We love strawberry shortcake in my house. We’re also not particularly snobby about it. Gourmet concoctions? We’ll take ’em! Those funny packaged sponge cakes from the grocery store? We’ll take those, too!
However, if I’m going to go to the effort of making something from scratch, I’ll try to find the best recipe. We knew from previous adventures that we prefer a sponge cake to a more biscuit-y shortcake, so the quest was to find the best sponge-y cake recipe.
In this case, that meant loads of split-testing (which was such a sufferfest for my family ;)), and eventually that I was consulting three recipes for our preferred dessert. One was for the strawberries, and the other two are for the cake, because we found we liked the flavor of one and the texture of another.
Fortunately, the recipes are pretty similar, so it wasn’t difficult to mash them up into one recipe that use the first one’s ingredients and amounts, and the technique of the second one. It does mean separating eggs and beating egg whites, something I think the first recipe tried to skip because it’s kind of a hassle, but in this case it’s worth it for a much-improved texture.
Interestingly, we preferred the version with less butter (I’m pretty sure I’ve never said that before in my life). I think the fat muted the other flavors too much, and we apparently only care about the sugar. 😉
A quick aside on strawberries: I am a berry snob, but in this case the solution is easy. Even sub-par berries are pretty darned delicious if you slice them up, add just a smidgen of sugar (like 1 tablespoon for a pint of strawberries), and let them sit while you make the cake. The balsamic vinegar in this recipe takes it up a notch. They can also sit for days in the fridge, marinating in their own slightly sweetened juices, if you want to batch it.
I’ve been merging-on-the-fly but with this the requested treat for Father’s Day, I decided it was time to get the merged recipe written down and stop risking disaster by flipping between them (I don’t have the longest attention span, and I’ve been known to lose track…).
Sponge Shortcake (for Strawberry Shortcakes)
- 128 grams flour all-purpose
- 1 teaspoon baking power
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 2 eggs separated
- 1 pinch cream of tartar
- 300 grams sugar divided
- 118 grams milk
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter softened
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
With the rack in the middle position, preheat oven to 350° F (180° C). Grease an 8-inch (20-cm) square baking pan. Set aside.
In a bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
In another bowl, beat the egg whites and cream of tartar with an electric mixer until soft peaks form. Gradually add 100 grams (1/2 cup) of the sugar, beating until stiff peaks form. Set aside.
In a third bowl, beat the remaining sugar, the butter, egg yolks, and vanilla with an electric mixer. At low speed, add the dry ingredients alternately with the milk.
Stir a quarter of the egg whites into the batter to lighten it. With a spatula, gently fold in the remaining egg whites. Pour into the prepared pan.
Bake for about 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Unmould immediately and let completely cool on a wire rack.
To serve, cut into 9 squares and then slice each in half horizontally to make two thin squares. Create a stack of cake, strawberries, whipped cream, cake, strawberries, whipped cream.