The BEST Strawberry Icing Recipe (Really Tastes like Strawberries!)

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Want to know the secret to making amazing strawberry icing that ACTUALLY tastes like strawberries?  This strawberry buttercream recipe uses two secret ingredients to really boost the fresh strawberry flavor, and make this the best strawberry icing that I've ever tasted.

Piping bag filled with strawberry icing, with piped swirls of the icing coming out of the nozzle and fresh strawberries surrounding the bag.  Text overlay reads "Strawberry Frosting."

This is a variation on a classic American buttercream recipe: a blend of butter and powdered sugar.  American buttercream icing is a classic, sweet frosting, but that sweetness often overwhelms fruit flavors, so that all you really taste is the sweetness.  Even adding flavor extracts to boost the fruit taste doesn't counteract that impression of SWEET.   

You might think that adding a cup of strawberry puree might be my secret--but no.  Fresh strawberries are delicious, but have a lot of excess liquid--too much moisture to add enough flavor to the strawberry icing recipe without making it far too runny.  And you always end up with small chunks of berry, which are delicious, but can clog your piping tip.  This recipe uses real strawberries, but not fresh strawberries.  Instead, it uses freeze dried strawberries to add wonderful strawberry flavor.

Three cupcakes topped with pink strawberry icing and gum paste strawberry decorations.

The two secret ingredients to make the best strawberry buttercream frosting are freeze dried strawberry powder and citric acid.  I'll tell you all about how to add them into traditional buttercream below.

Ingredients for the best strawberry frosting recipe on a marble surface.

Strawberry Frosting Recipe

  • 2 pounds powdered sugar
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) softened unsalted butter
  • 2 Tablespoons strawberry Jello powder (optional)
  • pinch salt
  • 1/3 cup powdered, freeze dried strawberries
  • 1/4 to 1 teaspoon citric acid (to taste)
  • milk to thin to correct texture

Note:  the strawberry Jello powder is completely optional.  I often use it because my daughter loves it when I make a strawberry jello cake soak for vanilla cake, and I then end up with a partial, open box of Jello.  And it helps make a beautiful pink frosting.  But it is absolutely not critical to this recipe, and I've made it dozens of times without the strawberry gelatin.  The real flavor comes from the freeze-dried berries and the citric acid.  Those are non-negotiable in this recipe.  If you want to boost the pink color without using the Jello, simply use a bit of food coloring.

Freeze dried strawberries being ground in a mortar and pestle to make freeze dried strawberry powder.

You can buy freeze dried strawberry powder, or if you have freeze-dried strawberries, you can grind them up in a mortar and pestle to make your own powder.  Just sift the powder through a fine mesh strainer to remove any seeds from your powder.  The strawberry powder adds intense strawberry flavor without adding a bunch of liquid to the frosting, making it runny.

How to Make Strawberry Icing:

Pink Strawberry Frosting in a kitchenaid mixing bowl.

The process of making homemade strawberry frosting is very simple.  Place the softened butter, powdered sugar, pinch of salt, freeze dried strawberry powder, and jello powder (optional, of course) in a mixing bowl. DO NOT ADD THE MILK OR CITRIC ACID YET.

Use an electric mixer (I used my Kitchenaid stand mixer) on low speed to incorporate the ingredients together.  Then move to medium speed and beat for several minutes until the buttercream is light and fluffy.

If the icing is a little too thick, add a bit of milk or heavy cream, and beat well to incorporate the liquid.  Add a little bit at a time until the icing is the perfect consistency.

Strawberry Frosting piped out of a piping bag onto a marble surface, and surrounded by fresh strawberries.

NOW it's time to add the citric acid. 

What is Citric Acid?

Citric acid is a natural acid that naturally occurs in lemons and other citrus fruits (hence the name.). It adds a punch of sour flavor to any food.  If you don't have citric acid on hand, you can use fresh lemon juice in your recipe instead (a natural source of citric acid).  This will change the liquid in your recipe, so adjust your other liquids accordingly.

Start with a very small amount--no more than a half teaspoon.  This is powerful stuff!  Mix it well and taste your frosting and you'll be amazed at the difference it makes.  Suddenly, the icing goes from cloyingly sweet to bright and fruity with the right amount of sweetness.  Your tongue registers it as a fruit flavor. 

You can add more citric acid if you want a more sour flavor.  If you add two teaspoons, you'll end up with an icing that tastes more like a sour strawberry candy than fresh strawberry frosting.  Maybe that's what you're going for!  My daughter loves it like that.  But that's why it's important to go slowly, and only add a tiny bit of citric acid at a time, mixing well and tasting after each addition.

Two tiered cake stands holding a dozen cupcakes frosted with strawberry icing.

This recipe makes enough frosting to cover 24 cupcakes (usually with a little bit left over).

How to Use Strawberry Frosting

Obviously, the classic way to use strawberry icing is on your favorite cakes and cupcakes, but here are a few fun ideas to get your creative juices flowing:

  • On strawberry cupcakes, vanilla cupcakes, or chocolate cupcakes and cakes
  • On lemon cupcakes to make strawberry lemonade cupcakes
  • On top of soft sugar cookies for an amazing summery dessert (or in the middle of two to make a strawberry vanilla whoopie pie!)
  • Spread any leftover frosting on a graham cracker (this was a favorite treat when I was a little kid)
  • Homemade donuts frosted with this icing would be the most amazing, decadent breakfast ever!
  • Melt any leftover frosting and use it as an ice cream topping!

Printable Strawberry Frosting Recipe

Want a one page, printable, PDF version of this recipe?  Click on the image below to print directly or download to your device.

Navigational image leading reader to printable PDF version of the strawberry icing recipe.

Other Frosting Recipes You Might Like:

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Navigational image leading reader to peanut butter buttercream frosting recipe.

Navigational image leading reader to Baileys buttercream frosting recipe.


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Nicole Wills, creator of Tikkido

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