Is there any dessert that shouts summer in the South more than Southern Strawberry Shortcake?!?
Growing up in Georgia, this traditional southern treat holds a special place in my heart. To this day it makes me think of my childhood best friend, Brittany, whose house I practically lived at during our summer breaks from school.
We spent those hot summer months splashing around in Brittany’s pool, and what often awaited us at the end of each day was a giant bowl of luscious, macerated strawberries. Whether piled high on a sweet biscuit or large pieces of Sara Lee pound cake, those strawberries were the highlight of our summer evenings. Especially during strawberry season when berries from the farmers' markets were extra plump and juicy!
But most days Brittany and I couldn’t wait for dessert! So we’d sneak into the kitchen for spoonfuls of strawberries straight out of the bowl in the fridge when we thought nobody was looking. But Brittany’s Granny and her mom always knew, and miraculously the bowl of berries was always replenished when dessert time came around….
Even now as an adult, the sweet smell of strawberries and the taste of southern-style strawberry shortcake brings me right back to those happy childhood days. It’s one of those dessert recipes that's filled with nostalgia, and not a summer goes by that I don’t make this treat and smile.
So, grab your apron and join me on a trip down memory lane as we make this delicious Southern Strawberry Shortcake recipe, a timeless classic that brings together the flavors of summer and the essence of Georgia in every delightful bite!
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Southern Strawberry Shortcake: Ingredients List
For the best Southern Strawberry Shortcake recipe, you'll need a handful of key ingredients. Here's a breakdown of what to add to your grocery store list:
- Strawberries: Look for strawberries that are firm, plump, and vibrant in color as that's a good indication they will be super sweet and juicy!
- Granulated sugar
- Course brown sugar or white turbinado sugar (optional)
- All-purpose flour: My Aunt Sandee (who recently taught me how to make her famous buttermilk biscuit recipe, a secret recipe that’s been in her family for generations!) made me promise that I will never, ever, ever use anything other than White Lily flour. She says no southern girl with any self-respect would do otherwise, and when she talks about southern cooking, I listen!
- Baking soda
- Baking powder: To avoid any unwanted chemical aftertaste in your biscuits, I suggest using aluminum-free baking powder. This tip, which I discovered from the wonderful baking resource Sally's Baking Addiction, can greatly enhance the quality of your shortcake. Specifically, I recommend trying Rumford Aluminum-Free Baking Powder.
- Fine kosher salt
- Unsalted butter
- Buttermilk (or whole milk, see recipe notes below)
- Heavy whipping cream
- Vanilla extract
No Buttermilk? Make your own!
If you appreciate the delightful tanginess of buttermilk (which happens to be one of my favorite aspects of these biscuits!), don't worry if you find yourself without any in your kitchen. You can easily make your own!
For this recipe, combine 3 teaspoons of vinegar or lemon juice with enough milk to fill a liquid measuring cup up to 1 ½ cups. Give the mixture a good whisk and allow it to sit for approximately 10-15 minutes before incorporating it into your recipe. This homemade buttermilk alternative will work wonderfully in bringing that desired flavor and texture to your biscuits.
Southern Strawberry Shortcake: How to Make
Discover the secrets to creating this old-fashioned summer dessert with my step-by-step guide. (Detailed measurements and instructions can be found in the recipe card below). From preparing the sweet strawberries to baking the buttery biscuits to assembling the perfect shortcakes, I’ll walk you through how to make the best Southern Strawberry Shortcake from scratch while sharing some of my favorite tips along the way!
Step 1: Clean the Strawberries
Using a strawberry huller or knife, start by removing the stems and hulls from the strawberries and then give them a gentle rinse under cool running water. (You can also use vinegar or baking soda to help eliminate any extra dirt, debris, or pesticide residue.) Pat them dry with a kitchen towel or paper towels to remove excess moisture.
Is it better to wash strawberries with vinegar or baking soda?
Both vinegar and baking soda are effective at removing dirt, bacteria, and pesticides from strawberries. However, there are some pros and cons to each method.
Vinegar is a natural disinfectant that is inexpensive and easy to find. While it’s effective in removing dirt, bacteria, and some pesticides from strawberries, it can also leave a sour taste or cause discoloration if left on them for too long.
Baking soda is also inexpensive and easy to find, and it tends to leave no residual taste. And while it also successfully removes dirt and bacteria, it can be less effective at removing pesticides than vinegar.
Personally, I use baking soda, but both methods do the trick. Just make sure that whichever one you choose, you rinse your strawberries thoroughly with water afterward to remove any lingering taste or residue.
Step 2: Macerate the Strawberries
Begin by placing the strawberries in a large bowl. Stir in the sugar, lemon juice, and lemon zest, ensuring the berries are well coated. (How much sugar you use depends on the sweetness of your berries -- I typically use 1/4 cup when they are super sweet, but have used up to 1 cup sugar when they aren't!) The addition of lemon adds a special touch as it both brightens the fresh berry flavor and balances the sweetness a touch. To me, everything is better with a spritz of lemon and these strawberries are no exception!
