This Chocolate Strawberry Cake consists of rich chocolate cake filled with strawberry Italian meringue buttercream, topped with a chocolate ganache drip and homemade chocolate covered strawberries - the perfect Valentine's Day dessert!
This decadent cake was inspired by one of my first recipes on this baking blog - my Romantic Chocolate Strawberry Cupcakes. They were such a hit that I wanted to make an entire cake version! This strawberry chocolate cake is indulgent and decadent - a great recipe for an extra special occasion.
The strawberry flavor comes completely from fresh strawberries which we will make into a strawberry puree. This is the same method I use in other fruit recipes such as my Raspberry Cupcakes and my Strawberry Cake.
- Ingredients for Decoration
- How to Make the Chocolate Cake
- How to Make the Strawberry Puree
- How to Make the Strawberry Italian Meringue Buttercream
- Assemble the Chocolate Strawberry Cake
- Decorate the Chocolate Strawberry Cake
- How to make Chocolate Covered Strawberries.
- Flour - You can use regular all-purpose flour for this chocolate strawberry cake recipe. You can also use cake flour if you want a finer crumb.
- Sugar - Extra fine white sugar is best here (caster sugar in the UK).
- Eggs - Use large eggs and always free range if you can. Make sure they are room temperature.
- Cocoa Powder - You want to use dutch processed cocoa powder for this cake, it provides the best texture and chocolate flavor. Natural cocoa powder may make the cake too dense and stodgy.
- Vegetable Oil - Any unflavored oil will do here such as Canola oil or sunflower oil. I like to use vegetable oil.
- Milk - I find whole milk gives the best results, but you can use any kind of milk you like for this recipe.
- Vanilla - A touch of vanilla will round out the flavor of your cake - use vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste.
- Strawberries - You can use fresh or frozen strawberries to make the strawberry puree. I used frozen because strawberries are not in season right now so frozen will give the best flavor because they are picked when in season.
- Egg Whites - For the Italian meringue buttercream you'll need egg whites. You can use egg whites from a carton, or just separate some eggs and save the egg yolks for another recipe.
- Butter - We'll use the butter for our strawberry frosting, so it's best to use unsalted butter.
See recipe card for quantities.
Ingredients for Decoration
- Chocolate - You can use milk chocolate or dark chocolate - whichever you prefer. We'll need chocolate to make the ganache and also to dip strawberries in. Do not use chocolate chips for this, you want real, high-quality chocolate. I used Callebaut couverture chocolate callets, but you could also use a bar of chocolate. Just make sure it's real chocolate and not a candy bar.
- Heavy Cream - Make sure you use heavy cream or heavy whipping cream - not half and half. The fat percentage should be at least 33%.
- Whole Strawberries - These strawberries are to crown your chocolate strawberry cake, so try to look out for some good ones! It's best if you can find a few that are all roughly the same size.
How to Make the Chocolate Cake
This is my go-to chocolate cake recipe and I use it as the base for many of my cakes, such as my Chocolate Espresso layer cake. I love it because it's foolproof and super easy - it's an all-in-one method, so you just throw all the ingredients in a large bowl and mix!
- Preheat your oven to 350°F / 180°C and prepare two 8-inch cake pans. I like to place parchment paper circles on the bottom of the pan and spray the sides with cake release spray.
- Place all the ingredients (wet ingredients and dry ingredients) into a mixing bowl or bowl of a stand mixer and mix together at a low speed until everything is combined. Make sure you scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl to get all of the flour mixture incorporated. You can use a handheld electric mixer for this part if you want, but I highly recommend a stand mixer when you make the frosting later.
- Once everything is combined, add the hot water and mix it in. The water doesn't need to be boiling, just hot. The purpose of this is to activate the cocoa powder and bring out that delicious chocolate flavor.
- The chocolate mixture will be quite liquid - don't worry, this is how it's meant to be. Divide batter evenly between the prepared cake pans and tap on the work surface a few times to release any air bubbles from the cake batter.
- Place on the middle rack of the oven and bake for 40 - 50 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean.
- Once the chocolate cakes are baked, remove from the oven and let them cool completely before removing them from the cake pans.
