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It’s easy, it’s beautiful, and it sure is tasty.

By Darcy Lenz
March 26, 2021
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BIUAN Strawberry Skillet Shortcake Header
Credit: Darcy Lenz

By the time spring rolls around, nothing hits the spot quite like a strawberry shortcake. Built with a tender, buttery biscuit, it's not overly sweet and highlights juicy, fresh berries in their purest form: uncooked and nestled into floofy whipped cream. Traditionally, strawberry shortcakes are served as personally portioned desserts — a lightly sweetened buttermilk biscuit, split and stacked with piles of macerated peak-season strawberries and freshly whipped cream. Heavenly, right?

What's less heavenly is coating one of your kitchen counters in flour, rolling and cutting individual biscuits, and then cleaning up the doughy, floury counter mess (along with the portion that will inevitably make its way to the floor) before assembling the individual berry stacks. For me, that's a bit much when all I want to do is get out onto the sunny back porch with a book as soon as possible. 

That's why I decided to make a large-format strawberry shortcake that provided all of the same satisfaction, while bypassing any fuss or major mess. And I'd be lying if I said I wasn't incredibly pleased with how easy, and delightful, this Skillet Strawberry Shortcake ultimately turned out. 

In the realm of sweets, miniature and single-serve treats tend to have a reputation for being more approachable (for reasons beyond my understanding). But let's take a closer look at this simple, three-element spring centerpiece dessert. I think you'll find yourself quickly falling into fandom for the scoop-and-serve strawberry shortcake. 

Skillet Strawberry Shortcake
Credit: Darcy Lenz

The Buttermilk Skillet Biscuit

Warning: I'm going to obnoxiously rave about this element a bit. Obviously, strawberries are the star of the show, but we wouldn't even have a show without this fluffy, buttery foundation. And honestly, this giant skillet biscuit-cake hybrid might just be my favorite thing to come out of this particular recipe development journey. (Its highly customizable nature grants it the potential to star at many brunches to come.) 

The ingredient list and method for making this biscuit base looks almost like any other standard buttermilk biscuit recipe. However, the sugar (½ cup), vanilla extract (1 teaspoon), and egg yolk set this biscuit apart. Not only does the notable amount of sugar sweeten the biscuit, it provides another source of moisture in the dough. This, along with the egg yolk, is what softens the crumb of this shortcake to make it the delightful cake-like biscuit amalgamation that it is. 

Now, because this is the most involved element of the recipe, let's take note of a just few other key details: 

Keep Your Ingredients Cold: I can't push this enough. Before I do anything else, even preheat the oven, I go ahead and cube my butter and return it to the fridge so that it can be as chill as possible when its time comes. As for the buttermilk, don't take it out of the fridge until you're ready to use it.

Measuring Cup Mixing: The best way to distribute the vanilla extract and egg yolk throughout your dough is to whisk both into the buttermilk. I like to do this right in the glass measuring cup I use to measure the buttermilk. This saves a couple of unnecessary dirty dishes and makes the mixture easy to pour. 

Build a Well: Creating a well in the center of your bowl containing buttery flour mixture, versus just pouring your buttermilk mixture over the top, may seem unnecessary. However, collecting the liquid in the center of the dry ingredients, and stirring the dry mixture in by folding it over the liquid ultimately reduces the amount of stirring you'll need to do to incorporate the two mixtures. And the less you have to strong arm your biscuit dough, the better. Minimal stirring means a more tender final product. 

The Berries

Glorious, sweet strawberries — they're what we're all here for, right? Going with the ripest, juiciest berries you can find is ideal. If you can buy them from a local farm, even better! Because these berries are going to taste great on their own, we really don't need to do very much to them, beyond helping them release some of their juices.

Slicing strawberries, tossing them with a couple of spoons of white sugar (I also like to add a bit of lemon zest for zing), and allowing them to sit is a process known as maceration. Macerating fruit encourages a release of some of its natural juices, which combine with the sugar to create a wonderful, fruit-forward syrup to coat the fruit in. This syrup is ideal for soaking into a buttery shortcake. 

In addition to the fresh, macerated berries on top, I also press a few strawberries into the surface of the shortcake prior to baking in order to provide another layer of roasted strawberry flavor — but this step is entirely optional.

The Cream

You may be tempted to shortcut it and reach for a tub of Cool Whip. Please don't. Soft mounds of freshly whipped cream are one of life's greatest pleasures, and if you have an electric mixer, whipped cream takes all of 2 minutes to make. The best advice I can offer on this front is to place your mixing bowl in the freezer in advance of whipping the cream. A cold environment will make it easier for the cream to form peaks. 

That's all there is to it, folks. A strawberry shortcake for everyone — sweet and simple.