Mixed Berry Shortcakes

It was definitely mercury in retrograde recently when I got a phone call at 8:20pm, while we were having dinner at home, from a restaurant I’d reserved a table at, asking if we were showing up for our 8pm reservation. I was sure I had reserved for the following night, but – nope – I erred and our reservation was for that evening. (Fortunately, the restaurant has a steady walk-in crowd so the table didn’t sit empty. Still, I felt terrible.) We did go the next night, but that same day, I was typing this recipe up and my blogging platform asked me to log in again, which I dutifully did, and then it proceeded to erase the entire post, including the recipe.

With my head on the verge of imploding, I decided to go for a walk, then head back a little later and get back to rewriting everything up from scratch. A few people told me mercury was in retrograde, so, of course, the moment I returned, they started doing construction upstairs, so was subjected to the sounds of jackhammering while trying to fill in all the ingredients in the recipe plug-in I use, so the recipes are printable, and to make sure I got all the ingredients and so forth in the right place, and the conversions.

By the time evening rolled around, some other neighbors decided to have a party and their voices were so loud, they could be heard all the way down the block. (So much for les américains having the loudest voices in town anymore.) What made up for it were these Mixed Berry Shortcakes, which we had for dessert that night.

On the upside to the unpleasantries that day, I scored several baskets of strawberries at the market that morning, that were very ripe, to the point of where they wouldn’t have lasted another day. That’s often when fruit tastes the best, and with a use-it-or-lose-it mentality that haunts me whenever I have good fruit in my kitchen, I decided to make a batch of Mixed Berry Shortcakes. I also had some artisanal butter on hand that had a slight funk to it, that I wasn’t sure what to do with. I normally don’t mind that kind of thing – animal products that aren’t industrial sometimes have that flavor, which wasn’t so terrific tasting first thing in the morning on my toast. So I used it to make the shortbread biscuits.

What makes these shortcakes extra special is the strawberry coulis, an uncooked almost-purée of berries that gets juicier and more flavorful the longer it sits. It ensures lots of delicious sauce, which’ll moisten everything and assure that the biscuit below the fruit won’t be dry, as can happen if you only use sliced berries for shortcakes. With this shortcake recipe, you can use any mix of berries that you want, but I had all these strawberries and got them macerating as soon as I could, which I did, then rolled out my biscuits, and baked them. They didn’t rise as high as normal, possibly because of the farm butter, or I could blame that mercury retrograde-thing (in my post on Peach Shortcakes, you can see how they normally look), but with the crunchy topping, there were zero complaints, including from me, who pilfered one as I was rebuilding and rewriting this post. And not to worry; the flavor of that off-kilter butter got lost in the mix.

Kirsch, a clear distillation of cherries, magically augments the flavor of berries and summer fruits. However a reader nicely wrote to me that they didn’t detect much cherry flavor in the pricey bottle. (And she used a good one.) So don’t expect a full-on cherry flavor, but like the unseen powers (or planets) that remove blog posts and delete recipes, and make reservations on the wrong night, it works in mysterious ways, so I stand by it.

After putting a cap on the day, and the dessert, hopefully the planets will align in the future for you to make these truly wonderful shortcakes, a jumble of fresh berries, softly whipped cream, topped with a flaky, crunchy biscuit. I can’t say it’ll improve everything in your life, but if the stars align (or not), I’m confident this will be a hit with everyone who spoons it up.

