The perfect pud for strawberry season; crumbly, buttery shortcake filled with sweet and juicy crushed strawberries, and topped with a soft and pillow-y pile of vegan whipped cream. I dare you not to have seconds.
This is admittedly not the most elegant of desserts, but some things taste so good it really doesn’t matter. Shortcake is a classic British pudding, and one we would have almost every Summer when I was a child, when the strawberries were at their sweetest.
Shortcake isn’t something you come across very often which is a huge injustice. It’s somewhere in between shortbread and sponge cake; a particularly cakey biscuit or a very biscuit-y cake depending on your perspective. You can make individual shortcakes, not dissimilar to sweet scones, or a larger cake as I have done here. Either way, the shortcake should be beautifully buttery, crumbly, and slightly crisp on the outside.
The really wonderful thing about this dessert is the strawberry filling. The shortcake is split in half, most of the strawberries are crushed to release their gloriously fruity juice, and piled on the bottom half of cake. Some of the crushed strawberries will inevitably sploodge over the side, but much of the juice will by soaked up by the shortcake. The top half of cake retains its slight crispness, and is smothered with billows of whipped cream, with some of the more aesthetically pleasing strawberries arranged on top. It is, in a word, heavenly.
How to make vegan strawberry shortcake
The first thing to do is to make the shortcake. You can easily make it gluten-free by replacing the plain flour with a combination of gluten-free flour, ground almonds and xantham gum – the method is exactly the same. If you’d rather make individual shortcakes, then you should get about 8 from this recipe. You can use small ramekins, or a muffin tray to bake them in. Otherwise you’ll need a 20cm round cake tin, and either way, you’ll need to grease your baking vessel well, line the base with greaseproof paper, and pre-heat your oven.
To start, measure out your non-dairy milk, mix in some lemon juice, and set aside. The quickest and easiest method for the next step is to use a food processor. Add the flour (or gluten-free alternative) to the food processor bowl and then add fridge cold butter (a vegan butter block such as Naturli Vegan Block is best, otherwise use half vegan spread and half coconut oil), chopped into smallish chunks. Pulse until the the mixture resembles fine bread-crumbs, then add the rest of the dry ingredients – baking powder, salt and sugar – and whizz again a few times to incorporate. If you don’t have a food processor, rub the fat into the flour with your fingertips, as if making shortcrust pastry, then stir in the remaining dry ingredients.
Add a little vanilla extract to the milk mixture, then pour into the dry ingredients. Stir until everything is just incorporated and you have a loose dough, then roughly press into your tin in a even layer. For a full-sized shortcake, bake for 20–25 minutes until firm and turning a pale golden brown on top. For individual cakes, around 14–15 minutes should suffice. Leave to cool in the tin for 5–10 mins, then turn out on a wire rack to cool completely.
While the shortcake is cooling, make the strawberry filling. Wash and hull your strawberries (i.e. cut out the stalk and the tough bit directly underneath the leaves), reserving a few of the brightest and most aesthetically-pleasing strawberries to decorate the top. Halve the rest and place in a bowl with a couple of tablespoons of sugar, and roughly mash them using a potato masher or a fork so they release their juice. You want the filling to still have some texture so you needn’t go overboard with the mashing.
Then make the vegan whipped cream. I use Elmlea Plant Double, which is an excellent vegan whipping cream available in the UK. Use whatever alternative you can find, or pop a couple of cans of coconut milk in the fridge for an hour, then scoop out the white cream which should have settled at the top. This will whip up very quickly with an electric hand whisk or balloon whisk. Vegan whipping cream takes a little longer, maybe 4–5 minutes, to get it to the point where it’s reasonably firm. Whisk in a tablespoon or two of icing sugar for a touch of sweetness.
Once the shortcake is completely cool, you’ll need to slice it in half. Try to get the halves as even as possible – because of the crumbly nature of shortcake if one of the halves is too thin it risks falling apart. If you don’t have a cake slicer, the easier way to do this is to find a plate or dish with a rim that half the height of your cake. Then you can rest a breadknife on the rim while slicing the cake into two perfectly even halves.
Move the bottom half of cake to the plate or platter you want to serve in on, then spread the strawberry filling over the top. Gently place the other half on top – I say gently because while some sploodge is unavoidable, you don’t want all of the filling to escape down the sides. Pile a generous amount of whipped cream over the top, and arrange the reserved strawberries however you please.
