A popular rhyme, usually said by little girls jumping rope

Strawberry Shortcake cream on top
tell me the name of your sweetheart Is it A, B, C, D, E, F, etc.

Whatever letter you stop on, is the first initial of your sweetheart!

A few weeks ago, my sister and I visited a little shop called Hot Topic. Essentially, this means mallternative merchandise: band t-shirts, funky bumper stickers, plaid pants and purses with dead cats hanging off the zipper. It now also means Strawberry Shortcake. What? What?! Excuse me, little girl who obviously can't be more than fourteen. What do you know about Strawberry Shortcake? Have you seen the program? Can you do the Purple Pieman dance? Do you even know who the Purple Pieman is?!?

No?! Well before you go wearing her shirt to your next candy raving adventure, let me tell you a thing or two about Strawberry Shortcake.

She was my hero as a child. From 1978 to 1985-ish, Strawberry Shortcake always smelled yummy, had lots of tasty friends, and battled against the bad guys and general not-niceness. Yes, she started out as a doll. But she became so much more: comics, books, television movies, toys, candy, clothing. Why, when I was 5 years old I dropped a penny in a wishing well and made a wish for a pair of Strawberry Shortcake sneakers, complete with little strawberry laces. She was it. As in, where it was at. As in, the coolest friend a girl could have. I stuck by her side, even that time she had a fight with Lemon Meringue and Cafe Au Lait. I was right with her when she won the big-city bake-off. Where were you? Floating around in a womb somewhere, no doubt.


There were only five television "specials" made for Strawberry Shortcake. They came out annually in the early 80's--usually in the springtime. They were frequently rerun on Sunday afternoons, as most people didn't have a VCR at the time. Often these episodes are available at your local video store. Most people loved Strawberry Shortcake for the little dolls, which smell like the desserts they're named after. You can still by t-shirts, candy and lunchboxes, courtesy of "unique" merchandisers that seem to be preying on my youth, attacking my favorite childhood memories, chomping them to bits and then regurgitating them to hungry little chicks everywhere. Where was I? Oh, yes.

The Strawberry Shortcake Universe includes:

                         Almond Tea                  Huckleberry Pie
                         Apple Dumplin'              Lemon Meringue
                         Banana Twirl                Mint Tulip
                         Blueberry Muffin            Orange Blossom
                         Crêpe Suzette               Peach Blush
                         Cafe Au Lait                Plum Puddin'
                                                     Raspberry Tart

                         Purple Pieman and Sour Grapes (villains)
Mr. Sun (narrator)

Strawberry Shortcake

Serves about a dozen people or one very hungry little brother
Ingredients


To begin, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (177 degrees C) and lightly grease the bottoms of two nine-inch cake pans. Avoid greasing the sides.

In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Set it off to the side for a few minutes.

With a mixer, beat the egg yolks until they are a pale yellow. Slowly add 1½ cups sugar and continue beating until the yolks are even paler.

Next, with a spoon, stir the strawberry purée and the lemon rind into the egg yolks. Then stir the egg yolks into the sifted flour mixture.

In a stainless steel bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff, moist peaks form. Then gently fold the egg whites into the cake batter a little bit at a time (about 1/4 of the mixture each time).

Pour the batter into the two nine-inch pans and put them in the oven, preferably somewhere in the bottom half. They should bake for about 35 minutes. When done, the cake should spring back when gently pressed with a spoon or finger tip.

When the cakes is done and has cooled off slightly, slice both cakes horizontally so that you now have four layers. Brush or sprinkle the kirsch on each layer, using more or less according to your personal taste.

In a stainless steel bowl whip the cream until it thickens, then add the remaining ¼ cup of sugar and continue beating until soft, but firm, peaks form.

Take the "top" layer of one of the cakes and place it browned-side-down on your serving plate. Spread a generous amount of the whipped cream (about, oh, a cup or so) on top of this layer, and then cover it with about a third of the sliced strawberries. Place the one of the "bottom" layers on top, and add another layer of cream and strawberries. Repeat with the other "bottom" layer.

Place the last "layer" of cake on top, browned-side-up, and then cover the top and sides of the entire cake with the remaining whipped cream, saving a little for fancy cream swirls or whatever other decorations you may fancy.

Decorate the cake by patting the sliced almonds into the cream all around the sides. Put whatever cream you have left over into a pastry bag and pipe little swirls/hills/fluting/whatever around the top edge of the cake. Finally, place the twelve strawberries in a circle around the top edge, either on top of or right next to your decorations. Chill well before serving to guests or bottomless- pits-of-cake-eating known as little brothers.

