Refined Strawberry Shortcake

Today, was my birthday!  I’m not a huge fan of cake and even less of a fan of frosting, however, my kids don’t think we have officially celebrated my birthday until candles have been lit, the birthday song sung and some sort of treat enjoyed.   I also wound up with an abundance of strawberries from Costco that needed to be used.  Luckily, my latest issue of Cooks Illustrated had a strawberry shortcake recipe that seemed like a solution to both problems because it would use all my strawberries, and I do like strawberry shortcake.   I invited my good friend Kassie Voight over to spend the day baking because this cake looked a little technical.  Derek thought I was crazy to spend my birthday baking a cake, but I was actually quite looking forward to it, and it turned out to be a really enjoyable day.  The point of this recipe was to come up with something of a cross between angel food cake that seems to get soggy when liquidy strawberries are placed on it and actual shortcake (more like a biscuit) which is just a little dense.  I think they nailed it.  This cake had juicy strawberries on it for hours and held up without ever getting soggy.  The presentation, while beautiful, I don’t know if I deem necessary to totally enjoy this dessert.  I’ll post the recipe from the magazine, but in the future I could see myself making just the cake in a long rectangular pan and serving basic sliced strawberries and whipped cream on the side.


Strawberry Ingredients:  

  • 2 pounds strawberries, hulled and sliced vertically 1/4 inch thick
  • 1/4 C granulated sugar
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • pinch salt
  • 1/2 tsp cornstarch

Cake Ingredients:

  • 4 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp grated lemon zest
  • 1 1/4 C cake flour (Kassie and I wonder if we should have added a little extra flour for high elevation)
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 5 large eggs
  • 3/4 C granulated sugar

Whipped Cream:

  • 1 C heavy cream
  • 1/3 C creme fraiche
  • 3 Tbsp confectioners’ sugar, plus extra for dusting


  1.  FOR THE STRAWBERRIES:  Toss strawberries with sugar, lemon juice, and slat in large bowl.  Set aside for at least 1 1/2 hours or up to 3 hours.
  2. FOR THE CAKE:  Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray two 9-inch round cake pans with baking spray with flour.  Line with parchment paper and spray parchment with baking spray with flour.   (See here I think you could just spray a rectangular pan if you don’t care about making the whole “cake” look).  Combine melted butter, vanilla, and lemon zest in medium bowl.  Whisk flour and salt together in second bowl.
  3. Combine eggs and sugar in bowl of stand mixer; place bowl over medium saucepan filled with 2 inches simmering water, making sure that water does not touch bottom of bowl.  Whisking constantly heat until sugar is dissolved and mixture registers 115-120 degrees, about 3 minutes.
  4. Transfer bowl to stand mixer fitted with whisk.  Beat on high speed until eggs are pale yellow and have tripled in volume, about 5 minutes.  (Egg foam will form ribbon that sits on top of mixture for 5 seconds when dribbled from whisk-didn’t know you could get egg whites and yolks together to do this but it sure did after being heated slightly).  Measure out 3/4 C egg foam, whisk into butter mixture until well combined, and set aside.
  5. Transfer remaining egg foam to large, wide bowl and sift one-third of flour mixture over egg foam in even layer.  Using rubber spatula, gently fold batter until small streaks of flour remain (6-8 folds).  Repeat with half of remaining mixture.  Sift remaining flour mixture over batter and gently fold until flour is completely incorporated.
  6. Pour butter mixture over batter in even layer.  Gently fold until just incorporated, taking care not to deflate batter.  Divide batter evenly between prepared pans.
  7. Bake until center of cakes are set and bounce back when gently pressed and toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, 10-16 minutes.  Remove cakes from pans, discarding parchment, and let cook completely on wire rack, about 2 hours.
  8. Drain berries in fine-mesh strainer over bowl.  Measure out 2 Tbsp juice into small bowl (reserve remaining juice in bowl) and stir in cornstarch until well combined.  Microwave, stirring every 10 seconds, until mixture is very thick and translucent, 30-45 seconds.  Set aside.
  9. Place 1 cake layer right side up on platter.  Place second layer upside down on cutting board.  Using paring knife, cut circle from center of cake on board, leaving 1 in wide ring of cake.  (Reserve circle for another use- we just put the extra strawberries and whipped cream on them and served them too).  Place upside-down cake ring on top of layer on platter.  Using pastry brush, brush all of unthickened strawberry juice onto bottom cake layer and inner sides of cake ring.  Gently combine berries and reserved thickened juice in now-empty bowl.  Spoon berry mixture onto cake ring, forming even layer.
  10. FOR THE WHIPPED CREAM:  Using stand mixer fitted with whisk, whip cream and creme fraiche on low speed until foamy, about 1 minute.  Add sugar, increase speed to medium-high, and whip until soft peaks form, about 2 minutes.  Dollop 2 Tbsp whipped cream onto center of cake.  Dust cake with confectioners’ sugar.  Cut and serve, passing extra whipped cream separately.

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