I wish I could say this recipe came about after weeks of pondering, taste testing, and seeking inspiration from almighty Pinterest. Alas, the birth of this strawberry shortcake-esque concoction came from the desperation of what I could find in the pantry and refrigerator one evening when we were tasked with bringing dessert to a dinner: the makings for sugar cookies, almost-expired strawberries, and heavy cream. Let the good times roll.
When I initially made it, I hurriedly baked the cookies the night before and whipped the cream to leave it in a plastic container in the refrigerator. After dinner with our friends, we smeared the fluffy whipped cream over the monster sugar cookies like a pizza, sprinkled with sugary drops of chopped strawberries. It wasn’t easy or pretty to eat in such a form, but luckily we’re close enough with said couple that we could continue semi-serious conversations with whipped cream dotting our noses and chins.
So when I bought a gargantuan container of strawberries the next week from Costco, I wondered… Could that idea be made prettier and easier to eat? Also, I was primarily fishing for ideas of how to use up the toddler-sized bucket o’berries before they went bad, thus these official shortcake cups came into being.
Shortcake is a misnomer, as what we have here are bonafide sugar cookies – and the best sugar cookies you’ll ever have, by the bye. The recipe for them comes from The Pastry Queen by Rebecca Rather. Rather owned a little cafe and bakery in the middle of the quaint, tourist-y town of Fredericksburg in the heart of the Texas hill country. I have a soft spot in my heart for this book. When I first began working in a bakery back in college, the hours went by painfully slowly, and I could only sweep the floor and wipe down the counter so many times before I searched for alternative entertainment. Among the chef’s collection of cookbooks was The Pastry Queen. I spent hours poring over it, bought my own copy, and thus began my love of baking. I think this book had a major influence on my identity as a home cook: make it big, be creative, and don’t skimp on the butter. These cookies are one of dozens of treasured recipes from the book that I frequently recreate in my own kitchen, and they have the love and respect of all of the friends and family who have tasted them over the years.
I have only adapted her version slightly, by replacing the powdered sugar that she calls for with the same amount of granulated sugar. A few years ago, we spent a weekend in Fredericksburg, and I tried to find the little shop she wrote so much about in her book. But, alas, it had shut down, and word was she was running a cute restaurant on the outskirts of town. One day, Rebecca Rather. I will find you… (in an inspirational way… not a Taken-with-Liam-Neeson kind of way).
Rants about favorite cookbooks aside, this recipe is simple, crowd-pleasing, and sinfully decadent. You can easily prep everything the day before, and right before dessert simply crumble the cookies and layer into individual bowls or glasses with the chopped strawberries and whipped cream. I prepared mine in these adorable glass mugs so I could see the pretty layers, but you could easily do the same in a small drinking glass (like a whiskey tumbler), or as one large trifle in a trifle bowl. With these, the world is your oyster, so add more strawberries if you choose, or leave the cookies in dense, hearty chunks. Maybe even spike the whipped cream with bourbon – you do you.
Sugar Cookie Strawberry Shortcake Cups
For the Cookies
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter room temperature
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 egg
- 2 teaspoons vanilla
- 2 cups all purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
For the Whipped Cream
- 1 cup heavy whipping cream chilled
- 1/4 cup powdered sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 pint of strawberries sliced
For the Cookies
- Beat the butter in the bowl of a stand mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 1 minute. Then, one at a time, add the vegetable oil, sugar, egg, and vanilla. With the mixer running, add the flour, baking soda, and salt in increments until combined.
- Refrigerate dough for an hour, or freeze for 15 minutes.
- Roll dough into slightly large golf balls and press onto a prepared baking sheet with the palm of your hand until it’s about an inch thick.
- Bake in a 350 degree Fahrenheit oven for 15-17 minutes, or until golden around the edges. Let cool.
For the Whipped Cream
- In the bowl of a stand mixer with the whisk attachment, whisk the heavy cream on medium high speed until soft peaks begin to form. Add the sugar and vanilla and continue whipping until stiffer peaks form, or it reaches your desired consistency.
- Crumble the cookies and layer about one quarter of a crumbled cookie in the bottom of the serving glass, then a layer of strawberries, then a dollop of whipped cream. Repeat this process until you reach the top, ending with sugar cookie crumbles and a strawberry or two for decoration.