Make Ahead

James Beard's Strawberry Shortcakes

April 24, 2021
17 Ratings
Photo by James Ransom
  • Serves 6
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

What You'll Need
  • 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.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • LagunaGreg
  • student epicure
    student epicure
  • Megan
  • julia boyd
    julia boyd
  • Elizabeth Smith
    Elizabeth Smith
Genius Recipes

Recipe by: Genius Recipes

39 Reviews

LagunaGreg June 14, 2021
My kids said “ By far the best one you’ve ever made!” Ditto on bake time. Didn’t add extra cream but had to wrestle it together since it was crumbly out of the bowl. Still resulted in a super tender crumb.
Samantha December 13, 2020
Didn't need to add an extra 1/4 c. cream like some of the other reviews mentioned. I think the key is fluffing up the flour and then spooning it into the measuring cup. I did however have to cook mine about 15 minutes extra. These have a super tender crumb.
Original recipe calls for a 450 degree oven - probably why people are commenting on the longer baking time
nancy H. May 24, 2020
Amazing! I did add extra cream and baked longer as others suggested. I also added the zest from one lemon and they were so so good.
student E. July 5, 2019
Absolutely delicious! I also had to add extra cream (~1/4 c) and bake longer.
AJ August 9, 2018
I made this recipe for a summer bbq with friends. It came out awesome. The only changes I made was using a fork to mash the yolks and baking for 7 minutes longer. This is now a classic for me.
Carol December 21, 2017
Hi,this sounds really great.I was wondering if I could use the fine plate of my potato ricer instead of a sieve? The RSVP brand of ricer has two plates one is very fine.It is easy to wash and also dishwasher.Seems easier than a gooey sieve ,if you have it.My daughter saw this on American Test Kitchen and bought it for me.Thanks
Kristen M. December 21, 2017
I haven't tried this, but it sounds like it would work well! Thanks for sharing the idea.
Megan May 21, 2017
Well.. I made these tonight and realized after they had been baking about 10 minutes that I had forgotten the baking powder!! They took much longer to get golden and did not rise of course, but they were still insanely good! Like a very large soft-baked shortbread cookie. I made them to go with this rhubarb compote ( and served with vanilla ice cream. So good. These will be my go-to recipe for sweet biscuits. Much better than any I've tried before.
julia B. July 8, 2016
These are incomparable !! The lightest most tender shortcakes in the world....the crisp delicate crust and ethereal crumb will have guests swooning and make this your favorite biscuit recipe ever. I like them best a little smaller...they rise better and bake more thoroughly when I use a 1 3/4 to 2 inch cutter. Serve 2 if necessary. Make sure to get them quite golden...if they're too pale, you'll miss the contrasting textures. I wrap mine individually in foil to reheat - opening the foil toward the last couple of minutes to crisp the exterior. As good as the first round....Superb recipe.
celiabarbour June 6, 2016
SOOO good, we hardly needed the strawberries and cream. Thank you!
Elizabeth S. August 8, 2015
There was a baking powder aftertaste when I tried one of these.
Pam July 4, 2014
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?
Barb168 May 12, 2014
What are the cooked egg yolks' function in this recipe? Flavor? Texture?
witloof May 6, 2015
Texture. Hard boiled egg yolk in pastry is a common ingredient in the baking traditions of Austria.
Caetie May 5, 2014
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!
lynn S. April 16, 2014
Can you refrigerate the dough up to a day ahead before baking it?
Kristen M. April 17, 2014
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.
Moni February 2, 2014
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?
Chef C. June 17, 2013
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.
Paulaob June 16, 2013
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.
Chef C. May 27, 2013
I'm trying this one today for Memorial Day with my in-laws, the secret ingredient is intriguing, wonder how it'll taste?
OrchidGirl May 15, 2013
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.