As a Brit, I’ve always thought of strawberries as a summer fruit, but it’s hard to tell in Japan. They are grown as early as December and are in season until June. Around this time, the country goes bananas for strawberry treats—especially shortcake.
Why shortcake and not strawberry milkshakes or something? There are two theories. Some think a famous baker got the idea from the Americans. Others believe they picked it up from the French. Either way, the baker tweaked strawberry shortcake for the Japanese palate.
Do you want to make it yourself, but your tiny Japanese apartment doesn’t have an oven? Don’t fret. Our easy-as-pie shortcake recipe doesn’t need an oven and comes together in a snap.
The cheat here is the glorious shokupan (lit. eating bread). Shokupan, sometimes called hotel bread, is Japan’s favorite milk bread. It is a soft, fluffy bread with a near mochi-like (rice cake) texture. You can find it at any store or bakery. However, any soft bread will do.
- Shokupan 2 slices
- Heavy cream 100 milliliters
- Mascarpone 100 grams (You can sub for extra 100 milliliters of heavy cream if needed)
- Sugar 20 grams
- Cut off the crusts and set them aside (use for something else!).
- Cut your bigger strawberries into round slices, and cut the tops off smaller ones, leaving them whole.
- Put a mixing bowl over ice (cream whips best at cold temperatures).
- Whisk sugar and mascarpone together in the cooled bowl until just combined.
- Add in cream and vanilla, and whisk until soft peaks form. For smoother spreading, the cream should droop off the whisk slightly, not stand upright.
Putting it together
Now that you have everything prepped, it’s time to fool everyone into thinking it’s a “real” strawberry shortcake.
Lay down your first slice of bread, and spread on a nice even layer of whipped cream. Next, place whole strawberries onto the whipped cream. Here, I recommend making a diagonal line of strawberries in the middle so that it looks extra pretty when you cut a slice. If the strawberries seem too large, cut them in half lengthwise.
Next, cover the strawberries in cream, filling in the gaps between them. Then add your second slice of bread.
Cover the entire cake with a layer of whipped cream. As we’ve added mascarpone to the cream, it should be easier to spread than regular cream and hold its shape for longer. Next, add your slices of strawberry all over the cake, and if you’re feeling fancy, add a dollop of whipped cream and a whole strawberry for bonus presentation points.
Of course, this is more of a fancy sandwich than a proper cake per se, so if you want to step it up a notch, you could substitute the bread slices for pre-cooked sponge bases, if you can find them! But if you’re craving Japan’s favorite summer sweet, this will certainly satisfy you.
Do you have any other cheeky cheat codes for otherwise complicated Japanese dishes? Let us know in the comments!