I would contend that strawberry shortcake is not only the best summer dessert, but also the best dessert for a summer party. Why? Well, beyond the obvious — juicy ripe berries, cool whipped cream, and tender biscuits are basically a love note in the form of dessert, complete with hearts dotting every "i" — all the components can be made well ahead of party time, and even packed up to go.
Here is a step-by-step recipe for simply the best strawberry shortcake you (and your guests) will eat all summer long.
Make-Ahead Shortcake Biscuits
My favorite biscuits for strawberry shortcake are these cloud-like cream biscuits with a little extra sugar added. Unfortunately, these biscuits are best eaten right away and don't keep very well. To remedy the situation, I've added some extra butter, which helps keep the biscuits tender for longer. Also, I just love butter.
You can make these biscuits early in the day, let them chill out on the counter all afternoon, and then serve them for dessert later that night. Or you can make them a day ahead and store them in an airtight container. Serve them as is, or warm them briefly in the oven for that fresh-baked charm.
The strawberries for any strawberry shortcake are actually best if left for an hour or more to macerate with some sugar and become syrupy. They can also be refrigerated overnight and used to make shortcakes the next day.
Make-Ahead Whipped Cream
For the longest time, I believed that whipped cream had to be whipped and consumed pretty much immediately. Not so! Even plain whipped cream holds well in the fridge for an hour or two. I give it a little extra insurance — and, by pure coincidence, an angelic sweetness — by whipping in some powdered sugar. The cornstarch in the powdered sugar helps stabilize the whipped cream.
At The Kitchn, we've also found that using an immersion blender to whip cream makes the most stable whipped cream. That's what I recommend using here, but your whipped cream should still stay silky and light for several hours even if you use a hand blender or stand mixer.
When party time rolls around, it's shortcake o'clock. If you're throwing a fancy dinner party, you can assemble and serve the strawberry shortcakes on individual plates and carry them to the table (so fancy!). If you're going to a backyard party, where it's more of a potluck affair, you can assemble the shortcakes on a baking sheet or serving platter at the party, or you could just set the berries, whipped cream, and biscuits out by themselves and let everyone make their own. Any way you do it, this is a win-win scenario.
By the way, this recipe looks long and intense only because I'm walking you through each individual step, from cutting the butter for the biscuits to placing the tops on your lovely shortcake sandwiches. In reality, making each piece and assembling the shortcakes goes quite quickly.
How To Make Strawberry Shortcake for a Party
What You Need
For the shortcake biscuits:
16 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold
4 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups heavy cream
For the strawberries:
4 pints strawberries
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons lemon juice (from 1 lemon)
For the whipped cream:
3 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
Baking mat or parchment paper
11-cup (or larger) food processor
Bench scraper, or knife
Biscuit cutter, if making round biscuits
High-sided bowl or pan, for making the whipped cream
Immersion blender, or hand mixer
Make the Shortcake Biscuits
→ If your food processor is too small to fit all the biscuit ingredients at once, work in two batches, finishing one whole batch of biscuits and then making the second batch while the first is in the oven. You can also use the food processor to cut the butter into the flour, then transfer to a large mixing bowl to add the cream. Alternatively, mix the biscuits entirely by hand in a bowl using a pastry cutter or fork.
- Preheat the oven to 425°F. Place a rack in the middle position. Line a baking sheet with a baking mat or parchment paper.
- Cut the butter into small pieces: After cutting, place in the freezer for 10 minutes.
- Mix the dry ingredients: Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse a few times to mix the ingredients.
- Cut the butter into the dry ingredients: Add the chilled butter pieces to the food processor and stir with a spatula to mix the butter into the flour. Pulse 10 to 12 times, until the butter has been cut into pieces no larger than a pea.
- Add the heavy cream: Pour 1 cup of the heavy cream over the flour-butter mixture and pulse 1 to 2 times to incorporate. Pour the second cup of cream over the mixture and pulse 4 to 5 times, until the cream has been incorporated and the biscuit dough looks shaggy and lumpy.
- Shape the biscuit dough: Turn the biscuit dough out onto a lightly floured surface, and pat it into a rectangle with floured hands. Cut the dough into three sections with a bench scraper or knife, and pile the sections on top of each other. Then press and pat it down again to a rectangle roughly 3/4-inch thick.
- Cut out the biscuits: Use a circular biscuit cutter to cut out 12 to 16 biscuits, pressing the scraps together if you like. Alternatively, use a bench scraper or knife to cut the dough into 12 to 16 square biscuits. In either case, cut straight down, then lift the biscuit cutter or knife straight up; don't twist or saw the dough. Dip the biscuit cutter or knife in flour to prevent sticking if necessary.
- Brush the biscuits with cream or butter. This gives them a golden crust.
- Bake the biscuits for 12 to 15 minutes. Transfer the biscuits to the prepared baking sheet. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, until puffed and lightly golden on top. For a more deeply golden top crust, run them under the broiler for a few minutes — keep a close eye on them, though! They can darken and burn very quickly.
- Serve or store the biscuits: Biscuits can be served warm or room temperature. Alternatively, cool the biscuits completely, then store them in an airtight container for up to 24 hours. Biscuits can also be pre-cut into the tops and bottoms, and each stored separately — this makes the final assembly go a bit quicker.
Make the strawberries
- Cut the strawberries: Wash the strawberries and pat dry. Remove the stems, then slice or chop them into small pieces.
- Combine with sugar and lemon juice: Pour the sugar and lemon juice over the strawberries. Stir to combine.
- Macerate for at least 1 hour: Macerate the strawberries for at least an hour, until very syrupy. You can also refrigerate the strawberries for up to 24 hours before serving.
Make the whipped cream
→ If you don't have an immersion blender, whisk the whipped cream with a hand mixer or stand mixer with a whisk attachment.
- Pour the cream into a high-sided bowl or pan.
- Blend with an immersion blender until slightly thickened: Move the blender up and down as you blend, and be sure to get the corners.
- Add the powdered sugar and vanilla: When the whipped cream has thickened, but isn't yet stiff, add the powdered sugar and vanilla.
- Blend until the cream holds stiff peaks: Stop if you see any hint of graininess. The whipped cream should look thick and glossy, and it will hold its shape when you lift the blender.
- Use or store the whipped cream: Use the whipped cream right away or keep it refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 4 hours. If keeping the whipped cream longer than 4 hours, you may want to briefly re-whisk before serving.
Assemble the Strawberry Shortcakes
→ Assemble the shortcakes on individual serving plates, on a large serving platter or baking sheet so guests can help themselves, or set up a make-your-own station for guests to assemble their own desserts.
- Cut the shortcake biscuits in half. Use a serrated knife and cut gently —the biscuits are very tender and easy to break. Set aside the top crusts.
- Spoon strawberries and syrup over the bottom crust: Be generous and don't skimp on the syrup!
- Add a big dollop of whipped cream: Again, generosity wins you friends.
- Finish with the top crust: Settle the top crust over the whipped cream and press gently to sandwich the layers together.
- Serve immediately or within an hour: The shortcakes will keep well for about an hour. The bottom crust will absorb more strawberry liquid the longer the shortcakes sit, which is delicious at first, but will eventually make the shortcakes soggy. This said, leftover strawberry shortcake is the breakfast of champions.
- Doubling This Recipe: Going to an even bigger party? Sure, just double this whole recipe! For the biscuits, prepare and bake two complete batches — don't try to mix all the dough at once or you'll just stress yourself out.