Strawberry Layer Cake with Malted Strawberry Frosting

Strawberry Malt Cake

Strawberry Malt Cake

One of the things I miss most about living in Los Angeles is having access to all different kinds of food at any time of the day. After I finished graduate school, like all good starving artists, I worked at a restaurant to make ends meet. My weekend shift usually ended around 10:30, and my roommate and I would often find ourselves at Canter’s Deli at midnight, drinking malts and eating fries.

Other than Whoppers, I had never had malted anything until then, but malted milkshakes got me addicted to the flavor. Now I want to malt all the things. Malted milk powder adds such a unique depth of flavor to baked goods. I added just enough to this frosting so that you know something’s up, but you’re not sure what exactly it is. However, if you want a less subtle malt flavor, feel free to add more.

Strawberry Malt Balls

This cake was inspired not only by my LA days, but also by a pack of strawberry malt balls I saw while grocery shopping. I usually got vanilla and chocolate malts when I was at Canter’s, but I was intrigued by the combination of strawberry and malt. I kind of expected them to be gross, so I’m not sure why I bought them, but they were surprisingly delicious.

The first time I made this, I added malt powder to the cake as well as the frosting. In the end, I didn’t like the texture it gave the cake, and thought the maltiness came through better in the frosting. I ended up using my favorite white cake recipe, and just swapping out strawberry puree for half of the milk.

Strawberry Malt CakeStrawberry Malt CakeStrawberry Malt Cake

I’ve struggled in the past when trying to make strawberry flavored desserts. I’m not a fan of using gelatin, and you can’t add a lot of fresh strawberries to cake or frosting without adding too much moisture. I eventually came across this recipe for strawberry frosting, and have been using the cooked strawberry method ever since. Basically, you just cook down fresh or frozen strawberries until they reduce down and the flavor intensifies. It takes some extra time, but you’ll get a lot more flavor without adding any artificial ingredients. Without food coloring, the cake is barely pink and the frosting is pale pink like you see in the pictures, but you can add a few drops if you want more color.

Inevitably, someone is going to tell me that this frosting recipe makes way too much and that they had a lot leftover, to which I will respond yes and yes. A smooth cake comes from piling on the frosting and then scraping off to create a smooth finish. The frosting recipe makes enough for a substantial amount between each layer, a crumb coat, a finishing layer, plus some additional to pipe a border if you want. I don’t find leftover frosting to be a problem (cake balls, anyone?) but you can cut the recipe by as much as half if you only want a thin layer of filling and no crumb coat.

Strawberry Layer Cake with Malted Strawberry Frosting

Yield: One 3 layer 6-inch cake


    For the Strawberry Puree:
  • 10 oz. organic strawberries, fresh or frozen and thawed
  • For the Strawberry Cake:
  • 1 1/2 cups (170 grams) cake flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (230 grams) granulated sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup (80 ml) whole milk, at room temperature
  • 1/3 cup (80 ml) strawberry puree (recipe below)
  • 4 large egg whites, at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick, 113 grams)) unsalted butter, at room temperature and cut into chunks
  • For the Malted Strawberry Buttercream Frosting:
  • 24 tablespoons (3 sticks/340 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 3 cups (345 grams) confectioner's sugar
  • 3/4 cup (75 grams) malted milk powder
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • pinch of salt
  • 4 tablespoons strawberry puree (recipe below)
  • 1/4 cup (60 ml) heavy cream


