Weekend Food Prep: “Guilt-Free” Cream Cheese Shortcake


Ok, I hope all my regular readers know me better than to believe that the following recipe follows any kind of food rules, avoiding whatever supposedly ails us this month so that we can fit it into whatever arbitrary restrictions we’ve decided to impose upon ourselves!

You know how you make dessert guilt-free? You practice eating dessert without guilt. I know, it’s not actually that simple. We are taught in diet culture that there are good foods and bad foods, foods that we can eat with abandon and foods we should avoid at all costs. Feeling guilty in that environment is a natural consequence, and it takes time to deprogram ourselves from a dominant narrative like that, even when we know it to be wrong.

But I do hope you know this: dessert isn’t bad. Sugar isn’t bad. You aren’t bad if you eat them. You aren’t good when you avoid them. It’s ok to make choices to eat more or less dessert at different times in your life. Sometimes, I eat dessert twice a day. Sometimes, I limit it to twice a week. The difference between making choices and being restricted is how we think about it. Need help learning to think differently about food? Find a good, evidence-based coach (or possibly a therapist). I’m a big fan of the ladies over at Balance 365, and Georgie Fear, but I’m sure there are others.

*steps off soap box*

I am very intentionally planning on sharing all kinds of recipes here. It is my hope that I am living my values–not putting some of my food on a pedestal to be admired and avoiding discussing the foods that might be less admired. I eat a very healthy diet. Dessert is part of that. This week, I’m making shortcake. We are exceptionally lucky to have some of the best strawberries in the world grown just outside of town. I plan on eating a pint or two a day until they are out of season. It won’t all be shortcake. I like to make the shortcake and freeze it. Then, when I want shortcake, it’s there, and the rest of the time, the berries will be eaten just as they are.

The following recipe is from my late step-mother, Joan, who was a professional baker. Joan was a strong woman, who lived her life in a way that involved daily, radical acts of authenticity (“if they don’t like it, fuck ’em!”). If I were to guess, I’d expect this recipe was from her Café Roma days, when she baked for a wonderful coffee shop/bookstore in our little beach town of Lincoln City, Oregon. I wish I could properly give credit to whomever generated this recipe. If someone identifies the source and lets me know, I will happily update this!

Joan’s Cream Cheese Shortcake

I know making your own shortcake takes more time, energy and dishes than buying a premade pound cake, but trust me when I tell you this is so worth it! This shortcake is like a sweet biscuit dough, with a very tender crumb. It is so delicious, I’ve been known to just eat it on it’s own! It reminds me of the best shortbread or sugar cookies–the same kind of clean, caramelized sweet flavor. Enjoy!

one. Sift together the dry ingredients: 2 cups all-purpose flour, 1 Tbs. baking powder, 3/4 tsp. salt, 1/4 cup granulated sugar

two. Cut in 2 Tbs. cold butter and 3 ounces cold cream cheese, leaving lumps the size of a pea. Joan’s recipe says “Do NOT over mix.”

three. Break an egg into a measuring cup, beat it a bit and add enough milk (about 1/2 cup) to make 3/4 cup liquid. Gradually add this mixture to the flour mixture.

four. Turn the dough out onto a floured board and knead for about 20 seconds. It will be loose and lumpy. Joan’s recipe says, “Do NOT over knead.” It’s ok to add a bit of flour, if it’s too sticky.

five. Divide the dough into two parts. Joan’s recipe says “halves,” but I make it about 2/3 and 1/3. Either way, roll out the bigger one until it’s about 1/2 inch thick and 8-9 inches round. Place this into a nonstick 8 or 9-inch cake pan. Brush the top of this piece with a bit of melted or softened butter.

six. Take the other piece of dough and roll it out to about 1/2 inch thick and place it on top of the first one. Score the dough into 6 wedges. (If you’ll be freezing these for single servings, I recommend you do as I do and cut it all the way down to the bottom to make them easier to separate later.)

seven. Bake in 425oF oven until a digital thermometer reads about 200oF when inserted between the layers of dough, about 20 minutes. The top should be golden. (Joan tested for doneness by feel. She’d open up the top piece and feel if it was cooked or still a bit sticky. But, I have a hard time telling if it’s done this way, so I choose to use my thermometer.)

Photo description: A plastic zipper bag with frozen wedges of shortcake inside, ready to be enjoyed whenever I want them!

To make Strawberry or other fruit shortcakes:

one. Rinse and slice fruit. You could crush some of it, if you like it really syrupy.

two. Sprinkle with sugar. If it’s fresh, local strawberries, it needs very little. Blackberries, raspberries, mediocre, grocery store strawberries and other more sour fruits will need more.

three. Stir around a bit and let it sit there for a while. This draws the juices out of the fruit a bit and makes a syrup.

four. Make some whipped cream. I’m strongly opposed to the canned stuff, but if you must, you must. If you prefer the real stuff, like me, I whip it up with a bit of sugar and vanilla extract.

five. Open up one wedge of shortcake, place it in a shallow bowl, and spoon lots of berries/fruit and syrup on it. Then add a dollop of whipped cream. Then the top of the shortcake, a bit more whipped cream, and a pretty piece of fruit on top to make it fancy.

Photo description: A bowl with local, Hood strawberries, shortcake and whipped cream. The whipped cream isn’t as fluffy as it might be. It was nearly 100o the day I made this, so I’m using that as my excuse. It still tasted amazing!

4 thoughts on “Weekend Food Prep: “Guilt-Free” Cream Cheese Shortcake

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