Strawberry Shortcake is my number one, most favorite dessert (done properly, see below), and has been for as long as I can remember. I used to request it every year for my birthday, but strawberries aren’t exactly in season in April around here, so now I make it every June. My grandpa Jack used to have it for his birthday, too, which conveniently was in June. He passed away earlier this year, and I’m happy to have such a sweet way to remember him, now.
The recipe I use is from In the Sweet Kitchen by Regan Daley. Since I just did a biscuit recipe, I’m not going to go too deep into the shortcakes, but you can always refer to that post if you need tips.
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 TB baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1/4 cup whole milk
5 TB heavy cream
Additional 1 TB each heavy cream and sugar, for topping the scones
2 quarts strawberries, hulled, then sliced, chopped, or mashed
3 to 4 TB sugar
2 cups heavy cream
1 1/2 TB sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
Note: I wrote the recipe as it appears in the book, but you can easily get away with half the strawberries and whipped cream if you’re only making six servings.
I usually make the strawberries first, so they can sit and get juicy, but you can make the scones first as the recipe suggests, if you want.
For the strawberries:
1. Mix the sliced, or otherwise mangled, strawberries with the sugar — taste the berries to determine how much you’ll need. Let them sit while you’re doing the other things. Maybe give them a stir from time to time.
For the scones:
1. Preheat the oven to 425° F. Line a baking sheet with parchment. Mix the dry ingredients together. Cut in the butter with a pastry cutter, or two knives, until there aren’t any chunks larger than a pea.
2. Mix the eggs, milk, and cream together. Add them to the dry ingredients + butter, and stir until just combined. Gather into a ball, and dump onto a floured surface. Pat into a circle (or square, or whatever, the shape doesn’t really matter), about 3/4″ to 1″ thick (you want it a little thicker than the biscuits, because it’s not going to rise as much), and cut with a large biscuit cutter.
3. Place the scones on the baking sheet. Brush the tops with the cream, and sprinkle with the sugar. Bake for 14 – 18 minutes, rotating halfway through, and checking to make sure the bottoms don’t get too dark (slide a second baking sheet under them if you’re worried about that happening). Remove to a rack and cool for 10 minutes or so, but you’ll want to serve them warm, so plan accordingly.
For the whipped cream:
1. Whip the cream and sugar. Add the vanilla and whip a bit more. You can do this while the scones are baking, or while they’re cooling.
1. Split the scones in half. My grandparents used to butter them, so I do, too. Top the bottom half with strawberries and cream. Put the top on top, then cover with more strawberries, and more cream. If you’re feeling fancy, you can reserve some good-looking strawberries to put whole on top.
And now, the rant:
‘Shortcake’ is short for ‘shortening cake’, i.e., a cake made with a solid fat (including vegetable shortening, but also butter and lard). Sponge cake, pound cake, and angel food cake all taste good with strawberries, but they do not a strawberry shortcake make. No, not even if you put whipped cream on top.
A true strawberry shortcake features a biscuit or scone, or even crumbled up pie crust, topped with macerated strawberries, and sweetened whipped cream. If you try to advertise something else for shortcake at your supermarket, I will laugh to myself as I go by at how deluded you are. If I order strawberry shortcake at your restaurant and I get something other than a shortcake, well, I’ll be very disappointed, and complain about it the whole ride home. (What? I don’t throw fits in grocery stores and restaurants, because I’m not a monster.)
Seriously, strawberry shortcake, made when strawberries are in season, is basically the perfect dessert. Don’t mess with perfection, folks!