Strawberry Shortcake

Strawberry Shortcake 1

It’s strawberry season here in Southern California, and for several weeks now we have been spending a small fortune on the world’s best strawberries at the farmer’s market, and eating them by the basketful. In fact, I think that eating them plain, unadorned and preferably unwashed is really the most sublime way to eat strawberries. The time does come, however, (though it comes after many, many, many strawberries have been eaten) when I start casting about for other things to do with my strawberries that still makes all the strawberry goodness shine through. The answer, of course, is strawberry shortcake.

Now, I grew up with a mother who has many positive qualities, but she does not like whipped cream (probably because her mother is a fan of Cool Whip) and so the only strawberry shortcake I knew growing up was the little doll that smelled like sugar. In fact, when I was three, I had some rawther lovely Strawberry Shortcake underoos. Aren’t you jealous? But real strawberry shortcake is nothing short of a miracle — strawberries and whipped cream and tender cake, not too sweet, with good, plain flavors and strawberries. What could be better than that?

Inspired by recent recipes in the LA Times and smitten kitchen, I set out to make a classic strawberry shortcake. I can taste baking powder in plain cakes like these, so I always try to reduce it. In this case, I subbed out the cream with buttermilk and replaced the baking powder with a smaller amount of baking powder + some baking soda (because buttermilk is acidic, it interacts with the base of baking soda to produce leavening, which straight cream will not do). I don’t know how the substitution changed the original recipe, but the buttermilk and the addition of the egg yolks yielded an incredibly light and tender shortcake.

Being a purist, I also left the orange out of the shortcake altogether, and macerated the strawberries in balsamic vinegar and brown sugar, which really enhances the strawberry flavor and color.

Strawberry shortcake, worthy of the strawberries themselves. Make it before it’s too late.

Strawberry Shortcake
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 6
For the Biscuits
  • 2 cups flour
  • 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ tsp. baking soda
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • 6 tablespoons cold butter, cut into slices
  • 2 hard-boiled egg yolks
  • ¾ c. buttermilk (NOTE: If you don't regularly keep buttermilk around, I would suggest buying powdered buttermilk. It stores indefinitely in the fridge and works perfectly in any baking recipe that calls for buttermilk. You add the powder with the dried ingredients and water in place of the buttermilk).
  • Coarse sugar for topping (I used pearl sugar because I had it, but raw sugar or even regular granulated can be used as well.)
For the strawberries
  • 3 pints strawberries, washed, hulled and sliced
  • 2 T brown sugar
  • 1 T balsamic vinegar
  • 1 cup whipping cream, beaten to soft peaks
To make the biscuits: Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a food processor, pulse together the flour, granulated sugar, baking powder, baking sugar and salt. Add the butter and the egg yolks and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add the buttermilk and pulse just until mixed. Do not overmix! Turn the dough out onto a floured surface, pat into a rough round shape about 7 inches in diameter, and cut into wedges. Brush the
  1. tops very lightly with a little buttermilk, cream or melted butter and sprinkle with the sugar. Transfer to a cookie sheet and bake 18-20 minutes, until pale golden brown.
To make the shortcakes:
  1. Combine the strawberries, sugar and vinegar, let stand about 20 minutes.
  2. While the shortcakes are baking, toss the strawberries, sugar and orange juice together in a bowl. Let stand several minutes. (If the strawberries are extremely firm, do this 30 minutes in advance.)
  3. To serve, slice the shortcakes in half horizontally and make a "sandwich" with the cream and berries.


9 comments to Strawberry Shortcake

  • Christine

    Oh, YUM! I’ll have to give this a try this weekend.

  • I totally agree with you when you say that the best way to eat strawberries is as they are, but then one can’t resist the many ways one can dress or cook fruits like strawberries….

  • This looks wonderful! I love the heart shaped strawberry in your final photo.

  • okay–I’ve seen some other strawberry shortcake posts around, but your “purist” version is the first one to inspire me to make my own! as it happens, I’ve got berries & heavy whipping cream in the fridge….thanks!

  • Hurrah for purist shortcake! I grew up with this deliciousness (my mother is a wonderful baker), so imagine my dismay the first time I was offered the now-common version of syrupy strawberries piled on spongy pound cake rounds with Cool Whip. Ugh. I like your buttermilk idea, and as it happens I have a couple or cups of buttermilk in the fridge… now if only strawberry season would come to Chicago!

  • Erin @ Jetsette

    YUM!! I don’t think I have ever made a proper shortcake. My strawberries usually go on angelfood cake. I will have to try this– it looks lovely.

  • I also don’t know that I’ve ever made a shortcake completely from scratch. The macerated strawberries make this a tasty grown-up treat.

  • Mike

    I think I could eat Cool Whip by the container-full. Maybe that’s why I grew out of my Luke Skywalker Underoos. Although, I’d gladly eat this too. (And before you think I’m sooo New Jersey, I too hate store bought sponge cake rounds.)

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