Friday, 22 July 2011

Summer berries & cream shortcake

I made this cake a week or so ago, on a damp and dreary so-called summers morning aftersports day had just been cancelled for the second time because of the famous Bristol drizzle. I made this to cheer up a disappointed 6 year old for whom performing at sports day in front of his dad was to be the highlight of his term. 
It seems laughable now but I had to arrange the raspberries on one side of the cake, and the strawberries on the other as he likes the latter only in jam form. Once asked ‘why don’t you like strawberries, you really like strawberry jam’ - he replied, ‘well they don’t have any jam in them’.  Ah, the joys of feeding children. If you don’t have kids you can not begin to understand how frustrating they can be…..

Summer berries & cream shortcake
This gorgeous, indulgent summery cake is based on the American-style shortcake, a sort of hybrid between a scone and biscuit, rather than the crisper Scottish shortbread. I love them both but to my mind this one is marginally easier to eat when sandwiched around a pile of berries and softly whipped cream. You could easily adapt this recipe to make individual shortcakes but I wonder if that would be missing the point slightly - the glory of this cake is ‘wow’ when you present the towering confection to your loved ones. 

275g plain flour
25g polenta 
75g caster sugar
1tbsp baking powder
a pinch of salt
125g unsalted butter, cold & cut into 1cm dice
150ml full fat creme fraiche 
1 large egg
for the filling:
200g raspberries
200g strawberries
2tsbp caster sugar
250ml double cream
1tbsp icing sugar, plus a little extra to dust
1tsp vanilla extract 

In a food processor pulse the dry ingredients until they are thoroughly mixed. Then add the cold cubes of butter and whizz to a breadcrumb texture. Take care not to over process or the result will be a tough not tender shortcake. You could, in theory, do this by hand - rubbing gently between fingers and thumbs as if making pastry the old fashioned way. But as its important not to get the butter too warm I find it more reliable to quickly use a food processor. 
In a jug, measure the creme fraiche, beat in the egg and then pour into the processor and pulse until just combined to a dough. Don’t overdo the mixing, less is definitely more in this case.
Turn dough on floured worktop, cut in half roll each half lightly into a ball. Using flat of palm press and turn gently until you a have a disc about 1cm thick and the size of a victoria sandwich sponge tin - about 23-25cm. Keep roughly the same size but don’t worry too much about perfection, this is delicious home cooking not the pasty section of a fancy restaurant. 
Carefully lift and slide each circle onto baking trays lined with parchment and bake 180°C for around 10-12 mins until risen and golden brown. Whilst still warm cut one disc into quarters, then each quarter into 2 leaving you with 8 wedges. Set aside to cool completely on a wire rack whilst you prepare the filling.
Mix the raspberries, strawberries and caster sugar in a large bowl and set aside for a few minutes. In another large bowl whip the cream with the icing sugar and vanilla extract - you are looking for soft delicately whipped peaks not stiff solid cream. 
Once the shortcakes are cold, place the complete disc on a pretty plate. Pile the cream on top and spread out with the back of knife. Top with the fruit and arrange the wedges of shortcake around in a fan, sprinkling all over with a little extra icing sugar. I found it easier to use only 7 of my 8 wedges, that number seeming to fit better over the filling. Leaving the extra wedge as a little chef’s perk with a cup of coffee…..
This cake is best eaten the day you made it - it will lose a certain something if it sees the inside of a fridge. But if you do need to chill it, make sure to bring it to room temperature before serving. Or failing that a mere few seconds per slice in the microwave can have a miraculous reviving effect. 


  1. Looks gorgeous! Just need the weather now....:-)

  2. Thanks Paula. The sun was out briefly just now, but it seems to have gone in again. You would not believe the pile of washing in our house.....