Oh, Baby! Berry Shortcakes

This homemade shortcake recipe is easier than most and just as tender. Instead of cutting in butter or shortening, you just stir in heavy cream. With petite desserts  all the rage, the cakes are baked in mini-muffin pans. Fresh lemon verbena (or lemon peel) stirred into the dough complements the flavor of the berries.

For the shortcakes:

1 cup all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons granulated sugar

2 teaspoons chopped fresh lemon verbena or 1 teaspoon grated lemon peel

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

Dash salt

3/4 cup heavy cream

For the sauce:

5 cups sliced strawberries

1 cup fresh blueberries

1/4 cup granulated sugar

For whipped cream:

1 cup heavy cream

2 tablespoons granulated sugar

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Fresh lemon verbena leaves for garnish (optional)

1. For shortcakes: Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. In a mixing bowl, stir together flour, the first 2 tablespoons sugar, lemon verbena, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Make a well in center of dry ingredients. Pour in the 3/4 cup of cream. Stir with a fork until mixture forms a ball.

2. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface; knead 6 to 8 strokes. Shape into a 12-inch-long log. Cut into twelve 1-inch pieces; shape each into a ball. Place balls into ungreased mini-muffin cups. Bake for 14 to 15 minutes or until golden brown. Let stand in pan 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from pan onto wire rack. (Shortcakes can be made ahead. Place in a freezer bag and freeze up to 3 months.)

3. In a bowl, combine 3 cups of the strawberries and the 1/4 cup sugar. Mash berries slightly with a potato masher. Stir in remaining strawberries and blueberries.

4. For topping, combine the 1 cup heavy cream, the remaining 2 tablespoons sugar, and the vanilla in a chilled deep bowl. Beat with a rotary beater or electric mixer until soft peaks form.

5. To serve, place 1 mini shortcake in a martini glass or stemmed dessert dish. Spoon fruit sauce around. Top with a spoonful of whipped cream. Garnish with lemon verbena leaves, if desired. Makes 12 servings.

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