5 Easy Ways To Make Shortcake In Minutes

Enjoy a fresh spin on this beloved summer dessert by using whatever you have on hand.

Late summer is the height of shortcake season. Strawberries might be done in many places, although I found some delicious ones in Toronto earlier this month. Even if you can't find strawberries, there are blueberries, raspberries, peaches, and blackberries ready to go in many farmers markets.

The classic shortcake is composed of biscuits (or cake), berries, and whipped cream. But there's no reason to stick to that script, especially if you aren't able to obtain some of those ingredients, or don't have time to bake or whip. Through various kitchen experiments, I have come up with five easy shortcake alternatives to make the most of your late summer fruit and use up ingredients you already have on hand.

Try yogurt instead of whipped cream

I don't buy heavy cream very often, and whipped cream in a can just doesn't compare to the homemade kind. Still, this dessert would be nothing without some kind of sauce. Once I was preparing shortcake for a dinner party when the high humidity outside meant my cream simply wouldn't whip. I turned to yogurt in desperation, and found that its flavor and texture worked well in the dessert. Vanilla yogurt is ideal, but you can also sweeten plain yogurt with a sprinkling of maple sugar over the top. Be sure to stir your yogurt well so there are no stiff areas or clumps. Non-dairy yogurts work just fine here, too.

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Use breakfast cookies or tea biscuits

This is an idea I borrowed from friends in England. They didn't have biscuits or cake available, so they crushed up some tea biscuits, those rectangular cookies that come in long packets, and layered fruit and cream over them, sort of like a trifle. I find that breakfast biscuits work especially well for this. I use Belvita or the breakfast biscuits sold at ALDI. Crunch them inside the packet, then pour them out into the bottom of the bowl. Add the fruit and let the juices soak in a little to soften up any cookie corners.

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Make leftover cornbread the base

If you wind up with excess cornbread, or bring it home from a barbecue joint, here's a novel use for it. Split open a piece of cornbread and layer it with fresh fruit. Toasting the cornbread is optional, but I think warmth brings out its flavor; if you don't want to turn on the oven, you could also zap it for 10-20 seconds in the microwave. You'd put fruit jam on cornbread, right? Here's another way to sweeten it up (and use it up).

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Use whatever bread you have available

Many breads have a sweet flavor, from brioche to Japanese milk bread to Portuguese bread, which make them ideal biscuit substitutes in a shortcake. You also can use toasted cubes of white bread, or slices of baguette. This is not as far-fetched as you'd think: English summer pudding involves lining a bowl with white bread and layering in fruit. Bread and fruit go nicely together, and toasting it, or even letting the baguette go a bit stale, provides some stability to the finished product.

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Make muffins do the job

American muffins are much like cake anyway, especially the monster ones you get from food service or the kind sold at many bakeries. I often eat only half in one sitting, and then I have the rest of a muffin to deploy. Muffins are a perfect shortcake substitute, and fruit muffins can enhance any fresh fruit you're layering into the dessert. A blueberry muffin with blueberries and topping? Perfection.

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