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Despite my penchant for elaborate layer cakes and time-consuming buttercreams, I do like making simple desserts, especially when I'm pressed for time or have a last-minute dinner guest. Now just because it's quick doesn't mean it has to be frumpy and unexceptional. Enter shortcakes.
Normally I make my shortcakes with biscuits, adding a bit more sugar to my standard recipe, then filling them with whipped cream or sweetened mascarpone and whatever juicy berry or fresh fruit I might have on hand. A splash of booze even sneaks in from time to time. But, since this is a cake column, I put the biscuits away and made a proper cake batter, which happens to be a snap to make. Like biscuit dough, these little cakes have buttermilk for a tangy touch that will differentiate them from, say, a yellow birthday cake. The cupcakes are light with a delicate, buttery crumb, and not too sweet as I wanted to highlight the filling components.
For the filling, I toss sliced strawberries in lemon juice and sugar and let them macerate, extracting delicate red juices that will be absorbed by the cupcakes. On top, there is shortcakes' requisite whipped cream, this one thickened with cream cheese and confectioner's sugar for an icing that is velvety and thick. Haphazardly piled strawberries and a generous spoonful of whipped cream sandwiched in a fluffy cupcake: sheer delight.