Cover the bowl and refrigerate the strawberries until you're ready to use them. The longer you let them macerate, the juicier and more delicious they will become! And let’s face it – the biscuits soaked with strawberry juice are THE best part of this dessert, am I right?!?
What if you don’t have much time to let the strawberries macerate?
While I highly recommend allowing your berries to macerate for at least an hour or more, I also know this isn’t always possible. So to give them a little nudge, use a fork or a potato masher to gently crush about half of the strawberries to help them release their juices. This will help speed up the maceration process!
Step 3: Make the Shortcake Biscuits
Begin by preheating your oven to 400° F. In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Whisk the dry ingredients together until well combined.
Add the butter to the flour mixture. Using a pastry cutter or two forks, cut the butter into the dry ingredients until coarse crumbs form. (You can also use a food processor if you have one.)
Next, pour in the buttermilk and fold the ingredients together using a large rubber spatula or spoon. Be careful not to overwork the mixture; it should be crumbly and slightly wet in spots. (If using a food processor, be careful not to over pulse.)
Transfer the biscuit dough to a well-floured work surface and gently bring it together with floured hands.
Flatten the dough into a rectangle, about 1 inch thick, using a rolling pin or well-floured hands.
Fold both sides of the rectangle into the center, then gently flatten it again into a 1-inch thick rectangle. Repeat this folding and flattening process once more.
Using a 3-inch biscuit cutter, cut the dough into circles, avoiding any twisting motions while pressing down. Re-roll and cut any leftover scraps until you have around 10-12 biscuits.
Arrange the biscuits in a 10-inch cast iron skillet or on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or greased with cooking spray, ensuring the edges touch each other. Brush the tops of the biscuits with heavy cream, buttermilk, or melted butter and lightly sprinkle them with coarse sugar.
Bake the biscuits for 18-22 minutes, or until they turn golden brown on top. Once baked, remove them from the oven and let them cool for 10-15 minutes before assembling the shortcakes.
Step 4: Whip the Cream
To make luscious whipped cream, use a hand mixer or electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. In a medium bowl, beat the heavy cream, granulated sugar, and vanilla at medium speed to medium-high speed until soft peaks to stiff peaks form. This usually takes about 3 minutes.
While making homemade whipped cream is super easy to do, you can certainly opt for store-bought instead! Who else remembers Cool Whip being an essential summer staple as a kid?!
Step 5: Assemble the Individual Shortcakes
When you're ready to eat your delicious Southern Strawberry Shortcake, slice the biscuits in half with a serrated knife. Place a layer of strawberries on the bottom half, followed by a generous dollop of whipped cream. Finally, place the top half of the biscuit on the whipped cream layer to complete your mouthwatering shortcake.
And feel free to add an extra layer or two...I certainly do!
Best Southern Strawberry Shortcake: Variations
While this classic Southern Strawberry Shortcake recipe is undeniably delicious, there's always room for creativity and personalization! Here are a few delightful variations on this recipe to add a unique twist to your shortcake experience:
- EXPERIMENT WITH DIFFERENT FRUIT: While strawberries are the star of the show in this traditional shortcake recipe, don't shy away from experimenting with other berries or fresh fruit. Blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, and peaches would be super tasty alongside the strawberries, or in place of them all together!
- ADD SOME HERBS: Incorporate some aromatics into your strawberry shortcake by chopping up herbs such as fresh mint leaves or basil and gently mixing them with the sliced strawberries during the maceration process. The herbs will impart a delightful fragrance and a subtle herbal undertone.
- USE A DIFFERENT BASE: Although biscuits are my personal favorite way to enjoy fresh strawberry shortcake, feel free to switch it up! For a twist on the traditional biscuit base, substitute slices of angel food cake, pound cake, or even waffles. I’ve eaten traditional Strawberry Shortcake with just about every kind of base you can imagine, and trust me when I tell you that they are all delicious!
- MIX IN A BIT OF CHOCOLATE: For those who can't resist the combination of chocolate and strawberries, consider making chocolate biscuits or adding chocolate chips to the dough for an indulgent twist. You can also drizzle melted chocolate over the strawberries or layer chocolate ganache between the biscuit and strawberry layers.
- ADD A CREAM CHEESE FILLING: For something a little different, whip together cream cheese, powdered sugar, and vanilla extract and spread a generous layer of this decadent filling on the biscuit before adding the strawberries. This adds a rich and creamy texture to this simple dessert that will leave you craving more!
- MAKE IT A TRIFLE: For those of you who love a summer trifle, this recipe is super easy to transform! Simply layer sliced strawberries, biscuits, and whipped cream in a glass bowl. Then top with more whipped cream and enjoy!
- ADD A SCOOP OF ICE CREAM: Take your strawberry shortcake to the next level by serving it with a scoop of your favorite ice cream. Whether it's vanilla, strawberry, or even a unique flavor like lavender or honey, the creamy, cold ice cream complements the warm biscuit and juicy strawberries beautifully.
