I'll always have a fondness for strawberry shortcake, the official dessert of summer, because of my grandmother. She and grandpa lived on a ranch with cows and sheep, an old pink jeep, creeks that were good for gold-hunting, a horse-trough filled with fish and a big fruit and vegetable garden. Grandma tended to her treasured garden and shared its successes in her kitchen. Every summer, strawberries made their appearance, sweet and plentiful and ready for grandma's recipes. She made jam, pie and strawberry shortcake with her bounty, but it's the shortcake that I remember most. In true "grandma" fashion, she whipped up a simply, buttery cornmeal cake without a recipe. She sliced the cake and topped it with some of those fresh strawberries from her garden, finishing it off with fresh cream from her cows. I remember how sweet and wonderful those strawberries were back then, and it's how I always expect my strawberries of present day to taste too!
Shortcake is typically made with butter or shortening cut into a flour mixture with milk and eggs and baking powder, creating a tender pastry. Since strawberries stacked on top of the shortcake generally just fall right off, many recipes call for mashing some of the strawberries to make topping the shortcake a neater task. This shortcake recipe incorporates the cornmeal that my grandmother used in her cake. A twist on the classic version, strawberries are baked in a cast iron skillet and topped with the cornmeal cake batter, creating a strawberry shortcake cobbler. Individual servings are given a good dose of sweetened whipped cream.
Lori Lange is a former elementary school teacher who traded the classroom for the kitchen when she founded the blog RecipeGirl.com in 2006. She cooks from her kitchen in San Diego, CA, where she lives with her husband and son.