5-Ingredient Strawberry Shortcakes Recipe

Ten minutes and a few ingredients make an awesome dessert with minimal effort.

A top-down image of six composed strawberry shortcakes, on a speckled ceramic plate on a textured cloth background.

Serious Eats / Julia Estrada

Why It Works

  • Combining our two-ingredient biscuit recipe with macerated strawberries and whipped cream makes a five-ingredient dessert that takes only 10 minutes to put together.

I loved Strawberry Shortcake as a kid. I mean, I loved it. And I'm not talking about the simple dessert of biscuits layered with macerated strawberries and whipped cream. I'm talking about the cartoon character with the cat named Custard. I had a well-worn cassette tape with Strawberry Shortcake episodes, my favorite of which was the housewarming episode which ends with a rousing dance number called International Party. I'd play it on repeat, dancing out the routines with the characters on-screen. I'm pretty sure I also dressed up as Strawberry Shortcake for Halloween several years in a row.

There are a few things the cartoon Strawberry Shortcake has in common with real strawberry shortcake. Most importantly, it offers a lot of pleasure in a very short amount of time with minimal effort. In fact, I'd be willing to bet that you could throw together an excellent strawberry shortcake from scratch during the commercial breaks, not miss a single second of the action, and have dessert ready by the time the show is over.

The simple five ingredients for strawberry shortcake: cream, strawberries, vanilla, sugar, and self-rising flour.

Serious Eats / J. Kenji Lopez-Alt

This strawberry shortcake recipe falls squarely into the maximum-return-for-minimum-investment category. Five ingredients and only five to 10 minutes of actual work for a simple dessert that will be better than most of the stuff you can get at the store.

It starts out with a standard two-ingredient biscuit recipe: stir together equal parts heavy cream and self-rising flour (along with a dash of sugar), scoop out with a cookie scoop, and bake.

Because cream has just the right ratio of fat to water, it allows you to make a moist, workable dough with very minimal gluten formation. The result is light, tender, buttery-tasting biscuits even though the recipe calls for no actual butter. This, by the way, is where shortbread and shortcake get their name: gluten strands are kept "short" during dough formation.

You've already got the sugar and the cream out, which makes the rest of the recipe a snap. First, I toss sliced strawberries with a little bit of that sugar. As the strawberries rest, the sugar draws out their liquid through the process of osmosis, which in turn forms a sweet, strawberry-flavored syrup to soak into your biscuits. Drawing liquid out from the strawberries also tenderizes them, very much like letting some of the air out of an air-mattress will make it softer and squishier.

Tossing macerated strawberries into the air from their bowl.

Serious Eats / J. Kenji Lopez-Alt

(I took a bunch of photos of myself tossing strawberries with a flash set on an intervalometer and discovered that when frozen in time in mid-air, macerated strawberries a) look much wetter than they do when sitting still and b) always look like they're going to splat all over the counter.)

The same macerating method will work with other juicy fruits, by the way. Ripe apricots, peaches, and plums all make for fantastic shortcake desserts, as do all manner of berries.

All that's left to do is whip some cream with a dash of vanilla and sugar while the biscuits bake, then layer everything together once they've had a chance to cool slightly. Wasn't that easy?

Now dig in and pretend that you've done enough hard work to deserve a dessert this good, then consider perhaps serving strawberry shortcake at your next international party. (You can skip the dancing.)

October 2015

Recipe Facts



Active: 10 mins
Total: 25 mins
Serves: 4 to 6 servings

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  • 1 quart strawberries, quartered or sliced

  • 1/2 cup sugar, divided

  • 5 ounces (about 1 cup) self-rising flour

  • 1 pint heavy cream, divided

  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract


  1. Adjust oven rack to center position and preheat oven to 450°F (230°C). Toss strawberries with 6 tablespoons sugar in a medium bowl and set aside.

    Trimmed and quartered strawberries mixed with sugar inside of a metal mixing bowl.

    Serious Eats / Julia Estrada

  2. Place flour in a large bowl. Whisk in 1 tablespoon sugar. Stirring with a wooden spoon, drizzle in 3/4 cup cream. Stir until a lumpy dough is formed. Do not overmix.

    A two-image collage. The top image shows ¾ cup of cream being drizzled into a bowl containing the dry ingredients. The bottom image shows lumpy dough now formed inside of the bowl.

    Serious Eats / Julia Estrada

  3. Using a 1-ounce cookie scoop, scoop balls of dough onto a parchment-lined baking sheet, spacing them 2 inches apart. Brush tops with cream and bake until golden brown, about 12 minutes. Remove biscuits and set aside.

    A two-image collage. The top image shows balls of dough scooped out onto a parchment-lined baking sheet and spaced 2 inches apart, with the tops brushed with cream. The bottom image shows the now golden brown biscuits on a baking sheet after being removed from the oven.

    Serious Eats / Julia Estrada

  4. Using a wire whisk or an electric mixer, whip remaining cream with remaining tablespoon sugar and vanilla extract until stiff peaks form. Split biscuits, top with strawberries and cream, close shortcakes, top with more whipped cream, and serve immediately.

    A four-image collage. The top left image shows the remaining cream, sugar, and vanilla in a bowl before whipping. The top right image shows stiff peaks formed after whipping the cream, sugar, and vanilla. The bottom left image shows the biscuits split and topped with strawberries and cream. The bottom right image shows the strawberry shortcakes closed and topped with more whipped cream.

    Serious Eats / Julia Estrada

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Nutrition Facts (per serving)
457 Calories
29g Fat
45g Carbs
5g Protein
Show Full Nutrition Label Hide Full Nutrition Label
Nutrition Facts
Servings: 4 to 6
Amount per serving
Calories 457
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 29g 38%
Saturated Fat 18g 92%
Cholesterol 90mg 30%
Sodium 305mg 13%
Total Carbohydrate 45g 16%
Dietary Fiber 3g 11%
Total Sugars 25g
Protein 5g
Vitamin C 69mg 344%
Calcium 151mg 12%
Iron 2mg 9%
Potassium 284mg 6%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)