- SPRINKLE WITH TOPPINGS: In addition to strawberries and whipped cream, you can also add other toppings to your strawberry shortcake such as chopped nuts, chocolate chips, candied fruit, caramel sauce, or citrus zest. You do you!
Remember, these variations on this recipe for Southern Strawberry Shortcake are just a starting point. Feel free to let your imagination run wild!
Frequently Asked Questions About this Easy Southern Strawberry Shortcake Recipe
Curious about how to store Strawberry Shortcake or where this southern shortcake recipe got its name? Read on for the answers to some commonly asked questions about this popular Southern treat.
Is strawberry shortcake a cake or a biscuit?
While the term "shortcake" may imply cake-like qualities, Southern Strawberry Shortcake traditionally refers to a dessert that consists of a sweet biscuit or sponge cake base, topped with juicy fresh strawberries and billowy clouds of whipped cream.
Is strawberry cake the same as strawberry shortcake?
No, strawberry cake and strawberry shortcake are not the same.
Strawberry cake is a type of cake that is flavored with strawberry ingredients such as fresh strawberries, strawberry puree, and strawberry extract. It typically has a soft, moist texture and is often layered with strawberry-flavored frosting or filling.
Strawberry Shortcake, on the other hand, is a dessert that’s typically made of a sweet biscuit or sponge cake base, topped with macerated strawberries and whipped cream. The biscuit or cake serves as the foundation for the dessert, while the strawberries and whipped cream provide the main flavors.
While both desserts feature strawberries as a key ingredient, the preparation, texture, and overall composition of strawberry cake and strawberry shortcake differ significantly.
Does soaking strawberries make them soggy?
Because strawberries are quite delicate and can absorb moisture easily, soaking them for a prolonged period can definitely make them soggy and lose flavor. I recommend rinsing them under cold water with a little bit of baking soda just before using them.
How long can strawberry shortcake sit out?
Generally speaking, perishable desserts like Southern Strawberry Shortcake should not be left at room temperature for more than two hours. Because the whipped cream can spoil if left out for too long, it’s best to refrigerate your shortcake until ready to serve in order to maintain its freshness and prevent bacterial growth.
Do you put strawberry Shortcake in the fridge?
Yes, it’s generally recommended to store Strawberry Shortcake in the refrigerator to help maintain its freshness, texture, and food safety. If you have already assembled your shortcakes, place them in an airtight container before refrigerating. This helps prevent the dessert from drying out and absorbing any odors from the refrigerator.
However, if you haven’t yet assembled them, I recommend storing the components separately until ready to serve. Keep the biscuits at room temperature in an airtight container and refrigerate the strawberries and whipped cream in separate sealed containers.
Can strawberry Shortcake be frozen?
You can certainly freeze components of Southern Strawberry Shortcake; however, I don’t recommend freezing the fully assembled dessert. The freezing process can affect both texture and quality, so I suggest keeping the components separate.
To freeze the biscuits, first allow them to cool completely. Then wrap them in plastic wrap or heavy-duty aluminum foil and place them in a freezer-safe bag. Freeze for up to three months. Before using in this strawberry shortcake dessert, allow the biscuits to thaw completely at room temperature.
To freeze the strawberries, simply store them in a freezer-safe container for up to three months. Thaw the frozen strawberries in the refrigerator overnight before using them to make your strawberry shortcake.
It's important to note that whipped cream does not freeze well. Its texture and consistency can be adversely affected, so I highly recommend making the whipped cream just before serving.
What is the base of strawberry shortcake?
The base of a traditional strawberry shortcake is typically a sweet biscuit or a sponge cake, but there are many different variations. In the United States, homemade strawberry shortcake is usually served on biscuits, but some people use sponge cake, angel food cake, or even waffles. The most important thing is that the base is something that can be easily topped with lots of juicy strawberries and heaps of fresh whipped cream!
Why is strawberry shortcake called shortcake?
In baking, the word "short" refers to a texture that is crumbly, tender, and easily broken apart. And the name "shortcake" is derived from the term "shortening," which refers to the fat used to achieve a "short" texture.
So in this sense, the term "short" essentially means a biscuit that is crumbly, rich, and deliciously buttery!
Southern-Style Strawberry Shortcake: The Wrap-Up
Southern strawberry shortcake is a classic dessert that encapsulates the flavors of summer and brings a touch of Southern charm to your table. From the juicy macerated strawberries to the buttery biscuits and fluffy whipped cream, these easy strawberry shortcakes are sure to please a crowd.
Whether you choose to stick with this classic strawberry shortcake recipe or mix it up with different fruits and toppings, add this to your list of easy recipes to create this timeless summer dessert year after year. Your taste buds will thank you!
A writer and photographer, Allie Albanese is the founder and curator of Parched Around the World. Here she seeks to tell stories about the intersection of food, drinks, cultures, and traditions in places near and far.
Allie holds a Master’s degree in Journalism from American University and is a cocktail consultant and a Certified Sommelier through the Court of Master Sommeliers. For more than a decade she has worked as a freelance journalist covering wine, cocktails, food, and travel for various publications across the United States and abroad.