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Aunt Tusanne’s Strawberry Shortcake

August 24, 2012

I’ve just return from a visit with my grandmother – Medora III.  As is usual during our visits we talk about family history.  I truly enjoy hearing about her childhood and what she knows about her mother’s – Medora II. Aunt Tusanne was my great-grandmother’s (Medora II) family cook back in the latter part of the 1800’s.  According to family folklore, she was adored and revered in large part because of her culinary skills. How can you not adore someone who makes yummy food for you? My great-grandmother learned a few of her recipe techniques which were passed down to her daughter – my grandmother (Medora III). One of those recipes is this version of strawberry shortcake.

I collect and read recipe books and I have never found a recipe that is as unique as this one.  What makes it unique is the topping – which is basically a boiled frosting.  Most strawberry shortcake recipes use whipped cream. However, anyone to whom I have served this version are amazed at how much better the dish tastes with this topping.

So, thank you Aunt Tusanne.  Your legacy lives on.

Aunt Tusanne’s Strawberry Shortcake

9 servings

(21st Century adaptation of a late 19th century recipe from my family’s cook)

Biscuit Shortcakes 

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour

1 ½ cups cake flour (or, if you have White Lily™ flour – you can use 3 cups of that instead)

1 TBSP. sugar

1 TBSP. baking powder

½ tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. salt

1 stick of cold, unsalted butter, cut into ½” pieces – then allow to soften

4 TBSPS. vegetable shortening or lard, cut into ½” pieces

1 ¼ cups of buttermilk

(if you don’t have buttermilk, you can substitute it with 1 ¼ cups of whole milk to which you add 1 TBSP.  plus ¾ TSP. of lemon juice or white vinegar.  Whisk together and let stand for about 10 minutes or until slightly thickened.)

2 TBSPS. melted, unsalted butter

1 TBSP. raw sugar

Preheat oven to 425° and adjust rack in oven to the middle position.  Spray a 10” cast iron skillet with vegetable cooking spray or lightly grease with a coat of shortening or lard. Set aside.

Combine flours and next 6 ingredients in a large mixing bowl using a wire whisk. Using your fingers, rub the butter and shortening/lard into the flour mixture until the mixture resembles coarse meal.  Stir in the buttermilk until just combined.

Using a 2”, spring loaded ice cream scoop, transfer 9 heaping portions into the prepared cast-iron skillet. Brush tops of biscuit with melted butter using a pastry brush. Sprinkle the raw sugar over the tops.

Bake biscuits 20 -25 minutes or until puffed and golden brown.  Remove from oven and allow to cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Remove to cool on wire racks.

If using right away, only allow them to cool until just cool enough to handle and split open.  Shortcake is best when the shortcakes are slightly warm as the strawberry juice soaks in better.

These shortcakes can be made ahead of time and stored for up to 2 days in an airtight container.  Before serving, slice and then heat in the microwave for 5 – 10 seconds or until slightly warmed.

Macerated Strawberries 

2 pints of strawberries

½ cup of sugar +/-, depending on the sweetness of the berries and personal taste

Wash the strawberries in a colander and then hull, half and slice into a large mixing bowl. Gently toss the berries with the sugar and allow to stand at room temperature for at least an hour – 2 hours if the berries were cold to begin with.

After the berries have macerated – the juice has been drawn out – remove 1 cup with a slotted spoon and place on a large plate.  Mash the berries with the back of a dinner fork until almost smooth with a few chunks.  Add back into the sliced berries and stir to combine.  They are now ready to serve.

If preparing ahead, let macerate at room temperature for one hour then place in the refrigerator until ready to use.  1 hour before ready to use, remove from refrigerator and allow to come to room temperature before assembling shortcakes.


1 cup sugar

¼  cup + 2 TBSPS.  water

1 ½ tsps. light Karo syrup

Pinch of salt

1 egg white

1/8 tsp. cream of tartar

1/2 tsp. vanilla

Stir together 1st 4 ingredients in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium/high heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Reduce heat to low and cover the saucepan to allow the steam to wash down and dissolve any sugar crystals on the side of the pan for 2 – 3 minutes. Uncover, insert a candy thermometer in the pot and cook until it reaches 210°.  This step might take anywhere from 15 – 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a large mixing bowl, beat the egg white with the cream of tartar until stiff peaks form. Set aside.

When the sugar syrup reaches 210°, remove from heat and dip the bottom of the pan in cold water for 1 second to stop the cooking process.

Gradually add the sugar syrup to the beaten egg white, beating constantly with an electric mixer. Add vanilla and beat until slightly thick – about 4 – 5 minutes. Use immediately.


Once biscuits are cool enough to handle, slice in half and place the bottom on a serving plate.

Spread enough of the berry juice on the bottom to soak in but don’t over saturate.  Then top with some strawberries and drizzle some of the icing on top of that.  Top with top biscuit layer, then berries with juice and finally another drizzle of the icing – according to taste.

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