Everyone needs the Best Strawberry Shortcake Recipe and this is it!
These Strawberry Shortcakes are fresh yet decadent at the same time. They are 1000X better than any store-bought version made completely from scratch (but with tips for easy substitutions). These easy Strawberry Shortcake recipe is loaded with fresh sugar kissed strawberries, generous dollops of sweet citrus Lemon Curd Whipped Cream all piled on light, tender cake-like biscuits for the best Strawberry Shortcake recipe ever! These Strawberry Shortcakes are also a great make ahead dessert AKA ultimate stress- free entertaining dessert! I’ve included step by step photos, tips and tricks and everything (and more!) you need to know about how to make this Strawberry Shortcake recipe a runaway, sweet, tender, succulent success! I’ve also included how to prep ahead and how to freeze – now there is no reason not to make this Strawberry Shortcake and every delicious reason to make it!
(Updated post with video but same amazing Strawberry Shortcake recipe)
Strawberry Shortcake Recipe
My good friend, Melanie, brought Strawberry Shortcake to our Fourth of July Feast and they were delish! But she lamented her biscuits were store-bought because after trying many recipes, she couldn’t find a shortcake recipe with the proper biscuit. Melanie challenged me to make the best Strawberry Shortcake recipe and today I’m SO excited to share it with you!
This easy Strawberry Shortcake recipe is the best because:
- Biscuits: These biscuits are lightly dusted with crackling sugar, light in texture but still sturdy enough to complement the mountain of strawberries and their permeating juices.
- Strawberries: The strawberries themselves are a combination of mostly thinly sliced strawberries with just enough mashed strawberries to create a luscious fresh strawberry juice/syrup coating.
- Whipped Cream: But the real unknown star of the show is Lemon Curd Whipped Cream. OH MY YUM!! I am kind of proud of this creation and more than obsessed with it. I’ve created Lemon Curd Whipped cream that is silky, slightly tangy and a match made in heaven with the sweet strawberries. You will fall in LOVE!
Why Is it Called Shortcake?
Before we dig in, let’s talk shortcake. Traditional Strawberry Shortcake is made with freshly baked biscuits topped with fresh, sliced macerated strawberries and homemade whipped cream then crowned with another biscuit.
Many people assume Strawberry Shortcakes get their name due to their height, but the name actually comes from the ingredients. The earliest recipe for shortcake is in an English cookbook from 1588. The old English definition of a “short” cake is one that has a high ratio of fat (butter or shortening) to flour and sugar.
You stir the dough just until the dry ingredients are moistened and a soft dough forms. When baked, the cake is crisp and crumbly or a SHORTCAKE.
Even though the name has English origins, most everyone agrees that shortcake was an American invention. But no matter who invented the traditional Strawberry Shortcake recipe, I’m grateful they did!
Where do Traditional Strawberry shortcakes Come From?
Like all desserts passed down over generations, an evolution occurs before we arrive at our modern-day Strawberry Shortcake recipe.
An early version of the Strawberry Shortcake, in The Ohio Cultivator (Columbus), June 1, 1845, was made with a thick unleavened cookie, split, layered with fresh strawberries, and covered with a hard sugar-and-egg white icing. I’ve given a nod to this expert technique by sprinkling my biscuits with sugar.
In 1869, with the new transcontinental railroad, the shipment of California strawberries on ice contributed to a surge in popularity of shortcake throughout the country. Whipped cream’s popularity spread in America corresponding to refrigeration, and it became standard in the dish. It wasn’t until 1910 that French pastry chefs replaced the topping with heavy whipped cream.
In the United States, Strawberry Shortcake parties were held as celebrations of the summer fruit harvest, officially making June 14 Strawberry Shortcake Day – who knew?
But know we DO know, so let’s celebrate with my Strawberry Shortcake Recipe! My recipe celebrates the traditional Strawberry Shortcake by taking the best of what grandma dished out and adding my spin with lemon curd whipped cream. I’m grateful for the old so we can celebrate with the new!
IS SHORTCAKE A BISCUIT?
Among the developments that distinguished 19th century American baking (and classic strawberry shortcake) from England was the addition of potash (baking powder/soda today) to baked goods.