How to Make the Strawberry Puree
Making strawberry puree is how we get the intense and natural strawberry flavor into the cake and my other strawberry recipes. I like this method because it is using real berries to bring an authentic flavor. For a more detailed post on how to make homemade strawberry puree, check out my strawberry puree recipe.
- Place the strawberries and sugar in a saucepan over medium-high heat. If you are using fresh berries, rather than frozen, add a small splash of water to the pan too.
- Heat the strawberries, stirring occasionally, until they start to break down a little. At this point, you can help them along with a potato masher.
- The mixture will become more liquid and eventually begin to boil. Keep boiling until the mixture starts to thicken a little and look slightly gelatinous. This may take 10 - 15 minutes.
- Once the mixture looks thickened slightly, remove from the heat and let it cool down a little, for about 15 minutes.
- Transfer the reduced strawberries to a food processor and blitz until smooth. You can also use a handheld immersion blender for this.
- Once the puree is smooth, pour it through a sieve, into a bowl, to remove any of the seeds. You may need to use a spoon or spatula to encourage the puree through the sieve.
- Cover the smooth strawberry puree with plastic wrap and let cool completely before using.
Pro Tip: It's best to use a high-sided saucepan as the strawberry mixture will start to bubble and spit as it heats up.
Making your own strawberry puree is easy, but if you would like a shortcut, you can buy pre-made strawberry puree or even use strawberry jam.
If you use storebought puree - Check the consistency of the puree, if it is very runny, put it into a small saucepan and reduce it a little so it thickens up, then allow to cool before using. This ensures it won't mess with the consistency of your strawberry buttercream frosting.
If you use strawberry jam - Make sure the jam you use isn't too overly sweet or it may make your frosting a bit sickly. Also if you have jam with chunks of fruit in it, you may still want to blitz it in the food processor or hand blender before using. Make sure it's room temperature before using it.
How to Make the Strawberry Italian Meringue Buttercream
This strawberry buttercream frosting is an adaptation of my classic Italian Meringue Buttercream recipe. If you'd like more tips on making Italian meringue buttercream, you can check that post out.
- Start by separating your sugar. Put 1 cup of sugar into a small saucepan along with the water and set aside. Place the remaining sugar in a small bowl next to your stand mixer.
- Add your room-temperature egg whites and cream of tartar to the (very clean) bowl of your stand mixer. I do highly recommend using a stand mixer for this recipe as it needs to whip for a very long time and your arms may fall off if you attempt to do it with a hand mixer.
- Whip the egg whites on medium speed until they begin to froth up, then turn up to high speed and start adding your sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, waiting for at least 30 - 60 seconds in between each addition. It's important not to add the sugar too quickly or it won't dissolve properly and you'll be left with grainy meringue.
- Once all the sugar is added, keep the mixer running at medium speed to let it come to soft peaks.
- Turn your attention to the saucepan with the water and sugar mixture. Place the saucepan on medium heat with a candy thermometer in it, and let the sugar start to dissolve - do not stir. If you don't have a candy thermometer, read my Italian meringue buttercream post for tips on how to do this without one.
- The mixture should bubble gently and turn clear, keep an eye on your thermometer, we want it to reach exactly 240°F / 115°C.
- Once your sugar syrup reaches the right temperature, remove it from the heat immediately and bring it over to your mixing meringue, which should by this point be at the soft peak stage.
- Turn the mixer down to its lowest setting and start pouring the sugar syrup into the meringue as it mixes, in a very slow and steady stream. Be careful not to run the syrup down the sides of the bowl or to hit the whisk attachment.
- Once all the syrup is added, feel the side of the mixing bowl, it should be hot to the touch. Turn the mixer up on high and let it keep whipping until the bowl feels room temperature again. This may take 10 - 15 minutes.
- Once the bowl has cooled down, the meringue should be glossy and at the stiff peak stage. Keep the mixer on high speed and start adding your butter. It is essential that the butter is at room temperature, or it won't incorporate properly and you'll have lumps of butter in the frosting. Add the butter, one small chunk at a time, waiting until it has completely incorporated before adding the next chunk.
- About halfway through adding your butter, the mixture will look gloopy and strange, don't panic! Just keep adding the butter until it is all in. Near the end, it will magically transform into a thick, lovely buttercream. (If all the butter is in and it still doesn't look thick, put the mixer on max speed and whip for 1 minute - that should do the trick).
