Brown Sugar Shortcakes with Brown Sugar Syrup, Mixed Berries, and Whipped Cream

Did somebody say Shortcakes?

Hello friends. Have you noticed all the strawberries showing up in your grocery store aisles lately? Has it made your mind wander to fragrant, sauce-laden, sweet-tart strawberries, smothered in fresh, cold cream over a chunk of yellow cake? Well, my friend, you have it all wrong. Bless your heart, shortcake of any kind should not, I repeat, NOT be made of a traditional yellow, white, or any other kind of cake. I don’t know where we all went wrong, but traditionally strawberry shortcake was made with sweet, light biscuits that soak up that beautiful strawberry goodness like nothing else. And we should all go back to that tradition.

I’ve been making real shortcakes during strawberry season for several years now, and I also love, love brown sugar. I substitute brown for white even when it is totally inappropriate (so far I haven’t discovered when it is inappropriate). So when I saw this recipe in Baked Occasions I knew I had to try it. The brown sugar in all three components adds a depth and richness that I love, and the shortcakes have almost a sandy quality to them that is a delicious contrast to the richness of the whipped cream. I added a touch of turbinado sugar to the tops before they went in the oven for a bit of crunch, and if I hadn’t had the kiddos coming over to share, I would have substituted a splash of good quality balsamic vinegar for the Grand Marnier. As it was, with all of us being teetotalers and everything, I just left the alcohol out. It was delicious. A hit with everybody. TRY THIS RECIPE!

A couple of notes: I make little shortcakes, so the itty-bitties can have one or two, while the healthier appetites can have more. Plus, they’re cute when they’re tiny. And don’t be afraid of the lengthy recipe. It’s all super easy.

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Brown Sugar Shortcakes with Brown Sugar Syrup, Mixed Berries, and Whipped Cream

For the shortcakes

2 oz unsalted butter, cold, cut into small cubes (½ stick)
4 T shortening, cold
1c plus 2 T all purpose flour
1 c plus 2 T cake flour (don’t stress if you don’t have cake flour–use what you have)
½ c firmly packed light brown sugar
1 T baking powder
1 t baking soda
½ t kosher salt
1.2 c plus 2 T heavy cream, divided
1 large egg yolk
1 t vanilla extract
1 large egg white
2 T raw sugar

Place the cubed butter and shortening in a small bowl, give a quick stir, cover the bowl and place in the freezer for 15 minutes. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, whisk together both flours, the brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

Pour ½ c of the cream into a glass measuring cup. Add the egg yolk and vanilla and whisk until combined. Place in the refrigerator. Remove the butter and shortening from the freezer an drop the cubes over the flour mixture. Use your fingers to rub the butter and shortening into the flour until the mixture is coarse and pebbly. add the cream mixture. Working quickly, use a fork to cut the wet ingredients into the dry until just a few dry streaks remain; do not overmix the dough.

Dust a work surface with a sprinkling of flour, place the dough on it, and dust the top of the dough with a little more flour. Gently knead the dough until it is uniform and smooth, only about 1 minute/ The dough should hold its shape without falling apart. Roll the dough into a 9-inch round (could be slightly smaller, but not larger) about 1 inch thick. Using a 2 ½ in round cutter, cut out 6 shortcakes. You might need to gather the scraps and re roll one time to get all 6 cakes.

Transfer the cakes to the parchment-lined baking sheet and freeze for at least 15 minutes and up to 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 400 F. Whisk together the remaining 2 T cream with the egg white. Remove the baking sheet from the freezer and brush the top of each cake with the egg wash. Sprinkle with the raw sugar and bake until the cakes are evenly browned and a toothpick inserted in the center of a cake comes out clean, 12 to 16 minutes. Do not overbake. Allow the cakes to cool for at least 10 minutes

For the brown sugar syrup and berries

8 oz strawberries, hulled and sliced
8 oz blueberries
2 T firmly packed dark brown sugar
1 t orange zest
¼ c Grand Marnier (optional)

Place the berries in a large bowl. Sprinkle them with the brown sugar and orange zest. Gently toss, then add the Grand Marnier, if using, and toss again. Let the berries macerate for at least 30 minutes and up to 2 hours.

For the whipped cream

1 ½ c heavy cream
2 T firmly packed light brown sugar
1 t vanilla extract

Place a metal bowl and whisk, or if you prefer, the bowl of a standing mixer and whisk attachment into the freezer to chill for a few minutes. Right before assembling, pour the cream into the chilled bowl and beat with the whisk for about 1 minute, or beat on medium speed in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Sprinkle the brown sugar on top of the cream and continue whisking vigorously until soft peaks form. Add the vanilla and whisk until just incorporated.

Assemble the shortcakes. Using a slotted spoon, remove the berries from their syrup and place them in a separate bowl. Do not discard the syrup. Gently slice a shortcake in half horizontally. Place the bottom section on the plate. Spoon a few tablespoons of syrup over the cake to cover. Add about ½ c of berries to cover the bottom of the cake, spoon with a few dollops of whipped cream, and top with the other half of the cake. Serve.

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