Mix Berry Shortcakes
Print Recipe
6 servings
Feel free to mix and match whatever kind of berries you'd like. Blackberries, cherries, red currants can all be part of the mix, or feel free to go "classic" and use all strawberries. You're also welcome to tweak the sugar amount used to sweeten the berries, which can vary depending on how naturally sweet they are. The kirsch is optional; a little improves the flavor of the berries. But if you don't want to use it, a splash of crème de cassis or lemon juice can also heighten their flavor.You'll likely get a few extra biscuits from the dough if you reroll the scraps. They can be enjoyed for breakfast the next morning, with some butter and jam, or they frozen for up to two months and used to make more shortcakes in the future.
For the shortcakes (biscuits)
2 1/2 cups (350g) flour
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar, plus additional sugar for sprinkling over the shortcakes before baking
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder, (preferably aluminium-free)
1 teaspoon salt
10 tablespoons (5 ounces, 140g) unsalted butter, cubed and chilled
3/4 cup (180ml) heavy cream or buttermilk
1 egg yolk, mixed with 1 teaspoon cream or milk, for the glaze
For the berries
6 cups (1 pound, 4 ounces/750g) strawberries, hulled
1 1/2 cups (6 ounces, 160g) raspberries
1 cup (4 ounces, 130g) blueberries
3 tablespoons sugar (total)
1 -2 teaspoons kirsch (optional)
For the whipped cream
1 1/2 cups (375ml) heavy cream
3 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1. To make the biscuits, preheat the oven to 400ºF (200ºC). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.
2. Mix the flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. (It can also be made in a large bowl using a pastry blender.) Add the butter and mix on low speed until the pieces of butter are the size of large kernels of corn. Add the cream or buttermilk and mix until the dough just comes together
3. On a lightly floured counter, roll the dough until it’s 3/4-inch (2cm) thick and with a 2 1/2-inch (8cm) biscuit cutter, cut out six individual biscuits, dipping the cutter in flour between cutting each biscuit. You can gather the scraps and re-roll to cut out a few more biscuits. Put the biscuits on the baking sheet evenly spaced apart. Brush just the tops of the biscuits with the glaze, sprinkle generously with extra sugar, and bake until the tops and sides are browned, about 15 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool.
4. Put half the strawberries in a medium bowl with 1 1/2 tablespoons of sugar and 1 teaspoon kirsch, if using. Use your hands to mash everything together until the berries are juicy. Set aside for at least 30 minutes. You can stir the berries a few times as they sit, which will encourage them to release more of their juices.
5. Slice or quarter the remaining strawberries and mix in another bowl with the raspberries, blueberries, and remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons of sugar, and 1 teaspoon of kirsch, if using.
6. Whip the cream in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whip attachment, or by hand with a whisk until it begins to get stiff, then whip in the sugar and vanilla extract and continue to whip until the cream holds its shape.
7. To assemble the shortcakes, cut each biscuit in half crosswise and place the bottoms on six plates. Spoon a generous amount of the mashed berries and their juice over each bottom piece. Put a dollop of whipped cream on top of each biscuit bottom then divide the mixed berries over each serving. Finish by replacing the tops of the biscuits over the shortcakes.

A fresh fruit dessert that uses the best of the season!

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  • July 15, 2019 1:51pm

    Love these shortcakes… and I do commiserate on losing all that work… been there..ugh! What plug in do you use for recipes ? I like it’s readibility.

  • Claire
    July 15, 2019 2:15pm

    What lovely photos! Heading to the market right now so I can get my berries going and have this tonight. You never fail to inspire!

  • Jeanette Abe
    July 15, 2019 3:23pm

    Summertime ripe fruit is the best! Travelling to Oregon soon and will make some version of the shortcake with whatever fruit is available at the markets. I will probably chop up white chocolate to add to scone dough. Thanks for doing what you do David!

    • July 15, 2019 3:46pm
      David Lebovitz

      They have all those wonderful berries in Oregon, like boysenberries, tayberries, and huckleberries. If adding white chocolate, you can use the guideline in these White Chocolate-Cherry Scones for an idea of how much to add. Enjoy the bounty of berries!

      • Janet
        July 15, 2019 7:54pm

        David, I’m heading to Scotland next week…have been before and was never served pancakes when I wanted a scone on previous trips…what was the word you should have used? Thank you.

        • Liliane
          July 16, 2019 7:56am

          Dear David, I love the fact that you add metric measurements to your pastry recipes, so much more precise! But I have a question about oven temperatures. I use a fan-forced oven , do you use a conventional one for your recipes? About a 20 Centigrades difference could spell disaster….
          Thank you.

          • July 16, 2019 9:00am
            David Lebovitz

            It’s not possible to write a recipe that covers every type of oven, bakeware, etc. (well, it is possible, but it would take a lot of testing…and every recipe could get very, very long) so it’s best to get to know your oven, and how it bakes, as well as using baking times as guidelines since every oven is different. The best sense of when something is done is always by visual or tactile cues, which I always try to include.

  • Julie
    July 15, 2019 3:48pm

    As an Australian I’ve never understand the “Biscuit” American style, but this recipe is on my list of “to do”. I do appreciate your adding all the corresponding measurements , makes my life much easier!! Thank you.

    • July 15, 2019 3:57pm
      David Lebovitz

      Yes, all the biscuit/scone/pudding definitions can be confusing and vary by country. I was in Scotland and ordered scones for breakfast, and they brought me a plate of American-style pancake. Which are called “drop scones”…I learned ; )

      • Rob
        July 15, 2019 9:23pm

        In New Zealand, these are known as ‘pikelets’…
        I was very interested to read about Strawberry Shortcakes as I have been curious about them since I was a child (having only come across them in books, never the actual thing.) How does one eat them?

