Moist and Fluffy Strawberry Shortcake
This strawberry shortcake is made with moist and fluffy vanilla sponge cake layers filled with light-as-cloud Chantilly cream and fresh strawberries. It’s a stunningly beautiful dessert you’ll want to make again and again.
I’ve always resisted making beautiful cakes.
Too many steps, too much time, and a big blow to my self-confidence when I muck it up. Until I saw my first Japanese strawberry shortcake in a Tokyo bakery.
Tempted by bright red strawberries and swirls of whipped cream in layers of delicate sponge, I stepped inside for a taste.
Hints of sweet vanilla and cream-coated strawberries with warm and fruity notes linger as the last crumbs melt away.
I was forever hooked. I’ve found the perfect cake to bake for the holidays.
But can I pull off this beautiful cake without pulling my hair over every detail?
You’ll be thrilled to know, yes! I’ve made this from scratch many times, and I can’t believe how quick and easy it comes together. I’m not a cake expert, but if I can do this, you can too – no special skills required.
Table of contents
- Strawberry shortcake: the perfect cake for the holidays
- How to make a stunning strawberry shortcake in less than 3 hours
- How to decorate a strawberry shortcake: No skills required
- Easy step by step guide: Strawberry shortcake
- How to get beautiful strawberry shortcake slices
- How to store a strawberry shortcake
Strawberry shortcake: the perfect cake for the holidays
If I took one thing back with me from Japan, it’s appreciating that a holiday cake doesn’t need to be rich, cloyingly sweet, or so heavy that it sits like a ton of bricks in your tummy.
The Japanese enjoy this strawberry shortcake all year round but more so at Christmas, when they eat it on Christmas Eve.
This rich and moist fruit cake is my favourite holiday cake, but a Japanese Christmas cake is definitely going to be a permanent addition.
It’s not too sweet, alcohol free, and calorie light so you don’t have to run a 5-mile marathon to burn off the indulgence.
How to make a stunning strawberry shortcake in less than 3 hours
Now, let’s look at the basic components of a strawberry shortcake:
- Vanilla sponge cake (1.5 hours)
I use a tried and tested genoise sponge cake recipe by Japanese Chef Keiko Ishida. With 6 ingredients, this sponge bakes extra moist, airy and fluffy – just like the ones you’ll get in Japan. It’s the real deal – it’s classic, authentic and melt-in-the-mouth delicious.
- Chantilly cream (15 mins)
This is a simple whipped cream flavoured with vanilla and sweetened with sugar. A dairy cream with at least 35 – 38% butterfat content works best. I love the flavour of dairy creams, but a non-dairy whipping cream will work fine too.
- Strawberries (10 mins)
Ripe, sweet strawberries with a bit of tartness are perfect. Slice it how you like it, but leave the best-looking ones whole for decorating.
- Light syrup (5 mins)
Made with sugar and water, a light syrup helps the cake stay moist. Brush liberally onto the sponge layers before spreading the cream and fruit (plus it’s a real life-saver too for sponges that baked a bit dry.)
- Assembly (30 mins)
How to decorate a strawberry shortcake: No skills required
If you can slap peanut butter on toast and squirt ketchup out of a squeeze bottle, you can do this.
To imitate a Japanese styling, a few basic tools are essential (I have a stress-free decorating tip for you later, so don’t panic just yet):
- piping tip. I use Ateco #827 Open Star tip or the slightly smaller Wilton 1M tip.
- piping bag. I use an 18-inch disposable decorating bag like this one.
- offset spatula. This OXO Good Grips offset spatula pulls off any icing job easily.
- pastry brush. A silicon pastry brush makes brushing easy and effortless.
- cake scraper. I use this one for a smooth finish on the cake.
- cake turntable. If you’re new to cake decorating, splurge on a cake turntable because the difference in results will amaze you.
Tip: Stress-free decorating for beginners!
Don’t want to bother with frosting and fancy piping? I’ve got you covered!
Make a beautiful, rustic-looking strawberry shortcake by sandwiching the sponge layers with cream and strawberries, leaving the sides bare.
Then go big on top.
- spread a generous layer of whipped cream.
- pile on the strawberries – use a mix of whole as well as sliced halves and quarters. Add a bit of blueberries, blackberries or raspberries, if you like, for a colourful mix.
- sprinkle over with icing sugar.
- garnish with mint or rosemary leaves.
Voila, you’ve now got a show-stopping dessert you’ll be proud to show off!
Easy step by step guide: Strawberry shortcake
Step 1. Bake the sponge cake
Bake the sponge cake and let it cool completely or overnight in the chiller. Do not fill or frost the cake while warm, as the cream may melt. Slice into 3 horizontal layers.
Step 2. Whip up the cream
Combine whipping cream, icing sugar, and vanilla extract in a mixing bowl. Whip until stiff peaks. Set the whipped cream in the chiller until needed.
Step 3. Prepare the syrup
Dissolve 1 tablespoon of sugar in 2 tablespoons of boiling water and let the syrup cool.
Step 4. Slice the strawberries
Choose the best-looking ones for the cake topping. For the filling, cut a few strawberries into halves or slices.
Step 5. The fun part – assembly
- Bottom layer. Brush syrup on the first sponge layer with a clean pastry brush. Then spread a thick layer of whipped cream with an offset spatula.
- Middle layer: Align the second layer and brush with syrup again. Cover with whipped cream. Place the sliced strawberries on top. Leave half-inch (1-cm) of the edge and the center free so you get neat edges when you slice the cake. Spread more whipped cream to cover the strawberries.
