Berries, the colorful glories of summer, are out in full force. Depending on where you live, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries and cherries are abundant at farm stands, U-pick orchards and grocery stores. It’s a little challenging not to go overboard when working these sweet fruits into salads, smoothies and cobblers, or just popping them into your mouth, straight-up, as snacks.
Sandwiching berries in a tender and buttery shortcake is a classic option in which you should indulge this season. As a kid, you may have coveted those packages of golden sponge cakes that produce managers displayed next to the eye-catching display of ripe strawberries. Now that you’re older, you can pull together far superior shortcakes in your own kitchen with minimal baking time.
We prefer old-fashioned, biscuit-style shortcakes for their homespun charm and the berries’ sweetness that shines without an excessive amount of added sugar. And, best of all, they’re even faster to make than a boxed cake mix.
Light and Fluffy Old-Fashioned Shortcakes
Makes 9 shortcakes
This comes from Marion Cunningham’s The Fannie Farmer Baking Book. The mixing technique is similar to our Mother’s Day scones, but there’s a beaten egg added here for a more cake-like crumb. We recommend using cake flour to make your shortcake light and fluffy, but regular all-purpose flour also works fine with this recipe. You may prepare the shortcakes a day in advance.
For the Shortcakes:
- 2 cups cake flour
- ½ teaspoon table salt
- 4 teaspoons baking powder
- ½ teaspoon cream of tartar
- 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 8 tablespoons (1 stick or ½ cup) unsalted butter, cold
- ⅓ cup heavy cream or whole milk
- 1 egg
For the Berries:
- 2 pints fresh berries
- ¼ cup granulated sugar, or to taste (some berries are sweeter than others)
- 1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon or lime zest, optional
For the Whipped Cream:
- 1 cup heavy cream, chilled
- 2 teaspoons granulated sugar
1. To make the shortcakes, preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.
2. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, baking powder, cream of tartar and sugar. Grate the butter on the large holes of a box grater and toss it with the flour mixture. Using your fingertips or a pastry cutter, work the butter into the flour until it looks like fine crumbs. Measure the cream in a glass measuring cup, crack the egg into it, and beat with a fork until well combined.
3. Pour the cream mixture over the flour-butter mixture and, with your hands, gently work until it comes together to form a rough, shaggy dough that’s slightly sticky. (Add a sprinkle of flour if the dough it too loose; add a drizzle of cream if it feels too dry or crumbly.) Knead for four or five turns on a lightly floured surface and pat into a 7-inch by 7-inch square. Cut into nine squares and transfer to the baking sheets (giving the shortcakes plenty of room allows them to brown more evenly).
4. Bake until golden in spots, for 15 to 20 minutes, rotating the baking sheets front to back and top to bottom halfway through. Allow to cool on a wire rack.
5. Rinse and drain the berries when you’re ready to prepare them. If using strawberries, stem them before halving or slicing. Toss together with the sugar and (if using) lemon or lime zest. Let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes.
6. Prepare the whipped cream shortly before serving. Combine the heavy cream and sugar in a large bowl and beat by hand or with an electric mixer until it makes soft, rounded peaks.
7. Gently split the shortcakes with a serrated knife or fork. Spoon the berries and their accumulated juice over the bottom halves of the shortcakes, top with a generous dollop of whipped cream, then top with the top half of the shortcake. Serve immediately with any remaining berries or whipped cream on the side.
We hope you enjoy making this delightful summer dessert! Bon appétit!
by Sara Bir