My mother-in-law made the best strawberry shortcake I’ve ever had. Crushing the strawberries releases the juice and fragrance of the berries and the tender cake absorbs the liquid. It's a lovely dessert too, one you can be proud to serve to company or on special occasions.
You can make the cake, prepare the strawberry sauce, and whip the cream the day before, then assemble the cake within an hour or so of serving.
NEW: see the plant-powered version below. It even travels well!
Active time: about 35 minutes. Total time: about an hour. Makes twelve servings.
1 tablespoon butter
½ cup milk
shortening or butter and flour for greasing and flouring the pan
2 large eggs
1 cup sugar (200 grams)
1 cup all-purpose flour or white whole-wheat flour (120 grams)
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 pounds of fresh strawberries (a little less than 3 pints)
about 1/2 cup sugar (100 or so grams)
1 cup whipping cream (8 ounces or 1/2 pint)
1 tablespoon of sugar
1/2 teaspoon of vanilla (optional)
- Cake. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Heat milk until it begins to steam, then add butter to hot milk. Butter will melt. (I microwave milk in a Pyrex measuring cup for about a minute and a half.) Grease and flour an 8” square pan or a muffin tin that holds a dozen muffins.
- Use an electric mixer to beat the eggs on medium-high until they turn light and thick. Add the sugar and beat about 2 1/2 minutes more. Sift flour, salt, and baking powder together. Fold sifted ingredients into egg mixture. Fold in hot milk and butter. Work quickly to keep the cake fluffy; adding flour and milk mixtures should take no more than a minute.
- Pour into pan or muffin tin. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes. Cake is done when toothpick or skewer inserted into center of cake comes out clean. Let cool thoroughly in pan before cutting.
- Strawberries. Wash strawberries well. Remove tops and any bad spots. Crush or puree about half the strawberries in a blender or food-processor with the blade attachment. Slice the other half of the berries. Hold back 12 slices for garnish; stir rest in with crushed strawberries. Taste and add sugar as needed.
- Whipped cream. Put whipping cream, 1 tablespoon of sugar, and vanilla if using into a chilled mixer or food-processor bowl. Beat on high until soft peaks form.
- Putting it all together. Cut cake into 12 pieces. For each serving, cut cake in half cross-wise. Put bottom of cake on serving plate or bowl. Top with strawberry sauce. Put top of cake on strawberry sauce. Add more strawberry sauce and a spoonful of whipped cream. Garnish with reserved strawberry slices. Refrigerate any extra strawberry sauce or whipped cream and use within 2 or 3 days.
Tips and notes
- I used to whip cream every time I needed it until I found that whipped cream stays fluffy for days if refrigerated.
- The original recipe calls for all-purpose flour. I sometimes use white whole-wheat flour, which produces a slightly denser, slightly darker cake. It's still delicious and has the nutrition of regular whole-wheat flour.
- Use pasture-raised eggs if you have them; this cake will really show them off.
- Hot-milk cake is also good with other juicy fruit or just by itself.
- Strawberry sauce freezes well. Make a double batch and freeze one to enjoy next winter.
- Thanks so much to my mother-in-law, Catherine Watson, for making this most delicious recipe for years and for her permission to share it here.
Plant-powered version: Use 2 tablespoons flaxseed and 6 tablespoons water heated in a microwave on high for about 40 seconds, then stirred until egg-like, regular, unsweetened coconut drink in place of milk, and add an additional 1/8 teaspoon baking powder. When you beat the sugar and flaxseed together, you won't see the amazing transformation that you'd get with sugar and eggs. On the bright side, this means you don't have to fold the dry ingredients in so carefully; simple stirring will do. Use extra strawberries in place of whipped cream. Let the berry juice hide the flaxseed in the cake. I was surprised to see that I didn't miss the whipped cream!