- Add the vanilla and whip on high for 1 minute. Then add the strawberry puree, to taste. You can add all of it if you want, or just add a little at a time until it tastes how you want it. Whip for 1 minute to incorporate completely.
- If you want to add even more of a flavor boost, you can also add some strawberry emulsion, strawberry extract, or some crushed freeze-dried strawberries to boost the strawberry flavor even further.
- Your strawberry Italian. meringue buttercream is ready to use! If you aren't going to use it right away, store it in an airtight container and give it a refresher whip for a minute or so before using it again to bring it back to life. If you made it the day before, you can store it in the fridge overnight, but bring it back to room temperature before whipping and using it.
Note: If the idea of mixing the egg whites and boiling the sugar syrup at the same time is overwhelming, you can make the meringue first, turn the mixer off, and then make the sugar syrup. I just like to do both simultaneously as it saves time - but it is definitely not necessary.
Assemble the Chocolate Strawberry Cake
Once your cake has cooled and your buttercream is ready - it's time to assemble this beautiful cake!
- Start by using a cake leveler or serrated knife to cut the domes off the top of the chocolate cakes. I like the cake leveler because it ensures perfectly even layers every single time.
- If you want to have four cake layers like in my images, then you can cut each layer in half again to make four moist chocolate cake layers. If you don't want to do this though you can absolutely just leave them as two thicker layers of delicious cake.
- Take a layer of chocolate cake and place it on your cake board or serving plate.
- Scoop some strawberry frosting into the center of the cake and use a palette knife to spread it out all over to the edges of the cake to make a nice, even layer of buttercream.
- Add another chocolate cake layer on top and repeat.
- If you want to add an extra level of strawberry deliciousness to your cake, you could also add some chopped-up fresh strawberries in the middle layer at this stage - or even some of the strawberry puree if you didn't use it all in the frosting.
- Repeat until all the layers of the cake are on, then cover the whole outside of the cake in a very thin layer of frosting to form a crumb coat.
- Go back in with a thicker layer of frosting all over the sides of the cake and top of the cake and use a palette knife or pastry scraper to smooth the frosting out. Or you could create a design in your frosting, or even make it deliberately messy - whatever look you want to go for.
Decorate the Chocolate Strawberry Cake
You can decorate your chocolate strawberry cake however you like. I chose the decoration I did because it shows off the delicious combination of chocolate and strawberries, so I'll walk you through how I did that.
Make Chocolate Ganache - I absolutely love the look of a chocolate drip for this cake. It announces to all chocolate lovers that this is going to be a cake for them! It's super easy to do, just make up a simple ganache recipe by heating ½ cup heavy cream in a small saucepan until it just starts to make tiny bubbles, then remove from the heat and pour over 8oz of chopped chocolate (milk or dark).
Mix together until smooth and then let it cool to a thick, but still runny consistency. Then place into a piping bag or squeeze bottle and drip it down the sides of the cake.
You will have some leftover ganache. You can either save this to go on some ice cream later, or you can pour it all over the top of the cake to make a whole chocolate top layer. I chose to have the strawberry buttercream visible on top, but a pool of chocolate is never a bad idea.
Pipe Swirls - If you have enough frosting left over (this will depend on how thick a layer of frosting went on your cake). You can put the remaining frosting in a piping bag with a star tip and pipe some lovely rosettes all around the top of the cake. This looks great on its own or as a cushion for strawberries to come. If you don't have enough frosting left, or if you just want a different element to your cake, you could also do this with whipped cream.
STRAWBERRIES! - Place chocolate-covered strawberries on top of the cake. Follow my tips in the next section for how to make these yourself. Or if you prefer, you could just add fresh strawberries without any chocolate.
How to make Chocolate Covered Strawberries.
I LOVE chocolate-covered strawberries, they are just so luxurious, but surprisingly easy to make. Start off by cleaning and drying some nice, fresh strawberries. It's best if you try to choose some that are roughly the same size as this will look best on top of the cake. Once they are clean and dry, place them in the fridge to chill a little while we prepare our chocolate.
Tempering chocolate intimidates a lot of people, but it is actually super simple and easy to do. I have a whole blog post that talks you through two methods for tempering chocolate - both with a thermometer and a trick way in the microwave, which doesn't require a thermometer. There's also a video to walk you through it step by step. Follow the tips on that post for how to temper your chocolate and then come back here.
