This is what happens when I come home with leftover whipping cream in a can… I need to come up with a use for it to prevent myself from spraying it all directly into my mouth. Also: I have a container of the most brilliant raspberry-rhubarb compote in the fridge, which I love to eat cold with yogurt and granola, but lets face it – a crunchy-edged biscuit and whipped cream makes even better use of it. If dessert was a sandwich, this might be it.
Somehow, someone somewhere decided that shortcakes were the ultimate vehicle for strawberries… so much so that someone else invented those little yellow sweet sponges to sell alongside the berries in grocery stores during the summer. And yes, strawberry shortcake is a good thing… such a good thing that they named a cartoon character after it. But honestly, any juicy seasonal fruit does just as well – you need it to be juicy so that the shortcakes can absorb some of those juices, so cold stewed plums or thickly sliced peaches tossed in sugar are great contestants. But my personal favourite is raspberries + rhubarb – since I have no berries growing in my back yard, I use a bag of the frozen ones, which is perfectly fine – especially for cooking. You wind up with this sweet-tart intense red compote that’s just saucy enough for things like shortcakes and Eton mess – but that’s another story.
So here’s the thing about shortcakes – they’re very similar to scones, a little sweeter and finer crumbed (not as flaky) as a biscuit, with a cakier texture. I love to make them with just heavy cream, which you have to pick up to whip and spoon over the fruit anyway (a 500 mL container should be just the right amount), so there’s no point in bothering with the cutting in of any butter. These are simple and perfect, which is what I’m after when I don’t want dessert to be a big production. You can make them big or tiny, or even bake one giant shortcake to split, fill with fruit and cream and cut into wedges, if you’re after something more dramatic. (A shower of icing sugar + sparklers would be fab if you want to turn this into a birthday cake.)
I make these sweeter and a bit softer than my cream biscuits, and the slightly wetter, stickier dough makes for a more tender, softer cake. I’m not after thickness here, but a sweet-crunchy clamshell to capture all that fruit, that will soften just enough once it gets saturated with those juices. Yum.