Classic Strawberry Shortcake
This recipe for strawberry shortcakes is a classic! It features crumbly, lemony scones topped with real whipped cream and fresh, juicy strawberries. The components of this summertime staple come together quickly and easily – in under an hour!
The best strawberry shortcake recipe is one that really showcases the berries. This light, refreshing dessert is a must-make when strawberries are in season.
What makes strawberry shortcake a classic
- Strawberry shortcake has been around since the 1850s! Originally served warm, strawberry shortcake quickly became a popular dessert made up of layered biscuits topped with cream and fresh strawberries.
- Strawberries and summertime go hand-in-hand. While strawberry season varies depending on your region, in general, berries are at their peak (and most flavorful!) in late spring and into summer.
- In my opinion, classic recipes are made with simple components and ingredients. They aren’t fussy or complicated, and they can be easily replicated time and time again. These strawberry shortcakes are just that.
- Gluten-Free Strawberry Shortcakes: Substitute the all-purpose flour with the same amount of your favorite gluten-free flour blend.
- Berry Shortcakes: Substitute the strawberries in this recipe with your favorite kind of berry like blueberries, raspberries, or blackberries (or a combination).
- Strawberry Shortcake Cake: My lemon strawberry cake is just like individual strawberry shortcakes, but in cake form.
How to make Classic Strawberry Shortcakes
There are three simple components to a strawberry shortcake: biscuit-like dough (I’m using my basic scone recipe flavored with lemon), fresh strawberry topping, and whipped cream.
Make the strawberry topping
For this recipe, I like to start by macerating the strawberries so they can sit in the refrigerator while I make the other components.
Macerating is the process of soaking fruit in liquid, which softens it and often, adds flavor or sweetness. Strawberries are often simply “macerated” with a sprinkle of sugar. This draws the liquid out of the berries and creates a syrup.
In a medium bowl, combine the sliced strawberries with granulated sugar and lemon juice. Stir until the strawberries are completely coated in sugar and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. The longer the berries sit in the refrigerator, the juicer they’ll become.
Make the shortcakes
Make the dough
In a large bowl, whisk together all of the dry ingredients including flour, granulated sugar, baking powder, salt, and lemon zest. Use a pastry cutter or fork to incorporate the very cold cubed butter pieces into the flour mixture until it resembles coarse meal. This is called “cutting in the fat”.
In a separate small bowl, whisk the heavy cream and egg together. Pour this cream/egg mixture into the dry ingredients. Mix them together using a wooden spoon just until combined but do not over-mix.
Knead the dough
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and flour the top of the dough. The dough will be very crumbly at this point, this is normal. Use a bit of pressure to press the dough together into one mass. Knead the dough a few times to bring it together and to create more structure.
Shape and Cut-Out the Dough
Pat the dough into a 7-inch (18 cm) circle about 1.5-inch (4 cm thick). Cut it into 2.5 inch (6 cm) circles. I like to use a biscuit cutter or round cookie cutter. You’ll get about 5 scones. Collect the scrap dough and press the pieces together to form the 6th scone.
Transfer the scones onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. Brush the tops of the scones lightly with additional heavy cream or an egg wash.
As an optional step, place the sheet pan in the freezer for 10 minutes before baking. This will ensure that your shortcakes will not spread too much and will allow your oven to fully pre-heat.
Bake the shortcakes
Bake the scones at 425°F/220°C for 14-18 minutes until golden brown and firm to gentle touch. Transfer the scones to a cooling rack and let them cool for at least 10 minutes before assembling the shortcakes.
Make the whipped cream
Pro-Tip: Place the bowl of the stand mixer and whisk attachment into the refrigerator or freezer for a few minutes before making the whipped cream. This will help the cream to whip up.
Pour the cold heavy cream into the bowl of a stand mixer fit with a whisk attachment (or in a large mixing bowl with a hand mixer). Begin whipping the cream on medium speed until it thickens but before peaks start to form.
With the mixer still running, slowly add the powdered sugar and vanilla and mix until soft and floppy peaks form. For this recipe, I like to make a softer whipped cream but you can go up to medium peaks if you prefer.
Place the whipped cream into the refrigerator until you’re ready to serve. The whipped cream will become looser the longer it sits in the refrigerator, so serve the shortcakes as soon as possible or you may need to re-whip the cream.
Assemble the strawberry shortcakes
Slice the shortcakes in half horizontally and place one half on a serving plate. Remove the macerated strawberries from the refrigerator and give them a good stir in the bowl. Spoon a generous amount of the strawberries and sweet liquid onto the shortcake half.
Top the berries with a spoonful of the soft whipped cream and the other shortcake half. Spoon more strawberries and whipped cream on top if desired. Serve immediately.
Why are they called “shortcakes”?
The “short” in “shortcake” refers to the type of dough used. For shortcakes, fat is cut into the flour creating a crispy, crumbly texture instead of a spongy or stretchy texture. Shortbread cookies, biscuits, scones, and pie crust are all types of “short” doughs.
Is strawberry shortcake a cake or biscuit?
A classic shortcake is essentially a sweetened biscuit. I like to use my basic scone recipe because it’s slightly sweet with the perfect crumbly texture.
A strawberry shortcake can also be made using layers of classic vanilla cake or angel food cake but it’s less traditional.