Once your chocolate is tempered and ready to use, take your strawberries out of the fridge and set out a piece of parchment paper on your worktop. Pick up one strawberry by gathering the green bits at the top and gripping onto them (not too tight or it might break).
Holding firmly, dip the strawberry in the chocolate and maneuver it around to coat all sides in melted chocolate. It's better to have your chocolate in a thin, deep dish (like a jug), rather than a wide shallow one - as this will make it easier to dip the whole strawberry at once.
Pull your strawberry out of the chocolate and gently shake it a little to remove any excess chocolate, then place it gently down on your parchment paper. Repeat with all your strawberries.
I have a solid rule that if you drop one of the strawberries into the chocolate - you have to eat it.
Once the chocolate has completely set, place the strawberries as you like on your chocolate strawberry cake - on top of the frosting swirls or in the center of the cake. Then marvel at your creation.
Strawberry Puree - If you don't want to make strawberry puree from scratch, you can use store-bought strawberry puree or even strawberry jam. See my tips above on how to use each of these.
Easier Buttercream - If you love the sound of this chocolate strawberry cake but don't want to make Italian meringue buttercream - I feel you! For a quicker, easier alternative, check out my Russian buttercream recipe and add the strawberry puree to it for an equally delicious, but easier version.
White Chocolate - If you love white chocolate, you could make the chocolate drip and chocolate-dipped strawberries with white chocolate, instead of milk or dark, for a different look.
Raspberries - This entire recipe would work just as well with raspberries instead of strawberries. Just swap the berries out in equal amounts and you'll have a delicious chocolate raspberry cake instead.
- Stand Mixer - This is definitely necessary to make the Italian meringue buttercream. But you could get away with a hand mixer for the chocolate cake.
- Thermometer - This recipe calls for a thermometer twice - once for the buttercream and once for the chocolate tempering. Both things CAN be done without a thermometer (see post). but it will make your life easier to have one. Make sure it's a candy thermometer.
- Cake Leveler - I always recommend using a cake leveler for layer cakes as it ensures you have perfect, even layers every single time.
- 8-inch Cake Pans - I used 8-inch, round cake pans for this recipe.
- Palette knife - You'll need a palette knife or pastry scraper if you want to create a smooth effect on your frosting.
Store your finished cake in the fridge in an airtight container. It will keep like this for 3 days.
If you made the elements ahead of time, keep the chocolate sponge in an airtight container at room temperature until ready to frost and fill.
The strawberry meringue buttercream should be kept in the fridge in an airtight container and will be good for 5 days.
I strongly recommend making the chocolate-covered strawberries the day of serving, as they don't hold up very well overnight.
Looking for other recipes like this? Try these:
Chocolate Strawberry Cake
- 1 Stand Mixer (for Italian Meringue Buttercream)
- Whisk Attachment
For the Chocolate Cake
- 3 cups All purpose Flour 375g
- 3 cups White Sugar 600g
- 4 Large Eggs
- 1 ¼ cups Cocoa Powder 114g (dutch processed)
- 1 cup Vegetable Oil 218g
- 1 ¼ cups Milk 300g
- 2 teaspoon Baking Powder
- ½ teaspoon Baking Soda
- 1 teaspoon Salt
- 1 teaspoon Vanilla
- ⅔ cup Hot Water 160ml
For the Strawberry Puree
- 17 oz Strawberries 500g (fresh or frozen)
- ½ cup White Sugar 100g
For the Strawberry Italian Meringue Buttercream
- 160 g Egg Whites (approx 4 large egg whites)
- ½ teaspoon Cream of Tartar
- 1 ⅓ cups White Sugar 267g
- ⅓ cup Water 80ml
- 3 sticks Butter 340g
- 1 teaspoon Vanilla
Make the Chocolate Cake
- Preheat your oven to 350°F / 180°C and line two 8-inch baking pans.
