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Strawberry preserves on decorated plates and bowls.

Fresh strawberries are the star of this Southern twist on a classic dessert. (Photo by KC Hysmith)


Strawberry shortcake shaped like the state of North Carolina is served over berry compote.

Hysmith used a North Carolina-shaped cookie cutter to make this beautiful dessert. (Photo by KC Hysmith)


Finale: Strawberry shortcakes with sorghum whip

This is my family recipe for shortcakes. It’s technically a cream biscuit recipe, but it’s my go-to for last-minute spring and summer desserts with seasonal fruit and a whipped topping. I try to always use local ingredients, and in the spirit of Edible North Carolina, this recipe is decidedly local. When possible, I like to sweeten things like whipped cream and other non-baked components with syrups such as honey, molasses and sorghum. These syrups allow the individual aspects of a very saccharine dessert like strawberry shortcake to shine through the sweetness.

Serves 4-6

FOR THE CAKES:

• ½ cup cornmeal (I like local Redtail Grains Cateto Orange Heirloom Cornmeal)
• 1 ½ cup flour (historic Lindley Mills All-Purpose is my go-to)
• 2 teaspoons baking powder
• ½ teaspoon salt
• 2 teaspoons sugar
• 1 ½ cup plus 2 tablespoons heavy cream, divided
• Sanding sugar (optional)

FOR THE BERRIES AND CREAM:

• 1 pound strawberries, stemmed and sliced (I’m a fan of Cate’s Corner Farm berries!)
• 2 tablespoons sugar
• Juice and grated rind from half a lemon
• 1 cup heavy cream
• 2 tablespoons sorghum syrup (or honey)

Set the oven to 450 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a large bowl, combine the cornmeal, flour, baking powder, salt and sugar and mix until incorporated. Add in 1 ½ cups heavy cream and stir until just combined. Flour a work surface and your hands. Transfer the dough to the floured surface and gently knead and fold until the dough is cohesive. Gently press into an even ½-inch thickness. Use a cookie cutter (like my North Carolina shaped one!) or a round biscuit cutter to cut out as many cakes as you can, then gather the scraps, press, and cut again. Place cakes on the baking sheet. Gently brush the tops with the leftover cream and sprinkle with sanding sugar. Bake for 12-15 minutes or until golden brown (check the bottoms to make sure they don’t overbake).

While the cakes bake, prepare the strawberries. In a large bowl, add the sliced strawberries, sugar, and the lemon juice and grated rind. Gently stir to combine. Cover and refrigerate for a half hour (up to overnight). In another bowl, whip the cream until slightly stiff peaks form. Drizzle in the sorghum and whip a few seconds more to combine. To assemble: slice two cakes in half and place on a plate. Top with generous portions of strawberries, their juice and a big dollop of sorghum whip.

Recipe and photos by KC Hysmith, a Ph.D. candidate in American studies who is also a writer, food historian, recipe developer and photographer. She is interested in the intersection between food, gender and the digital landscape. Hysmith is the associate editor of the forthcoming Edible North Carolina: A Journey Across a State of Flavor (UNC Press, May 2022), edited by Marcie Cohen Ferris. Follow her on Instagram @kchysmith.