Strawberry Shortcake – A Summer Tradition
Strawberry shortcake is the quintessential summer dessert here in New England. Many towns have annual Strawberry Festivals to celebrate the start of summer and the delicious strawberry harvest it brings. As a kid, I would either ask my sweet mom for a strawberry shortcake cake or chocolate cake as my birthday cake every year. She’d make either a giant scone-like biscuit or a fluffy vanilla cake to layer with fresh whipped cream and macerated strawberries.
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Turning strawberry shortcake into a layer cake
Shortcake is most often served as individual split shortcakes filled with whipped cream and macerated strawberries. I love it that way, but sometimes it’s fun to make a giant layer cake version to wow your friends and family at the picnic.
The method is quite simple. Just form the shortcake dough into 2 large rounds about 6 inches wide. Cut them in half horizontally to make 4 shortcake layers then layer them up with stabilized whipped cream and macerated strawberries. Once the cake is assembled it best eaten right away just as individual-sized shortcakes are.
How to stabilize whipped cream
Whipped cream is airy and delicious but its soft whipped peaks mean that it can liquefy after a time, which is not ideal when using it in a layer cake situation. Luckily whipped cream is easy to stabilize with the help of creamy mascarpone cheese. Mascarpone tastes just like unsweetened whip cream so it is perfect to whip into the mixture to help make it sturdier and hold up between cake layers.
You don’t want to use cold mascarpone straight from the refrigerator because it can create lumps in whipped cream nor do you want room temperature mascarpone as it can become too soft to add any stabilizing powers. I like to let it sit out at room temp for 10-15 minutes just to soften up a bit but not too much.
It is better to start whipping the cream first so it starts to thicken up then add the mascarpone and continue whipping until soft but firm peak form. Keep your eyes on the cream as it whips because whipped cream will over-whip quickly and then the cream will split and start to turn into butter. Side note: this is how you make homemade butter by the way. If your cream splits and you catch it just after it happens you can try to save it by mixing in more heavy cream. It has worked for me before.
Assembling the Strawberry Shortcake Cake
Assembling the cake is easy! You can pipe on the cream or simply spoon it onto each layer of biscuit, followed by the macerated strawberries. Watch the video below to see how I assembled this.
Yes, simply cut the dough out using 2 or 3-inch round cutters to form smaller individual shortcakes. Bake them at the same temperature but reduce the time to 15-20 minutes. Serve them individually with a generous dollop of cream and berries.
The biscuits can be made earlier in the day, cooled, and kept loosely wrapped at room temperature until you are ready to assemble the cake. The stabilized whipped cre4am can be made earlier in the day as well but should be kept covered and refrigerated until ready to use. The macerated strawberries are best made about 15-30 minutes before assembly and serving. Shortcake is best eaten shortly after it is made and will not keep well once assembled.
Yes, use coconut milk in an equal amount by volume to replace heavy cream in the biscuits. Use vegan butter in an equal amount by weight to replace butter. I like to use Country Crock plant butter in vegan baked goods. The whipped cream is harder to substitute as all vegan whipped cream alternatives seem to liquefy very quickly. You could try using very thick coconut yogurt and sweeten it to taste. Instead of an egg wash brush the dough with plant milk mixed with a drop of olive oil and a drop of apple cider vinegar.
Yes, this cake is a great way to feature any in-season summer fruit. Try blueberries, raspberries, or blackberries and stone fruit like peaches, nectarines, plums, and cherries. Mix them together too – peach
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- 315 ml heavy cream 1-1/3 cup
- 13 g apple cider vinegar 1 tablespoon
- 560 g all-purpose flour 4 cups
- 100 g granulated sugar 1/2 cup , plus more for sprinkling
- 16 g baking powder 2 tablespoons
- 4 g kosher salt 1 teaspoon
- 228 g cold unsalted butter 1 cup/2 sticks
- 9 g finely grated lemon zest from 2 lemons
- 12 g vanilla extract 1 tablespoon
- 1 egg
Stabilized Whipped Cream:
- Stir together heavy cream and apple cider vinegar and let the mixture sit to thicken.
- Cut the butter into small cubes approximately 1/2" wide and add them to the flour mixture. Break the cubes of butter apart and coat them in the flour. Then cut the butter into the flour with your fingertips until the resulting mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs with larger pea-sized pieces throughout.
- Beat the egg and brush it over the top of each large biscuit and sprinkle the tops with sugar.
- Bake at 400˚F/205˚C for 20-25 minutes until the biscuits are puffed and golden brown. They should sound hollow when you tap the bottom of the biscuits.
- Transfer the biscuits to cooling racks and allow them to cool to room temperature before assembling the cake.
- About 15 minutes before you plan to assemble the cake let the mascarpone site out at room temperature.
- Meanwhile, prepare the macerated strawberries. Trim the stem and leaves off of the berries and cut small berries in half and larger berries into quarters or slices. Place the cut berries into a bowl with the sugar, vanilla extract and lemon juice and stir to combine. Let the mixture sit in the fridge while you prepare the whipped cream to let the berries release their juices.
- To make the whipped cream add the heavy cream, sugar, vanilla extract, and salt to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a balloon whisk attachment or a mixing bowl if using a hand-mixer. Whip the cream on medium-high until it starts to thicken, about 1 minute. Turn off the mixer and add the semi-soft mascarpone. Continue whipping the mixture until soft peaks form, about 1 more minute. Watch it closely as whipped cream can quickly split and turn into butter if it is overmixed.
- To assemble the cake cut each large biscuit in half horizontally. Place one bottom half onto a cake plate. Pipe or spoon 1/4 of the cream onto the biscuit then spoon about 3/4 cup of the macerated berries over the cream.
- Place the top of the biscuit inverted so that the cut side is facing up over the berry layer. Layer on the cream followed by berries again and repeat the next layer using the second biscuit bottom. The final layer of biscuit should be cut side down with the top facing up. Finish the top layer with the remaining cream and more berries. You may have extra berries which can be served with the cake.
- Decorate the cake with whole strawberries and strawberry leaves if you wish and or edible flowers. I used pineapple weed flowers that were growing among the rows of strawberries at the pick-your-own farm. Chamomile flowers are very similar or use wild daisies to achieve this look.
- Vegan swaps: Use coconut milk in an equal amount by volume to replace heavy cream in the biscuits. Use vegan butter in an equal amount by weight to replace butter. I like to use Country Crock plant butter. The whipped cream is harder to substitute as all vegan whipped cream alternatives seem to liquefy very quickly. You could try using very thick coconut yogurt and sweeten it to taste. Instead of an egg wash brush the dough with plant milk mixed with a drop of olive oil and a drop of apple cider vinegar.
- Once assembled the cake is best eaten shortly thereafter. The biscuits can be made ahead earlier in the day. The berries are best made about 15-30minutes before assembly. The stabilized whipped cream can be made earlier in the day and refrigerated until ready to use. Every component is best eaten the day it is made.
- If you don't want to make a large cake then you can use round cutters to cut the dough into smaller biscuits. Bake them at the same temp but reduce the time to 15-20 minutes.