I’m not going to lie: this shortcake recipe was completely and totally a delicious accident. And by “accident” I do not mean I mistakenly put together a few ingredients and, voila, I was looking at shortcakes. No, what I mean is that it was born of a nerdy, research-filled foray into the world of biscuits, without a care in the world about shortcakes. But, as many of us know, the two are inextricably linked (essentially a biscuit becomes a short cake with the addition of sugar) and with my nose deep in a 1947 general foods corporation recipe pamphlet, learning a variety of tips and tricks for making biscuits, my eye caught the column of “delicious variations,” and, lo and behold, delicious variation number two was “fruit shortcakes.”
Now, I’m not new to the world of shortcakes, having previously developed a recipe for brown sugar short cakes, so the mere act of stumbling upon the “delicious variation” did not instantly translate into a decision to develop a recipe for them. However, when I began reading about the truly genius way that the shortcakes were baked and assembled, the writing was on the wall: a shortcake recipe was in my (and your) future. Essentially, rather than focus on making a tall biscuit/shortcake that you then split in half after baking and fill with cream and berries, the pamphlet recommends that you make two relatively flat biscuits, brush the tops with melted butter, stack them, and bake. When you remove them from the oven? The two halves have risen (obvs) and pull away from each other perfectly. I mean, that is brilliant, no?
It is, in fact, reminiscent of the pull-apart nature of parker house rolls (or at least of my buttermilk parker house rolls). The two halves of the shortcake separate from one another, just as the rolls do from each other, revealing the fluffy and tender inside of each cake. “Yum” just about sums it up. Now, the recipe for said cakes was basically a no-brainer, as I just added some sugar and removed the cheese and pepper from my cacio e pepe biscuits and I had my shortcakes. (Although, I did look to Bon Appetit and David Lebovitz just to see what, if any, shortcake science was being dropped out there).
As for the peach and strawberry filling of my cakes? Well, that came about due to the fact that strawberries are still in the garden (although not for long . . .) and peaches are awfully yummy right now. But if you’re thinking this might be the most perfect of July 4th desserts (FYI: you wouldn’t be wrong) then sub some blueberries for the peaches for a red, white, and blue kind of thing. You’ll get points for patriotism and deliciousness.
Peach and Strawberry Shortcakes
For the filling
- 3 medium-sized peaches leave the skin on
- 2 cups of strawberries washed, hulled, and chopped prior to measuring
- 1/3 cup granulated sugar
For the shortcakes
- 1 stick 8 tbsp, unsalted butter, cold
- 2 cups sifted all-purpose flour ie: sift before measuring
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 2 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 1/2 cup mascarpone cheese
- 3 Tbsp unsalted butter melted
- Sanding sugar
For the whipped cream
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 1/4 cup confectioners' sugar
- Splash of vanilla
For make the filling
- Cut the peaches into 1/2 to 1-inch chunks. Place in a medium sized bowl. Add the strawberries and sugar (add more or less sugar depending on the sweetness of your fruit) and stir gently with a wooden spoon. Let fruit sit on the counter (or in the fridge) macerating, while you make the shortcakes.
To make the shortcakes
- Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
- Cut the butter into small cubes and place in the freezer.
- In a medium-sized bowl, whisk the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt together.
- Add the butter to the dry ingredients and working quickly, and using your fingers, rub the butter into the flour until the flour resembles coarse meal.
- Add the cream and the mascarpone and using a rubber spatula or wooden spoon, gently incorporate the wet ingredients into the dry. The mixture will seem too dry and you'll be dying to add more cream. Resist and keep stirring, or, do as I do, and knead the dough in the bowl with your hands until it comes together.
- Dump the dough out on the counter (you shouldn't need to flour your work surface, as the dough will still be dry-ish) and knead the dough a few times until it is no longer crumbly and the dry and moist bits are fully integrated.
- Lightly flour your work surface, if the dough is at all sticky, and pat the dough into a rectangle a little less than 1/2 of an inch thick. Be super gentle as you pat. Using a 2 1/2" biscuit cutter, dipped in flour, begin cutting out shortcakes from the rectangle. Do not twist the cutter as you push through the dough (if you twist as you push down or pull up, the biscuits will not rise as well).
- Place the shortcakes on a parchment lined baking sheet, about 2 inches apart. Continue cutting out cakes until you have used up all of your dough, re-forming your rectangle with scraps, as you go.
- at this point, you can freeze the shortcakes, still on the tray and tightly wrapped in plastic wrap, for up to two weeks.
- Brush the tops of the shortcakes with melted butter. Place one cake on top of another and sprinkle the top with sanding sugar. Place the tray in the pre-heated oven and bake for 10 to 12 minutes, rotating after 5, and checking after 10. The cakes are ready when they are golden brown on top and lightly browned on the bottom. Make the whipped cream while the shortcakes bake.
To make the whipped cream
- Beat the cream, sugar, and vanilla in a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, on medium-high speed, until the cream almost holds a soft peak (the cream is best a bit droopy).
To assemble the shortcakes
- Once removed from the oven, let the shortcakes sit a minute or two on the tray, until they are still warm, but easy to handle. Gently pull the two halves of the cake apart. Dribble some of the fruit juice that has accumulated underneath the peaches and strawberries onto the bottom half of the shortcake. Add a few spoonfuls of fruit, followed by a big dollop of whipped cream. Top the whipped cream with the other half/top of the cake. Place a bit of extra fruit on each plate before serving and please place the bowl of cream on the table so that people can take more if they so desire (I always so desire, fyi).