Wednesday, May 15, 2013
This time of year, the battle lines are drawn between the two strawberry shortcake factions: those who want the dessert served with real biscuit-like shortcake, and those who want it served atop sponge cake. Both camps are fierce in their loyalties, although I think that the name "shortcake" actually weights the argument in favor of the biscuits.
In the context of food, short means crumbly or friable. Dough that is short contains a lot of fat, or shortening. The biscuits are crusty on the outside but crumbly when attacked with a fork. Spongecake, on the other hand, is not crusty and not crumbly. It just soaks up the juice and turns to mush.
To my mind, strawberry shortcake is best when ripe strawberries are sliced and dusted with sugar, then set aside to macerate. Meantime, the shortcake is prepared, using lots of butter and maybe even some cream. After the shortcake has baked and cooled somewhat, it is sliced in half horizontally. The bottom layer is covered with strawberries and whipped cream (real whipped cream, not CoolWhip), the top layer is set on this and more berries and cream added. The result is a grand mixture of crunchy creamy tangy juicy goodness.
When spongecake is used, though, especially those little preshaped cakes with little rims, the result is an overly sweet dessert with no crunch and little tang. I can't imagine why anyone would prefer this, despite the fact that this group includes some of my friends. It's a subject we never discuss.