Where is it written that a girl can’t bake her own birthday cake? And who says it has to be a quote-unquote cake at all, really? Why not shortcakes, topped with luscious summer fruit? Absolutely.
And so I baked my own birthday dessert over the weekend, thankyouverymuch.
This summer more than ever, I’m finding that I enjoy the progression of seasonal produce. When strawberries and asparagus fell out of season in late spring, I didn’t mourn. Like a fickle teen, I fell quickly in love with others: blueberries and sweet onions had a fling of several weeks, and now I’ve moved on to blackberries and summer squash. (Although I’ll confess to chasing down another batch of blueberries to put up in the freezer, after using three quarts to make blueberry jam several weeks ago).
I’m thoroughly embracing the parade of new fruits and vegetables marching through farmers’ markets this summer. (But don’t talk to me when corn ends. Just don’t.) Over the weekend, I spotted gorgeous local peaches, both white and yellow, and enormous blackberries, which are only in season for a very short time. It just seemed obvious that my birthday dessert needed to be sweet shortcakes topped with summer fruit and whipped cream. I found a recipe via Martha Stewart and tinkered just a bit (see Note).
summer fruit shortcakes
2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for working dough
1 Tbsp. baking powder
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
6 Tbsp. cold unsalted butter, cut into chunks
1 large egg
1/2 cup plus 2 Tbsp. heavy cream
for the egg wash: 1 Tbsp. heavy cream + 1 egg yolk
for the fruit: toss your choice of summer fruit (I used 4 peaches, peeled and sliced + 1/2 cup blackberries) with 1/4 cup sugar or to taste
for serving: whipped cream (sweeten with powdered sugar and vanilla to your taste)
Preheat oven to 375 degrees; line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, sugar and salt. Use a pastry cutter or your fingers to blend butter chunks into flour mixture, working quickly, so that the butter bits are no larger than peas. In a glass measuring cup, whisk together cream and large egg. Add to butter/flour mixture and stir with a fork. Don’t overmix; when a rough dough forms, finish incorporating the ingredients by gently kneading with your hands. Turn dough out onto a floured surface and press into a rectangle that’s roughly 1 1/2 inches thick. Cut dough into 2 1/2-inch rounds. Gather scraps gently and re-form into a rectangle; cut as many rounds as you can. Make egg wash by whisking together egg yolk and 1 Tbsp. heavy cream. Transfer rounds to baking sheet; brush with egg wash. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until shortcakes are deeply golden on top. Remove from oven and let cool 15 minutes.
To serve, split one shortcake for each serving; top one half with mixed fruit and then whipped cream. Place lid on the cake and spritz with more whipped cream if you’d like.
Note: I don’t know what the kitchen staff at Martha Stewart Living are smoking, exactly, but I ALWAYS find their portion sizes/number of servings to be completely out of whack. I can always count on their recipes to make double the quantity specified. This recipe, for example, said it makes 4 shortcakes. I got 8, easily.