I have to say, this was one of the more difficult recipes for me to create, and not because it is hard to make, I just had disaster after disaster trying to get it right.
When I was a kid, shortcake was a small, spongy thing you purchased in a six pack at the grocery store. I never cared for them. When I grew up, I used to use a Bisquick recipe, which was better, but I don't use pre-packaged mixes anymore. How hard could this be, I figured ? I know how to make cobbler, I know how to make biscuits, right ?
Well, the first disaster was mistakenly using soda rather than baking powder in the dough, which made a decidedly bitter and acid-like cake. In the garbage they went, even though they looked perfect. The second batch of shortcakes came out perfectly, but then it was too warm in the house to get the almond cream to whip correctly. Sigh...
Lucky for me, strawberries are plentiful this time of year at the Minneapolis Farmers Market, and I have a husband who doesn't mind eating the failures.
Strawberry Shortcake with Almond Cream
For the shortcake:
2 cups flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons shortening
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
3/4 cup half and half
1 tablespoon of butter, melted, to brush on top of cakes
Sugar, for sprinkling on top
Preheat oven to 400. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Mix together the dry ingredients, and cut in the shortening and butter. Add almond extract, and slowly mix in the half and half, and continue to stir until well combined. Scoop onto baking sheet, for 8 equal sized cakes. Brush tops with butter and sprinkle lightly with sugar. Bake for 15-20 minutes until they are just starting to turn golden brown. Remove from oven and let cool.
For the strawberries:
2 cups fresh strawberries, hulled and sliced
1/2 cup Grand Marnier (optional, but delicious!)
1/4-1/2 cup sugar, depending on how sweet you like your berries
Mix together in a bowl, and refrigerate at least an hour before serving.
For the almond cream:
4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 cup powdered sugar
Place all ingredients in medium bowl, and whip on high speed until smooth. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
To plate, slice shortcake in half, and place lower piece on your plate. Top with almond cream, then strawberries. Top with remaining slice of cake, and serve.