Strawberry lemon shortcake is the ultimate summer dessert. Tender, buttery lemon-poppyseed shortcakes topped with fresh strawberries and homemade whipped cream. Is there anything better? I’ve made some version of this dessert over the years at many of the restaurants I’ve worked in–but today, I’m finally bringing it to you. I don’t know what kept me from sharing this recipe sooner because it’s an absolute winner. It was actually my dad’s favorite dessert growing up and I loved making it for him. I hope you love it as much as I do!
History of Strawberry Shortcake
Strawberry shortcake originated in the U.S. in the 1840s but it’s actually a mash-up of European and American recipes. Technically shortcake is (and has always been), a rich biscuit. True shortcake uses baking powder for leavening and is mixed with shortening (or butter), cream, a little sugar, and flour. While no one is sure exactly when the idea to combine shortcake and strawberries took hold, food historians agree that it’s an American invention. Isn’t history cool?
Ingredients You’ll Need
- Strawberries. Make sure your strawberries are ripe! I love making this dessert in the summer because berries are at their peak flavor. I found these gorgeous rose strawberries, but any will work.
- Flour. Use a nice all-purpose flour for this recipe for tender shortcakes.
- Baking Powder and Soda. Both are needed to help these shortcakes rise and for a tender crumb.
- Butter. Butter is a key ingredient for flavor and texture in our shortcakes! Freeze your butter ahead of time before grating.
- Lemon zest and juice. Lemon zest gives the shortcakes a fresh flavor and lemon juice gives a little acidity balance to the sweet strawberries.
- Sugar. Classic granulated sugar works best here and a bit on top of the shortcakes gives them a nice crust.
- Heavy Cream. While you can use storebought whipped cream, homemade is a million times better. It requires a little elbow grease, but it’s worth the extra effort!
- Poppy seeds. I love the lemon and poppyseed combo! If you’re not a fan, you can omit the poppyseed altogether.
- Buttermilk. Buttermilk is the main liquid ingredient in our shortcakes–I don’t recommend substituting milk or cream because the tangy flavor makes the shortcakes.
How to Make Strawberry Lemon Shortcakes
- Prepare your dry ingredients. In a mixing bowl, whisk together your flour, sugar, salt, baking soda and powder, lemon zest, and poppy seeds.
- Grate your butter. Make sure to freeze your butter for 15-20 minutes before grating.
- Combine your wet ingredients. Combine your buttermilk and vanilla extract and set aside.
- Whisk in your wet ingredients. Using a rubber spatula, stir your grated butter into the wet ingredients. Make a well in the center and pour in the wet ingredients. Gently fold the ingredients together until a shaggy dough forms and then knead it a couple of times in the bowl.
- Shape your shortcakes. Pat the shortcakes into a square about 1 inch thick on a lightly floured surface and square up the edges with a bench scraper. Cut into 4 equal-sized squares and place them on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Freeze for 15 minutes.
- Prepare your strawberries and whipped cream. In a medium bowl, whisk together the cream, powdered sugar, and vanilla until soft form. In a separate bowl, toss the strawberries with sugar, lemon juice, and vanilla bean paste and set aside.
- Bake your shortcakes. Preheat an oven to 400 degrees F. Brush the tops of the shortcakes with heavy cream and sprinkle with extra sugar. Bake for 16 minutes or until cooked through and slightly golden. Cool before slicing.
- Assemble. Slice shortcakes in half and top the bottom half with a large dollop of whipped cream and some of the strawberries with their juices. Top with the other half of the shortcake and serve immediately.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can Strawberry Lemon shortcakes be frozen?
Yes! I actually recommend freezing them before you bake them so they don’t dry out. You can bake them from frozen, just plan to give them an extra 3-5 minutes or so.
Can you use frozen strawberries?
Absolutely! I love to take advantage of summer produce, but this recipe is for all seasons and frozen strawberries come in clutch. Make sure to defrost your strawberries before following the recipe as written.
Can Strawberry lemon Shortcakes be made in advance?
Yes! Don’t assemble until you’re ready to serve. You can make the strawberries and whipped cream 1 day in advance. You can also make the shortcakes the day before, but don’t bake them until the day of. Wrap them in plastic wrap on the baking sheet and refrigerate until you’re ready to bake them.
Is Strawberry lemon shortcake vegan?
This recipe is not vegan because I use heavy cream, butter, and buttermilk. I’d love to hear if anyone makes a vegan version!
Can I double the recipe?
Yes! I find that more than 4 portions in our house for dessert can go uneaten, hence the small-batch nature of this recipe. But it can absolutely be doubled to feed a crowd!
Why use grated butter?
Rather than dicing the butter into cubes and smashing it into the flower, I find that using grated butter gives the shortcakes a better crumb. Plus, it’s much easier on the baker! Just be sure to grate the butter right before you use it and not ahead of time.
Any other questions? Just drop them in the comments below!