Strawberry shortcake is a classic for good reason. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be improved. To modernize this summer favorite, I indulged my natural desire to go big or go home. The result is an enlarged-to-the-umpteenth-degree dessert fit for a crowd.
Unlike traditional shortcakes that are individually portioned, this version bakes the dough in one big slab to up the drama factor. By forgoing small rounds for an oversized mass, the vibe shifts from small and finicky to playful and party-ready. Show up to a summer picnic with a giant shortcake, and you’re guaranteed to make new friends.
If you’re worried that a large-format shortcake will end up with overbaked sides and a doughy interior, don’t fret: This recipe has a few tricks up its sleeve to ensure an even bake.
For starters, when shaping the dough into a slab, press down the center by about half an inch, leaving a border around the sides like a castle wall. This technique—not unlike the hack for making burgers that don’t bulge in the middle—accounts for the fact that the shortcake will puff up in the center. By compressing the center, the edges and inside will rise to the same height, creating an even surface instead of a sloped mound. And an even surface means the toppings won’t topple off.
Also key: Freeze the shortcake slab for 40–60 minutes before baking. This sorta-freezes the exterior of the dough, getting ahead of the fact that the outside will cook faster than the inside. Frozen dough means a longer cook time, so the edges and center should arrive at browned yet moist perfection at the same time.
A brush of egg wash and shower of coarse sugar (I’m partial to clear sanding sugar but raw sugar works just fine) tans the exterior and gives it a welcome sparkle and crunch. The resulting shortcake is crusty on top and tender and buttery throughout.
Like a little shortcake, this slab gets topped with pompadour-esque peaks of fluffy whipped cream, made with vanilla extract and cream cheese. The latter ingredient not only gives the cream a tangy flavor (a natural pairing for those ripe summer berries), it also stabilizes the cream to ensure it stays plush and lofty for hours.
While this detail might seem like a subtle upgrade, the extra staying power allows the assembled shortcake to sit around without losing its charm. You can leave it on a picnic table and walk away without worrying that the juicy berries and whipped cream will slide off. But then again, why would you ever walk away from a shortcake this beautiful?
Sheet-Pan Berry ShortcakeTopped with whipped cream and juicy berries, this giant shortcake is a must-bake for any summer party.