Strawberry Shortcake is easily one of my top five favorite desserts.
Most of the strawberry shortcake I had as a kid came on top of one of those little pre-formed shortcakes you see in the grocery store. When we would go to out to eat, I would often order it for dessert to see what kind of shortcake each restaurant made so that I could find out who made the ultimate.
There used to be this restaurant where I grew up, called Kenny Kings’s. It was a family restaurant and it’s where we used to go to get the most delicious Big King Burgers and Kentucky Fried Chicken before there were KFC’s.
That was when restaurants used to franchise the “original recipe” and had the rights to use the name. So, growing up, I thought Kentucky Fried Chicken was Kenny King’s Kentucky Fried Chicken. I didn’t know they were two separate things.
Kenny Kings used to serve the chicken in those ubiquitous red and white buckets and they made all the sides, mashed potatoes and gravy, cole slaw, potato salad and hot rolls. The sides they offered back then were not whatever the KFC chain offers up today.
They were made by Kenny Kings and they were wonderful. But Kenny Kings also used to make homemade buttermilk biscuits. The biscuits were light and fluffy and big and buttery. You know I love a good buttermilk biscuit.
One day, a million years ago, I was in with my mother and decided to order the strawberry shortcake for dessert… you know… for my on going research project :) I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I was intrigued by the fact that it was going to come on a biscuit.
As I mentioned above, I had only had it on sponge cake before. I remember when the waitress brought it out. It was glorious! There was this huge homemade biscuit with vanilla ice cream, loads of strawberries and it was topped with a pile of whipped cream. I remember looking at my mom with, “you HAVE to share this with me” eyes.
It was absolutely delicious and I was sold on a biscuit based shortcake from then on. Today’s recipe is also biscuit based but not quite like the Kenny King’s shortcake of my past. It’s not a fluffy biscuit like my Fluffy Buttermilk Biscuits, nor is it creamy, rich and buttery like my Fresh Strawberry Cream Scones.
I decided I wanted a biscuit/shortcake with enough structure to stand up to the juicy strawberry topping. I also didn’t want it too rich with butter and cream because I would be adding ice cream to it later.
So I created a cross between the two and made a lightly sweetened, sturdy shortcake that is the perfect canvas for sweet and juicy fruit toppings and cream, whether whipped, poured or frozen.
The dough mixing process is exactly like my Fluffy Buttermilk Biscuits, so head on over to that post if you want to see videos of the mixing, kneading, cutting steps. Today, though, I cut my little shortcakes into scalloped rounds, just for you.
You know I prefer to cut my biscuits in squares so I don’t get the lesser quality of those that come from subsequent scrap gathering and rolling. But today we have pretty little round shortcakes.
I should have taken photos of the pretty little shortcakes and their lesser friends that came from the second rolling side by side, just to illustrate my point about the benefits of one cutting, but alas, I did not.
You’ll have to take my word for it. Those second rollings will still be good, but the texture and height will not be the same as those from the first cutting.
I brushed the tops with egg yolk and sprinkled generously with raw sugar. The yolk gives it a bit of shine and helps it to bake up with a deep golden color. The sugar adds a nice crunch for texture. When you split the shortcake open, you can see that the interior is more dense than fluffy, which means it won’t disintegrate when you pile on your toppings.
Eventually, I moved away from home and splitting strawberry shortcake with my mother at Kenny King’s continued as a tradition any time I was in town visiting. It was our special little treat and sometimes we sat in our corner booth celebrating joyfully, sometimes we were there trying to solve the world’s (my) problems and sometimes she was there consoling a heartache.
She had an infinite capacity to listen, understand, discuss and solve. I could talk a subject into the ground and she would act like we had just started the conversation, fresh and new.
Today, Kenny King’s is gone and now I make strawberry shortcake at home to share with my family. It’s always a great time to share stories about my mom with my kids.
But I wish I could slide into that corner booth and order a shortcake for us to share. Because much like every other time we’d get together,
I sure have a long list of things I’d like to talk about :)
Strawberry Shortcake. A delicious biscuit based shortcake that's lightly sweetened and sturdy enough to stand up to juicy fruits and ice cream toppings.
For the strawberries
- 4 cups fresh strawberries
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 2-3 Tablespoons water see notes
For the shortcakes:
- 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
- 1 Tablespoon baking powder
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/3 cup unsalted butter cold and cut into small pieces
- 1/2 cup milk I used whole milk
- 1 egg yolk
- raw sugar
For the whipped cream:
- 1 cup heavy cream or heavy whipping cream
- 1 Tablespoon confectioner's sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- vanilla ice cream
- A few hours before serving, prep your berries. Wash and cut them into 1/4" slices. Mix with 1/3 cup sugar and, if desired, 2-3 Tablespoons of water. Cover and refrigerate.
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
- For the shortcakes, whisk flour, baking powder, sugar and salt.
- Add cold pieces of butter and using a pastry cutter, fingertips or two knives, cut the butter into the flour mixture until you have various sizes of butter no larger than peas.
- Make a well in the center of the flour/butter mixture and pour in the milk.
- Using a spoon, slowly pull the flour mixture into the center turning the bowl to get all sides mixed in and moistened. Do not over stir but gently toss mixture until the flour is generally incorporated.
- Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and lightly knead it by folding it and turning it over on itself about 10 times. This will create layers of butter and help finish the mixing process.
- Pat down with your hands or use a rolling pin until the dough is about 1" thick. Then dip a 2 1/2" biscuit cutter into flour and push directly down into the dough without turning the cutter to cut your shortcakes. Do not twist or turn your cutter while cutting or you may risk sealing the edges which will inhibit rising.
- Bring together scraps, pat or roll them to an inch thick again and cut remaining shortcakes.
- Place them a couple of inches apart on an ungreased baking sheet. Beat the egg yolk in a small bowl to break it up then brush the tops of each shortcake lightly with the yolk.
- Sprinkle generously with raw sugar then bake for about 15 minutes or until golden brown.
- You can serve warm or allow to cool completely.
- Make the whipped cream. Beat heavy cream, sugar and vanilla until soft peaks form. Set aside.
- To assemble, split the shortcake, spoon some strawberries and syrup onto the bottom. Place a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top of the berries and top with more strawberries.
- Prop the top of the shortcake of top of the ice cream and berries, and top the whole stack with whipped cream.
*Store any leftover shortcakes covered at room temperature. I like to reheat mine in a toaster oven for a few minutes before serving, but you may prefer to keep them at room temperature.
*I only add water to my strawberries if I don't have enough time for the sugar to draw out enough of the natural juice of the strawberries. For this recipe, I do like to add a bit of water because I like having the extra strawberry syrup to soak into the shortcakes.
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