Strawberry Shortcakes: Your New Show-Stopping Spring Dessert

June 13, 2014

Every other Friday, Yossy Arefi from Apt. 2B Baking Co. shares dessert projects that demand a little extra time and effort. Because your weekends should always be sweet.

Today: An impressive, four-layer cake to make the most of strawberry season.

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Spring is birthday season at my house, and I am always looking for fresh ways to celebrate. Sure, a chocolate cake with salted caramel frosting is always amazing, but this year I wanted to add something a little fresher to the mix. Enter the strawberry shortcake -- not the kind with biscuit-y shortcakes, which are also totally delicious, but a real-deal layer cake. Something tall, impressive, and worthy of a handful of birthday candles. 

More: You could also stick some candles in this Chocolate Coffee Ice Cream Cake.

This cake is a towering beauty, made from four layers of lemon-scented cake stuffed with a generous amount of strawberries and as much cream as I could manage. And the result is downright luscious. Use the freshest, sweetest berries you can find; I love buying strawberries from the farmers market this time of year because they are bright red and sweet, all the way through to the core.

This recipe makes an impressively tall, four-layer cake, perfect for celebrations. If that seems like too much cake for you, just freeze half of the cake wrapped in two layers of plastic wrap. You can defrost it, slice it in half, and fill it with berries and cream the next time the mood strikes. If you do this, make sure to cut the strawberries and cream in this recipe by half. 

Other occasions that could be appropriately celebrated with a cake this good: Getting a new job, quitting an old job, a baby shower, a wedding shower, a spring dinner party, doing your laundry before you run out of can see where I’m going here.

For the cake:

12 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
4 eggs
3/4 cup sour cream or full-fat yogurt
Zest of one lemon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350° F. Butter and flour two 8-inch cake pans. Sift the flour, cornstarch, baking soda, and salt together into a bowl.

Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes, then add the eggs one at a time, mixing for 30 seconds after each addition. Add the sour cream, zest, and extract.

Gently mix the flour into the butter mixture until it's just combined. Divide the batter between the prepared pans and bake them for 25 to 30 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool the cakes in the pans for 10 minutes, then turn them out onto a rack to cool completely. 

For the filling and assembly:

1 quart strawberries
2 to 4 tablespoons granulated sugar
8 ounces mascarpone cheese, softened
2 cups heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

While the cakes are cooling, hull and slice the strawberries. Sprinkle them with 2 tablespoons sugar, and stir it in gently. Taste the berries and add more sugar if they need more sweetness. Let them macerate for at least 15 minutes. 

Whip the cream to soft peaks, then add in 1 tablespoon of sugar and the vanilla extract. Gently fold in the mascarpone.

To assemble the cake, slice each cake round horizontally to make 2 layers. Place one layer of the cake on a serving plate or pedestal, then cover it with a generous dollop of whipped cream and a third of the strawberries.

More: Get our tips for slicing, and frosting, and conquer all your layer cake fears.

Repeat with the remaining cake layers, making sure to save a big spoonful of cream and a few strawberries to garnish the top. Then enjoy it immediately -- this cake is best served on the day that it's made, whether or not you have something to celebrate.

See the full recipe (and save and print it) here. 

Photos by Yossy Arefi

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Sarah Donegan
    Sarah Donegan
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    Sara S.
  • Allyn
  • Aminah Hasan
    Aminah Hasan
Yossy Arefi is a photographer and stylist with a passion for food. During her stint working in restaurant kitchens, Yossy started the blog Apt. 2B Baking Co. where, with her trusty Pentax film camera, she photographs and writes about seasonal desserts and preserves. She currently lives in Brooklyn but will always love her native city of Seattle. Follow her work at &


Sarah D. June 24, 2015
By replacing a bit of the all-purpose flour with cornstarch, we’re removing some of the gluten and replacing it with a tenderizing element. But cornstarch is so neutral, how is it a cake tender? Well, cornstarch works alongside other cake ingredients (like sugar, for example) to inhibit gluten development. It’s ingredients like sugar and cornstarch that compete with the flour for liquid absorption (think: eggs and buttermilk) in a recipe. If flour gets to gobble up all of the liquid in a recipe and is worked in a mixer (like we work cake batter), it’s gluten development will be off the charts… and you’ll basically have a baguette. Cornstarch (and sugar) makes the flour share liquid, easing the gluten development and creative beautifully tender cake texture.

Regarding the alleged "toxicity" of corn starch: it's not toxic. It's not endowed with nutrients, but it's not poison. Corn starch is indeed present in lots of processed foods, and lots of processed foods are indeed unhealthy. An ingredient's presence in an unhealthy food does not by extension make that ingredient toxic. Eggs are on the ingredients list for Twinkies. Now, I don't think anyone here would suggest that eating cornstarch is like eating eggs (after all you wouldn't eat a plate of scrambled corn starch), but 1/4 cup of cornstarch in an entire cake is not going to give you cancer, gout, IBS, sunburn, headaches, arthritis, the flu, neurodegenerative diseases, obesity, osteoporosis, insulin resistance, diabetes, heart disease or acne.
Treebird June 14, 2014
Why the cornstarch? What does it do? Could I sub the same amount of potato starch? I try to avoid cornstarch.
Aminah H. July 20, 2014
Yes, I agree. I don't know why so me recipes on Food52 have cornstarch as an ingredient when it is so unnecessary and a harmful/toxic ingredient in general.
Sara S. June 13, 2014
Every year for my boyfriend's birthday, I make Swedish Birthday Cake (Jordgubbstårta), which is basically angel food cake with strawberries and whipped cream. I think I might need to try this one this year. Looks amazing.
Allyn June 13, 2014
My mom's side of the family always chooses (and fights over) a cake very similar to this, only with lightly sweetened fresh whipped cream between layers. It's one of the few cakes that I will eat til I'm about to explode. This looks like another entirely dangerous version.