  • stuart itter
    July 15, 2019 4:27pm

    James Beard shortcake recipe come up frequently as the go-to short cake recipe. Very similar to this one. He does grate in two hard-boiled yokes to the dough. Always do it, but never quite sure why. Some rave about it-guess I will have to analyze it more to find out.

    • Linda Alexander
      July 15, 2019 6:19pm

      Stuart, here in the U.S., there is a presumption that buttery-rich cakes and pastries should grandly advertise their high butterfat content by displaying a decidedly golden hue. An easy way for the home cook to intensify the yellow coloring of a batter or dough is to add egg yolks. For biscuits specifically, the yolks are first cooked so that they don’t increase the amount of liquid in the dough (and thus inadvertently change the proportions). To be sure, you can leave out the grated egg yolks if your biscuit recipe calls for them. They are mainly for show, and not for texture or flavor. Hope this resolves your mystery!

  • July 15, 2019 5:06pm

    Love the idea to simply macerate the berries instead of using as is. Lots more lovely juices as a result! Would love to know which recipe plugin you use, btw. Thanks!

    • July 15, 2019 5:29pm
      David Lebovitz

      I use WP Recipe Plug-in, which had to be customized (someone had to do it for me), but they have a new plug-in called WP Recipe Maker, which I think is easy to customize.

  • soozzie
    July 15, 2019 5:51pm

    Grand Marnier is our go-to for all fruit mixtures, especially strawberries. Kirsch seems a little strident to us. And sometimes brown sugar for an interesting twist. Enjoy!

  • July 15, 2019 9:37pm

    I love the idea of putting crunchy sugar on top of shortcake biscuits. We always have strawberries and I have raspberries and blueberries in my Northern California garden (The blackberries are gone now, so early).

  • Cyndy
    July 15, 2019 11:54pm

    My mother’s shortcakes were as hard as hockey pucks. To answer the question above on how to eat them, for us we needed a buzz saw.

    • Linn
      July 16, 2019 5:41am
  • Diane Perkins
    July 16, 2019 2:05am

    As luck would have it, I made this just now after receiving your mail today. The coulis really does “make” this recipe and the short cakes were really good—I’m adopting your recipe. Also wanted to say that the apple blackberry slab pie from a week ago is wonderful. Not a single piece was left after a back yard grill party! Thanks David.

  • July 16, 2019 3:44am

    You’re absolutely right about kirsch–and your correspondent is missing the point. It’s brandy made from cherries, not cherry-flavored brandy. I’d always used cognac instead, but recently I got kirsch to mascerate cherries for a Black Forest cake and wow!–the difference was stunning. From now on I’ll always use kirsch for berries and other summer fruit. For U.S. readers, there’s a good one made in Oregon; it’s available at Whole Foods.

    Your shortcakes look delicious–it’s one of my favorite desserts.

  • Kerrie
    July 16, 2019 4:17am

    Thanks for brightening my day. Wish these were waiting for me tonight.
    Lucky pretty sure there will be no parties around us.

  • Kate
    July 16, 2019 6:55am

    Bon jour David, in general what do you do with egg whites when a recipe calls for egg yolks only? That “waste thing” makes me pause…

  • July 16, 2019 8:58am
    David Lebovitz

    Kate: I posted a list of recipes for Using Leftover Egg Whites, but I also sometimes just scramble some eggs for breakfast and add the extra white (or whites) to that, or make a frittata and add it to that.

    Hope: We had a nice chat about kirsch and while I’m not sure I made a convert, I still stand by using it. (And I know a lot of other bakers use it, like you do, too.) It’s also very good with pineapple, as well.

    Diane: Glad the slab pie was a hit!

  • dominique
    July 16, 2019 3:51pm

    Just on the Ideas in Food website, where they laud your book: https://blog.ideasinfood.com/ideas_in_food/2019/07/what-im-reading.html

    And about to make your chocolate sorbet in advance of our expected heatwave.

  • July 17, 2019 9:12pm

    Wow David, picked up red and black raspberries from a local farm last night. This recipe came just in time.Thank you Dave.

  • July 24, 2019 11:53am

    Hi there! I had fun cruising around your website/blog. Your recipe for Mixed Berry Shortcakes caught my eye. I had a nice new basket of strawberries and also blueberries, so this was a natural! I made the shortcake biscuits the day before, and prepped the strawberries & blueberries in the afternoon. It was a very yummy dessert, enjoyed by all. Thanks for sharing!

  • Becky
    August 1, 2019 10:05pm

    I thought when using buttermilk or sour cream one must add baking soda.

    • August 2, 2019 8:46am
      David Lebovitz

      Baking soda is one of the primary ingredients in baking powder.