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Strawberry shortcake- sponge cake or biscuit?

When you make strawberry shortcake, do you prefer making a sponge cake or a biscuit for the cake part? Do you have a fool-proof recipe for either one and if so could you share it?

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  1. The choice for shortcake base is really personal, even angel food cake is an option, but the biscuit, either buttermilk or cream, is the standard.

    I think the Cook's Illustrated recipe is great, but I don't have it. Hopefully other posters will and provide it for you, or post their favorite biscuit recipes.

    6 Replies
    1. re: bushwickgirl

      SHORTCAKE ALL THE WAY! I recently made the Cook's Illustrated recipe for the first time and LOVED it. I grew up on Bisquick...my mom still used it, too, till she tried these and now we are both CI converts. It's funny you should ask--I just did this last week. CI recipe and photos here. They're drop biscuits, so it doesn't get more foolproof than that in my book!


      P.S. When my mom made these, she thought the dough needed another tablespoon or so of flour...I was very happy with the way mine came out (you can see just how moist and delicate they are), but I'll throw this out there in case you want to modify when you make. Happy baking!

      1. re: kattyeyes

        Ha, I should have wrote, "poster kattyeyes has the CI recipe and will provide it for you" (and me.) I forgot I could get the recipe at your blog. Thanks, knew you'd come through!

        1. re: kattyeyes

          Cook's Country's berry shortcake recipe, also a drop biscuit, uses brown sugar and sour cream because the CI drop biscuit recipe is not specifically for dessert purposes. The addition of brown sugar to the macerating berries and in the whipped heavy/sour cream blend for the topping really takes it over the top.

          1. re: greygarious

            Hey, grey, do you have the specifics on that recipe or can you direct me? I googled and didn't find...I'm curious to learn more about heavy/sour cream blend as topping. Yum!

            1. re: kattyeyes

              BROWN-SUGAR BERRY SHORTCAKES (June/July 2006 Cook's Country)
              FRUIT: Mash 2 cups of berries. Mix with 4 cups whole or sliced berries and 4-6 T packed light brown sugar to taste. Reserve.
              2c AP flour
              3T packed ligth brown sugar
              1T baking powder
              1/2 t salt
              1 stick chilled unsalted butter, in half-inch pieces plus 2T more, melted, reserved for brushing on shortcakes.
              1 large egg
              1/2 c sour cream
              2 T granulated sugar
              Preheat oven to 375, line baking sheet with parchment. Pulse first 4 ingredients in processor till no lumps remain. Scatter butter pieces, pulse until mixture looks like coarse sand. Move to bowl.
              Whisk egg and sour cream, stir into flour until large clumps form. Knead lightly until no dry flour remains and dough comes together. Using large ice cream scoop or cup, scoop 6 rounds onto parchment. Brush with melted butter and sprinkle with white sugar. Bake 25-30 min, let cool on baking sheet 10 min. When serving, split in half with serrated knife.
              Beat together 1 cup heavy cream, 1/4 c sour cream, and 1/4 c packed light brown sugar until stiff peaks form.

              Spoon fruit over bottom halves of shortcakes, dollop on the topping, and top with the upper halves of the shortcakes.

              1. re: greygarious

                Sounds lovely--thank you very kindly, greygarious! :)

      2. Cream biscuits. I've used this recipe - it's really quick and delicious.


        4 Replies
        1. re: delong99

          Biscuits and sometimes I just use Bisquick and follow the recipe on the box. My husband grew up with biscuits.

          1. re: dfrostnh

            This is the one thing I keep Bisquick on hand for (and I cringe every time I use it...hydrogenated oil!). Although I will grow my own strawberries, and seek out raw cream at the Farmer's market, I just can't get away from Bisquick being my favorite base for strawberry shortcake. There...I said it.

            1. re: Rizza

              Do a side-by-side with from-scratch buttermilk biscuits and you'll never go back!

              1. re: Rizza

                If you grow your own strawbs and seek out raw cream at the farmers' market, you really owe it to yourself to try the CI recipe I posted above. I'd be stunned if you were disappointed.

          2. Personal preference is either sponge cake or angel food cake. I've never found a biscuit with a texture that I enjoyed as part of a strawberry shortcake experience. I know of some who drizzle their biscuits with sweetened cream to soften the dry mouth shock that can sometimes be associated with introducing the biscuit variety of this dish to the taste buds but that just makes a soggy dessert - ugh

            1. So many delish ways to do this, you hate to say one way is right and the rest wrong. Sponge cake, pound cake, angel food, biscuit, shortbread, puff pastry. They're all good -- choose the texture that suits you.