Because of chemical leavening, American shortcakes became lighter and fluffier than the English originals – you can’t call these tender morsels hardtack!
So, while the term biscuit means “cookie” in England and many parts of the world, in the United States, it refers to a lighter, fluffier baked good that is crispy on the outside and soft on the inside.
So, the long answer is yes, shortcake is a fluffy, sweeter biscuit by American standards, and not English standards.
Cake or Biscuits for Strawberry Shortcake?
Today, many Strawberry Shortcake recipes give you the option of making your shortcake with either cake or biscuits. But both Melanie and I agree proper, successful Strawberry Shortcake isn’t sandwiched in between sponge cake, pound cake or angel food cake – although delicious – it’s just not strawberry shortcake.
More importantly, soft cake cannot successfully hold up to the moist, macerated strawberries without becoming soggy in minutes. But never fear, the perfect biscuits are here!
When Melanie challenged me with making the perfect Strawberry Shortcake, I remembered my American Test Kitchen Best Ever Desserts Magazine – Page 54 – the perfect shortcake biscuits! From my cookbook to your kitchen, you will LOVE these biscuits!
Strawberry Shortcake Ingredients
The ingredient list for Strawberry Shortcakes looks lengthy, but most of them are repeat pantry ingredients such as sugar and eggs used in different stages of the recipe. The only fresh ingredients required are strawberries and one lemon. You will need:
- Choose in-season strawberries: Make Strawberry Shortcake when strawberries are in season! Fresh strawberries will deliver the sweetest, deepest flavor. Strawberries are in season from spring to early summer, making Strawberry Shortcakes perfect for Easter, Mother’s Day, end of school and Father’s Day.
- How to pick strawberries: Choose strawberries that are dark red, firm, fragrant and fully ripe – but not soft! Ripe strawberries will deliver the sweetest, deepest flavor.
- Can I use frozen strawberries? NO, frozen strawberries have too much moisture and will not work for this Strawberry Shortcake recipe.
- Don’t soak strawberries: Rinse and drain the strawberries carefully. Dry berries on towels in a single layer – you don’t want any excess moisture or your strawberry filling will be runny. Never soak strawberries in water or they’ll lose some flavor and nutrients.
- Sugar: use granulated sugar to draw out the berry juices.
- Half and half: you can use half heavy cream and half milk to make your own half and half. We are already using heavy cream in the whipped cream so this prevents you from having to purchase both.
- Eggs: you will need one full egg and one egg white.
- Flour: I have only used all-purpose flour and have not experimented with other flours. If you want to make the Strawberry Shortcakes gluten free, try a gluten free baking flour such as Bob Mills 1 to 1.
- Baking power: helps the biscuits rapidly rise and bake into light and tender biscuits. Make sure your baking powder is fresh, between 6-12 months old, so it works!
- Salt: a pinch rounds out the flavors. Salt also attracts water which helps keep your leftover pizza tender and fresh.
- Butter: use unsalted butter otherwise skip the salt in the recipe. Make sure your butter is cold when you add it to the food processor.
- Sugar: granulated sugar for dusting the top of the biscuits.
The Whipped Cream
For the whipped cream, you have the option of making plain whipped cream or adding lemon curd to make Lemon Curd Whipped Cream. You will need:
- Heavy cream: use only heavy whipping cream – milk or half and half will not work. Make sure your heavy cream is chilled, take it out of the refrigerator just before using. Heavy cream is also called “heavy whipping cream” located by the milk and coffee creamer at your grocery store. You can use the heavy cream to create the half and half needed for the biscuits. Simply use half heavy cream, half milk.
- Sugar: granulated sugar adds a kiss of sweetness and no, you won’t be able to taste the texture!
- Vanilla extract: use pure vanilla extract for the best flavor.
Making homemade lemon curd that gets folded into the whipped cream is optional but highly recommended. You can also purchase store-bought lemon curd to save you a step. For homemade lemon curd, you will need:
- Eggs: you will need 1 large egg and 1 large egg YOLK only.
- Butter: use unsalted butter or skip the pinch of salt.
