Strawberry Shortcake: Gluten-free, Nut-Free

Vanilla sponge cake with strawberries. 

My memories of strawberry shortcake are of a traditional buttermilk biscuit, fresh strawberries falling all over themselves and gobs and gobs of sweetened home-made whipped cream. When I read this New York Times article a few weeks back about strawberry shortcake, I thought, “Well, maybe I could make it work with a gluten-free vanilla sponge cake (I’m wheat intolerant) , no cream (I’m lactose-intolerant) and tree nut-free (I’m tree-nut allergic).” Here are the medical differences between an intolerance and an allergy from the American Academy of Asthma Allergy and Immunology.

This first attempt was edible but not delightful, not drool worthy.

What I did for the cake: I used a vanilla cake mix from Betty Crocker Gluten-Free line of mixes to make cupcakes. The mix is also top eight allergen free. Here’s more about the top eight allergens as identified by the US Food and Drug Administration) Following the directions, the cake came out fine, a moist with a fine crumb. But it was bland, not very vanilla-y – I used Nielsen-Massey vanilla, the best out there so it wasn't for lack of adding the right vanilla. The cupcakes reminded me more of light corn muffins than anything else, even though the Betty Crocker Gluten-Free flour base is rice. But without a great vanilla sponge, the base was doomed. Tip: use a better vanilla cake base or a muffin base.

What I did for the strawberries: I used the New York Times recipe, which is allowing cut strawberries to macerate in some sugar and lemon zest. Those came out perfectly. Tip: don’t let them macerate too long or overnight as you are looking for fresh and bright strawberries here..

What I did for the cream: nothing. Here was the major fail. This recipe needs something creamy as a whipped cream, ice cream or frosting would have covered up the vanilla cake’s shortcomings. But as I’m lactose-intolerant, whipped cream from cow diary cream isn't an option. I thought vegan buttercream frosting would be too heavy. This blogger didn't think so and did just that and her version looks terrific. I did make a glaze with lactose-free milk and confectioner’s sugar and ground pepper, as per the suggestion by the New York Times recipe. That was yum but a drizzle of that couldn't save this assemblage. Tip: there are many dairy-free options out there, including ice creams, whips and frostings. This recipe definitely needs a topping of some sort.

So the upshot: this version strawberry shortcake that was gluten-free, tree-nut free was not scrumptious. Dairy-free buttercream frosting would have saved it. Here’s a comedic video and recipe for making that dairy-free buttercream frosting of deliciousness.


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