Delicious strawberry shortcake layered with ripe berries and silky whipped cream. Each tender biscuits is made with whole wheat flour and with just three simple components, it’s an easy dessert with stunning gourmet results.
There are three distinct components to this strawberry shortcake that layer together for an amazing contrast in textures. The outer layer is a sweetened biscuit dough that quickly comes together and bakes into a tender mini cake with crisp edges. Slice them right down the center and fill each one to your heart’s delight.
Fresh ripe strawberries are macerated together with golden honey, mint, and tart lemon juice to create a lightly sweetened syrup. Homemade whipped cream helps the berries and cake sandwich together for an irresistible dessert. This recipe can be made in advance to assemble right before serving for the best taste. I opted for individual portions so it’s easier to serve instead of making a big cake.
What is shortcake?
The base is made from a sweet, crumbly biscuit-like dough or sponge cake. When I worked at a European bakery in high school, we always went the biscuit route. It’s fast to make and I enjoy a little crunch. To make it more indulgent in taste, I add in eggs and cream.
The shortcakes are a perfect light golden-brown color, slightly crispy on the outside, and have a very soft interior crumb structure. It’s a sturdy, yet tender cake for the chunks of fruit layered on top. Plus, the biscuit does a great job soaking up the sweet juices from the berries for even more flavor in each bite!
The cake is similar to a biscuit
To create the shortcake, use the same technique as you would a savory biscuit recipe. Combine flour, sugar, salt, and baking soda in a large bowl, then break down cold pieces of butter into the mixture. Baking soda is a chemical leavening agent that allows the cakes to rise quickly in the oven.
I use white whole wheat flour to add more texture, nutty flavor, and nutrition from the ground fibers in the ingredient. All-purpose flour or gluten-free flour can also be used in the recipe, which will yield a delicate structure. The egg and cream are whisked together, then mixed with the dry ingredients to form a dough. The eggs help leaven, bind, and provide richness. Heavy cream ensures a hydrated flour and tender cake.
The refrigerated dough is placed on a lightly floured surface to form a large 1-inch thick disc. I use a 3-inch round cookie cutter to make the individual cakes. The biscuits are baked on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet and baked in a preheated oven at 375°F (191ºC) until golden brown.
For the best flavor, use juicy strawberries at their peak ripeness and toss them with honey. The concentrated sugar molecules coating the berries will draw some of the moisture out of the cell walls. Over time the berries release their natural sweetness and infuse together with the citrus and mint flavors in a process called maceration. I always perform this step first to give the sugar a longer duration to work its magic.
Heavy cream is preferred
I use heavy whipping cream because it contains more milk fat, about 36% which helps the cream hold its shape when air is incorporated. There is science behind making a sweetened whipped cream. The mechanical act of whisking traps air into the cream, adding a lightness, volume, and stiffness.
For these shortcakes, mix the cream with powdered sugar and vanilla extract until medium peaks form. The way to check is to dip the whisk into the whipped cream and lift straight up. The cream should hold its shape, with the top of the peak curling over on itself. If you over-mix it will start to curdle and eventually separate into butter and buttermilk.
Assembling the cakes
Make sure the shortcakes are completely cooled before filling or the whipped cream will melt into a puddle. Slice them down the center to build each pastry. Add a generous amount of berries and sauce on top of the bottom cake, followed by a generous dollop of whipped cream, then the other biscuit half. A light dusting of powdered sugar adds just the right amount of extra sweetness.
How long is strawberry shortcake good for?
Enjoy strawberry shortcake right away or within an hour of assembly. If not eating immediately, refrigerate for a few hours before serving. The taste is best fresh because the cake gets soggy over time. It is possible to prepare the individual components and build it later.
How do you make tender shortcakes?
Breaking the butter into pea-sized pieces into the flour creates a soft crumb that is light, and flaky. The fat coats the proteins in the flour, which limits the formation of the protein bonds. Mix the ingredients only until just combined, then chill the dough before rolling. This allows the butter to solidify and for the gluten to relax so it’s easier to handle. Roll and cut the dough only once. The less you handle the dough, the more tender the shortcake.
- 1 pound (454 g) strawberries, rinsed, hulled, and quartered
- 2 tablespoons (30 ml) honey
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest
- 2 tablespoons (60 ml) lemon juice, squeezed
- 1 teaspoon mint, cut into thin strips
- 3 cups (426 g) white whole wheat flour
- ½ cup (107 g) granulated sugar
- 4 teaspoons (14 g) baking powder
- ¾ teaspoon (3 g) kosher salt
- 12 tablespoons (180 g) unsalted butter, cold, cut into small pieces, 1 ½ sticks
- ½ cup (120 ml) heavy cream
- 2 large eggs
- 1 ½ cups (360 ml) heavy cream
- 2 tablespoons (26 g) granulated sugar
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- powdered sugar, for dusting
- In a medium-sized bowl, combine strawberries, honey, lemon zest, and lemon juice. Add fresh mint, mix and refrigerate. This will help the berries release their natural juices and infuse the flavors of the mint and lemon.
- Preheat oven to 375°F (191ºC).
- In a large bowl, sift together the flour, ½ cup sugar, baking powder, and salt, stir to combine.
- Add the cold and cubed pieces of butter into the flour mixture. Using your fingers or a pastry cutter to break the butter into pea-sized shapes.
- In a separate medium bowl, whisk ½ cup cream and eggs. Then pour into the flour mixture and mix with a fork until large clumps begin to form.
- Use your hands to gently form a ball then flatten it into a 7-inch disc. Cover the dough in clear plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
- Using additional flour as needed, roll out the dough into a 1-inch thick disc.
- Using a 3-inch round biscuit cutter, cut out the dough and place the cakes onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
- Bake for 15-17 minutes or until lightly golden brown. Transfer to a wire rack to cool for about 15 minutes.
- In a large chilled bowl, beat 1 ½ cups of chilled cream, 2 tablespoons sugar, and vanilla extract. Whisk by hand or with a mixer until medium peaks form. The cream should hold its shape with the top of the peak curling over on itself.
- Slice the cooled biscuits in half horizontally. Spoon the strawberries over the bottom halves, add whipped cream, and place the other half of cake on top. Dust the tops with powdered sugar. Enjoy immediately.
- Flour Substitution: All-purpose, whole wheat, or gluten-free can be used instead.
- Make-Ahead: The dough can be made 3 days in advance. Baked cakes can be made 1 day ahead and stored in an airtight container, or frozen and reheated. The strawberry filling can be made up to 2 days ahead of time and stored in the refrigerator until ready to use. The whipped cream can be prepared 1 day in advance and stored in the refrigerator, it may need a gentle whisk if it loses some volume.