For many American readers, strawberry shortcake evokes visions of packaged rounds of yellow sponge cake waiting patiently in the front of the produce section of the grocery store. They serve as a signpost for the summer months of plentiful strawberries, and I’m sure more than a few of us – myself included – have enjoyed them topped with some sliced strawberries and whipped cream from a can.
Interestingly, those disks of cake aren’t shortcake at all. The “short” in shortcake refers to the shortness of the dough. That is, very little gluten development and a rather dry, crumbly texture. Think biscuits. While the original dish utilized shortcake of one type or another (some earliest versions called for piecrust), these days you find strawberry shortcake composed as often with a sponge cake as a shortcake. So while the yellow sponge disks aren’t historically accurate, they still qualify as a base for strawberry shortcake. It just so happens we’ll be using a sponge cake for this week’s recipe too….perhaps the spongiest of them all….Angel Food cake!
Next we have the strawberries. It goes without saying that to get the best strawberry shortcake, you need the best strawberries. Those rarely, if ever, come from the grocery store. If you happen to have a farmer’s market near you (or live in SoCal with access to Harry’s Berrie’s you lucky sonofa…) then please purchase strawberries there. If all you can get are strawberries at the grocery store, try and get organic, and don’t be afraid to try one out of the package first. I won’t tell.
As you’ll see in the video recipe, we macerate the strawberries to sweeten and soften them and create the base for a sort of sauce. Maceration is simple applying sugar to the berries and allowing their water-attracting nature to pull strawberry juice out of the berries. DFK strawberry shortcake takes things just one step further, thickening that sauce slightly, which I think creates a more pleasant finished dessert.
The earliest recipe of shortcake was found in an English cookbook in 1588, and as mentioned before, it called for biscuits topped with sugared berries, hot butter, and sweetened cream. The French eventually decided to whip said cream in the early 1900’s and what we know as strawberry shortcake had arrived.
For those curious about this sort of thing, the largest strawberry shortcake ever made was created in the Philippines in 2004. It’s reported that the damn thing weighed 21,213lb (9,622kg), although how much of that was shortcake or strawberry or cream I can’t say. Regardless, ours will be a more manageable size, and I think now is a good time to get started!
Cheers – Chef Scott
- 400 g strawberris
- 40 g sugar
- 6 g lemon juice
- 8 g vanilla extract
- 7 g cornstarch
- 15 g water
- 285 g egg white
- 217 g sugar
- 76 g cake flour
- 3 g cream of tartar
- 1 g salt
- 8 g vanilla paste
- 8 g lemon juice
- 400 g heavy cream
- 40 g powdered sugar
- 8 g vanilla extract
- Roughly dice the strawberries.
- Combine them with the sugar, lemon juice, and vanilla extract, tossing the mixture to evenly coat the strawberries.
- Cover the mixture and let it sit in the refrigerator for a minimum of 3-4hrs. up to overnight. The sugar will extract the juice from the berries and soften them. This is known as "macerating."
- Combine the cornstarch and water into a slurry.
- Add the macerated berries and cornstarch slurry to saucepan and heat over medium heat, stirring often.
- Let the mixture thicken and just come to a simmer, which will cook out any starch flavor.
- Transfer the mixture to a heat safe container, cover once more, and let cool in the refrigerator.
- Sift the cake flour before getting started.
- Combine the egg whites, cream of tartar, and salt in a stand mixing bowl with a whip attachment.
- Add half of the sugar and begin whisking on medium speed.
- Once the egg whites have developed into a full foam, with no clear albumen showing, add the remaining sugar in three additions, slightly increasing the whisking speed with each addition. With the last addition of sugar, increase the whisking to high speed.
- Whisk on high speed to stiff peaks, careful not to over whisk.
- Add the lemon juice, vanilla paste, and 1/3 of the cake flour, gently folding to incorporate.
- Add the remaining cake flour in two more additions, gently folding each addition until incorporated.
- Carefully spoon the batter into the ungreased angel food cake pan, filling 4/5 full. Be careful that there are no gaps in the pan during filling, as the batter will not spread much during baking.
- Bake at 300F/149C for 1hr - 1hr 10min., or until the cake is evenly browned on top, springs back when gently pressed, and a cake tester comes out clean.
- Remove the cake from the oven and immediately invert the cake to cool.
- Once cool, gently release the sides of the cake with a small offset spatula. Run the spatula along the inside edge of the cake pan, careful to keep it tight to the side of the pan so as not to tear the cake. Work around the edge and gradually down the sides.
- Gently remove the cake from the pan, then release it from the center tube and the base, again using a paring knife or spatula.
- Keep the cake at room temp., covered, until ready to use.
- Combine all ingredients in a stand mixer with a whip attachment.
- Whisk the heavy cream until stiff.
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