Why “short” cake?

Short is a term used in baking to describe a non-yeast pastry or cookie dough with

a high proportion of fat to flour. The baked items from short doughs, the cookies, pie crusts and biscuits are tender, rich, crumbly and crisp.

The classic American Shortcake began as a large sweet biscuit. It was split in half, then filled and topped with sliced or diced fruit, typically strawberries, and poured cream.

Modern strawberry shortcake consists of a biscuit style cake, macerated fruit (sugar added) and a sweetened whipped heavy cream. In 1910 French chefs changed the poured cream to Chantilly cream; a heavy cream sweetened and whipped to stiff peaks. It is a major component of strawberry shortcake today.

Though strawberry is the most widely known shortcake dessert, peach shortcake, blueberry shortcake and other variations are prepared along similar lines. It is also common to see recipes where the shortcake itself is flavored. Adding diced fruit to the dough, cocoa powder or grated chocolate, flaked coconut, sliced or chopped almonds, even cornmeal are possibilities.

Shortcake is most often thought of as a dessert, but savory versions are prepared by filling and topping the biscuit with creamed vegetables, ham or chicken.

The earliest known reference to shortcake is an English recipe from 1588. The desert

was a favorite of the Elizabethan court. Shakespeare used it as a character name in The Merry Wives of Windsor, Alice Shortcake.

Sweet Biscuit Shortcakes

7 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, diced

1 cup plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

1 cup plus 1 tablespoon cake flour*

3 tablespoons granulated sugar

1 tablespoon baking powder

3/4 teaspoon kosher salt

2/3 cup buttermilk.

Additional buttermilk and sugar to brush shortcake tops before baking.

Preheat oven to 375℉. Combine flours, sugar, baking powder and salt. Add cold diced butter and work, (like pie crust) until mixture is crumbled and shaggy. Add buttermilk, a little at time, until dough comes together and forms a soft ball. Lightly pat dough out to 1-inch height. Cut out 8 biscuits using a 2-1/2 inch cutter. Place shortcakes on heavy baking sheet with lightly sprayed parchment paper. Space 2 inches apart. The softer the dough, the more the shortcakes will spread. Brush tops with additional buttermilk and sprinkle with sugar. Bake at 375℉ for 15 minutes until very golden and baked through in the center. Remove from oven. Cool on wire rack. Split to serve. Serve with slightly sweetened strawberries, mixed berries or very ripe thin sliced peaches. Yield: 8 portions.

You may fold in 1/2 to 3/4 cup finely diced fruit into the biscuit dough. Best flavor if recipe is made with buttermilk. You may substitute half and half. Do not use yogurt or sour cream or sour milk substitutions for buttermilk. Use a sharp cutter; a glass or dull cutter will drag the sides and cause the shortcake to fail to rise. If you do not have a sharp cutter, use a sharp knife and cut the shortcake into squares or triangles. *Cake flour is important to the recipe. Using all-purpose flour only will result in a very heavy dough.

A few things you may try:

For Strawberry Shortcake, add 2 teaspoons cinnamon to dough. Dust tops with cinnamon sugar when removed from the oven. Or add 1/4 cup finely ground nuts. Or 1 teaspoon Chinese Five Spice powder to dough. You may also add 1/2 cup finely diced fruit to dough.

For Blueberry Shortcake, add grated peel of 1 lemon to the dough. Sprinkle with sugar. Or add 1/2 cup blueberries.

For Raspberry or Blackberry Shortcake, add 1/2 cup chopped berries to dough.

For Peach Shortcake, add 1 teaspoon ground ginger and/or 1 tablespoon very finely chopped candied ginger to the dough. Sprinkle tops with sugar.

Shortcake fillings

Strawberry: 3 cups berries, washed, hulled, sliced; 3 tablespoons powdered sugar; 1/2 teaspoon Cinnamon or Chinese Five Spice powder if desired.

Blueberry: 3 cups fruit, picked over, washed and mashed; 6 tablespoons powdered sugar; 1 teaspoon lemon juice.

Mixed Berry: 3 cups mixed berries; 3 tablespoons powdered sugar.

Peach: 2-3 large peaches, peeled, pitted, sliced thinly; 3 tablespoons powdered sugar mixed well with 1/4 teaspoon ginger. (When Tony’s Peaches arrive at the Triangle Grocery in late July or August, try the peach shortcake. Eliminate the ginger in the dough if you prefer a more traditional peach shortcake.)

Strawberry Cornbread Shortcake

Gluten Free

3/4 cup almond flour*

3/4 cup yellow cornmeal (yellow will give the cake a golden color)

1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

6 tablespoons softened butter, at room temperature

3/4 cup granulated sugar, plus 2 tablespoons for the top before baking

1 large egg

3/4 cup milk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 large container strawberries (or blueberries), rinsed, hulled and halved

Whipped cream or Mascarpone cheese for topping, optional

Preheat oven to 350℉. Butter a 10-inch cake round or springform pan. Line with parchment paper. Rebutter. In medium bowl, add almond flour, cornmeal, baking powder, and salt. Stir to combine. In another bowl, beat the softened butter and 3/4 cups of granulated sugar. Beat until light and fluffy. Add the egg to the butter-sugar mixture and beat until combined. Then add milk and vanilla extract and combine completely. Mix the dry ingredients and the wet ingredients together. Spread batter evenly into prepared pan. Top cake with halved strawberries, placing strawberries facing upward, and keeping the strawberries close together. Sprinkle with remaining 2 tablespoons sugar. Bake for 10 minutes in preheated 350℉ oven. Reduce oven heat to 325℉ and bake an additional 50-60 minutes until an inserted knife comes out clean and the top is golden brown in color. Cool on a wire rack. Sprinkle with powdered sugar or top with a spoonful of whipped cream or mascarpone cheese and a few fresh berries. Serves 8 to 12. (For blueberries, rinse and pick through berries. Sprinkle on top of cake. Proceed with recipe and service.)

*If you do not have almond flour, substitute an equal amount all-purpose flour for almond flour. The shortcake will not be gluten-free. Everything else remains the same.

Chocolate Shortcakes

7 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter, diced

3/4 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup plus 1 tablespoon cake flour

1-1/2 tablespoons granulated sugar

1/3 cup cocoa powder

2 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

3/4 teaspoon kosher salt

2/3 cup buttermilk, plus enough to make a soft dough

Additional buttermilk to brush shortcake tops

Preheat oven to 375℉. Line baking sheet with parchment paper, lightly sprayed. Whisk to combine flours, sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add cold diced butter and work, until mixture is crumbly and shaggy. Add buttermilk, a little at a time, until dough comes together and forms a soft ball. Lightly pat dough out to 1-inch height. Cut out shortcakes using a 2-1/2 inch cutter. Place shortcakes on prepared baking sheet. Space 2-3 inches apart as the shortcakes will spread. The softer the dough, the more the shortcakes will spread. Brush shortcake tops with additional buttermilk. Bake at 375℉ for 15 to 20 minutes until baked through. Remove from oven. Allow to cool completely. Frost tops with chocolate ganache if desired. Split to serve. Yield: 8 shortcakes. Serve with slightly sweetened raspberries or sweetened chopped cherries. You could use banana slices and caramel.

For a New Mexico flavor twist: Mix 1-2 teaspoons Chimayo red chile or Ancho chile powder with recipe dry ingredients. Add chile powder to the fruit filling. Chile and raspberry is a great combination.

Ganache: 1/2 cup heavy cream and 6 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips. Bring heavy cream to a full boil, remove from heat, add chocolate chips. Allow to sit for five minutes. Then stir until completely smooth.