We don’t tend to think of pairing spices with strawberries but these sweet red fruits take to the warmth of spices surprisingly well. Seventeenth century cook Robert May certainly thought so seasoning them with cinnamon, ginger and sugar before putting them in a tart. You can see my version of May’s tart on the English Heritage Blog.
This is an adaptation of a recipe for Grasmere Shortcake I found in one of my grandmother’s cookbooks called Farmhouse Fare (1935). In truth this shortcake more like a shortbread in keeping with the friable texture of Grasmere Gingerbread rather than a scone like consistency found in a classic strawberry shortcake. For this reason I have suggested pre-cutting the cake element before assembling. The original called for a gingery buttercream filling but I prefer cream here spiked with candied ginger.
And why all the spice? Well, this is a sneak preview of one of the recipes appearing in my new book First Catch Your Gingerbread to be published in November 2020. Hopefully, this recipe shows that gingerbread isn’t just for Christmas…
225g plain wholemeal flour (or you could use ordinary plain flour if you prefer)
2 tsp ground ginger
¼ tsp bicarbonate of soda
110g cold unsalted butter, diced
110g soft light brown sugar
400g fresh strawberries, washed and hulled
80ml marsala or port
¼-½ tsp ground cinnamon
⅛-¼ tsp ground mixed spice
25g caster sugar
200ml double cream
2 tbsp ginger syrup or icing sugar, sieved
1-2 pieces stem ginger in syrup, finely chopped
- Preheat the oven to 180℃. Grease and line two 19cm round sandwich tins.
- Sieve the flour, ginger and bicarbonate of soda into a bowl (tip in any bran left in the sieve). Rub in the butter (or blitz in a food processor) until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Mix in the sugar.
- Divide the mixture between the two tins, spreading it evenly and firming the mixture down with your fingers. Use a round bladed knife to divide each cake into eight even pieces. Bake for around 10-15 minutes or until golden. When the cakes come out of the oven cut them again whilst the mixture is still soft. Allow to cool in the tin before turning out.
- To make the strawberry and red wine sauce: Take 100g of the strawberries. Place in a food processor with the marsala or port. Blitz until the fruit is puréed then pass through a sieve into a small saucepan to remove the pips. Add the spices and 25g caster sugar. Bring the sauce to the boil then simmer until reduced by half. Add more sugar if you think it needs it.Transfer to a bowl and allow to cool to room temperature.
- Place the cream, ginger syrup or icing sugar in a bowl. Whip together until thick but floppy. Fold in the chopped candied ginger. Quarter the remaining strawberries and toss in the cooled strawberry and wine sauce.
- To assemble the shortcake, place one of the segmented cakes on a serving plate. Either pipe or carefully spread half of the cream over the segments, ideally leaving a slight gap between each one so the you can still make out each wedge. Top this cake with half of the spiced strawberry compote. Place the remaining shortcake triangles on top, lining them up as closely as possible with the segments on the bottom.
- Cover the top cake with cream and strawberry compote. You can serve this straight away or leave it for a few hours or even overnight if wished (if you do this the shortbread will inevitably soften).