It’s officially my favorite time of year: strawberry season. (Yes, I know I raved about rhubarb and peaches, and trust me, when we get to July, you’ll hear all about my love of blueberries, but my heart belongs to strawberries, always and forever.)
My love affair with strawberries goes way back. When I was a kid, my mom would drag us out of bed at the crack of dawn to go pick strawberries. We’d pick until late morning and then come home, where she’d clean the berries and I’d eat as many as I could get away with.
This year, our tiny little strawberry patch is actually producing some berries! Not enough to freeze, or turn into jam, but enough to enjoy as a pre-dinner snack, or on my cereal in the morning. And there was one wonderful day this week where the plants gave us nearly a quart of beautiful, juicy, red berries. Heaven in a basket, I tell you. I was conflicted: this was almost enough to actually do something with. Would it be sacrilegious to simply eat the fruit and not make a dessert? But the strawberries are so perfect by themselves, it almost seemed wrong to doctor them up.
I’m convinced, this quandary is exactly why people came up with the idea of shortcake in the first place. You have a warm, buttery cake, sweetened whipped cream, and strawberries that have been tossed with the tiniest bit of sugar – just enough to bring out their juices. You still get “dessert,” but you’re not losing the fresh berry goodness in a pile of custard or dough. (Not that there isn’t a time and a place for that, and you’d better believe that once I get out and pick
five pounds ten pounds twenty pounds a ridiculous amount of berries, I’ll be making pies, scones, ice cream, jam, etc. Just wait.)
For this shortcake, I used a recipe from a cookbook my brother gave me, Classic Home Desserts. It was a new recipe for me, but I think it’s a keeper. The only thing I’d change is to add either a teaspoon of vanilla or the seeds from a vanilla bean to the batter, which I’ve reflected below. It’s not overly sweet, which makes it the perfect pairing for sweet berries and cream.
1 quart strawberries, rinsed, hulled and sliced in half if large
1/3 cup plus 2-3 tablespoons sugar, divided
1/3 cup (5 1/3 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla, or the seeds from 1 vanilla bean
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/3 cup milk
whipped cream, for topping
Toss the strawberries with the 2-3 tablespoons sugar and set aside. Butter a 8″ round cake pan and set aside. Preheat oven to 350.
With an electric mixer (I used my hand mixer for this one), cream the butter and remaining 1/3 cup sugar at medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 4-5 minutes. Add the egg and vanilla, and continue to mix for a couple more minutes.
In a separate bowl, whisk the dry ingredients together. Slowly add half of the dry ingredients to the butter/sugar/egg batter and mix until just combined. Pour in the milk, stir gently to combine, and then add the rest of the dry ingredients. (Do not overmix!!)
Using a rubber spatula, spread the batter in the prepared pan. Bake for about 30 minutes, or until lightly golden. Cool for about 5 minutes before removing from the pan. Invert cake onto a plate, cut into wedges and serve warm, topped with berries and whipped cream.