    For the Strawberry Puree:
  1. Place the strawberries in a blender and blend until smooth.
  2. In a small saucepan, cook the puree over medium high heat until in comes to a boil, stirring frequently.
  3. Reduce the heat and let the mixture simmer while stirring frequently until the mixture reduces by about half.
  4. Set aside and let cool to room temperature.
  5. For the Strawberry Cake:
  6. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit.
  7. Grease 3 6-inch pans and line the bottoms with parchment paper.
  8. In a large mixing bowl (or the bowl of a stand mixer), combine the flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt. Whisk or beat together for about 30 seconds.
  9. In a measuring cup, whisk together the milk, strawberry puree,egg whites, and vanilla extract until well blended.
  10. Add the butter, one chunk at a time, into the flour mixture with the mixer on low speed. Continue mixing until the butter is incorporated and the mixture resembles moist crumbs.
  11. Add all but 1/3 cup of the milk mixture into the crumbs and beat on medium speed for about 90 seconds.
  12. Add the rest of the milk mixture and beat for another 30 seconds on medium speed.
  13. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula and beat for 20 more seconds.
  14. Divide the batter equally between the 3 pans (I used a kitchen scale to do this) and bake for 20-23 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.
  15. Let the cakes cool in the pans for 15 minutes on wire racks.
  16. Turn the cakes out of the pans and cool completely on wire racks before frosting.
  17. For the Malted Strawberry Frosting:
  18. With an electric mixer, beat the butter on medium high (or medium with a stand mixer) until light and creamy, about 2-3 minutes.
  19. Add the confectioner's sugar and malted milk powder and beat on low speed until combined.
  20. Turn the mixer up to medium high and beat for an additional 2-3 minutes.
  21. Add the vanilla, salt, and strawberry puree and mix until incorporated.
  22. Add the heavy cream one tablespoon at a time until you reach the desired consistency.
  23. To Assemble the Cake:
  24. Place one layer of the cake on a foil covered 6-inch cake board.
  25. Spread about 1/2 cup of frosting evenly over the top.
  26. Add the second layer and do the same.
  27. Place a generous scoop of frosting on the top of the cake, and spread evenly across the top of the cake with an offset spatula. Using a turntable, work your way around the sides until the entire cake is covered with a thin layer of frosting. Let the crumb coat set in the fridge for about 30 minutes.
  28. Once the crumb coat has set, spread a thicker layer of frosting on the top and sides of the crumb coat to create a smooth finish.
  29. Top with sprinkles and a strawberry malted milk ball.

Cake recipe adapted from Epicurious and here.
Design inspired by Sweetapolita


  1. I’ve never actually had a malt before, but this makes me want to try one asap! I’ve had Whoppers and enjoyed those, but as much as I love chocolate, strawberry sounds really intriguing. And delicious! Grad school can be rough, but malts and fries would definitely make everything better. I wish I knew about that trick during my grad school days!
    Amy recently posted…Banana Bran MuffinsMy Profile

    1. Thanks, Amy! I’m pretty sure malts and fries can cure any ailment- even finals!

  2. As someone who decorated cakes as part of my job for a while… Mo frosting = mo betta! 😉 This cake looks amazing! I love that you found a way to introduce the strawberry flavor without use of jello.

    1. Thanks, Andrea! I agree, there’s nothing worse than no having enough frosting!

  3. I’m definitely going to try the icing, I love you’ve used fresh strawberries. Beautiful Cake!
    Laura@Baking in Pyjamas recently posted…Coconut Scented Mini Layer CakeMy Profile

    1. Thank you, Laura! I hope you like it!

  4. This looks and sounds amazing!Would the frosting work without the malted milk powder, do you think? I’m a bit of an oddball and don’t like malted anything, unfortunately!

    1. You can definitely leave out the malted milk powder. If the frosting tastes greasy, you can add more powdered sugar to taste.

  5. I’m so interested now in trying strawberry and malt together! And seriously, as always, your cakes are just absolutely stunning.
    Ashley recently posted…Baked Tortilla Crusted Chicken Tenders with Mango SalsaMy Profile

    1. Thanks, Ashley! I was wary of the combination at first, but it just tastes like a strawberry milkshake.

  6. I love malted chocolate and malted vanilla, but I’ve never come across malted strawberry before! I love the color, and the tip for cooking down the berries. Absolutely gorgeous cake!