Strawberry shortcake has many incarnations. Everything from biscuits to spongecake to poundcake. Unlike TTkp's version, which is a true cake, my favorite is a quick version that relates more to the biscuity ''short'' than the soft ''cake.'' It lends itself to fast preparation, so fast you can bake it during dinner and serve it still warm from the oven. Conveniently, the elements can also be made several hours in advance and, if need be, transported to an offsite picnic or a barbecue. Either way, it's easy and delicious, and I just love how it looks on a plate.

I use a slightly modified scone recipe, much like achan's cream scone recipe, but replacing the cream with milk. With all the whipped cream in the dessert, you won't miss the cream in the scones at all. The recipe can also be used instead of biscuits for fantastic cobbler. For great scones, use heavy cream instead of milk and add half a cup of currants or berries.

Note, this recipe is generously scaled for company, but is also easily halved. If you're not confident halving the scone recipe, leave the extra scones for a great breakfast or snack, and just cut down on the more perishable whipped cream and strawberries. The scones are excellent for several days, especially lightly toasted, and can also be frozen (toast them before eating, if you freeze them). But trust me, you won't need an excuse to eat the scones, they are delicious plain even without using cream in the recipe.

Serves 6-10

Prepare the strawberries before making the scones if you plan on serving this as soon as possible. Otherwise, make the scones first.

Scones:
2 c. flour (sifted, or partially sifted, see the notes at the end of the recipe!)
1/4 c. sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1/8 tsp. salt
1/3 c. unsalted butter, chilled
1/2 c. milk
1 large egg
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla

Pre-heat oven to 425°F.

In a large bowl, stir together the dry ingredients. Cut in the chilled butter until the butter is well blended. Some larger lentil-sized bits can remain, but mostly it should be thoroughly mixed in as if one were making pie crust.

In a small bowl, beat the egg and stir in the rest of the liquid ingredients. Add this to the flour mixture and stir until it comes together in a sticky ball. With floured hands, pat the dough into a rectangle about 3/4-1 inch thick on a floured surface. Cut into 6-10 triangles or squares. (6 for a generous dessert, 10 for something more fitting after a large and prolonged meal)

Place about 2 inches apart on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper and bake until golden brown, anywhere from 10-25 minutes depending upon their size and your oven.

Remove from the oven and let cool on a wire rack.

Cut the scones in half horizontally with a sharp serrated knife. If you are serving immediately, this can be done when the scones are still a little warm. If you are planning to take these somewhere, let them cool completely first. These are best left at room temperature, uncovered, and served the same day, or they will lose their crisp crust. Transport in a basket or a brown paper bag; something that breathes. If you are concerned with breakage in transport, wrap each cut scone with a paper towel or napkin beforehand.

Strawberries:
2 quarts fresh strawberries
2-4 tbsp. sugar
zest from half a lemon
2 tbsp. brandy or Grand Marnier (if desired)

About an hour before serving (up to 6 hours, if the strawberries can be kept well chilled), cut the strawberries up into bite sized pieces in a large bowl. I prefer quartering or cutting them into chunky sixths rather than slicing as the pieces don't tend to stick together as much this way. Also, they don't get as soft as quickly. Small berries can be halved.

Grate the zest directly onto the strawberries, sprinkle on the sugar (to taste) and any liqueur, and toss gently to mix. Cover and refrigerate. If you are transporting this to another locale, you can do this directly in a large plastic container. Stir the strawberries again prior to assembling (or shake the container).

Note that strawberries are classic, but this is also good with mixed berries, especially blueberries. Mmm, or try plump, ripe cherries, pitted and cut in half....

Whipped cream:
1 pint (2 cups) heavy whipping cream
1-2 tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. vanilla (optional)

This is best done right before serving. Mix everything together in a large glass bowl and beat with a whisk or a mixer until it is thick and starting to hold its shape. Slightly underwhipped is better, I find, than overwhipped. I like it to slide and plop a bit when spooned over the strawberries.

Making whipped cream in a jar: If you are transporting this to a location without a bowl and a whisk, place everything in a quart jar with a tight fitting lid, and keep it well chilled. Just prior to serving, shake the jar briskly for several minutes until you can feel the cream thickening up. Don't over do it, or it will be too thick. You should be able to feel when the cream starts clinging to the sides instead of dashing around in the jar. Check it with a spoon when it starts to do so, lest you over do it.

To assemble, place the bottom half of a scone on an individual plate. Top with a generous portion of strawberries so that strawberries spill over. There should be about twice the number of strawberries than will fit on the scone. Drizzle the scone with some of the juices from the strawberries. Top the strawberries with whipped cream, and then place the top half of the scone jauntily on top of the whipped cream, slightly askew. It should be gloriously messy. Serve immediately.

Oh the berries of summer!


exceptinsects says re Strawberry shortcake: Hey, so I made this, and it was awesome, but there didn't seem to be enough liquid in the recipe so I used 2 eggs and 3/4c milk/cream. And then I got all excited about making scones, so I made some more, this time with dried apricots, and didn't realize til later that I forgot to put the butter in! But they were still really good, so if you ever want to make a lighter version, give it a try. It still had a nice texture--I used half milk and half cream.

