Strawberry shortcake, deconstructed

Blog strawberry shortcake photoSharon Jessup Joyce

It’s strawberry season, so we’re eating as many of those juicy heart-shaped berries as we can right now. We’re roasting strawberries to add to muffins and ice cream, stirring them into yogurt, slicing them into green salads, pureeing the soft ones for smoothies and daiquiris, and enjoying them whole on fruit plates. And of course we’re eating them in that iconic dessert, strawberry shortcake.

Today I wanted to take a treat to our kind friends at Princess Animal Hospital. Mina, Seth and Spenser have been their patients for over a decade, and we’ve often wished the health care our human family members got was as loving, skilled and timely as that given to our four-legged family members. Since it’s the last week in June, I really wanted to bring them strawberry shortcake, using the juicy berries I had on hand. But while it’s usually a crowd-pleaser, this dish didn’t seem to be a treat that would be easy to enjoy during a workday in a veterinary hospital. So I decided to deconstruct strawberry shortcake, and let our friends assemble their own dessert. Another advantage to the deconstructed presentation is that people can choose to eat one, two or all three components of the dish.

Usually I make strawberry shortcake with only slightly-sweeted biscuits, unsweetened cream, and sliced or halved sugared berries. But the berries are so perfect right now that I wanted to keep them whole or halved. I also thought that would work better for anyone who wanted to eat only berries or needed to enjoy their treat later on. So I increased the sugar in the biscuits, and added a bit of sugar and a generous dollop of vanilla paste to the cream, leaving the berries just as nature made them.


This recipe is adapted from the Five Roses Cookbook — as I’ve mentioned before, it was my grandmother’s favourite cookbook, and is great for classic baked goods. The original recipe calls for shortening and regular milk, but you can’t beat the flavour of biscuits made with butter and buttermilk.  The recipe also calls for all-purpose flour only, but I find a mixture of all-purpose and cake flour gives the biscuits a silky texture. When I am using sugared berries, I reduce the sugar in the recipe to 2 tablespoons.

Blog strawberry shortcake deconstructed


  • 3 cups flour (2 cups all purpose and 1 cup cake flour)
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • Pinch salt
  • 6 tablespoons cold butter
  • 1-1/5 cups buttermilk


Delicious biscuits are about great ingredients, careful handling and not overbaking.

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F or 400 degrees F convect.
  2. Line a baking sheet with parchment.
  3. Blend all dry ingredients thoroughly in a large bowl.
  4. Cut butter into 6 pieces and drop into dry ingredients; using a pastry blender, cut butter into dry ingredients until butter pieces are about the size of small peas.
  5. Pour buttermilk all at once over dry ingredients and butter mixture.
  6. Stir gently until milk and dry ingredients are blended. Don’t overmix! Dough will be very moist and shaggy.
  7. Turn dough onto lightly floured board and rub your hands with a bit of flour.
  8. Gently flatten dough with hands to form a rectangle about 1-1/2 inches thick.
  9. Using a sharp knife, slice biscuits into squares OR use a round biscuit cutter.
  10. Place biscuits on baking sheet, approximately 2 inches apart. This recipe makes 12 large or 18-20 small biscuits.
  11. Bake biscuits for 12 minutes (small size) to 16 minutes (larger size). Cooked biscuits should be slightly golden, never brown.
  12. Sprinkle tops of warm biscuits with a little sugar (optional).
  13. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Vanilla whipped cream

For each cup of whipping cream, add 2 teaspoons sugar and 1 teaspoon real vanilla paste or extract. Add sugar and vanilla once cream is almost whipped. If you’re transporting the cream to another location, as I was, make sure the cream is beaten until peaks are quite stiff.

The treat was received with kind enthusiasm by our friends at the best veterinary hospital there is. Even Princess, the hospital’s CEO, seemed intrigued when I set the plates of food down. Here she is, looking at me through a window. Perhaps she’s daydreaming about whipped cream?Princess looking out low window at PAH


Sharon divides her time between Kingston, Ontario and St. Margaret’s Bay, Nova Scotia, and enjoys cooking, eating and sharing food with friends.
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After a good dinner, one can forgive anybody, even one’s own relations.”

– Oscar Wilde, A Woman of No Importance


3 thoughts on “Strawberry shortcake, deconstructed

  1. Yum! Biscuits and strawberries…well any fruit really!…are one of my favourite desserts. I can make great savory biscuits, but my sweet ones always come out tough. Does the sugar change the dough at all? Or do I happen to just always be over-mixing the sweet ones?

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