- Sugar: granulated sugar please to balance the tangy lemon juice.
- Lemon juice: use only freshly squeezed lemon juice. Microwave the lemon for 15 seconds and be amazed at how much easier it is to juice!
- Lemon zest: 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest will do the trick. Make sure not to get the white pith or it will taste bitter.
- Salt: a pinch of slat enhances the flavors.
WHIPPED CREAM ONLY
If you would like to skip the lemon curd and make plain whipped cream, you will need to increase the proportions and add lemon zest.
- 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest
How to Make Strawberry Shortcake
Making Strawberry Shortcake is very simple, but it does require a few different steps/components. To make, you will essentially toss sliced strawberries with some mashed strawberries and sugar and let them sit to macerate. Meanwhile, you will prepare the biscuits with the helpful food processor so there is hardly any elbow grease! Roll the dough out, cut out the biscuits, and bake. Finally, serve the strawberries over the shortcakes and top with lemon curd whipped cream. Here are some helpful tips and tricks:
How to Prepare Strawberries
- Hull Strawberries: Hulling simply means removing the leaves on top of the strawberry and the white portion surrounding it – the “hull.” To properly hull a strawberry, use a sharp knife to cut a circle around the stem at an angle then remove the hull. If you don’t want to go to the trouble, you can simply chop the top of the strawberries off.
- Mash Strawberries: Mashing some of the strawberries is unique to this easy Strawberry Shortcake recipe. The mashed strawberries, when combined with sugar, creates a luscious strawberry glaze. You can use a potato masher, fork or any other useful utensil to mash 2 cups strawberries.
- Slice strawberries: You’ll slice the remaining strawberries into ¼-inch thick slices then stir them into the mashed strawberries along with the sugar. Make sure you don’t slice the strawberries too thin, because we want them to hold their shape.
- Macerate: Macerating is the process in which the sugar draws moisture out of the strawberries and dissolves to make a syrupy strawberry sauce. If your strawberries are super sweet you can use less sugar, but only if they’re really sweet.
- Chill: Give the macerating some time! You can chill the strawberries for as little as 30 minutes, but the strawberries will become much juicier, the longer the macerate – 4 hours seems to be about right. You don’t want to macerate longer than 24 hours or the strawberries can become mushy.
- Remove excess liquid. The longer you macerate the strawberries, the more liquid they will release. If you macerate your strawberries closer to 24 hours, they will release excess liquid. Simply pour off some of the liquid and keep the rest.
How to Make Biscuits
As previously discussed, homemade biscuits are the way to go if you want the BEST Strawberry Shortcake! These biscuits are 1000X better than store bought! If you’ve never made homemade biscuits before, don’t worry, they are super easy to make. They simply require a few pantry friendly ingredients that transform into buttery biscuits with the right technique. Here are some helpful tips and tricks:
- Cold butter: Make sure the butter is cold or it will make the flour mixture mushy instead of create a mealy texture. To keep the butter cold, chop it and then chill it.
- Food processor: I use the food processor to make the dough and it is SO EASY! All you have to do is pulse a few times – it literally takes minutes! If you don’t have a food processor, you may cut the butter in the old-fashioned way.
- Texture: Pulse the butter and flour mixture until it resembles coarse meal. You want the largest butter pieces to be about the size of peas.
- Don’t overmix: Stir flour mixture into half and half/egg until large clumps form. You don’t want to overmix or your biscuits will be flat and dense instead of light and fluffy.
- Work quickly: Once the dough is formed, you want to work quickly otherwise the dough will warm and the butter will melt. We want the butter to melt while baking and NOT while rolling. As the butter melts during baking, small air pockets are created, giving the biscuit its flakiness.
- Flour cutter: Pat dough into 9×6-inch rectangle about 3/4 inch thick – it doesn’t have to be perfect! Use a biscuit cutter, or whatever circular glass you have that is roughly 2 1/4 inches diameter. Dip whatever cutter you use in flour before using each time so it doesn’t stick to the dough.
- Press firmly: Make sure you firmly press straight down with the cutter each time so you make a clean cut and don’t tear the surrounding dough or twist the dough. Twisted dough will bake up slanted and unevenly.
