This sweet and jammy strawberry cake filling is perfect for layer cakes, cupcakes, and cheesecake! It's made with pantry staples, easy to make, and ready in just 15 minutes. Make it during strawberry season or use frozen strawberries during the wintertime.
Why you'll love it
Every spring, when strawberries are finally in season, they sell for dirt cheap at the grocery store. My heart leaps when I see the 99-cent price tag. Perfectly ripe, deep red, and sweet as ever.
The first thing I do is make jam (naturally) and this strawberry filling for cake! It's quick and simple, but stunning, with a perfectly sweet and jammy texture. It tastes delicious piped into chocolate cupcakes or spread between vanilla cake layers!
You only need five ingredients and if you're anything like me, you always have them on hand! I've done this recipe with both fresh and frozen strawberries. Both work great!
Strawberries - I wanted to be able to make this strawberry cake filling recipe in the winter months too, so I tested it with both frozen and fresh strawberries. They both worked great! If you go with fresh, be sure they ar seweet and ripe! They are the star of this show, after all.
Water - The water hydrates the cornstarch to make a slurry. Doing this prevents clumps of cornstarch in the filling. Yucko!
Cornstarch - Cornstarch helps thicken the mixture so it's not runny. The sugar and natural pectin in the strawberries thicken it as well so don't use too much. Two tablespoons is plenty. If you add too much cornstarch, the mixture tastes like jello when it's chilled.
Sugar - To sweeten the filling! I find ½ cup to be the perfect amount. Just enough to bring out the natural sweetness of the strawberries.
Lemon juice - Don't skip this crucial ingredient. The bright pop of citrus enhances the flavor of the strawberries. Always use a fresh lemon. Lemons are cheap and WAY better than bottled lemon juice.
How to Make Strawberry Filling
In a small saucepan, combine the water and cornstarch. Stir with a spatula until the cornstarch is dissolved with no clumps.
Add the cut strawberries, lemon juice, and sugar. Stir well.
Place the saucepan over medium heat and cook, stirring continuously, for 10 to 12 minutes. You can mash the strawberries with your spatula to break them up. The mixture will thicken and the strawberries will break down some.
Take the saucepan off the heat and let the mixture cool then pour it into a glass jar. The strawberry filling will look too thin to fill a cake at this point.
It sets up as it cools, so be patient! Let it cool for at least 2 hours before you use it. Or if you want to speed up the process, you can refrigerate the filling.
- Let the mixture cool before you fill a cake with it! I can't emphasize this enough. It will thicken as it cools, so plan to make it ahead of time. I like to make it a few hours before I plan to assemble my cake, or you can refrigerate it to speed up the process.
- If you use frozen strawberries, let them partially thaw so you can cut them into quarters. They will naturally break up during the cooking process, so you don't have large chunks of strawberries.
- To fill the cake, make a buttercream border to hold in the filling. Then scoop the filling into the center and spread it around evenly. Be sure your cake layers are not warm! Warm cake will melt the frosting.
Ways to Use Strawberry Cake Filling
Here are a few of my favorite ways to use strawberry cake filling!
- In layer cakes! Try it in lemon, chocolate, vanilla, or coconut cake. Strawberry filling is versatile and goes with a lot of cake flavors.
- With Greek yogurt and granola. Add to unsweetened Greek yogurt with granola for a nutritious but indulgent breakfast.
- With angel food cake or pound cake. Scoop it on there with some whipped cream! Such a good combo.
- On top of cheesecake! It really takes vanilla cheesecake up a notch (or ten).
- Top ice cream or pancakes with it. Spruce up vanilla ice cream, pancakes, or French toast with this fruity filling.
Let the strawberry filling cool, then pour into a glass jar with a lid or an airtight container. It will last in the refrigerator for up to a week.
It will thicken in the refrigerator, but should still be spreadable. You can give it a good stir before you use it if needed.
I don't recommend freezing this filling. The texture won't taste right once defrosted.
How to Assemble a Cake with Strawberry Filling
I worked as a pastry chef for years and at a wedding cake bakery for several more. I've frosted my fair share of cakes.
It's easiest to assemble a cake when the layers are frozen. This way the crumbs won't be so loose and stick to the icing! If you don't have the time, just be sure the layers aren't warm! A warm cake will fall apart and melt all the icing.
On the top of your first layer, pipe a border around the edge of the cake to act as a dam for the filling. This will keep the filling from oozing out the sides once you add the other layer.
Scoop the filling into the center of the cake and spread it around evenly. Top with the second layer, then frost the entire cake with buttercream. I always start with the top, then do the sides and finally smooth it out with an offset spatula.
Strawberry filling is made of strawberries, cornstarch, water, sugar, and lemon juice. The cornstarch and water create a slurry that thickens the mixture, while the sugar and lemon juice enhance the flavor of the strawberries!
Yes! If you're in a hurry, you can swap homemade fruit filling with fruit jam! It will be just as delicious, but with a jammier texture.
You can use both fresh or frozen strawberries in this recipe. I've tested it with both and it came out the same. Just be sure to partially thaw the frozen strawberries so you can cut them into quarters.
Must-Try Cake Fillings!
Strawberry Cake Filling
- small saucepan
- 3 cups quartered strawberries (about 1 quart) (fresh or frozen & thawed)
- ½ cup sugar
- ½ lemon, juiced
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
- ⅓ cup water
- In a small saucepan, combine the cornstarch and water. Stir until the cornstarch is dissolved and there aren't any visible clumps.
- Add the sugar, strawberries, and lemon juice. Stir well.
- Place the saucepan over medium heat and cook, stirring continuously, for 10 to 12 minutes. The mixture will thicken more as it cools.
- Remove the pan from the heat and let the mixture cool before using it to fill cakes and cupcakes.