This Japanese-style strawberry shortcake is made with moist and fluffy vanilla sponge cake layers filled with light-as-cloud Chantilly cream and fresh strawberries. It’s the perfect cake for birthdays, anniversaries and festive occasions – a truly dreamy dessert you’ll want to make again and again!
This is a recipe update that I’m really excited about, you guys! It’s a breakthrough of sorts for me because I’ve been searching for a fool-proof genoise sponge cake recipe to make this dreamy Japanese strawberry shortcake.
Because a delicious Japanese strawberry shortcake always starts with a great sponge cake.
What is a Japanese strawberry shortcake?
In the West, a strawberry shortcake is typically made with a sweet cake or biscuit that’s more of a crumbly dough leavened with baking powder or baking soda.
It’s generally less dense and more crunchy, and not like a cake in the usual sense.
This is where a Japanese strawberry shortcake is significantly different.
In the Japanese version, a strawberry shortcake is a simple and exquisitely light cake dessert.
It’s made with moist and delicate vanilla sponge cake layers filled with Chantilly cream and fresh strawberries.
There’s a beautiful balance of flavours – the vanilla-flavoured sponge and whipped cream is just sweet, with light hint of tartness from the strawberries.
I just love how fresh and pretty a strawberry shortcake looks when frosted with whipped cream and decorated with glazed strawberries.
It’s so minimal and easy to do, I promise!
My best Japanese strawberry shortcake – updated!
A Japanese strawberry shortcake is made with:
- vanilla sponge cake
- fresh strawberries
- whipped cream
- light syrup – keeps the cake layers moist!
Depending on how you want to decorate the cake (or you can choose not to at all), you’ll also need:
- piping tip of your choice (I like to use Ateco #827 Open Star tip or you can go with the slightly smaller Wilton 1M tip)
- piping bag (I use an 18-inch disposable decorating bag like this one)
- offset spatula (my favourite is this OXO Good Grips offset spatula – pulls off any icing job easily!)
- cake scraper (I use this for a smooth finish on the cake)
Vanilla sponge cake
First, let’s talk about the sponge cake, because the success of a strawberry shortcake comes down to the sponge, after all!
This sponge is made with only 6 ingredients, and all are baking staples you can easily source. You won’t need any specialty flours, premixes, leavening agents or emulsifiers.
For this update, I made this strawberry shortcake with Japan’s Chef Keiko Ishida’s genoise sponge recipe and I couldn’t be happier with the result!
Believe me, I‘ve had to eat a lot of test sponge cakes to get here…
The cake is delightfully moist, airy and super fluffy. It tastes just like the ones I had in Japan – it’s classic, it’s authentic and it’s delicious!
The crumb is light and delicate, which are the qualities you want in a good sponge cake. Yet, it’s also firm enough to hold fillings and frostings to make all sorts of layer cakes.
In fact, I was so bowled over by Chef Ishida’s recipe that I dedicated a full post on how to make the genoise sponge cake.
It’s detailed with step-by-step pics, essential sponge cake tips, techniques and trouble-shooting, so you can make the sponge cake component of this strawberry shortcake with confidence.
PLUS I also made a recipe video to show you how easy it is to get a perfect sponge!
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Chantilly cream is your basic whipped cream flavoured with vanilla and sweetened with a bit of sugar.
I highly recommend using dairy cream with at least 35 – 38% butterfat content. Personally, I love the flavour of dairy creams so this is always my choice.
Alternatively, you can also use a non-dairy whipping cream that’s specifically intended for whipping.
Use strawberries that are just ripe as they will be just sweet enough with a hint of tartness.
Assembly: Putting the strawberry shortcake together
- Prepare the sponge cake. Bake the sponge cake and let it cool completely before using, or preferably overnight in the chiller (recommended). Slice into 3 layers. Do not fill or frost the cake while it’s still warm – it can be messy!
- Whip the cream. Combine whipping cream, icing sugar and vanilla extract in a mixing bowl. Whip until just stiff peaks. Set the whipped cream in the chiller until needed.
- Make a light syrup. Dissolve 1 tbsp sugar in 2 tbsps boiling water and let the syrup cool before using.
- Cut 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.
- Bottom layer: Brush some syrup on the first sponge layer with a clean pastry brush. Then spread a generous layer of whipped cream on top with an offset spatula.
- Middle layer: Align the second layer so that it sits nicely on top of the first layer. Brush with syrup again. Cover with a layer of whipped cream. Place the strawberry halves or slices on top. Leave half-inch (1-cm) of the edge and the center free so you can get neat edges when you cut the cake. Spread enough whipped cream until it covers the top of 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, making sure you get cream into 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 – make sure you have enough left for your piped decorations. Smoothen with a cake scraper or offset spatula.
- Decorating: 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 the fruit with neutral gel or glaze, or sift icing sugar over it.
- Overnight chill: Lastly, chill the assembled cake overnight in the refrigerator to firm up the cream. It will taste even more amazing – overnight chilling allows the flavours of the cake to meld together beautifully! The sponge layers will have absorbed the syrup, becoming extra moist, and the strawberries as well will have softened and taste sweeter.
How to store strawberry shortcake
A filled and frosted strawberry shortcake will keep well in the refrigerator for up to 5 days, when kept well sealed, but best eaten within 3 days.
If you are intending to do this as a make-ahead cake, I would recommend baking the sponge cake and freezing it.
Thaw the frozen sponge cake overnight in the chiller the day before you intend to work with it.
Once you fill, frost and decorate the cake, remember that it needs to chill for at least 4 hours, preferably overnight, in order to firm up the cream.
So you’ll want to move it from the freezer to the chiller two days before the actual day.
How to slice a strawberry shortcake
Have you seen those picture-perfect strawberry shortcake slices and wonder how they get it so neat? It’s really easy.
First, you have to start with a cold cake that’s been sitting overnight in the chiller. Use a very sharp knife with a non-serrated blade.
Dip the blade of the knife in very hot water – try to get most of the blade immersed. Wipe the blade dry.
Start by gently cutting through the top layer of strawberries first.
Once you’ve cut through the fruit, slice into the cake at an angle. Cut through firmly and decisively in a downwards direction.
Remember to clean the blade with a paper towel before dipping into the hot water again. Dry the blade, and slice again, repeating as needed.
I do hope you’ll love this strawberry shortcake as much as I do, and that I’m able to help you recreate a sweet taste of Japan in your home! Enjoy and happy baking! – xx Celia
Do you love light desserts? Here are popular Asian treats you can easily bake from scratch :
- Pandan Chiffon Cake
- Cinnamon Hazelnut Chiffon Cake
- Japanese Cotton Cheesecake
- Black Sesame Chiffon Cake – A Japanese-Inspired Treat
- Soft & Moist Bakery-Style Butter Coconut Buns
Tried this recipe? I’d love to see! Remember to share your pics on Instagram and tag @foodelicacy or #foodelicacy.
Japanese Strawberry Shortcake (Updated!)
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.