Although I use jumbo eggs, the recipe shouldn't need what would be about half a cup of additional liquid. Turns out exceptinsects and I measure flour differently enough for the dough to be drastically different. For this recipe, I don't weigh the flour, but I try to avoid packing it into the cup. When I'm not feeling lazy, I go so far as to sift it. Usually, however, I just spoon it lightly into the measuring cup, letting it sprinkle into the cup and loosen up. This is the difference at the root of the problem. Just scooping the flour into a measuring cup will lead to a lot more flour being used. Even if your flour says it's pre-sifted, you will still need to loosen it up to measure it properly. See sift for more information.

Ouroboros says re: strawberry shortcake: And creme fraiche is much much better than whipped cream.

I enjoy crème fraîche, and nearly put in a suggestion for lightly sweetened sour cream with a bit of lemon zest as a good alternative to whipped cream for an all blueberry version. However, one of the things I like about this dessert is the light texture. The light scone, the firm, fresh berries, and the lightly whipped cream. It would be lovely with crème fraîche; just not ''strawberry shortcake'' anymore.

Also, to clarify about biscuits and scones. They are indeed, as Ouroboros drew to my attention, extremely similar things for the American baker. The biscuit/cookie divide is well known. The biscuit=scone similarity, less so. The biscuit so well loved in Southern American cooking is a chemically leavened bread (with baking powder, or baking powder and soda), much like a scone. However, unlike a scone, it is almost always plain or savory and is a meal staple. Also, biscuits are often made with fats other than butter, such as lard or vegetable shortening, and usually do not contain egg. Also, an acidic liquid such as buttermilk is often used in biscuits, not only for the flavor, but because the acidity makes the biscuits even lighter as it reacts with the baking powder. The resulting little round bread is generally pale, almost white, in color except for the browned top which is almost perfectly level. It is tender, and because of the lack of sugar, the crust does not remain crisp. See JediBix783's biscuit recipe for a classic version. Lometa has a lovely recipe for the ever delicious buttermilk variety.

The similarity with the scone comes through in the making, rather than in the eating. The fat being cut into the dry ingredients, then the addition of a thick liquid, flattening out on a floured board and then being cut into rounds and baked in a hot oven for a short amount of time. Perhaps earlier incarnations of the scone and the biscuit were closer. However, with the rise of the cream scone as invariably a tea cake in the US, the difference has become very wide indeed.

When I was a little kid we used to go out to the local “u-pick” berry farm and pick strawberries until we had too much sun and too many strawberries. We’d make freezer jam, strawberry shortcake, and various other items from our haul. I never tired of it.

I still love strawberries and strawberry shortcake. But, there’s a problem with this love. I hate to make individual servings.

Here’s a recipe that makes a ton of dessert with very little effort. Its structurally more like a trifle than strawberry shortcake. But its not a true trifle in that it does not use custard or pudding. Instead, this uses a cream cheese whipped cream filling that is light while still tasting quite rich. Its great for picnics and large family reunions. It is quite pretty to look at while it is still in the large glass bowl.

Ingredients:

  • 2-3 quarts fresh strawberries
  • 2 quarts heavy whipping cream
  • 2 pound cakes
  • 2 - 8 oz. packages room temperature cream cheese
  • vanilla
  • sugar

Equipment:

  • Electric Mixer (preferably with a whisk attachment) Before you start the recipe, put the mixing bowl in the freezer.
  • Large Glass Bowl

Directions:

  1. Clean your strawberries and remove the stems. Cut each strawberry in half length-wise. If you have large strawberries, you may want to cut them smaller. The goal here is to achieve a fairly consistent size. Set aside.


  2. Next, cut both pound cakes into 1” cubes. Set aside.


  3. I could go on and on here about how to whip cream, but sneff has already done a clear and concise job of explaining it. Read his instructions on how to whip cream here. Go on, we’ll wait for you.

    OK, now that you have read how to make whipped cream, we’re going to use this knowledge with the slight variant of adding cream cheese. Add the cream cheese to your large chilled mixing bowl and turn your mixer on long enough to cream the cheese, approximately one minute. Then add the heavy cream to the bowl and turn your mixer on high for a few minutes. You will see it thicken. Once thickened add vanilla and sugar to taste. I only add a few tablespoons of sugar, but you may want it sweeter.


  4. Now we’re ready to layer. On the bottom of your large glass bowl, put in a layer of cubed pound cake, then cover this with some of the whipped cream - cream cheese mixture. Now add strawberries and again cover it with the whipped cream - cream cheese mixture. Repeat until your bowl is full and top with remaining strawberries.


  5. Refrigerate for at least a few hours. Then serve in bowls and enjoy.

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