- Top layer: Place the last sponge cake layer on top and brush with syrup. Crumb-coat the top and sides of the cake, including all the empty pockets in between the layers. Scrape off the excess cream with the offset spatula. Then chill the cake for 15 minutes.
- Final coat: Cover the top and sides of the cake with a thick layer of whipped cream – leaving enough for the piped decorations. Smoothen with a cake scraper or offset spatula.
- Decorating: Fit a piping bag with a piping tip and fill with the remaining whipped cream. Pipe the patterns. Decorate with whole and cut strawberries, as desired. Sift icing sugar over the fruit, or brush with a glaze.
Step 6. Chilling
Lastly, chill the assembled cake overnight in the refrigerator to firm up the cream.
It will taste even more amazing. Overnight chilling allows the flavors of the cake to come together beautifully.
The sponge layers will absorb the syrup, turning extra moist, and the strawberries will soften and taste sweeter.
How to get beautiful strawberry shortcake slices
Have you seen those picture-perfect strawberry shortcake slices and wonder how they get it so neat?
Here are some tips:
- Chill the cake. A cake with a cream topping or filling is best cut when chilled. I recommend at least 3 to 4 hours of chilling time in the refrigerator to firm up the cream.
- Use the right blade. Make sure you use a sharp knife with a non-serrated blade. Bread knives, for example, are not suitable. The length of the blade is important as well. If it’s too short, you won’t be able to slice cleanly in one go. As a general guide, the knife blade should be as long, or longer than the radius of the cake. For example, use a knife with at least a 4-inch blade to slice through an 8-inch cake.
- Warm the blade. When a warm blade slices through, the cuts will be clean and smooth. Use a tall glass, fill it with hot water, and dip as much of the blade in. Wipe dry with a paper towel. Slice the cake as desired. After each cut, dip into the hot water again and wipe dry, repeating as needed.
- Start with the fruit. Slice through the top layer of strawberries first. Then, point the tip into the center of the cake and slice at an angle. Do it firmly in a downwards direction, all in one go.
How to store a strawberry shortcake
A filled and frosted strawberry shortcake keeps well in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. To enjoy it at its freshest, consume within the first 3 days.
If you plan to make this ahead, I recommend baking the sponge cake and freezing it.
Thaw the frozen sponge cake overnight in the chiller the day before you plan to fill and frost. Let the finished cake chill in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours or overnight, to firm up the cream.
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Say goodbye to complicated desserts with 20 steps, a day’s work, and pulling your hair over a hundred decorating details that could go wrong.
In less time than the hours you’ll spend mulling over countless holiday cake options, you’ll have a beautiful dessert on your hands you can be proud of!
The best part? You won’t need a pastry chef’s skills to pull off this stunning Japanese strawberry shortcake.
Love more light desserts? Browse these easy, bake-from-scratch treats:
- Pandan Chiffon Cake
- Cinnamon Hazelnut Chiffon Cake
- Japanese Cotton Cheesecake
- Black Sesame Chiffon Cake – A Japanese-Inspired Treat
For the sponge cake
- 1 vanilla sponge cake, round 6/7-inch (15/18-cm)
- 12 fresh strawberries
For the Chantilly cream
- 875 g whipping cream, 35 – 38% butterfat
- 60 g confectioner's sugar
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
For the syrup
- 12 g sugar
- 30 g hot water
- Make the sponge cake: Bake the sponge cake and let it cool completely before using, or preferably overnight in the chiller (recommended). Slice the cake into 3 layers of equal height. Tip: For a professional bakery look, slice the brown crust off the top of the cake.
- Make the Chantilly cream: Chill the stand mixer bowl and whisk attachment. Start with cold whipping cream in the bowl, and add the confectioner's sugar and vanilla extract. Whip on medium speed until soft peaks start to form – this is when you start to see the whisk form trail lines in the cream. Watch carefully as you whip, and stop as soon as you see stiff peaks. Keep the whipped cream in the chiller until needed.
- Prepare the strawberries: Choose the best-looking ones for the cake topping. For the filling between the cake layers, cut a few strawberries into halves or slices, as desired.
- Make the syrup: Dissolve 1 tbsp sugar in 2 tbsps boiling water. Cool before using.
Assemble the cake
- Bottom layer: With a clean pastry brush, brush syrup on the sponge layer. Using an offset spatula, spread a generous layer of whipped cream on top.
- Middle layer: Place another sponge layer neatly on top. Brush with syrup and spread whipped cream in an even layer. Place the strawberry halves or slices, leaving 0.5-inch (1-cm) of the edge free. Keep the centre free as well so you can get neat edges when you cut the cake. Spread whipped cream on top until it covers the top of the strawberries.
- Top layer: Place the last sponge cake layer neatly on top and brush with syrup. Fill the sides of the cake, making sure you get cream into the pockets in between the layers. Crumb-coat the top and sides with a thin layer of whipped cream. Scrape off the excess cream with the offset spatula. Chill the cake for 15 minutes.
- Final coat: Cover the top and sides of the cake with a thick layer of whipped cream – make sure you have enough left for your piped decorations. Smoothen all around with a cake scraper or offset spatula.
- Decorate: Fit a piping bag with your choice of piping tip and fill with the remaining whipped cream. Pipe the patterns. Decorate with whole and cut strawberries, as desired. Brush with neutral gel or glaze, or sift some confectioner's sugar over the fruit.
- Chill: Chill the assembled cake for at least 4 hours, or overnight in the refrigerator to firm up the cream. Tip: Overnight chilling allows the flavours of the cake to meld together beautifully! Best eaten within 3 days once filled and frosted.