Erin McDowell's Strawberry Not-So-Short Cake

May 22, 2018
Photo by Julia Gartland
Author Notes

This is the grandest and most eye-popping way to make strawberry shortcake for a crowd, and you’re not really baking a cake at all—you’re making three giant drop biscuits and piling on whipped cream and strawberries in imprecise amounts. It’s altogether a lot more like building a Jenga tower than baking anything in the pastry case.
Adapted slightly from The Fearless Baker (Rux Martin/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2017). To read the full story, head here. —Genius Recipes

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Erin McDowell's Strawberry Not-So-Short Cake
  • Prep time 30 minutes
  • Cook time 30 minutes
  • Makes 1 very tall 9-inch shortcake
  • Biscuit Layers:
  • 5 cups (602g) all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup (159g) packed light brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons (24g) baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon (6g) baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon (3g) fine sea salt
  • 1 pound (453g) cold, unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 1/4 cups (302g) buttermilk
  • 2 large eggs (113g, out of the shell)
  • 1 large egg yolk (27g)
  • 2 teaspoons (10g) vanilla extract
  • Turbinado or coarse sugar, for sprinkling (optional)
  • Strawberries & Cheater’s Whipped Cream:
  • 2 quarts (454g) ripe strawberries, hulled and sliced
  • 2 tablespoons (25g) granulated sugar, or more as needed
  • 2 teaspoons (4g) grated lemon zest
  • 1 tablespoon (15g) freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 8 ounces (227g) cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 2/3 cup (76g) powdered sugar
  • 2 1/4 cups (544g) heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon (5g) vanilla extract
In This Recipe
  1. Heat the oven to 350° F (175° C) with a rack in the middle. Grease three 9-inch round cake pans (if you don’t have 3 cake pans, never fear! See note below in step 9.)
  2. Make the biscuit layers: (Note: If your food processor is smaller than 14-cups in volume, it may be easiest to do this in 2 batches.) In the bowl of a food processor, pulse together the flour, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add the butter and pulse until the bits of butter are about the size of peas. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl.
  3. In a container with a spout (such as a liquid measure) or in a medium bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, eggs, egg yolk, and vanilla. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and pour in the buttermilk mixture. Use a rubber spatula or your hands to mix enough to begin moistening the flour mixture, then knead gently just until the mixture forms a homogeneous dough. Take care not to overwork the dough.
  4. Divide the dough evenly among the prepared pans (about 525g per pan). Press into an even layer—if the dough is sticky and hard to handle, lightly moisten your hands with water. Sprinkle each layer evenly with about a tablespoon of turbinado sugar. If the dough has warmed up by this point and is getting sticky or melty, pop it back in the fridge until it’s firm and cold, about 20 minutes or so.
  5. Bake until the biscuits are golden brown on the surface and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 28 to 32 minutes, rotating the pans midway if they look like they’re baking unevenly. Cool the biscuits in the pans for 20 minutes, then turn out onto wire racks to cool completely.
  6. Prepare the strawberries: In a large bowl, gently toss together the strawberries, granulated sugar, lemon zest, and lemon juice. Let macerate at room temperature for at least 30 minutes and up to 1 hour, stirring occasionally.
  7. Meanwhile, make the whipped cream: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment (or a large bowl, using a hand mixer), whip the cream cheese and powdered sugar until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. With the mixer running on low speed, add the cream in a slow, steady stream, then whip on medium speed until medium peaks form. Add the vanilla and mix on low speed to combine.
  8. Assemble the cake: Place one biscuit layer on a cake stand or platter. Top it with 1 1/2 cups of the whipped cream, spreading it evenly, followed by one third of the strawberries. Repeat with the remaining biscuit layers, cream, and strawberries. Drizzle the juices from the strawberry bowl over the finished cake, or drizzle a little on each wedge when serving.
  9. Pro tip: If you don’t have three cake pans, just divide your dough into 3 pieces and press into roughly 9-inch disks. Chill the dough until firm to minimize spreading, about 15 minutes in the freezer or 20 to 30 in the refrigerator. The dough can be refrigerated until you’re ready to bake (up to 6 hours), so you can bake the layers in batches if needed.
  10. Make-ahead notes: The components of this recipe can all be made ahead and stored for up to 1 day (though the biscuits are most delicious on the day they’re baked)—biscuits wrapped tightly in plastic wrap, at room temperature, and the strawberries and cream refrigerated in separate airtight containers. Once assembled, the cake should be kept refrigerated and served within 1 day.

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