Strawberry shortcakes are one of the quintessential summer desserts, largely because fresh strawberries are so incredibly tempting when they are at their peak. The desserts also require minimal prep work, which is nice on a hot day. Taking “minimal prep work” to an extreme, you can even by pre-made “shortcakes” at the grocery store these days, meaning that a bottle of whipped cream and a pint of strawberries are the only other things you need to have a tasty dessert.
Of course, I tend to think that homemade cakes are better than the store bought. Perhaps I have just had bad experiences with them, but they tend to be dry, spongy and flavorless. These shortcakes (or is it shortcake cakes?), unlike the store bought ones just described, are moist and are tender enough to be cut with a fork. The dough uses both butter and buttermilk for a rich flavor that complements the berries and, as an additional bonus, everything comes together in just a few minutes.
Since strawberries are the focus, save this dessert for a time when you have an exceptionally ripe, sweet batch at your disposal. Any kind of whipped cream will work, whether you want to whip your own, buy regular/light from the store or get creative with a mascarpone cream filling.
The recipe makes 10, but the extras go well with jam for breakfast the next day if you’re not going to serve them all in one sitting.
Strawberry Buttermilk Shortcakes
2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 tbsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/3 cup butter, chilled and cut into pieces
3/4 cup buttermilk
1 tsp vanilla extract
Fresh, ripe strawberries
Preheat oven to 400F.
In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Rub in butter with your finger tips until mixture resembles coarse crumbs (or pulse a few times in a food processor). Stir in buttermilk and vanilla extract until the dough comes together. Add an additional tablespoon of buttermilk if the dough is slightly dry.
Drop by 1/4 cups (use a measuring cup) onto a parchment-lined baking sheet.
Bake for 15 minutes, or until golden.
Cool completely on a wire rack.
When ready to serve, slice each shortcake in half and top generously with strawberries and whipped cream. Alternatively, you could simply put out the sliced cakes with bowls of whipped cream and berries and let your friends top the buttermilk shortcakes themselves.