Make-Ahead Strawberry Shortcakes
Shortcakes: Make the shortcake dough and cut into rounds. Place the rounds in a single layer on a baking sheet and freeze for several hours. Once completely frozen, place them in an airtight zipper bag. Freeze for up to 2 months until ready to serve. Bake directly from frozen at 425°F/220°C for 18-22 minutes, until baked through.
Berries: Macerated strawberries can be made and kept in the refrigerator up to 3 days before serving.
Whipped Cream: Whipped cream should be made the same day as serving.
How to store strawberry shortcakes
Shortcakes: Store completely cooled, untopped shortcakes at room temperature wrapped in foil or plastic wrap for up to 2 days.
Berries: Store the strawberry topping in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
Whipped Cream: For best results, the whipped cream should be made and used immediately. Otherwise, store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. If the whipped cream begins sagging, re-whip it briefly before serving.
For the strawberry topping
- 1 ½ pounds fresh strawberries *this is the weight before you remove the stems
- 38 grams (3 tablespoons) granulated sugar
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
For the shortcakes
- 240 grams (2 cups) all-purpose flour
- 100 grams (½ cup) granulated sugar
- 10 grams (1 tablespoon) baking powder
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 teaspoons lemon zest
- 113 grams (½ cup, 1 stick) very cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
- 1 large egg, cold
- 117 grams (½ cup, 120 ml) heavy cream, cold
- a few tablespoons of additional heavy cream for brushing the tops
- turbinado sugar for sprinkling on top, optional
For the whipped cream
- 352 grams (1 ½ cups, 360 milliliters) heavy cream or whipping cream, cold
- 60 grams (½ cup) powdered, confectioners, or icing sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste
- Position an oven rack to the center position. Preheat the oven to 425°F/220°C. Make sure you give the oven ample time to preheat as the shortcakes will spread too much if it isn’t hot enough.
- Line a sheet pan with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat and set aside.
- Wash the strawberries (1 ½ pounds) and pat them dry with a clean dish towel or paper towel. Remove the stems and slice them or cut into quarters.
- Cut up the butter (113 grams/ ½ cup) into small pieces and put it back in the refrigerator to stay cold. Measure out the rest of your ingredients.
- Zest the lemon (1 ½ teaspoons) and set aside.
Make the strawberry topping:
- In a mixing bowl, combine the strawberry pieces with granulated sugar (38 grams/ 3 tablespoons) and lemon juice (2 tablespoons). Stir until the strawberries are completely coated in the sugar and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. The longer it sits in the refrigerator, the juicier the macerated strawberries will become.
Make the Shortcakes:
- In a large bowl whisk together the flour (240 grams/ 2 cups), granulated sugar (100 grams/ ½ cup), baking powder (10 grams/ 1 tablespoon), salt (½ teaspoon), and lemon zest (2 teaspoons).
- Add the pieces of cold butter to the mixing bowl and cut it into the flour mixture. To do this, press down on the fat with the wires of the pastry blender or the tines of a fork as you move it around the bowl. Continue cutting the fat into the flour until most of the pieces of fat are about the size of peas with some pieces being about the size of a walnut half.
- In a separate small mixing bowl, lightly whisk together the egg (1 large) and heavy cream (117 grams/ ½ cup).
- Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix with a silicone spatula just until the liquid is absorbed. This should only take a few turns. The dough will look in-cohesive but it will come together on the counter.
- Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured countertop and flour the top of the dough. The dough is typically very crumbly at this point, this is normal. Use a bit of pressure to press the dough together into one mass. Knead the dough a few times to bring it together and to create more structure.
- Pat the dough out to about a 7-inch (18 cm) circle (about 1.5-inch, 4 cm thick). Cut into 2.5-inch (6 cm) circles. You should get about 5 scones. Collect the scrap dough and press together to make the 6th shortcake. I like to use a biscuit cutter or round cookie cutter. Transfer the scones onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. Brush lightly with cream and sprinkle with turbinado sugar (or granulated sugar) if desired)
- As an optional step, place the sheet pan in the freezer for 10 minutes before baking. This will ensure that your shortcakes will not spread too much and will allow your oven to fully pre-heat.
- Bake at 425°F/220°C for 14-18 minutes until golden brown and firm when gently pressed on. Transfer to a cooling rack and let cool for at least 10 minutes before assembling the shortcakes.
Make the whipped cream:
- Place the cold heavy cream (352 grams/ 1 ½ cups) in the bowl of a stand mixer fit with a whisk attachment or in a large mixing bowl with a hand mixer.
- Begin whipping on medium speed until the cream thickens but before peaks start to form.
- With the mixer still running, slowly add the powdered sugar (60 grams/ ½ cup) and vanilla extract or paste (1 teaspoon), and mix until soft and floppy peaks form. For this recipe, I like to make a softer whipped cream but you can go up to medium peaks if you prefer. Place in the refrigerator until ready to serve. The whipped cream will become looser the longer it sits in the refrigerator so serve the shortcakes as soon as possible or you may need to re-whip the cream.
Assemble the strawberry shortcakes:
- Slice the shortcakes horizontally in half and place one half on a serving plate.
- Remove the macerated strawberries from the refrigerator and give them a good stir in the bowl. Spoon a generous amount of the strawberries and sweet liquid onto the shortcake half.
- Add a spoonful of the soft whipped cream and top with the other shortcake half. Spoon more strawberries and whipped cream on top if desired. Serve immediately.
- Store the leftover components separately. The strawberry topping and whipped cream can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator. The shortcakes can be stored at room temperature wrapped in plastic wrap or aluminum foil.