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.