How to Make Strawberry Shortcake from Scratch
Berry season is here! Make the most of it and learn how to make strawberry shortcake with your just-picked harvest.
There are plenty of treats out there that we get to enjoy all year, like oatmeal cookies, pound cakes and brownies. Other desserts, though, come by only once a year, and those are the bakes that we really look forward to. And perhaps the queen of all these seasonal sensations is strawberry shortcake.
Yes, you can absolutely make a strawberry shortcake any time, but there’s no denying that berries picked in May and June are extra special. These sweet and juicy berries make this dessert totally tempting and so enjoyable.
The best part: Learning how to make strawberry shortcake is pretty darn easy. Pick berries in the morning (or snag them at your local farmers market) and by lunchtime, you can enjoy this luscious dessert.
How to Make Our Favourite Strawberry Shortcake
You can be sure that our Test Kitchen pros have tasted their fair share of shortcakes over the years, but this old-fashioned shortcake from reader Angela Lively of Texas might just take the
shortcake. The small biscuits are perfect single-serve treats and pair perfectly with farm-fresh berries. Angela recommends serving this treat with homemade vanilla ice cream, and we agree!
For the strawberry filling:
- 6 cups sliced fresh strawberries
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
For the shortcake:
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 5 tablespoons sugar, divided
- 3 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 3/4 cup cold butter, cubed
- 1-1/4 cups buttermilk
- 2 tablespoons heavy whipping cream
For the topping:
- 1-1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Test Kitchen-Recommended Tools
- Strawberry huller: Sure, you don’t need a strawberry huller to make this recipe, but it sure makes removing the stems of all your berries easy.
- Pastry blender: To create tender shortcakes, use a pastry blender. It will cut your cold butter into small pieces to make the flakiest biscuits.
- Vanilla extract: A simple recipe like this calls for quality ingredients.
Step 1: Prep the berries
When it comes to shortcake, start with the strawberries. Wash the berries well and pat them dry. Then hull the berries—that’s where that nifty strawberry huller comes in handy—and slice them.
Toss the berries in a large bowl with a teaspoon of vanilla and a half-cup of sugar. Mash the berries gently with a potato masher or a wooden spoon. A little pressure along with the sugar will help the strawberries release some of their juices to create a sauce for the shortcake.
Let this mixture stand for at least 30 minutes, tossing here and there. If you like, you can even prep the strawberries a day in advance.
Step 2: Make the shortcake biscuits
Now, onto the shortcakes. You’ll use the exact same method to make these cakes as you would make homemade biscuits—and many of the same biscuit best practices apply.
Start by whisking together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and four tablespoons of sugar. Then cut in cold butter using a pastry blender until the mixture is crumbly. Be sure that the butter you’re using is super cold. Cold butter means flaky, tender biscuits and shortcake. A good method to use here is to cube up the butter in advance, then pop the butter into the freezer until you’re ready to bake.
Finally, add in the buttermilk and stir until the mixture just comes together. Do not overmix here! It will lead to tough, flat shortcakes.
Editor’s tip: Use the best quality ingredients that you can find for this recipe, particularly when it comes to butter. Because these cakes are so simple, every ingredient really stands out, so let all the best flavors shine. For the same reason, be sure to use real buttermilk rather than substitutions. You’ll really be able to appreciate the flavor and texture that this ingredient brings.
Step 3: Portion out the shortcakes
Drop third-cup-sized dollops of batter onto an ungreased baking sheet, leaving about two inches between each. You can use a measuring cup or a large cookie scoop to do this. This recipe should yield eight shortcakes, so bear that in mind if you’re eyeballing instead of measuring exactly.
And before you ask, nope, these cakes don’t need to look perfect. You’ll want that irregular texture for a bit of crunch. Also, this rustic presentation is exactly the way Grandma would have done it.
Step 4: Brush and bake
Before popping the cakes into the oven, brush the top of each biscuit with a bit of cream. Then sprinkle with the leftover sugar. Regular granulated sugar works great here, but to give your biscuits extra crunch, use sanding sugar or even turbinado sugar.
Then pop your biscuits into an oven heated to 400ºF and bake for 18 to 22 minutes. They should be beautifully golden. Once baked, move the shortcakes to a wire rack to cool completely.
Step 5: Make the whipped cream
Before you stack up your dessert with berries and cake, don’t forget to make homemade whipped cream. It only takes an extra five minutes and tastes amazing with the fresh berries.
To make the whipped cream, beat cold, heavy cream until it begins to thicken. Then add in the sugar and a bit of vanilla, and continue to beat until soft peaks form. Watch your cream carefully; if you beat too long, you’ll turn the cream into butter!
When it comes to serving shortcakes, it’s best to wait until right before eating to put all these delicious components together.
Use a serrated knife to slice each biscuit in half, then spoon a generous amount of strawberries over the top, including some of the juice from the macerated berries. Then add a healthy dollop of whipped cream and cap it all off with the top of the biscuit. And don’t wait to dig in! Grab a fork and enjoy this treat—it tastes like the start of summer, a season we all want to savour. (Learn how to decorate a cake like a pro!)
Different Ways to Make Shortcake
While strawberry is the most common type of shortcake, you can definitely make this recipe your own.
- Use other fruits: Use the same amount of raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, peaches, nectarines or plums in this recipe for a dessert that makes use of other seasonal fruit.
- Add some extras: In our go-to recipe, we add a touch of vanilla to our strawberries. You can get really creative here and try adding a few of your favourite spices or herbs paired with your fruit. A touch of cinnamon with nectarines would be delish. And snip some fresh basil and mix it in with berries of any kind.
- Flavor the whipped cream: Vanilla whipped cream pairs so well with strawberries, but you could easily switch up the flavors with a bit of citrus zest, liqueur or a different kind of extract.
- Serve shortcakes differently: Not every shortcake needs to be served biscuit-style. Instead, try making a large shortcake and slicing wedges. Or get creative and serve your cakes in small mason jars.
Next, check out these 20 secret cake baking tips from grandma.