Sometimes I’m very excited to do some research on a particular national food holiday for this blog, and National Strawberry Shortcake Day is definitely one of those times! My uncle loves strawberry shortcake and we regularly have it for his birthday cake. But what I learned through research for this day was that the “strawberry shortcake” we have isn’t a shortcake at all! A true shortcake is a flaky biscuit-type pastry, much like shortbread, but thicker, and slightly fluffier. To make it into a strawberry shortcake, you slice the shortcake in layers, and fill the layers with sugared strawberries and whipped cream. That’s definitely not what we usually have as a strawberry shortcake! The “easy” modern variety of this dish is just a yellow or white sponge cake layered with strawberries and cream, and has none of the fkaly, cookie-like texture of a real shortcake. What a rude awakening!
After having so many “fake” strawberry shortcakes in my life, I just have to try one made with real shortcake instead of just sponge cake. Thankfully, just like any other national food holiday in the calendar (with some very few exceptions–seriously, what the hell is heavenly hash), you can find an authentic strawberry shortcake for today in many places around New York City. Although it may be currently dismissed by New Yorkers as a tourist trap, I still love going to the old Veinero’s bakery on 1st Avenue and 11th Street in the East Village. The atmosphere and decor still feel like you’re walking into an old-school Italian pastry shop, and you can still get your brittle and rainbow cookies and cannoli by the pound at the take-out corner. But you can also order in their dining room from a huge menu of delightful desserts, some original Italian, some all New York. (Warning: their cheesecakes here are made in the Italian style, with ricotta and mascarpone cheese instead of New York cream cheese! It can be very jarring for those too accustomed to Junior’s!) But their strawberry shortcake is the real deal: you can get either the spongy cake version or the original pastry version. Everything is made fresh, in-house, and from recipes that are as old as old Veniero’s itself–which has been around since 1894. Going there super late always helps me avoid the crowds of tourists, and who doesn’t love lounging around an ancient pastry shop at midnight snacking on strawberry shortcake with friends? Throw in an Italian Coffee (with Amaretto) and I’m good to go 🙂
Veniero’s Pastry Shop
342 E 11th St (between 2nd Ave & 1st Ave)
Some reviews from Yelp.com:
“Without a doubt, the strawberry shortcake is the lightest of cakes, with a touch of sweet from fresh strawberries and homemade whipped cream. There is no shame in eating a slice as big as your head, for surely eating a dessert as fluffy as clounds means that those heavy calories fall right off the fork? This is my birthday cake of choice, every year, and I’m considering it for a wedding cake as well!”–Suanne L.
“HOLY WOW—is all i can say, i went there in search of strawberry shortcake and left with a strawberry shortcake (individual size), strawberry millefoligie and a napoleon. all of these pastries were so tasty and as i sampled each of them i kept giggling because i couldn’t believe how delicous they all were–which i didn’t expect so it was a wonderful surprise! if you want an awesome pastry go to Veniero’s you won’t be disappointed.”–Jasmine L.
The strawberry shortcake that I’ve grown accustomed to–the one with easy sponge cake instead of shortcake–is actually the Japanese version of the universally famous dessert. So, where I may technically say a sponge cake shortcake is wrong and non-traditional, it’s actually the preferred version in Japan, and it’s often the cake of choice for Christmas and birthday celebrations! So if you’re going to get a sponge cake-based strawberry shortcake, get it at a Japanese bakery to get the full effect. Even better, get it at Panya, right on Stuyvesant Street, catering to the growing Japanese population in the East Village. They make their shortcake with the perfect ratio of whipped cream, strawberries, and sponge cake, making sure it’s not too sweet or too dry. It’s also another great place to go for a late-night pastry run, but for different reasons: after 9 PM, all of the freshly-made foods from the day are half price! So if you’re looking for some sushi with your shortcake (um…okay?), they offer both at a discount to ensure that all of their dishes will be made fresh the next morning as well. I don’t care what version of strawberry shortcake it is; if it’s on sale, I’m buying!
8 Stuyvesant St (between 11th St & 12th St)
“The 50:50 cake-to-cream ratio was just perfect, with a fair helping of thinly sliced strawberries evenly laid across between generous swaths of cream. The exterior side of the cake, sweet just enough, is lightly dusted in toasted cake crumbs, and the whole cake is tender and light with a moist body.”–Serious Eats
Some reviews from Yelp.com:
“Their baked goods, absolutely divine. It costs a little more, but it was worth it. Their strawberry cream cake filled with ton of strawberries and their cake so soft and moist. Not too sweet, but sweet enough cream.. yum. Sweet bean paste bread and cookie crusted bread.. all so delicious.”–R. Y.
“craved for strawberry shortcake, so went to panya! strawberry shortcake is $3.75, and all their breads, pastries, and cakes are around $2-6, so what a great price to satisfy your tummy. the strawberry shortcake had a good proportion, between the cream and the cake, strawberries in the middle, and a big one to top it off.”–Elle L.
Shortcake, sponge cake…this is all a “serious” debate for National Strawberry Shortcake Day. I mean, if the flavors are all there, who cares if the cake uses the traditional recipe or something different and new? How about a shop that doesn’t use any cake? 😉 Leave it to the good bakers at Chikalicious Dessert Club to come up with an ice cream sundae that tastes just like a strawberry shortcake. A light-tasting sponge cake is paired with fluffy whipped cream and fresh strawberries, totally normal…and then BOOM, you get soft serve ice cream and more heaps of strawberries piled on top of the cake. Completely decadent and ruins the impression that a light shortcake may be a low-guilt dessert, but hey, who comes to Chikalicious to feel good about a diet? 😛 They offer the original article, too, which ranks quite high on the scale of best strawberry shortcakes in the city, but with so many options all in the East Village, why not try something new?
ChikaLicious Dessert Club
204 E 10th St (between 1st Ave & 2nd Ave)
Some reviews from Yelp.com:
“sundae was refreshing – soft serve ice cream rather than hard, but it made it very easy to eat. there were soft shortcake chunks in there as well as fresh strawberries and whipped cream. the texture of the sundae was soft but not soupy. very easy for my kid to scoop it up himself. portion size was not too big which is good because trust me you will eat the whole thing.”–P. V.
“As a second dessert, we got the strawberry shortcake sundae. This was also awesome. The shortcake added a lot to a strawberry sundae and it was nice that it did not get soggy. The strawberries were fresh and abundant (no frozen strawberry sauce here!) If you like strawberry shortcake, you’ll love this.”–S. R.
Make sure you check out the updated NYC Food Holidays Map to find this most recent holiday!