    1. Thanks, Allie!

  7. i recently made a cake with a similar recipe from a tasteology blog. that cake came out awful. i felt the problem was that it went together differently, not the usual cream sugar/butter, add dry & wet. seemed to me that mixing it for 90 seconds made a tough heavy cake. have you tested this? otherwise, it does sound intriguing.

    1. The mixing process used in this cake is called the reverse creaming method, and I use it all the time. It actually makes a lighter and fluffier cake. The key to getting a cake that’s not tough or heavy is weighing your ingredients so you are measuring accurately.

  8. […] // This Strawberry Layer Cake with Malted Strawberry Frosting from The Cake Merchant. 2 // These Modern French Tips. 3 // These Ginger & Prosecco Cocktails […]

  9. I would never have thought strawberry and malt went well together. What a great combination. Now I can’t wait to try it. Also, you make the prettiest cakes ever! Just wanted to let you know that :)
    Zainab recently posted…Lemon ‘Poppy Seed’ Thumbprint Cookies + GiveawayMy Profile

    1. Thanks for your sweet comment, Zainab!

  10. This looks sooo wonderful!! Love the color!
    Ashley @ Wishes & Dishes recently posted…Classic GuacamoleMy Profile

    1. Thank you, Ashley!

  11. Such a pretty cake! The cooked strawberry method is such a good idea, thank you. I have always had problems with strawberries in frosting since it tends to become to liquid to pipe.
    Nicole @ Vanilla and Beans recently posted…Gast-Post: Maracuja-Vanille-Mini-GuglMy Profile

    1. Thanks, Nicole! I know what you mean. I’ve tried adding fresh strawberries to frosting and ended up with a soupy mess.

  12. So pretty…a fairy tale kind of cake. I’ve never seen/had strawberry malt balls. Glad you were inspired to make this!
    Monica recently posted…Chocolate-amaretto gelatoMy Profile

  13. Hi Natasha

    How do you measure 60ml on a scale.

    1. You can measure grams/ounces in a scale, but ml should be measured in a cup.

  14. This cake looks beautiful, and delicious! I’m looking forward to trying it since I adore both strawberries and malt. But the amount of flour looks so scanty…really only 170g with all that sugar and butter? Other similar recipes I’ve seen call for double that amount of flour or more. Am I being paranoid?

    1. This recipe makes a small cake, so the amount of flour is less than usual. It’s a paired down version of the Cook’s Illustrated White Cake.

      1. Thanks for the response, Natasha!

        I spent a little more time looking at recipes, converting to weights and comparing percentages and discovered the differences were less than I imagined, so I made a test run of the cake yesterday morning. It was great…moist, dense and great strawberry flavor.

        Now if I can just get the hang of a hemisphere pan, in about a week I’ll be the best auntie ever for a six-year-old whose cake mandate was: strawberry, purple, cannonball. :-) Bless her creative little heart. (Right now I have the pan in a water bath, with an improvised heating core, in a 300 degree oven. And my fingers firmly crossed.)

  15. HI!

    I just made your cake, and it is incredible. It is now my favorite cake, ever. Thanks for the killer recipe.


    1. Thanks, Heather! Glad you loved it :)

  16. Hi, i would like to bake this cake tomorow but, here in norway i can not find Malted Milk Powder can i use something else? Katarina

    1. Hi Katrina,

      You can leave the malted milk powder out of the frosting. It will still taste good.

  17. Such a delicious and pretty cake. I loved the combination of strawberry and malt. And I am also a fan of the small cake – I love making these 6″ layer cakes as gifts. Thank you for this wonderful recipe!

  18. Hi Natasha, I live in Mexico so I can´t find any strawberry poppers, but for some reason I am very intrigued by pink food, specially strawberry flavors. And last year I made your beautiful cake for my birthday, it was more than delicious and people were telling me, they never tried something like that! Thank you for the recipe!

    1. I’m so glad you liked it, Alinne!

  19. Will this cake hold up in fondant? Will most of your cakes hold up in fondant?

  20. Would his work as a 4 inch cake? If so, what adjustments would I need to make in ingredients?

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