James Beard's Strawberry Shortcakes

By • May 25, 2012 28 Comments

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Author Notes: In his twenty-plus cookbooks, James Beard never published his mother's shortcake recipe, which relies on a clever secret ingredient: hard boiled egg yolks. Lucky for us, he saw fit to share it with his friend Larry Forgione one night as the two were relaxing and talking food at Beard's townhouse. As Forgione tells it, Beard believed "there can be no dessert better, only fancier." Taste his version and you're likely to feel the same. From The James Beard Foundation, adapted from An American Place by Larry Forgione (Morrow, 1996)Genius Recipes

Serves 6

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled, cut into small cubes
  • 2 hard-boiled egg yolks, pushed through a small mesh sieve
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream, chilled
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 3 pints fresh strawberries, washed, hulled, and halved or quartered, depending on size
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  1. Sift together the flour, 1/4 cup of the sugar, and the baking powder into a bowl. Add 6 tablespoons of the chilled butter pieces and, using your fingertips, work the butter into the flour mix until it has the consistency of coarse crumbs. Add the sieved hard-boiled egg yolks and the cream; gently mix until it the dough just comes together.
  2. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured board and gently knead to make a smooth dough (about two or three turns). Pat down the dough to make a 1-inch-thick round. Using a lightly floured 2 1/2-inch-round cookie cutter, cut out 6 shortcakes. Brush the tops with the melted butter and sprinkle with the reserved tablespoon of sugar. Place the shortcakes on a plate lined with waxed paper or plastic wrap and refrigerate for an hour.
  3. Heat the oven to 350ºF. Transfer the chilled shortcakes to a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake on the center rack of the oven for 12 to 15 minutes, until golden and firm to the touch. Remove from the oven and let cool slightly.
  4. While the shortcakes cool, prepare the fruit filling and whipped cream: place the strawberries in a glass bowl and add the sugar. Gently stir and let sit for 1 to 2 minutes.
  5. Whip the cream and sugar together in a medium bowl until the cream just begins to thicken.
  6. Using a fork or serrated knife, cut the shortcakes in half lengthwise. Place the bottom halves on 6 plates and generously spoon the macerated fruit and juices over them. Top with a heaping dollop of lightly whipped sweetened cream. Top with the top halves of the shortcakes.

More Great Recipes: Fruit|Desserts

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Comments (28) Questions (4)


27 days ago Elizabeth Smith

There was a baking powder aftertaste when I tried one of these.


about 1 year ago Pam

Made these twice to many accolades. Both times it took almost 25 minutes to get them to the golden stage. Did anyone else find that?


over 1 year ago Barb168

What are the cooked egg yolks' function in this recipe? Flavor? Texture?


4 months ago witloof

Texture. Hard boiled egg yolk in pastry is a common ingredient in the baking traditions of Austria.


over 1 year ago Caetie

These are amazing. Some of the best textured biscuits I've ever had, definitely the best I've ever made. Added some thyme to the dough and doubled it to serve 16 medium sized portions, but otherwise made as is. Made the dough about 4 hours ahead of time and chilled until baking, they also reheat nicely in the toaster the day after as well!


over 1 year ago lynn sobel

Can you refrigerate the dough up to a day ahead before baking it?


over 1 year ago Kristen Miglore

Kristen is the Executive Editor of Food52

I haven't done it myself, but I think that would be just fine -- there's no issue with the leavener, and it may even make them more tender.


over 1 year ago Moni

Since the directions did not say whether to use 3/4 cup or 1 cup cream, I assumed it was 3/4 cup but my dough was way too dry. So I added more cream...1 cup total. I don't live in a dry arid climate so I assuming the direction really calls for 1 cup?


about 2 years ago Chef Carlos

I agree with OrchidGirl and added more cream because the dough was too dry, more like a cup of cream or so, mine were perfect - and I froze the leftovers and they're great next time around.


about 2 years ago Paulaob

I made these today. While I really liked them, I have a few questions. My dough was so dry, it barely held together. I think I overworked the dough trying to get it to come together. The shortcakes really didn't rise, rather spreading more than I expected. I have made many biscuits and never had these problem. The taste of the finished product was good. I just wished they had risen more.


over 2 years ago Chef Carlos

I'm trying this one today for Memorial Day with my in-laws, the secret ingredient is intriguing, wonder how it'll taste?


over 2 years ago OrchidGirl

These were tender and delicious. I had to add a bit more than the 3/4 cup of cream the recipe calls for to get the dough to bind together, however I live in a dry climate at altitude and recipes sometimes need adjustment.


over 2 years ago live4sun23

I didn't have heavy cream on hand so I used some full coconut milk instead and the shortcakes came out great!


about 3 years ago Carole Magness

I added a large pinch of salt to this shortcake dough; it didn't seem right that it hasn't any...


about 3 years ago Diapotpie

I agree! This is the best shortcake recipe I've ever made. My guests tonight were all raves. Thank you!


about 3 years ago SparkleDiana

The dough was so easy to work with, and the results are delish. We are having the leftovers for breakfast!


about 3 years ago em-i-lis

Emily is a trusted source on General Cooking.

This was totally great and received rave reviews! I sprinkled cinnamon on top too and included blueberries yesterday for a red, white and blue aesthetic! Marvelous!


about 3 years ago Anthony Back

This is my new go-to shortcake! Definitely merits genius status...especially for the summer.


about 3 years ago Anthony Back

This is my new go-to shortcake! Definitely merits genius status...especially for the summer.


about 3 years ago kins

Made this tonight with fresh strawberries from the Farmer's Market. I will never make another shortcake recipe again. So light on the inside and a little crispy on the exterior. Heaven.


about 3 years ago MrsBeeton

This is hands-down the tenderest, most delicious biscuit I have ever made. And I've made lots of 'em. This recipe gets five stars. Outstanding!!


over 3 years ago ShyLemons

i made these over the weekend and they were fantastic. i've never had a dough come together so easily, and they baked up beautifully. i can't wait to try this technique for savory biscuits!