Everything I know about Strawberry Shortcake

Jul 12, 2019 | Cooking Tips, desserts

It’s that time again! Fresh local strawberries are appearing on grocery store shelves and at farmers’ market stalls. That can mean only one thing; it’s strawberry shortcake time!

I know that we are fortunate enough to live at a time when we can buy “fresh” strawberries all year round. But, I think we can all agree that the strawberries we buy in January are not the same as the berries that we can buy now. There is no comparison. Fresh local in-season strawberries actually taste like strawberries. And, they are way cheaper than they are in January. Take advantage of them.

Strawberry shortcake comes in many different forms. But, all forms have three basic elements; some kind of cake or biscuit, whipped cream, and of course strawberries.

Today I am going to break down the fundamentals of strawberry shortcake, share with you my little secret additions, and hopefully inspire you to get out there and fill your belly up with amazing strawberries while you still can.

Are you ready? Because this is…

Everything I know about Strawberry Shortcake


Shortcake

What exactly is a shortcake?

Shortcake is a sweet cake or biscuit. Most commonly the shortcake part of strawberry shortcake is either yellow sponge cake or a sweetened tea biscuit. However, there are some versions that also use rounds of pie crust or crumbled pieces of pie crust.

The word “short” in shortcake doesn’t refer to height but rather the consistency of the crumb of the cake or biscuit. Shortcakes have a more crumbly texture than regular cakes and biscuits.


Cake or Biscuit?

I’m sure we have all had those little yellow cakes you can buy in a six-pack at the grocery store. Let’s be honest, they make a pretty good strawberry shortcake. However, for my money, I prefer a fresh tea biscuit over sponge cake any day.

I find that a tea biscuit holds its structure better than a sponge cake. And, it feels a bit more substantial. I know that some people feel that tea biscuits are a little too firm and would rather the soft texture of the cake. But, that is why I always suggest warming the biscuits to soften them. I will also often drizzle some strawberry juice over the biscuit before topping it with the strawberries. This helps to soften it and adds a bit of extra flavour.

In all honesty, whether you decided to use a tea biscuit or sponge cake is really a matter of personal preference. There is no right or wrong answer. Just make sure that whatever you are using is good quality and everything will be good.


Strawberries

The strawberries for a strawberry shortcake are most commonly macerated. What that means is that the berries are sliced, tossed with a little sugar, and left to sit for about an hour. As the berries sit the sugar draws moisture out of them creating a syrup. This a classic way, and a fantastic way to prepare the berries. And, most of the time this is what I do as well but with a few adjustments.

Often I will add a few leaves of mint and let those sit with the berries. I take them out before I serve the dessert. This imparts a very light mint flavour to the berries. I will also occasionally add some strips of lemon zest to the berries as they are macerating which has the same effect as the mint leaves.

Some other possible additions to the berries are a little thyme. Yup, you read that right. And even a little balsamic vinegar.

One of my personal favourite things to do with the berries is to actually add a little Sprite or Gingerale to them along with the sugar. This creates a bit of extra syrup but also adds extra flavour. For a pint of berries, I would use about 1/4 cup Sprite or Gingerale and 2 tbsp of sugar. I often also use a few mint leaves along with the pop to really jack the flavour up.

When spooning the berries over the biscuits make sure to add a bit of the extra syrup. Your guests won’t know what they are tasting, but they will know they like it.


Whipped Cream

When most people make whipped cream they will add a bit of sugar and a bit of vanilla whip it and stop. That’s good. That makes a delicious cream, just don’t over whip it. But, there is an oportunity to add a bit of extra flavour, so why not?

I like to add a bit of additional flavour to the cream by adding a bit of finely grated lemon zest, minced crystallized ginger, a little brandy, or even a little bit of the strawberry syrup. The minimal effort involved in doing this will be paid off tenfold by the additional WOW factor the comes with that hint of flavour.

When whipping cream it is extremely important not to over whip it. Really, for this application, you only want to whip it to the point that it holds its shape. Any more than that and you are making the cream denser and taking away that lighter than air texture. Once the cream is whipped, gently fold in any additional ingredients and serve.

If you are still using cool whip or canned whip cream it is time to stop. Whipping cream is not that expensive. Whipped cream is not that hard to make. And the difference in quality and eating experience is a thousand times different.


Conclusion

Strawberry Shortcake is one of the most classic and delicious summer desserts. But, making it the same way over and over can get boring and even tedious. Mix it up, try new things. You never know how good something can be, and how much you may love it until you try it.

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