So a couple weeks ago after dinner, I got this crazy hankering for shortcake. I really, really, REALLY wanted it.
I know that when a lot of ‘y’all think of shortcake you think of those spongy pre-made mini ‘dessert shells’ with the indent that you can find in the produce section of the grocery store near the strawberries. Y’know the dessert shells that should really just get called by their true name: sponge cake. I’ve seen some that are just straight up angel food cakes. Not that I have a problem with them per se. There’s no judgment here; depending on the company, those can actually be pretty tasty.
But that’s not what I’m talking about here.
In the first place, sponge cake isn’t shortcake. It’s light and airy and spongy. It’s…sponge cake.
All of the above adjectives contradict shortcake by it’s very definition. Shortcakes are actually very similar to an American-style biscuit, both in texture and the baking method. In a sponge cake, egg whites are beaten until they’re stiff to make the crumb as light as possible. The point of a ‘short’cake, is actually to make a ‘shorter’, denser crumb.
If you’ve tried any of my biscuit recipes on the blog already, then this ,method will look very familiar to you. The frozen butter (and we’ve already established why it’s important that it is frozen) is grated directly into the dry ingredients. I used cake flour to give it the best texture, then in addition to the sugar, flavored the dough with vanilla, ground ginger and cardamom. The spices aren’t overpowering–they’re just going to give the shortcakes a little something extra flavor-wise. You’re going to like it, promise.
The result is a shortcake that has just the right texture. It is slightly dense, but it’s also buttery and tender, with enough height to split it in two and sandwich with the good stuff. Now what that ‘good stuff’ is, I’m going to leave entirely up to you. This is summertime, which means there are plenty of delicious fruits that are in season that are perfect for shortcake; strawberries, blackberries, peaches, apricots. All are excellent choices. I went with the strawberries and blackberries, but it’s your shortcake so go with what you like best. And of course y’all know to make/use a ton of good whipped cream to cram inside and dollop on top. It’s the summer–get downright nasty with it.
Summer Berry Shortcake
- 3 1/2 cups cake flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 2 teaspoons ground ginger
- 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup (8 tablespoons) butter, frozen
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 large egg, beaten
- 1 cup buttermilk, plus more as needed
- 2 quarts of your choice of berries (I used a mix of strawberries & blackberries)
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 2 teaspoons lemon juice
- Whipped cream, for serving
For Berries: combine the sugar and lemon juice together with the berries and allow to sit for one hour.
Preheat oven to 425°. Place a shallow pan of water on the bottom rack of the oven. In a small bowl combine the egg with the buttermilk and vanilla extract, set aside.
In a large bowl combine the flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, ground ginger, cardamom and sugar—stir with a fork until combined. Use the large holes on a box grater to grate the butter directly into the dry ingredients. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients. Pour in the egg-buttermilk mixture and stir to combine with a fork. If it seems a little dry you may add additional buttermilk until it forms a shaggy dough.
Sprinkle a pastry mat, wooden cutting board or wax paper with flour. Turn the dough out onto the surface and pat a few times with your hands until it loosely holds together. (Don’t knead it too much or the warmth in your palms will melt the butter and cause the shortcakes to be tough.)
Pat and roll the dough into a rectangle. Take the two opposite ends and fold them together like a business letter into thirds. Flip it upside down and pat & roll it into another rectangle, sprinkling the surface with flour if it gets too sticky. Repeat the folding process two to three more times before patting it into one final rectangle.
Use a bench scraper or very sharp knife to trim the edges of the rectangle. Use a 2 1/2-inch round cutter to cut shortcakes, pressing scraps together to make more no more than two additional times. Discard the rest of the dough. Place shortcakes slightly touching, on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Chill 15 minutes in the freezer.
Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, until the tops are golden brown. Remove them from the oven and cool for 15 minutes before serving. Just before serving, split open the shortcakes, spoon half the berries and whipped cream on the bottom half, top with remaining shortcake halves, and spoon on the remaining berries and cream.