Shortcake Biscuits? Why not shortcake “cakes”? Because, despite the name, a true shortcake is more biscuit than cake. Read on for all the truly fascinating details, or jump straight to the recipe to get the goods.
Even though the name “shortcake” implies that this dessert would be cake-based, it’s the “short” in the name they tells you that the classic recipe is a biscuit-based dessert.
The “short” refers to a specific type of dough where the fat is cut into the flour to create a pastry that is that is more crumbly than stretchy.
When making Strawberry Shortcakes I don’t want to use my regular Buttermilk Biscuit recipe for the base. Those biscuits are wonderful, but they’re more savory than sweet and more flaky than cakey.
For a shortcake dessert I want a biscuit that is a little sweeter and a little lighter. I adapted my flaky biscuit recipe into a shortcake biscuit recipe.
- All-purpose flour
- Cake flour
- Baking powder
- Granulated sugar
- Unsalted butter
How to make shortcake biscuits
- Mix together the dry ingredients, then work in the cold butter.
- See the lumps of cold butter?
- Add the buttermilk, mix, then briefly knead the dough just until it comes together.
- No need to use a rolling pin, pat the dough with your hands to keep it tender.
- Brush the shortcakes with buttermilk and sprinkle with granulated sugar before baking.
- They will spread a little in the oven.
- To make square shortcakes, pat the dough into a rectangle.
- Cut the shortcakes into squares.
- Bake until lightly browned and set in the center.
- The biscuits are very light. The open crumb will absorb the fruit juices.
Shortcake Biscuit Storage
- Shortcakes are best the day they are baked.
- Leftovers can be held at room temperature for 1 day or frozen for up to 3 months.
How Shortcake biscuits are different than regular biscuits
- Shortcakes biscuits have a little more sugar than regular biscuits.
- Shortcake biscuits have a little more baking powder for a lighter crumb (to absorb the fruit juices!).
- Shortcake biscuits have eggs in the dough and regular biscuits don’t contain eggs. The eggs give the biscuits a more cakey texture.
- The dough for shortcake biscuits is not folded to create layers. Flaky layers won’t absorb the juice as well as a more open crumb will.
Pastry Chef tips for making Shortcake Biscuits
I will show you one of my mistakes so you can avoid the same problem.
Trying to work ahead I tossed the dry ingredients together, cut up the butter, sprinkled it over the mix, covered the bowl, and left it at room temperature overnight.
I mixed the dough first thing in the morning. Because the butter was softened, it broke down instead of staying in little lumps. The butter completely mixed into, and coated, the flour.
Sooo, the coated flour couldn’t absorb the buttermilk & eggs. I could tell right away that the dough was too wet (see the left-hand photos below).
The dough on the left is too wet. The softened butter coated the flour so the buttermilk couldn’t get absorbed. The dough on the right is the proper texture because it was made with cold butter.
I proceeded to gently pat the dough by hand as I always do. I cut the first round of biscuits and could tell they were much too soft. You can see in the photo below (middle tray) how much those biscuits spread in the oven.
To compensate, I gathered up the scraps and kneaded in some flour. Of course I added too much flour and kneaded too much, so the second round of biscuits were too tight. You can see in the photo (left-side tray) that the biscuits rose up too much. The crumb was too tight.
The biscuits on the left were worked too much so they are too tight. The biscuits in the middle were made from a overly wet dough and spread too much. The biscuits are the right are perfect.
Before posting this recipe I knew I had to make the biscuits properly so you could see what they should look like. A few days later I mixed the dough according to the directions (cold butter, minimal kneading). You can see the biscuits on the right-side tray are just right.
The moral of the story? I can’t say it often enough, how you mix a recipe matters as much as the ingredients in the recipe. Also, 30 years of pro-baking doesn’t make you immune to screw-ups.
There you have it. Perfectly rich and light biscuits for making Strawberry Shortcakes. But don’t stop there. Top them with any seasonal fruit to make a delicious dessert – Peach Shortcakes, Rhubarb Shortcakes, Cherry & Blueberry Shortcakes. Gimme all the shortcakes!
For you chocoholics I’ve created a recipe for Chocolate Shortcakes with Chocolate Chips. You’re welcome!
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Shortcake Biscuit Recipe
- 10 oz all-purpose flour (2 cups)
- 9 oz cake flour (2 cups)
- 1 teaspoon table salt
- 2 tablespoons baking powder
- 2 oz granulated sugar (¼ cup)
- 8 oz unsalted butter (cold, cut into ¼" slices)
- 2 large eggs
- 12 oz buttermilk
- Extra buttermilk and sugar for topping
- Preheat the oven to 375 °F. Line a ½ sheet pan with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.
- Whisk together 10 oz all-purpose flour, 9 oz cake flour, 1 teaspoon table salt, 2 tablespoons baking powder, 2 oz granulated sugar. Toss 8 oz unsalted butter slices into the flour.
- Use your fingers to work the butter into the flour until the pieces are no larger than a pea.
- Whisk 2 large eggs into 12 oz buttermilk. Pour the buttermilk into flour mixture. Toss the mixture with a spoon or spatula until it begins for form a dough. Turn the dough out onto a well floured surface and lightly knead about 5-10 times to bring the dough together. This is a very wet dough so keep your hands well floured and use a light touch while kneading. You don't want to knock all the air out of the dough.
- Use your hands to pat dough to 3/4" thick. Cut rounds with a 3" biscuit cutter. Gently knead together the scraps to cut remaining biscuits. Place the rounds on the sheet pan. For square shortcakes, pat the dough to a 3/4" thick rectangle and cut the dough into 12 squares. Brush with buttermilk and sprinkle with granulated sugar. Bake until golden brown, 12 to 14 minutes (see note).
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