Your summer dessert game just got a whole lot better

By Stacey Ballis
July 16, 2020
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My whole life I have known only two kinds of strawberry shortcake.

One is the kind that is literally cake-based: a pound cake, angel food cake, or even those little sponge rounds with the divots that you buy at the store. The other is based on a sweet biscuit or scone-like base that gets split and filled with macerated strawberries. (When it comes to topping, I fall in the whipped cream camp usually but have been known to go vanilla ice cream on occasion, and my childhood version often involved Cool Whip.)

So, when my husband said, early this strawberry season, that he would like strawberry shortcake and I asked if he wanted cake-based or biscuit-based and he said neither, I was confused. He then explained that the strawberry shortcake of his upbringing was made with pie crust pastry, rolled into a single large piece, docked (poking holes to let steam escape) and baked flat on a sheet pan, then broken into wide shards to be layered with the strawberries. His granddad called it Shortberry Strawcake. I assumed his mother, not exactly a passionate cook, had just invented her own personal dessert shortcut. (I even did a little late-night Googling to assure myself I hadn’t missed a regional phenomenon.)

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Then some friends were over having a socially distanced visit on the porch, and we asked what they think of as strawberry shortcake. Our friend Paul, originally from Indiana, and a chef of renown, said sponge cake or biscuits, and I nodded smugly. Then our pal Mark from Southern Illinois said either the little sponge cakes or biscuits, or… wait for it… PIE CRUST.

My husband would have kissed him, except, you know, pandemic. But what we did do is make a batch of Shortberry Strawcake, and it’s now my favorite new summer dessert. 

How to Make Strawberry Shortcake With Pie Crust

(First, I deputize all of you to call it Shortberry Strawcake!)

1. Pick up a quart of fresh strawberries.

2. Roll out a store-bought pie crust onto a sheet pan, poke with a fork, and bake in a 400-degree oven for 10 minutes until golden brown and crispy.

3.  Cool completely on a rack—about 15 minutes.

4. While the crust is cooling, trim and toss the berries with 2 tablespoons of vanilla sugar and a small pinch of salt. Let sit for 30 minutes until they are slightly slumped and juicy.

5. To serve, break off or cut serving-size pieces of crust (the less perfect, the better), and layer with the strawberry mixture like a little tower. Top with whipped cream.

Variations on Shortberry Strawcake

You can make your own Shortberry Strawcake as fancy or not as you see fit. Here are some options:

  • Use premade store crust or make your own.
  • Pull berries from your backyard, pick them up from a local farmer or farm stand, or even lean on frozen ones once the season has passed.
  • Play with different sugars: Beyond vanilla sugar, try cinnamon, lemon, or just plain old granulated.
  • Once strawberry season is over, try raspberries, blackberries, or even peaches in season.
  • Toppers are up to you: Homemade whipped cream, spray aerosol cream, or even that childhood favorite Cool Whip. Or go ice cream if you want.

Here’s the bottom line: Whether you believe in your heart it is a shortcake, or just a super fresh and simple deconstructed pie, I guarantee you it is delicious. Pass the plate!