- Chill: Space rounds at least 1 1/2 inches apart on parchment paper or nonstick mat lined baking sheet. Refrigerate for 20 minutes to chill the butter once more and to make sure the biscuits rise and don’t spread.
- Parchment paper. Use parchment paper or a nonstick mat and NOT greased baking sheet or the dough can spread too much.
- Bake immediately: After chilling briefly, bake the biscuits immediately. Dough with baking powder should be baked within an hour of mixing, the sooner, the better, otherwise the baking soda will lose its efficacy.
- Golden crunchy tops: Brush biscuit tops with egg whites and sprinkle evenly with sugar. Brushing the biscuit tops with egg whites not only glues the sugar in place, but promotes a rich golden color. The sugar crystalizes and forms a sugary, crunchy crust.
- Don’t over bake: Bake just until the tops of the biscuits are lightly golden because the bottoms will bake more quickly than the tops. Overbaking can result in dry shortcakes and burnt bottoms.
- Place on cooling rack. Transfer the baked biscuits immediately to a cooling so the bottoms don’t continue to cook and burn.
How to Make Whipped Cream
What elevates this shortcake recipe into the BEST Strawberry Shortcake recipe, in my humble opinion, is the Lemon Curd Whipped Cream.
I adore classic lemon curd. The thick, buttery, sweet, silky citrus is all I could ever want in a dessert. Originally, I was just going to make Strawberry Shortcake with Lemon Curd but I decided the lemon curd would be bit too overpowering so I combined it with the heavy cream and it is heavenly!
If you have never made lemon curd before – please don’t be intimidated. It is super simple, and SO worth facing your fears for this out-of-this-world light and fluffy Lemon Curd Whipped Cream. That being said, you are welcome to use traditional whipped cream and omit the lemon curd from the recipe entirely or you can buy it instead! Trader Joes, for example, has a great jarred lemon curd.
Here are a few helpful tips to make whipped cream:
- Store-bought lemon curd: If you want to skip making homemade lemon curd, store bought lemon curd is usually located by the jams/jellies.
- Don’t boil: Melt butter in medium metal or glass bowl set over large saucepan of simmering water (or use a double boiler if you have one). To this metal bowl, whisk in sugar, lemon juice, lemon peel, and salt; gradually whisk in egg mixture. You want the pan to be hot but not boiling or it will scramble the eggs upon contact. If you know your stove runs hot, then reduce the temperature.
- Stir constantly: The key now is to whisk constantly until thickened. Whisking can take 10 minutes – so pull up a chair and be patient.
- How thick? The lemon curd should be thick enough to cling to your spoon. The lemon curd will continue to thicken in the refrigerator, so don’t be alarmed if it’s not as luscious as you would like. You don’t want it too thick or it will harden in the refrigerator into a brick and be unusable. If this happens, you can attempt to salvage it by placing it in a glass bowl and placing the bowl in a bowl of simmering water until it softens.
- Strain curd: This step is optional and not always necessarily, but you can strain the curd through a fine-mesh strainer/sieve into a small bowl to get rid of any small egg bits that may have formed. And now you have rich, creamy, sweetly tart Lemon Curd!
- Speedy lemon curd: Lemon curd must be cold and thickened in order to use in the whipped cream. To speed up this process, you can transfer it to a freezer safe container and freeze for 30-45 minutes or until chilled. Don’t freeze any longer or it will harden.
- Make ahead: You can cover and chill the lemon curd in the refrigerator until ready to use.
- Chill bowl: When it comes time to make the whipped cream, make sure the heavy cream is cold. Cold cream helps to achieve more volume. You can even place your metal mixing bowl and beaters in the freezer to chill it first.
- Don’t overbeat: Start mixing on low speed then increase to high. Beat until medium peaks form, which means the peaks hold their shape pretty well, except that the tip of the peak curls over on itself when the beaters are lifted. Don’t overbeat or the cream will start to separate.
- Add lemon curd! Gently fold cooled lemon curd into whipped cream until completely combined.
How do I warm Biscuits?