As you can see, my chosen arrangement was not exactly patisserie-level cake decoration, but this is not a dessert that you make for its refinement, but for how good it makes you feel. Plus there’s little you can do to a gloriously ruby red strawberry to make it more tantalizing than it already is. Also I was a bit strapped for time…
Strawberry shortcake is ideal for when you really want to get in the Summer spirit (whether you’re celebrating because it’s sunny or cheering yourself up because it’s not). It should be served in generous slices and preferably eaten in front of the tennis.
Please let me know if you give this a try! I’d love to hear how you get on and any feedback is appreciated. You can comment below, use the star rating at the top of the post, or find me on Instagram and Twitter @greedybearbakes.
Vegan Strawberry Shortcake
Crumbly, buttery shortcake, filled with sweet and juicy crushed strawberries, and topped with a soft and pillow-y pile of vegan whipped cream.
For the shortcake:
- 100ml (⅓ cup + 1 tbsp) non-dairy milk
- 2 tbsp lemon juice
- 375g (3 cups) plain flour (see notes for gluten-free option*)
- 100g (7 tbsp) fridge cold vegan butter (or 50g each of vegan spread and coconut oil)
- 100g (7 tbsp) caster sugar
- 1½ tbsp (4½ tsp) baking powder
- ½ tsp salt
- 2 tsp vanilla essence
For the strawberries and cream:
- 600g (1lb 5oz) strawberries
- 2–3 tbsp caster sugar
- 285ml (9½ fl oz) vegan whipping cream (or the cream from 2 tins coconut milk**)
- 1–2 tbsp icing sugar
- Pre-heat the oven to 190C fan. Grease a 20cm round cake tin and line the base with baking paper (or grease and line 8 small ramekins or holes of a muffin tin for individual shortcakes).
- In a small jug, measure 100ml non-dairy milk and stir in 2 tbsp lemon juice. Set-aside.
- Weigh out 375g flour (or gluten-free alternative) and add to the bowl of a food processor. Chop 100g fridge-cold butter into small chunks, add to the flour, and pulse until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Then add 100g caster sugar, 1½ tbsp baking powder, and ½ tsp salt, pulse a few more times to combine, then tip into a large mixing bowl. If you don’t have a food processor, put the flour in a large mixing bowl with the chunks of butter, and rub together with your fingertips (as you would with shortcrust pastry) until it resembles breadcrumbs. Then stir in the sugar, baking powder and salt.
- Stir 2 tsp vanilla essence into the milk mixture, then pour into the flour mixture. Use a spoon to stir everything together into a soft dough – you can add a drop more milk if you’re struggling to incorporate all of the flour.
- Tip the dough into your prepared tin(s) and gently press into a even layer. Bake for 20–25 minutes (or 14–15 minutes for individual cakes), until it feels firm to the touch and is turning a pale golden brown on top. Leave to cool in the tin for 5–10 minutes then transfer to a wire rack.
- While the shortcake is cooling, prepare the strawberries. Wash and hull the strawberries, reserving a few of the prettier ones for decorating the top. Halve the rest and put in a mixing bowl, then roughly mash with a fork or potato masher so the strawberries release their juice. In another bowl or large measuring jug, whisk the vegan cream or coconut cream until it just about holds its shape when you remove the beaters (this will take less than a minute for coconut cream, 4–5 for vegan whipping cream). Whisk in 1–2 tbsp icing sugar (I used 1 tbsp but you may prefer it a little sweeter).
- Once the shortcake is completely cool, slice it in half as evenly as possible (see notes for tips***). Put the bottom layer on the plate or dish you plan to serve it on, then spoon over the crushed strawberries. Place the other half gently on top, and pile with the whipped cream. Finally, arrange your reserved strawberries on top however you please. This is best eaten immediately, but will keep for a couple of days in the fridge.
*For a gluten-free version, replace the plain flour with 200g gluten-free flour, 175g ground almonds and ½ tsp xantham gum. If you want a nut-free and gluten-free version then you can use only gluten-free flour but this will affect the texture.
**Put your tins of coconut milk in the fridge for at least an hour before using to ensure the cream has solidified at the top. Try to find coconut milk that has a high fat percentage and doesn’t contain guar gum, otherwise the cream might split when you whip it.
***To slice your shortcake evenly without a cake slice, a trick is to use a plate or shallow dish with a rim that is roughly half the height of your cake. Put the cake on the plate or dish, and use a bread knife to cut it in half with the blade resting on the rim to keep it level. Try to ensure that the halves are as even as possible – if one is too thin it may crumble.