The Best Shortcake Biscuits

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.

a basket of shortcake biscuits

What is a Shortcake?

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. The lumps of fat interfere with gluten development. This mixing method creates a pastry that is that is more crumbly than stretchy.

Shortbread cookies, Pie Dough and Shortcrust pastry are other “short” doughs. So, in “short” (pun intended), a shortcake is more biscuit than cake.


ingredients for shortcake biscuits in glass bowls.

Step by Step Photos for Shortcakes

a bowl of flour with chunks of butter on top with a cup of buttermilk on the side.
  • Mix together the dry ingredients, then work in the cold butter.
a cup pouring buttermilk into a bowl of shortcake biscuit mix
  • See the lumps of cold butter? That will make the dough crumbly and “short”.
  • Add the buttermilk, mix, then briefly knead the dough just until it comes together.
a hand patting out shortcake biscuit dough
  • No need to use a rolling pin, use your hands to pat the dough to 3/4″ thick to keep it tender.
  • Use a biscuit cutter to cut rounds of dough or see the photo below to make square shortcakes.
a tray of unbaked shortcake biscuits ready for the oven
  • 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.
a hand holding a shortcake biscuit
  • 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. Rewarm in a low oven to revive the texture.

How shortcake biscuits are different than regular biscuits

For a shortcake dessert I want a biscuit that is a little sweeter and a little lighter than a typical Buttermilk Biscuit. I adapted my flaky biscuit recipe into a shortcake biscuit recipe by making the following changes.

  • 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.

Pastry Chef tips for making great Shortcake Biscuits

I will show you one of my shortcake 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 photo below).

two bowls of shortcake dough.

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.

three tray of biscuits illustrating mixing mistakes.

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!

a split shortcake biscuit on a plate with three strawberries and a fork

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a split shortcake biscuit on a plate with strawberries
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4.58 from 73 reviews

Shortcake Biscuit Recipe

A true shortcake is more biscuit than cake. These are the perfect rich biscuits for making Strawberry Shortcakes, of course. But don’t stop there. Use any seasonal fruit to top these delicious true shortcakes.
Prep Time30 minutes
Bake Time15 minutes
Total Time45 minutes
12 biscuits
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  • 10 oz all-purpose flour (2 cups, see note)
  • 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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If measuring the flour by volume use the “dip & sweep” method. That is, dip the measuring cup into the flour bin, overfill it, then sweep away the excess.
The shortcakes are best the day they are baked. To work ahead you can combine the dry ingredients and set them aside. Cut the butter into slices and hold them in the refrigerator until you are ready to mix the dough.
You can freeze the shortcakes as soon as they are cooled. Defrost and rewarm in the oven before serving.


Serving: 1biscuit | Calories: 346kcal | Carbohydrates: 40g | Protein: 7g | Fat: 18g | Saturated Fat: 11g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 5g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 71mg | Sodium: 449mg | Potassium: 100mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 6g | Vitamin A: 559IU | Calcium: 166mg | Iron: 2mg
Have you tried this recipe?Mention @eileen.bakingsense or tag #bakingsense!

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  1. Hi Eileen:
    I rarely have cake flour in the house – will it ruin the biscuits if I use all regular flour?

    1. For each cup of cake flour you can use ¾ cup of all-purpose flour mixed with 2 tablespoons of corn starch. So for this recipe use a total of 3 1/2 cups ap flour plus 1/4 cup of cornstarch.

    1. Using a combination of AP flour and Cake flour mimics “pastry flour”. That is slightly softer than AP flour for a tender biscuit, but it has a little more gluten than soft cake flour so the biscuits can rise nicely in the oven without falling flat.