Traditional American Strawberry Shortcake

Strawberry shortcake, among the most beloved and enduring of American foods, consists of sweetened biscuits (shortcake) or sponge cake loosely paired with fresh berries and whipped cream. Its greatness lies in the contrasts of textures and flavors of simple cake, fruit, and cream -— hard and soft, moist and dry, sweet and tart, acid and cake. Shortcake proves the ideal base, as it is firm enough to stand up to the juicy berries and damp cream and absorbing only some of them without losing its identity or becoming a mushy mess.


Servings: Makes six 3-inch, nine 2½-inch, or twelve 2-inch round biscuits


2 cups soft Southern or other all-purpose flour or pastry flour, or 1¼ cups all-purpose flour and ¾ cup sifted cake flour (8.5 ounces/250 grams)
1/4 cup granulated sugar (1.75 ounces/50 grams/60 ml)
1 tbsp double-acting baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup vegetable shortening or butter, or ¼ cup each, chilled (1 stick/4 ounces/115 grams)
About 3/4 cup light cream, half-and-half, or whole milk (or 1 large egg and ½ cup plus 1 tablespoon half-and-half or milk)
2 pints strawberries, hulled and sliced (4½ cups), tossed with 2 to 4 tablespoons sugar (adjust according to the sweetness of the fruit)
1 cup heavy cream beaten with 1 tablespoon sugar and ½ teaspoon vanilla extract for topping


1. Position a rack in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 425°F. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.

2. Cut in the shortening until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.

3. Gradually add the cream, stirring with a fork until the dough clings together.

4. Place the dough on a lightly floured surface, flour your hands, and knead until just manageable, 6 to 10 strokes. Do not overknead; the dough will still be rough. Sprinkle lightly with flour and pat out ¾ inch thick, about a 9- by 6-inch rectangle.

5. Using a floured 3-, 2½-, or 2-inch biscuit cutter or other sharp-edged circular cutter, press straight down to cut out the dough. Reroll and cut out the remnants.

6. Place the biscuits on an ungreased (preferably parchment-lined) baking sheet, an 8- by 1½-inch round baking pan, or cast-iron skillet. Bake until golden brown, about 12 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool for 5 minutes.

7. Split the shortcakes in half horizontally. Place the bottoms on serving plates, spoon about ¼ cup berries over top, and top with a dollop of whipped cream. Place the biscuit tops over the berries. If desired, top with more whipped cream and spoon additional berries over top. Serve at once.


Large Shortcakes: Grease two 8-inch round cake pans, divide the dough equally between the pans, press lightly to produce an even surface, and bake until golden, about 20 minutes. Invert onto wire racks and let cool for at least 10 minutes.

Buttermilk Shortcakes: Substitute ¾ cup buttermilk for the cream, reduce the baking powder to 2 teaspoons, and add ½ teaspoon baking soda.

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