Meet the half-cake, half scone taste of summer
Lilly Higgins: These strawberry shortcakes – half cake, half scone – are filled with jam and whipped cream
Lilly Higgins’s strawberry shortcakes: like scones, they’re perfect with jam and cream
Strawberry shortcakes are so pretty, so delicious and pure summer. They look similar to scones but are softer and lighter. Whereas a scone has a shorter, more biscuity crumb, a shortcake is almost half cake and half scone. (These shortcakes also have cream in the dough, to add a further layer of indulgence. No run-of-the-mill buttermilk here.) Irish strawberries are plentiful now, and making jam is the perfect way to preserve the season.
I love to add sweet geranium for a wonderful floral twist. Pelargonium graveolens grows well in Ireland as a houseplant and can be left outside during milder months. It is a hardy plant that exudes an intoxicating rose scent – it always reminds me of Turkish delight – and a few leaves are delicious added to apple or rhubarb tart. (You can buy some good strawberry jam instead of making your own, of course.)
Using cold, softly whipped cream provides a blanket of cool creaminess to offset the sweet and floral jam.
Strawberry and sweet geranium shortcakes
Serves eight and makes four jars of jam
For the strawberry jam
Juice of 2 lemons
6 sweet geranium leaves
For the shortcakes
300g plain flour
2tsp baking powder
100g butter, cold and cubed
1 egg, lightly beaten, with 1tbsp water to glaze
500ml softly whipped cream
A few extra sliced strawberries
To make the jam, spread the sugar on a large baking tray and leave it in a warm oven – about 100 Celsius – for five minutes.
Wash and hull the strawberries, then put them in a large heavy-based pan with the geranium leaves and lemon juice, and crush lightly with a wooden spoon. Bring to the boil, then add the warmed sugar. Boil for 15 minutes.
Remove the pan from the heat and test the jam by spooning a little on to a cold saucer. If it wrinkles when you run your finger through it then it’s ready to be potted.
Leave the jam to cool a little, then pour into dry, warm, spotlessly clean jam jars. (I usually warm and sterilise mine by putting them in the oven when I warm the sugar; keep your jam in the fridge once you’ve opened a jar.)
To make the shortcakes, heat the oven to 200 Celsius, then put the flour, sugar and baking powder in a large bowl. Use a whisk to mix everything together. Now, using your fingertips, rub the butter into the flour mix. (It’s fine to leave some butter visible.)
Create a well in the centre and pour in the cream. Use your hand, in a claw shape, or a round-bladed knife to bring the mix together. Work quickly with a light touch to form a soft dough. Pat it down gently and cut out eight rounds using a biscuit cutter.
Place on a tray lined with baking paper. Brush each shortcake with the egg wash and scatter sugar on top. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until risen and lightly golden.
Leave to cool on a wire rack before serving with the jam, whipped cream and extra sliced strawberries.