The fresh strawberries taste even more sensational piled on warm biscuits. To warm:
- Microwave: microwave on HIGH for 10 to 20 seconds.
- Oven: wrap shortcakes in a single layer in foil (so they don’t dry out) and place on a baking sheet. Bake at 300 degrees F for 5- 10 minutes.
Can Strawberry Shortcake be made ahead?
Yes! I find it easiest to make components of the Strawberry Shortcake recipe a day in advance because both the strawberries and lemon curd require time to chill. I make everything except the whipped cream ahead of time, then the day of serving, I whip the cream and fold in the lemon curd – easy peasy!
- Heavy Cream: the cream can be whipped up to 2 hours ahead of time and refrigerated, covered. If necessary, lightly rewhip before using.
- Biscuits: The shortcakes can be baked up to 2 days ahead of time, allowed to cool completely, then stored in an airtight container. They can also be made early in the morning and left out until ready to assemble that day. For best results, I like to warm the biscuits at 350°F in the oven just before serving for slightly warmed, flaky results.
- Strawberries: the fruit can be chopped up to three days ahead of time and tightly covered and stored in the refrigerator. The strawberries can be combined with sugar, covered, and chilled up to 24 hours ahead of time.
Can I Freeze strawberry shortcake?
You can freeze elements of the strawberry shortcake. Both the biscuits and lemon curd freeze well, but I don’t recommend freezing the strawberries (they will become too soft) or the whipped cream.
To freeze Shortcakes:
- Cool. Cool shortcakes completely on a wire rack.
- Bulk freeze. Place rack in the freezer and freeze shortcakes until solid. Place frozen biscuits in a freezer bag and squeeze out any excess air to prevent freezer burn.
- Individual freeze. Skip the flash freezing step, and instead wrap biscuits individually in freezer wrap then add to a freezer bag.
- Freeze. Freeze for up to 3 months.
TO Defrost shortcakes:
- Refrigerator: let the biscuits thaw in the refrigerator overnight.
- Microwave: microwave on HIGH for 2 to 4 minutes.
- Oven: wrap shortcakes in a single layer in foil (so they don’t dry out) and place on a baking sheet. Bake at 300 degrees F for 20 minutes.
To freeze lemon curd:
- Transfer lemon curd to freezer safe container.
- Let lemon curd cool completely in the refrigerator.
- Freeze for up to 1 year.
- To thaw, transfer lemon curd to the refrigerator for at least 24 hours. NEVER microwave.
Strawberry Shortcake Variations
Take traditional Strawberry Shortcake and make it your own! Here are some fun variations and flavor options:
- Mint: try adding some mint to the strawberries.
- Fruit: you can swap the strawberries (or combine them) with other fruits such asblueberries, or peaches. You can even create red (strawberries), white (whipped cream) and blue (blueberries) shortcakes for the 4th of July.
- Biscuits: you can add lemon zest or orange zest to the dough. You can also add sliced almonds or poppy seeds.
- Whipped cream: you can use traditional whipped cream instead of lemon curd and add 1 teaspoon lemon zest.
- Shortcake sheet cake: cook shortcake in a baking dish and make a sheet cake dessert. Cut the top half off, add the strawberries, followed by lemon curd whipped cream or plain whipped cream, then crumble the top all over. This can be an easier, more efficient way to serve a large group. They can even scoop out their own serving.
- Trefoil: Use all the recipe components to layer a trefoil!
I would love to hear how you take this amazing Strawberry Shortcake and personalize it for you and your family! Now, before I go, I dare you to beat the following record….and invite me to help you eat it: the largest strawberry shortcake ever made was in the town of La Trinidad, Benguet in the Philippines on March 20, 2004. It weighed 21,213.40 lb (9622.23 kg.)!
Looking for more Summer Dessert Recipes?
- Blueberry Cheesecake Pie
- Coconut Cake (Triple Coconut!)
- Cream Cheese Stuffed Carrot Cake
- Lemon Poke Cake
- Chocolate Raspberry Cake
- Lemon Blueberry Cake
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Carlsbad Cravings© Original with Biscuits barely adapted from Americas Test Kitchen Best Ever Desserts