Strawberry Shortcake

Intro Collage

“I have learned to treat each basket of really good berries I encounter as a box of fleeting, precious jewels, a treat to be enjoyed with unalloyed pleasure; no cream, sugar, or splash of Beaujolais, just the warm berry in all its scarlet glory.  That perfect fruit is a rare find, but once you chance upon it life seems, for an instant, to stand still.  Eyes closed, you are briefly lost in buttercup meadows, with bees buzzing on the heavy afternoon air…’Fragaria’ is a difficult fruit to find at its best.  But when you do, and that berry is melting on your tongue, it is as if all your summers have come at once.”  ~ Nigel Slater, Ripe

Many years ago {more than I care to count}, I spent three weeks of my summer vacation in the small town of Saint~Pacôme, located in the Canadian province of Quebec.  At twelve years old, I was the youngest traveler joining a band of strong~willed ladies {my grandmother, her two sisters and their mother~my great grandmother} on their annual pilgrimage back to the family farm where they grew up.  I don’t know how my presence came to be on that trip…a coming teenager accompanying three sisters {the youngest of which was in her sixties} and their mother {well into her nineties} who, by the way, could not speak English…but there I was, in the back seat of a large diesel Mercedes, listening to, but not understanding a word, of their conversations in French during our three~day trip from Connecticut to Canada.  The leisurely pace of our travel afforded us the opportunity for overnight stays in some lovely hotels, all with pools…an indulgence provided for my benefit as none of my traveling companions felt “comfortable” in the water.  However, the luxurious accommodations {and the entertainment they provided} were not duplicated at our destination.  The white farmhouse I would call home for almost a month that summer was “efficiently comfortable” but certain amenities…namely air conditioning and TV…were noticeably absent.  Instead, there was a large front porch outfitted with several rocking chairs that provided a respite from the afternoon heat that would build within the house and evening entertainment was provided in the form of stories my grandmother, her sisters and mother would exchange with the cousins with whom we were staying.  Across the road from the house was a rugged mountain road and in the morning, before the summer heat took hold, my Aunt Martha and I would grab silver tin buckets and climb the road to a small field carpeted with wild strawberries.  While we searched for the ripe, red jewels beneath their canopy of green leaves, she would tell me stories about growing up on the farm with my great grandparents and her twelve siblings.  I loved hearing those stories, the rare exchanges spoken in English during those few weeks {my great grandmother would get furious when English was spoken}, almost as much as I loved eating those strawberries, still warm from the sun.  Back home, my grandmother and her sisters would show me how to turn those tiny berries into jams, syrups and a wonderful filling for our morning crepes.  All of those people with whom I spent those weeks have all since passed on, but those stories and strawberries remain vivid memories of a summer vacation I have grown to appreciate more and more with each passing year.


The strawberries from the farmers’ markets remind me of those berries years ago…small, often awkwardly shaped, and so very red.  When you slice into them, their ruby color extends to their core {unlike the white flesh hiding in the center of what appears to be ripened fruit from the grocery store}.


They are also a bit more fragile than the grocery store variety which, I assume, have been bred to be a heartier version to withstand commercial handling and packaging.  A handful of sugar added to the bowl and gently tossed to coat the fruit begins the process of maceration whereby the berries soften and create their own sweet juice.

Macerated Strawberries Collage

You can get fancy by adding spices and some citrus to the sugar as I did here but today I kept the preparation simple.  The macerated fruit makes a wonderful topping for ice cream, waffles and simple cakes, just to name a few, but this afternoon I had my sights set on this Hidden Ice Cream Strawberry Shortcake.  A wonderfully moist, rich shortcake that incorporates softened ice cream {I used tahitian vanilla gelato} into the dough.


I first made this shortcake for our July 4th BBQ and it was a complete hit.  I have since made it again, switching out the strawberries in favor of blueberries {and adding a bit of lemon zest to the whipped cream} with great results.  The dough, which features self~rising flour, seems a bit odd at first but bakes into a moist, rich cake with a golden finish, similar to a biscuit.

Dough Collage

When topped with the prepared berries, their sweet juice permeates the cake adding flavor and a lovely pink hue.  Heavy cream whipped with a bit of vanilla paste is the perfect finish.


Strawberry Shortcake
A delicious summer shortcake which incorporates softened ice cream into the dough and, once baked, is finished with farm fresh fruit and whipped cream.
  1. 1 quart strawberries, cleaned, hulled and quartered
  2. 1/2 cup sugar
  3. 1 pint vanilla ice cream
  4. 3 cups self-rising flour
  5. 2 sticks cold unsalted butter, cubed
  6. 1 cup heavy cream
  7. 1 teaspoon vanilla paste {or liquid extract}
  1. In a medium bowl, toss the strawberries with the sugar. Let stand at room temperature, stirring, until very juicy, 3 hours.
  2. Meanwhile, thaw the ice cream in the refrigerator until soft, about 1 hour. Spoon the ice cream into a large bowl.
  3. Preheat the oven to 450°. In a food processor, pulse the flour and butter until the mixture resembles coarse meal; stir into the ice cream with a wooden spoon until incorporated. Using your hands, gently knead the dough until it starts to clump together. Drop clumps of the dough into a 9-by-13-inch metal baking pan in an even layer. Bake for 20 minutes, until golden on top. Let cool slightly, then cut into 12 squares.
  4. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whip the heavy cream and vanilla until soft peaks form. Serve the shortcakes with the macerated strawberries and whipped cream.
  1. I used an 8~by~8~inch metal pan because that is what I had on hand and it yielded a slightly thicker cake, which I preferred. I increased the cooking time by 5 minutes and the cake turned out perfectly done and moist.
Adapted from Food & Wine
Adapted from Food & Wine

K Medium 

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