              1. Macerated strawberries are delicious over just about everything. I love pound cake with strawberries, angel food cake with strawberries, heck, if the strawberries are good enough just spoon 'em over Wonder Bread. But by definition, strawberry shortcake has to be made with - drumroll, please - shortcake. Which is a biscuit.

                7 Replies
                1. re: alanbarnes

                  Yeah, because you can put strawberries over almost any baked sweet but that doesn't make it a strawberry shortcake. My favorite is rum macerated strawberries over tres leches cake but I've never called it strawberry shortcake.

                  1. re: chowser

                    So true, so true.

                    Biscuits, pound cake, sponge cake, angel food cake ... heck, I even like them using plain donuts.

                      1. re: alanbarnes

                        Homer will never do you wrong.

                        And, rarely will a donut, either.

                        The plain donut never gets the respect it deserves. The Rodney Dangerfield of food items.

                      2. re: ipsedixit

                        Hmm, donuts. I'll bet that would be good w/ blueberries, too--the tart and sweet...as much as I hate the idea of adding anything healthy to my donut.;-)

                        1. re: chowser

                          Well, I eat ice cream with my donuts all time. So, if you want to avoid the "health" thing, there you go!

                          Sometimes, I'll even use a churro instead of bananas to make a faux banana (churro) split.

                    1. re: alanbarnes

                      Agreed- strawberries over pound cake, angle food cake, sponge cake, even frozen waffles are all lovely deseerts but when I want shortcake I want shortcake! And if I ever need a change in my shortcake - adding crytalized ginger to the biscuits is a nice change. And I have been going back to mother's 19050's Betty Crocker cookbook for the shortcake recipe. I'll have to look at the CI recipe from kattyeyes

                    2. I prefer pound cake as it doesn't dry out as much as the biscuits do when they have cooled. Plus, I can make a pound cake a few days ahead & the flavor & texture improve. Biscuits a few days ahead.... yeah, hockey pucks.

                      1. Biscuits! but with a bit of sugar included in the dough. Actually, shape-wise, my grandmother would press out sweetened biscuit dough into 2 rounds about 7-in across to make a layered strawberry short "cake".

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: CocoaNut

                          I just discovered that trick this spring! Instead of rolling out the dough and cutting individual biscuits, just make one giant biscuit (I cut mine in half instead of making two). So much easier, and every bit as tasty!

                          1. re: alanbarnes

                            That would work to, but pressing dough out isn't that difficult and cutting would lead to a very porous side for the juice to soak into.... unless you did cut side down.

                            Which made me remember that when my grandmother's cakes were done, she would pierce the tops quite liberally to allow for some juice to seep into the cakes, but there would also be enough juice to "puddle" around the outer edge. The cut and macerated strawberries would set beautifully between layers and on top.

                        2. I'm definitely in the biscuit camp. IMO, ponge cake is not substantial enough to hold up to the strawberry juice and whipped cream.

                          1. They're both good! Since they're just a delivery system for sweet berries and copious amounts of whipped cream, it doesn't really matter!

                            1. Sponge cake or angel-food cake are NOT short! The term means that the cake is made from flour, leavening and fat, with just enough liquid to make a dough. Calling a sponge cake "shortcake" is like calling a beagle a kitten.

                              My personal preference is for proper biscuit shortcake rather than sponge or pound cake, and I loathe angel-food, but even if I loved the spongy stuff I'd try to avoid calling it by a name it doesn't deserve.

                              4 Replies
                              1. re: Will Owen

                                <<Calling a sponge cake "shortcake" is like calling a beagle a kitten.>>

                                I love ya, Will. You crack me up. :)

                                1. re: kattyeyes

                                  As long as I've been able to read, I remember going into our local Kroger store in the summertime and seeing those packages of sponge cake "coasters", all labelled "shortcakes", and being astonished that grownups could be so ignorant. Whatever adult I was with would say something about how some people don't know any better but it's rude to say so...

                                2. re: Will Owen

                                  Hear, hear! Biscuits should be moistened with copious whipped cream and ladlefuls of juice from the sugared strawberries. Anything else should be called something else.

                                  Sponge cake. Like calling filtered apple juice "cider."

                                  1. re: Will Owen

                                    I was reading this thread wondering why nobody had defined SHORT, so please accept my gratitude for pointing this out. Shortbread, short cake, shortening, to me means not sweet, but I never really thought about it.the way you mentioned. Makes sense.

                                    Strawberries are so sweet, the short cake is the perfect foil. Angel food cake would be just cloyingly sweet, not to mention that nasty wet sponge texture.

