Spring has sprung! At least I think it has. Some mornings are perfect and slightly warm while others require multiple layers, so I’ve just stopped using the weather for signs of spring. Instead I’ve turned to the produce department. Strawberries are popping up everywhere and they’re getting better every week. (BUT I’M STILL WAITING FOR RHUBARB. RHUBARB, IF U SEE THIS MESSAGE CALL ME).
Because strawberries are looking so fine, I figured it would be a perfect time to kick off a new series I like to call “Piece of Cake”. We’ll go over staple recipes that you should have in your party toolkit so when the time comes to throw a party, you don’t have to search high and low for a yellow cake recipe or a chocolate sheet cake or in this case, shortcakes.
Now I know that there are enough variations for shortcakes in this world to make your head spin, but I’m going to cover the individual scone-like situation. It’s my favorite because it’s easy and effortless to throw together. You can make the shortcakes in the morning and cover them and just have everything but the whipped cream ready to go. Aaaand everyone can sort of help themselves when it comes to assembly, so it’s less pressure on you.
Don’t like strawberries? Go ahead and use whatever fruit’s in season at the moment, just make sure you add a squeeze of lemon juice if they’re prone to browning (most stone fruit like apricots and peaches have this issue) and let your imagination run wild with combos.
For the Shortcakes:
1 2/3 cups all purpose flour
1/4 cup white granulated sugar
1 tablespoon aluminum free baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 c buttermilk + 2 tablespoons for pre-bake brush
1 large egg
coarse sugar, like sanding or turbinado
For the Strawberries
1 pound strawberries, hulled and sliced
2 tablespoons white granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
For the Cream:
1 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon confectioners’ sugar
Preheat your oven to 350ºF and line a half sheet sized baking sheet with parchment.
In a large bowl whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Grate the butter on the coarse side of a cheese grater right into the bowl then use your hands to toss it all together. Using your fingertips rub the butter into the flour mixture until it’s incorporated, but there’s still some pieces the size of small peas.
Measure out the half cup of buttermilk, then add the egg and beat it together with a fork until combined. Add this to the butter flour mixture and mix with the fork just until it comes together, making sure you don’t over mix. Use a 2 oz ice cream scoop or a 1/4 cup measuring cup to scoop out the dough right onto the parchment, making sure they don’t sit too close together. Depending on how generous you scoop it you should end up with 6-8 shortcakes.
Once they’re all there brush the tops with the remaining buttermilk then sprinkle the tops with the coarse sugar and bake for 25-30 minutes, just until the tops start to turn golden brown. Too long and you’ll have dry cakes.
Remove from the oven and let the shortcakes cool on the baking sheet for 30-45 minutes.
While they cool, prepare the strawberries by tossing them with the sugar and vanilla bean paste and letting them sit for at least 30 minutes while the shortcakes cool.
When you’re ready to serve, prepare the whipped cream by beating together the heavy cream and confectioners’ sugar until you get soft peaks. Then, either carefully pull apart or cut the shortcakes, top one half with some of the strawberries and a nice dollop of the whipped cream, then place the other half of the shortcake on top of that and serve.