Few things remind me more of summer than fresh fruit. When strawberries are at their best, you can smell their sweetness by just walking pass the fruit stand displaying them. And that can only mean strawberry shortcake is going to happen.
Near our former home in Southern California, there were vast strawberry fields in the most uncommon places: next to the Costco parking lot, or along the 5 freeway heading toward San Diego.
Today the smell of strawberries reminds me of the SoCal days, as well as of the shortcake my mom used to make all summer long back in Michigan. One of mom’s favorite stories is pretty telling: During the summer she would bake a shortcake in a pie pan and cut it in half. She and our brother, Mick, would each load up their shortcake with berries, vanilla ice cream or whipped cream and enjoy a heaping serving of summer’s best desserts.
No shortcake shortcuts
I too love a good dessert with strawberries. I will often sub in an angel food cake for shortcake for caloric reasons. The other half of the SSS gang strongly prefers the shortcake version of this dessert. I agree, sometimes nothing but shortcake will do as the base for a mound of strawberries piled high with vanilla ice cream.
Making strawberry shortcake
Homemade shortcakes are easy to make, and there are so many variations. Don’t tell mom and her pie-plate approach, but we go for individual cakes that deliver those crusty edges, much like a slightly sweet biscuit. For this recipe, sour cream added a slight tang to the dough, making the shortcake the perfect foil for the sweet, sugary berries. A little lemon zest adds brightness to the cakes, and a sprinkle of turbinado sugar on top adds to the golden brown and crusty outer layer.
The wet ingredients get folded into the butter/flour mixture until combined. Keep everything as cold as possible and you’ll end up with a more flaky shortcake
We kneaded the dough by hand into a smooth ball, then formed it into a square about 2 inches thick and cut it in quarters. Then we stacked the squares on top of each other, rolled them down to another square and repeated. You’re creating layers of dough and butter, which will give you a flaky, layered shortcake.
Roll the dough out to a 6-8 inch square and cut into 6 or 8 pieces, striving to keep the dough puffed in the layers.
End result is a layered, slightly dense cake that we split in half and cover with sliced, sweetened berries and a scoop (or two) of vanilla ice cream.