- Add all the chocolate cake ingredients (except the hot water) into a mixing bowl and mix on low until everything is combined. Make sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl.3 cups All purpose Flour, 3 cups White Sugar, 4 Large Eggs, 1 ¼ cups Cocoa Powder, 1 cup Vegetable Oil, 1 ¼ cups Milk, 2 teaspoon Baking Powder, ½ teaspoon Baking Soda, 1 teaspoon Salt, 1 teaspoon Vanilla
- Once the batter is completely combined, add the hot water and mix it in completely.⅔ cup Hot Water
- Divide the batter evenly between the two cake pans and bake for 40 - 50 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean.
Make the Strawberry Puree
- Place strawberries and sugar in a high-sided saucepan and cook on medium heat. If you are using fresh strawberries, add a splash of water too. Stir occasionally and keep cooking until the strawberries start to break down.17 oz Strawberries, ½ cup White Sugar
- Mash the strawberries a little with a potato masher and continue to cook until the mixture comes to a boil. Keep boiling, stirring occasionally until the mixture thickens slightly and has a kind of gelatenous look to it. (Will take at least 15 minutes from the point of boiling, but could be longer depending on how much liquid was in your strawberries).
- Remove from the heat and allow to cool for 15 minutes.
- Transfer the strawberry mixture to a food processor or blend with an immersion blender until smooth.
- Pass the mixture through a sieve to remove any seeds and then allow to cool completely before using.
Make the Strawberry Italian Meringue Buttercream
- Make sure the egg whites and butter are at room temperature before beginning.
- Place 1 cup of the sugar into a saucepan along with the water and set aside. Place the remaining ⅓ cup of sugar next to your stand mixer.1 ⅓ cups White Sugar, ⅓ cup Water
- Add the egg whites and cream of tartar to a very clean stand mixer bowl and whip on medium speed until they start to get frothy.160 g Egg Whites, ½ teaspoon Cream of Tartar
- Once they start to froth up, start adding the reserved sugar, one tablespoon at a time, letting it mix in for at least 30 - 60 seconds in between additions. Keep going until all the sugar has been added. The meringue should be thickened to soft peaks by now. Keep it whipping on medium speed while you prepare the sugar syrup.
- Place the saucepan with the sugar and water on medium heat, with a thermometer, and bring it to a soft bubble. Do not stir. Once the sugar has all dissolved and the thermometer reads 240°F / 115°C, it's ready to use. Note: If you are confident in the kitchen, you can boil the sugar syrup and mix up the egg whites at the same time, but if this is your first time you may want to do the egg whites first, then the syrup.
- With the mixer on low speed, start pouring the sugar syrup into the egg whites in a very slow and steady stream, being careful not to hit the side of the bowl or the whisk. Keep going until it has all been added.
- Once the sugar syrup is all into the meringue, the bowl should feel hot to touch. Continue whipping on high until the bowl feels cool.
- When the bowl feels completely cool, you can begin adding the butter. The butter must be at room temperature or it won't incorporate properly. Keep whisking the meringue on high speed while adding the butter one small chunk at a time. Let it mix in completely before adding the next tablespoon of butter3 sticks Butter
- About halfway through adding the butter your frosting will be a very strange consistency - don't panic! Just keep adding the butter and it will thicken.
- Once all the butter is incorporated, add the vanilla and whip for another minute. You should have a thick, glossy frosting.1 teaspoon Vanilla
- Now add in the cooled strawberry puree a little at a time until you achieve the strength of strawberry flavor you want. If you want a punchier flavor you can add a few drops of strawberry flavor to boost it, but I don't think it needs it.
- If you aren't going to use the buttercream right away, store it in the fridge in an airtight container and then let it come back to room temperature and whip it on high again for a minute or two before using.
Assemble the Cake
- Once the chocolate cakes have completely cooled, use a cake leveler or serrated knife to cut the domes off the top of the cakes.
- Cut each cake layer again about half way down to make 4 thin layers of cake.
- Place one layer of chocolate cake on your cake board or serving plate and put some of your strawberry buttercream on top, smoothing it out to an even layer.
- Place the next layer of cake on top and spread with more buttercream.
- Optional extra: For even more strawberry flavor, you could chop up some fresh strawberries and place them in the middle layer here for a fruity surprise.
- Repeat until all layers are on, then cover the whole cake in frosting and smooth out.
- Decorate as you like. I chose to do a chocolate ganache drip, buttercream swirls and chocolate covered strawberries. Read the post above for details on how I did this, and inspiration for other decoration ideas.