flour blend, xanthan gum, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and granulated sugar, and whisk to combine well. Add the butter, egg, vanilla, and milk or buttermilk, and mix to combine. The batter will be thick, especially if you used buttermilk.
Transfer the batter to the prepared round cake pan, and smooth into an even layer with a wet spatula. Place the roasted strawberries, cut side down, on top of the cake batter about 1/4 inch apart from one another in nesting circles, with a common center.
Place the cake in the center of the preheated oven and reduce the oven temperature to 325°F. Bake for about 40 minutes, or until the cake is light golden brown, has begun to pull away from the sides of the pan, and the cake springs back when pressed gently in the center. If the cake begins to brown too quickly, cover it loosely with aluminum foil. A cake tester won’t come out clean because of the strawberries, especially in the very center.
Remove the cake from the oven and allow it to cool for at least 10 minutes before transferring it to a wire rack to cool completely.
Originally published on the blog in 2013. Recipe unchanged; most photos, video, and text new.