Short and Sweet

Today is National Strawberry Shortcake Day — a very good day to celebrate!

What most of us refer to as strawberry shortcake is actually strawberry sponge cake — a soft cake layered with macerated strawberries and whipped cream.

The original strawberry shortcake is made with biscuits or a type of crumbly bread that has been leavened with baking powder. Shortcake is made with flour, sugar, baking powder or soda, salt, butter, milk or cream. The dry ingredients are blended, and then the butter is cut in until the mixture resembles large crumbs.

The liquid ingredients are then mixed in just until moistened, resulting in“short dough.” One then drops the dough in spoonfuls onto a baking sheet or can roll them slightly and cut them with a round cookie cutter, being careful not to overwork the dough.

Sliced strawberries are mixed with sugar and allowed to sit an hour or so until they have released a great deal of their juices.

Once the biscuits are baked they are split open, sort of like a sandwich roll. The bottoms are covered with a layer of strawberries, juice, and whipped cream, sometimes flavored with sugar and vanilla. The top is replaced, and more strawberries and whipped cream are added onto the top.

The first strawberry shortcake recipe appeared in an English cookbook as early as 1588, according to Driscoll’s berry growers — the largest berry growing company. By 1850, strawberry shortcake was a well-known biscuit and fruit dessert served throughout the United States. Strawberry shortcake parties were held as celebrations of the summer fruit harvest. This tradition is upheld in some parts of the United States on June 14, which is National Strawberry Shortcake Day.

Today the term strawberry shortcake has come to mean any layered strawberry dessert, including the delicious parfaits below.

As many in our community refrain from eating fresh strawberries due to concerns of infestation, greenhouse-grown strawberries are available frozen and can be a good stand-in when preparing popular strawberry recipes.

Strawberry Shortcake Parfaits

  • 1 pound strawberries, fresh or frozen
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 sleeve graham crackers (or 1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs)
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted
  • 1¼ cups heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup plus 1 tbsp. sugar
  • 2 (8-oz.) blocks cream cheese, softened
  • 2 tablespoon milk
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Prepare strawberries for use according to your halachic authority. Slice them into bite-sized pieces. Place in a bowl with the sugar, lemon zest, and lemon juice. Stir well to combine, then let this sit for 15 minutes.

If you are using frozen strawberries, defrost completely and add the sugar and lemon; mix until combined.

In the meantime, place the graham crackers into a food processor and pulse until ground into fine crumbs. If you don’t have a food processor, you can crush the graham crackers with a rolling pin.

Combine the graham cracker crumbs and melted butter in a bowl, and stir until the crumbs are moistened. Set aside.

In a stand mixer fitted with the wire whisk or using electric beaters, beat heavy cream with 1 tablespoon sugar in a large bowl until cream is stiff.

In a separate mixing bowl, beat cream cheese until smooth, about 1-2 minutes. Add remaining sugar and continue to beat until mixture is smooth and fluffy. Beat in milk and vanilla; scrape down sides of bowl with a spatula and blend until smooth. Gently fold whipped cream into cream cheese mixture with a spatula.

To assemble the cheesecake parfaits, place a few spoonfuls of the cheesecake mixture into the bottom of 6 dessert glasses. Next add a layer of the graham cracker crumbs.

Top that with a layer of the macerated strawberries, then repeat with one more of each layer. Chill the parfaits for about an hour in the refrigerator before serving.

Readers may submit questions to the Culinary Connoisseur, c/o Hamodia, 207 Foster Avenue, Brooklyn, N.Y. 11230 or via e-mail to This weekly column has been brought to you by The Peppermill, the world’s first kosher kitchenware store, located at 5015 16th Avenue, Brooklyn, N.Y. (718) 871-4022. You can also read a selection of previous columns in their comprehensive cookbook, The Culinary Connoisseur, available now at your local Judaica and kitchenware stores. Jam-packed with delicious recipes, insightful food information and helpful cooking tips, this book is certain to become your constant companion in the kitchen.