Not So Sweet Strawberry Shortcake

Strawberry Shortcake

Strawberries when ripe are impossibly sweet. Sample a fresh strawberry, from a farm stand or better, right off the bush and you’ll wonder why you’ve been settling for the out of season ones all winter long. Attempting to grow strawberries in New Jersey growing up was a failure. Apparently the local wildlife was also pretty keen on fresh strawberries so if we wanted to have any for ourselves, we’d have to pick them slightly under ripe. Otherwise there would be nothing left.

The first time I had a real fresh strawberry was in Ireland. We were staying with my stepfather’s family in Newcastle and there was a farm stand on one of the main “highways”. Really it was a small table with some boxes of strawberries on a long country road. Purchases were by the honor system. You’d grab a small container and leave the money in the box beside it. If you went at daybreak the table would be overflowing, but just a few hours later the table would be bare.

I try to let the natural beauty of strawberries shine though, without pouring on pounds of sugar or other sweeteners. One of my favorite desserts (snacks, whatever you want to call it) fresh strawberries with cream. Sometimes I whip the cream, light and fluffy, other times I just drizzle a tablespoon over the berries and enjoy. For a slightly heartier and more presentable dessert, I make strawberry shortcake. But with the berries so sweet already, the last thing I want is a sugar laden sponge cake as a base. Instead, I bake a batch of buttermilk biscuits, slice them in half and sandwich the berries and cream inside. I add the tiniest bit of sugar to the biscuits to help them bridge the line between dinner roll and dessert worthy.

Not So Sweet Strawberry Shortcake (Serves 6)

  • 1 3/4 c all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp sugar, divided
  • 4 tbsp chilled butter
  • 3/4 c buttermilk
  • 1 c very cold heavy cream
  • 3 c sliced strawberries

Preheat oven to 450ยฐF. In a large bowl whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and 1 tablespoon of sugar (optional). Cut in chilled butter using a pastry blender or fingers until the mixture resembles course cornmeal. Make a well in the center and pour in buttermilk, mixing with a spatula until just blended. Divide dough into 6 parts and drop slightly flattened lumps onto a parchment lined baking sheet. Bake for 15 minutes until lightly browned.

While biscuits are baking, whip the cream. Pour cream into the bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with a wire whisk. Start mixing on medium speed, gradually increasing speed until it begins to thicken. Add remaining tablespoon of sugar and continue mixing until cream becomes stiff and can hold shape. Be careful not to mix too much or you’ll end up with butter!

When the biscuits have cooled slightly, cut in half and drop a hearty spoonful of whipped cream on the bottom half. Top with 1/2 c strawberries and the other half. Serve immediately.

42 thoughts on “Not So Sweet Strawberry Shortcake

    • Thanks! The extra bonus is if you’re making biscuits for dinner, you just have to make a few extra and dessert is pretty much done ๐Ÿ™‚

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    • Hi Martha–Thanks for stopping by! Pretty much any dessert I make use half the recipe sugar, sometimes less! If you start with good ingredients, especially fruit, you don’t really need all that sugar to mask the pure flavor

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  4. My grandmother told me that if you slice the strawberries and let them sit for a few hours, the natural sugars will flavor them and they will be sweeter. Looks delicious! I’d have to substitute the wheat for gluten-free flour and the dairy for something rice or coconut, but I love, love, love strawberry shortcake!

    • I generally let strawberries sit with a tablespoon of honey or so when making jam. It really brings out the juices. The longer the sit, the juicier they get. Extra juicy, syrupy strawberry shortcake. Yum!

  5. What a smart idea to use the buttermilk biscuits instead of using cake base. Even too much sweetness is not good either. When you can enjoy the natural sweetness, there is no need to go for artificial flavors. Thanks for the recipe. My little ones will love this. Hopping over by from SITS ๐Ÿ™‚

  6. Anytime I see Strawberries my interest is raised…this certainly sounds like a wonderfully delicious recipe…especially if done with fresh strawberries which to me are simply the best kind possible. Thank you so much for sharing…

    • Thanks for stopping by! It really is fantastic. Though right now I’m kind of wishing I didn’t share it on SITS. So much chatter about the recipe is making me crave strawberry shortcake but I know I can’t get fresh berries til next spring!

    • Thanks Kendra. Haha, I feel like unless you hate strawberries (and seriously, that’s just wrong…), its the perfect dessert to please everyone.

    • Thanks Christine! Right now I’m loving all the peaches and stone fruit that are in season but get a little sad looking back at my strawberry posts. The season always seems long but once it’s over I wish it was longer!

  7. I love the “not-so-sweet” aspect of this. I love dessert, but my favorites are always the ones that aren’t overly sweet. Like you mentioned to Christine, I’m a little sad that strawberry season is over, too. Oh, well. Time to focus on blackberries and peaches now ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Thanks Shana for stopping by. I have a very love-hate relationship with peaches. Love to eat them but they ripen so fast! Bought some yesterday and they were WAY underripe so left them on the counter. This morning some of them are perfect but others are overripe and almost too mushy to eat (thank goodness for smoothies!). It’s like I can never win!

  8. I served it that way for dinner once. I called the strawberries the fruit serving and the biscuits were our starch! ๐Ÿ˜‰

  9. I was at a little tiny Farmer’s Market yesterday with the cutest 3 generation Japanese family selling their strawberries – the grandma was sorting through each one preparing the perfect boxes for us to buy. And wow – the sweetest strawberries so far this year. Sublime! I hope you are having a wonderful SITS day. Have you met the Lighthearted Locavore from out on Long Island? You two just might have something in common!

    • Hi Beth. That’s an amazing tale! For me, its all about the connection to food, even more so than where it comes from. I did not know Lighthearted Locavore but headed right over there. Looks like we have a lot in common. Thanks for the thought and stopping by!

  10. I want some of this right now : )
    I saw a sign for Strawberry Shortcake yesterday while we were on an outing and I have been wanting to make it all day. I think I will ask my Mom to do it since she is a way better baker than me! : )

    • Haha, I know what you mean. There are still dishes that my grandma makes so much better than me. I’ll make them, but if she’s there, why bother..?

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