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Jun 24, 2014

Individual Strawberry Shortcakes

One of the very first ideas we pinned to the baby shower Pinterest board was a picture of individual strawberry shortcakes in tiny jars. So cute! But I wasn't really sure how to recreate it, and the source of the image didn't provide any instructions (don't you hate that?) Though strawberry shortcake is one of my favorite summer desserts, and I make it at least once a year, I wasn't sure how to make it ahead of time without it turning to mush. After a bit of trial and error, I think I've come up with the best possible method to make ahead individual shortcakes for any kind of party, maybe even for a Fourth of July BBQ? Read on to learn my secrets!

There are almost endless variations on strawberry shortcake; you can make it with biscuits, angel food cake, pound cake, etc.  I usually make mine with a hot milk cake, and I decided to use it for this recipe as well. It's very moist, but also very dense, so I didn't think it would fall apart with the added moisture of the strawberries the way something like an angel food cake would.

I baked my cake in jelly roll pan to maximize the servings I could get out of just one cake. Since the cake itself was thin, I just needed to cut it into small shapes for layering in the serving cups. If you choose to bake this cake in a taller pan, like a 9X13, you will probably need to cut your cake in half so it doesn't take up too much space when layered with the other elements.

How the ingredients were layered was also important. I decided to make strawberries the bottom layer so their juice would be less likely to completely soak the cake. Also, I limited the amount of sugar I added to the berries so they wouldn't get too juicy.  I think two tablespoons per pound of berry is the perfect ratio.

And finally, I used Cool Whip instead of whipped cream. You are probably thinking that real whipped cream tastes better than Cool Whip, and you are right, but I didn't think real whipped cream would hold up as well over several hours. The Cool Whip performed like a champ.

Individual Strawberry Shortcakes (makes about 24 servings)


For the hot milk cake:
4 eggs
2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2-1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1-1/4 cups 2% milk
10 tablespoons butter, cubed

4 tablespoons of sugar
2 lbs strawberries
2 large (12oz) tubs of Cool Whip

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, beat eggs on high speed for 5 minutes or until thick and lemon-colored. Gradually add sugar, beating until mixture is light and fluffy. Beat in vanilla. Combine flour and baking powder; gradually add to batter; beat at low speed until smooth.

Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, heat milk and butter just until butter is melted. Gradually add to batter; beat just until combined.

Pour into a greased jelly roll pan or large sheet pan. The cake batter will seem very wet, by the way. Don't let that worry you! Give your cake a little shake (shake that cake!) to make sure it's evenly spread out on the pan. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean.

Let the cake cool for 5-10 minutes, then place a clean kitchen towel and a wire rack on top of it. Flip the pan over so that the cake is resting on the kitchen towel. The cake should come out of the pan easily, but if not, run a knife around the edge to loosen. Once the cake is completely cooled, place the pan over the cake and flip it back into place.

Using a small cookie or biscuit cutter (preferably one that is open on both ends) cut shapes out of the cake that are small enough to fit into the dishes you will be serving your shortcake in. If you don't have anything small enough, just cut the cake into 1 inch squares.

About 30 minutes before you begin layering your shortcakes, hull and slice your strawberries, reserving 12 whole ones for garnish. Add sugar to the sliced strawberries and refrigerate for 20-30 minutes.

I found that it was easier and quicker to layer the Cool Whip by piping it in than spooning it. You don't need to use a piping bag, just cut the tip off of a large plastic baggie.

Begin layering your ingredients into your serving dish, first a spoonful of strawberries, then a layer of cake, then a layer of Cool Whip, trying to make each layer as even in height as possible. Repeat, ending with the cool whip. Top with half of a strawberry.

Here's what my shortcakes looked like right after I made them, and the top picture is after 4 hours in the fridge, plus  15-20 minutes riding in a hot car.
These individual shortcakes will keep for hours in the fridge without the cake getting mushy; the strawberries will actually be the first thing to go, which is another reason to limit the sugar. I baked my cake a day before the shower and assembled the shortcake cups the morning of, which worked out perfectly. As I mentioned before, this cake is very moist, so it still tastes delicious on the second day. I hope you found my strawberry shortcake secrets helpful! What's your favorite way to make it?

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