Honey and Balsamic Strawberry Shortcake with Basil Whipped Cream
Strawberry shortcake is arguably the darling of summer desserts.
How nostalgic does strawberry shortcake make you feel? For me, strawberry shortcake used to mean those spongey “cakes” that came in a six-pack topped with a couple of strawberry slices and a thud of cool whip. That’s no longer what strawberry shortcake represents in my world.
Real strawberry shortcake is meant to be served on biscuits, and for good reason!
Cream biscuits are a breeze to make. They’re quick, easy, and take only a few minutes to prepare. Heavy cream takes the place of butter, so your mixing and kneading time is cut in half. These biscuits are delicate, lighter than buttermilk biscuits, and, if you’re using self-rising flour, only require three ingredients. If you don’t have self-rising flour, don’t fret. There’s an easy substitution included in the recipe notes.
Enhancing your strawberries
Strawberries and balsamic vinegar are an unassuming pair. Often seen in the likes of salads and bowls, balsamic vinegar can really elevate these berries in a sweet dish, as well. After all, it’s aged in casks in Italy (if you’re using real balsamic) and only gets better as the barrels grow in years. The balsamic becomes thicker, richer, and more velvety.
When balsamic is paired with honey, these two are a duo to be reckoned with. Deep richness brought on by their respective amber hues only seems to complement each other, while the balsamic delivers a much-needed acidity to balance out honey’s rich sweetness. Of course, we’ll need the work of a touch of vanilla extract to smooth it out.
Balance with Basil
So far, almost every component of this dessert is rich and dense. This, of course, is why we top off so many dishes with freshly whipped cream. However, strawberries macerated in honey and balsamic deserve something a little more… elevated (that is the theme of the riff on this classic).
Enter, basil. Why? Because basil is so fragrant and floral. Basil is bright and has a bit of a bite, but more of a mint-like essence that brightens up a dish.
Using a three-ingredient recipe for basil simple syrup, heavy cream is transformed into a sublime dessert topping. Substituting this botanical syrup for traditionally-used confectioners sugar is as simple as it sounds.
Choosing your ingredients
I’ve spewed off a list of some fairly broad ingredients, like honey and balsamic vinegar. But choosing the right variations of each addition is important.
- Skip raw honey. There’s a reason that raw honey is more expensive; it contains the enzymes otherwise lost when brought above a certain temperature. It’s also more expensive, so don’t waste your money cooking honey that’s meant to stay below 80 degrees.
- Choose a lighter honey for a lighter taste. Darker amber hues of honey are going to deliver a deeper and richer flavor.
- Look for balsamic vinegar of Modena. This is the classic region for growing grapes that will soon become balsamic. You can check for the ‘Protected Geographical Indication’ label that ensures food products at least grown or produced in a stated area or region.
- Use real vanilla extract, not imitation! This is just good kitchen etiquette.
- Look for a local, organic heavy cream—the taste is incomparable to grocery brands!
- Shop for the sweet basil varieties. These leaves are softer, rounder, and provide a sweet and lighter flavor than other variations of basil.
Make it easier by making ahead
Half of this recipe can be easily made ahead for quick assembly. When making the biscuits ahead of time, consider:
- Chilling the dough in the fridge for up to 48 hours to retain quality
- Making the biscuits up to two days ahead; store in an air-tight container at room temperature
- Freezing the biscuits and let thaw, covered, at room temperature when you’re ready to make shortcake
Other make-ahead options include:
- Preparing the simple syrup and storing in the refrigerator for up to three days before use
- Whipping the cream and simple syrup the morning before (or up to 12 hours)
‘Wow’ your guests or host with this sophisticated spin on a summer favorite. Ready to get baking? Grab the recipe below!
Take your strawberry shortcake to the next level with honey-balsamic macerated strawberries and whipped cream sweetened with basil simple syrup.
For the Basil Whipped Cream:
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup basil leaves
1/4 cup sugar
For the Strawberries:
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup honey
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 pounds fresh strawberries, halved
For the Cream Biscuits:
2 cups self-rising flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
- Make ahead the basil simple syrup, allowing it to cool before combining with whipped cream
- Bring 1/4 cup water to a simmer in a small saucepan
- Add the sugar and stir until it dissolves
- Remove from heat and add the basil leaves, cover, and let sit
- Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 475 degrees and prepare the biscuits
- Mix together the flour, sugar, and cream in a medium mixing bowl until it becomes one solid form
- On a lightly floured surface, begin kneading the dough while continuing to fold it in half and knead it back out. Repeat 5 times. Roll out dough to accommodate 8 biscuits (about 1/2 inch thick).
- Using the lid of a wide-mouth mason jar or biscuit cutter, cut out biscuits and place on a degreased or parchment-lined sheet pan
- Bake for 10-12 minutes
- While the biscuits bake, prepare the strawberries
- In a small saucepan, mix together the balsamic vinegar and honey
- Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, for 5 minutes, until the mixture has slightly thickened
- Remove from heat and add the vanilla
- Drizzle over the halved strawberries and let cool
- Once golden brown, remove the biscuits from the oven and place on a cooling rack
- Strain the basil leaves from the simple syrup and chill in the fridge
- Begin preparing the whipped cream; in a medium bowl, begin whipping heavy cream using the whisk attachment on a handheld mixer, immersion blender, or Kitchen Aid mixer
- As soft peaks begin to form, slowly add the basil simple syrup
- Continue to whip the cream until the peaks hold their form
- Assemble the shortcakes by spooning the strawberry maceration over the bottom half of a biscuit and topping with basil whipped cream
Substitute self-rising flour using 2 cups all-purpose flour, 3 tsp baking powder, and 1/2 tsp salt. Sift well.
You can make the biscuits, simple syrup, and whipped cream ahead of time for easy assembly. Strawberries are best served fresh or within 4 hours (keep refrigerated)
Keywords: strawberry, shortcake, strawberry shortcake, basil, honey balsamic, biscuits