I just came back from the the Strawberryland oops sorry Mahabaleshwar! I cannot help but think of Mahabaleshwar as Strawberryland of Maharashtra just like the fictitious place in “The world of Strawberry Shortcake”, a 1980 American animated television series. Well, the point is what lovely strawberries I got to pick and eat in Mahabaleshwar and carry back home! And naturally, my daughter insisted that one of the desserts I make be the Strawberry Shortcake.
Now you would wonder what a shortcake is. In the simplest form it is sweet and crumbly biscuit sandwiches with whipped cream and macerated strawberry filled inside. The origin of the shortcake seems to be English as the earliest recipe for the shortcake appears in a London cook book as early as 1588. This version of shortcake was unleavened or without any baking powder or soda. However, the American version of shortcake is with the baking powder/soda and eggs. In the United states, strawberry shortcake is a celebration dessert for the strawberry fruit harvest. In the earlier versions of the shortcake, it used to be served hot with butter and sweetened cream. Later on the cream has been replaced by a more delicate whipped cream.
The dessert gets it name as shortcake because of the use of high amount of butter or shortening. The dry ingredients typically flour, sugar, baking powder or soda are mixed together and the chilled butter is cut in till the mixture resembles corn meal or bread crumbs. The liquid ingredients are then added and the mixture is just mixed until moistened uniformly. Over mixing is a big no no! The batter is just deposited as one big cake or by spoonfuls as smaller cakes and baked. The baking happens at a high temperature. They are then sliced horizontally and filled with cream and fruit.
Here is version of this melt in mouth dessert with chocolate flavour. I love this particularly because strawberries and chocolate is a marriage made in heaven!
- Flour / Maida – 120 g / 1cup
- Baking Powder – 2 tsp
- Salt – a pinch
- Caster Sugar – 1/4 cup + 1/2 tbsp for sprinkling
- Cocoa powder – 1/6 cup
- Chilled butter – 60 g
- Milk – 1/4 cup
- Eggs – 1
- Vanilla essence – 1/2 tsp
- Sweetened Whipping cream – 1 cup
- Fresh strawberries – 250 g
- Caster Sugar/Powdered Sugar – 1/4 cup
This is how to do it :
- Macerate the strawberries by cutting them into quarters if they are big or halves if they are small and sprinkling the sugar over them. Toss to coat and set them aside.
- Sift the flour, cocoa powder and baking powder together. Add sugar and salt and mix.
- Cut the chilled butter into small cubes and cut it into the flour mixture either using 2 knives or by pulsing the butter and flour mixture in a food processor with short pulses. The mixture should resemble coarse crumbs.
- In a bowl, mix together milk, eggs and vanilla essence.
- Make a well in the centre of the flour mixture and add the milk- egg mixture to it. With a fork, very lightly mix in the flour until the dough comes together. Do not over mix and do not knead with heavy hand.
- On a baking tray, pat the dough into a circle or square as desired. Keep the dough an inch thick. Sprinkle the sugar kept aside for sprinkling.
- Bake the shortcake for 20-25 min at 218 degrees celsius till done. Cool on the wire rack.
- Meanwhile, whip the whipping cream till soft peaks.
- Cut the cooled shortcake horizontally into equal portions. Place the lower part on a serving plate.Use the liquid in the strawberries to soak the cake. Cover with whipped cream. Top the cream with the strawberries. Cover with the other half of the shortcake and top with Strawberry fans.
The appearance of this cake is rather rough and cracked as it is a what gives it that characteristic light, crumbly and biscuit like taste. However, lot of variations have started appearing where a sponge is used in place of the biscuit kind of base. I wouldn’t call them a shortcake though. When the butter is being cut into the flour, make sure that it is chilled. If at all you want to do the mixing by hand just use the tips of your finger and be quick so that the body heat doesn’t melt the butter. Also macerating the strawberries is very important as that will render a lot of juice. This juice gets soaked up into the cake without making it mushy and elevates the taste. If the whipping cream is not pre-sweetened, you can add sugar and sweeten it. The cream from companies like Rich or Tropolite is pre-sweetened though. You could also used greek yogurt in place of whipping cream. You can make a chocolate free version of this by replacing cocoa powder by flour. And lastly, strawberries themselves can be replaced by seasonal tart fruits like plums.
Currently strawberries are in season so just go ahead and bake this berrilicious dessert to welcome the summer !