                                  2. It is not Shortcake unless you use shortcake! ( - ;

                                    1. Definitely biscuit type base. I like my strawberries nice and juicy, so sponge or angel cake gets too soggy. I make my shortcakes two level. Two thinner biscuits stacked before baking (top one smaller than the bottom) with butter brushed between the layers. Mmmmm, can't wait.

                                      5 Replies
                                      1. re: Sooeygun

                                        That is a nice way to do it. I've just gotten into the habit of cutting biscuits out with a coffee can opened at both ends. That cuts a 4" biscuit. If I do the biscuit right, I can split it without using a knife, and I get a nice rough surface that holds the berries pretty well and soaks up the juice and cream just right for my taste. We have these cool Dansk salad dishes that are basically wide-rimmed shallow bowls, about 6" inside diameter, just perfect for serving these things.

                                        By the way, if you do non-sweet biscuits like this, it's a great way to serve creamed chicken, chipped beef or eggs.

                                        1. re: Will Owen

                                          Keep talkin', brother...or how Veggo taught me--chipped beef and eggs TOGETHER. We always had either/or growing up, but both together are a winning combo.

                                          1. re: kattyeyes

                                            We be of one blood, thou and I...!

                                            We used to have just one or the other, until for some reason - maybe we didn't have enough of either to go around - Mom combined them. Loud cheers ensued, and that's how we had them after that. Always on toasted white bread, though. I had to wait for biscuits until I got to making my own.

                                          2. re: Will Owen

                                            I use the same recipe without the sugar for biscuit topping for chicken or fish pie. Sometimes add some chopped chives or chopped herbs.

                                            1. re: Sooeygun

                                              Biscuit topping is so good on so much, though chicken pie is the standard where I come from. It's a great way to dress up leftover stew of almost any kind, and is usually an improvement over the first iteration.

                                        2. Definitely made-from-scratch buttermilk biscuits still warm from the oven!

                                          1. I much prefer the biscuit style. The one I used growing up was always the Fannie Farmer version. I believe it's a little sweeter and lighter than a normal biscuit, but still far from sponge cake.

                                            1. i grew up with the round yellow cakes. and i still prefer them. call it nostalgia. i didn't like strawberries, but i'd choke them down because i thought i had to have them to have the *strawberry* shortcake... mom drizzled the cake with some milk before laying on strawberries which made them nice and moist and gooey... and then at the end i'd make the cake up together into a sort of soup with the whipped cream... looks disgusting, tastes... mmmmmm.

                                              1. I love pound cake with strawberries. For the sauce, I add Grand Marnier, suger, and vanilla. Then cook it till it stews down a bit, then also add more fresh berries, delicious pound cake and whipped cream....yum~

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: chef chicklet

                                                  if we're doing variations on a theme, try the strawberries macerated in reduced balsamic vinegar with black pepper and brown sugar...

                                                2. Biscuits! The Better Homes & Gardens cookbook is the recipe my mom used when I was growing up so that's always been the one I use. It's a sweet biscuit. I usually make individual ones then sprinkle sugar on top. Whipped cream is tasty but not required on the shortcakes. I just want lots of delicious strawberries and flaky cake.

                                                  2 Replies
                                                  1. re: mjane79

                                                    My mom used the Biscuits Supreme recipe from BH&G, though hers was an already-ancient looseleaf version (green cover, not the later red-checked one). Very rich and slightly sweet. In our family the practice was to use plain heavy cream, not whipped, and to eat it in bowls. I'm a total cream slut, so I'll happily have it either way.

                                                    1. re: Will Owen

                                                      HA HA HA re your last sentence--me, too. ;)

                                                  2. I've been eating strawberry shortcake all my life (40+) and never realized that biscuits (scones) were the standard. We always used sponge cake, pound cake or angel food cake. I do remember my mother occasionally making the Bisquik Velvet Crumb Cake a few times for berries or peaches which is basically biscuits with a little extra sugar. We usually buy those little yellow sponge cakes next to the strawberries, but they're not really very good, almost Twinkie like.

                                                    3 Replies
                                                    1. re: John E.

                                                      They are all good. Dont let anyone tell you otherwise.

                                                      1. re: John E.

                                                        You make a good point re biscuits/scones. My mom told me today she was comparing the biscuit recipe to her scone recipes and they are one and the same...except the biscuits called for melted butter. So now she's going to make scones the same way...not rolled out or with butter cut in--just blended.

                                                        1. re: John E.

                                                          the yellow ones are elevated by the addition of a little milk before slicing the strawberries on top... honest 'injun.