When I was growing up, there was no luxury greater than a package of Shari’s Berries, which arrived in the mail once or twice a year, a gift from one of my parents or their friends for a birthday or anniversary or Valentine’s. Underneath layers of packaging hid the strawberries themselves (this was before Shari’s Berries, which now owns the domain a world! — had expanded to sell cherries, truffles, cheesecakes, and cookies, among other treats).
They were the size of sugar plums, perfectly tear drop–shaped, and covered, stem to tip, in a shellac of tempered, elaborately decorated chocolate — almost like each one had gone for a gel manicure. The chocolate, sweet and milky, cracked sharply under the pressure of teeth, giving way to a chilled berry beneath. We’d keep them in our fridge for a week or so, admiring their beauty. Towards the end of their lifespan, I’d pick off the chocolate, its underside impressed with a pattern of strawberry seeds, and leave the now-soggy fruit behind for a less picky family member (surely a sin).
I haven’t had a Shari’s berry (which I will always pronounce “Shari’s barry”) in years, but the excitement of receiving those Fabergé-esque strawberries in the mail bestowed in me the belief that the combination of chocolate and strawberries is celebratory and romantic. So when I was brainstorming how on earth to mess with a perfect thing — the strawberry shortcake, where lightly sweet and rather plain biscuits serve as a flattering backdrop to bright red, syrupy berries — I immediately thought of adding chocolate. With rich biscuits that are chocolatey but not overwhelming, these feel fancier and more decadent than their classic counterparts.
The shortcakes themselves are drop biscuits, inspired by these amazing ones from the brilliant Smitten Kitchen that have a crunchy raw sugar surface and an inside that’s fluffy and tender thanks to egg yolks, butter, and the leavening power of baking powder and baking soda. But here, unsweetened cocoa powder stands in for some of the flour and chunks of chocolate create pockets of melty sweetness.
The rest of the shortcake is classic: softly whipped cream (you can lean into the chocolate-strawberry pairing by adding cocoa powder to this, too) and macerated berries. You’ll want to use the ripest, most delicious berries you can find, but letting even blah fruit hang out in a little sugar will make it better. And if the idea of chocolate plus raspberries or cherries is more appealing to you, use those fruits instead (or go with a combination).
Of course, these biscuits are so good on their own — like oversized, just-sweet-enough chocolate scones—that you don’t need berries at all. Break one open and spread it with jam or dollop with crème fraîche. These days, that’s my kind of romance and luxury — and I don’t have to wait for the mail to come to have it.
Strawberry Chocolate Shortcakes
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour (210 grams)
1/2 cup and 1 tablespoon cocoa powder (50 grams)
2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold, cut into chunks (85 grams)
2 egg yolks
1 cup heavy cream
2 ounces chocolate, finely chopped
3 tablespoons raw or coarse sanding sugar
1 1/2 pounds strawberries, hulled, halved or quartered if large
3 tablespoons granulated sugar, or more if your strawberries aren't very ripe or sweet
1 pinch kosher salt
1 cup heavy or whipping cream (235 ml)
- Heat oven to 400° F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
- In a small bowl, whisk egg yolks. Add cream and whisk to combine.
- In a large bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, granulated sugar, and salt until thoroughly combined. Add butter and use your fingers to break into small pea-sized bits and coat in dry ingredients. Stir in chopped chocolate. Pour the cream mixture into the butter-flour mixture and use a rubber spatula, followed by your hands, to mix and mash it together into one cohesive dough.
- Divide dough into 8, roll each lump into a ball, and dip in sanding sugar.
- Place balls on prepared baking sheet, 2 inches apart. Bake for 15 to 18 minutes, until set but not hard, rotating once halfway. Let cool completely on tray or on a cooling rack.
- About 30 minutes before you’re ready to assemble, gently mash about a quarter of the strawberries in a medium bowl using a fork. Add remaining strawberries, sugar, and salt and stir gently to mix. Set aside for 20 to 30 minutes, until very juicy.
- In a cold bowl, beat the cream to soft peaks.
- Use a serrated knife to gently slice each shortcake. Top the bottoms with whipped cream, spoon macerated strawberries over top, and perch shortcake hats on top.
- Shortcakes can be frozen. Defrost in the refrigerator, then warm in a low oven.