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Yale strawberry shortcake

An alum remembered the dining hall dessert fondly, so his family recreated it for his 93rd birthday.

FAMartin/Wikimedia Commons

FAMartin/Wikimedia Commons

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Reader Ray Collins ’55 of Vienna, Virginia, wrote to tell us: “During my freshman year at Yale, I worked as a busboy in the dining hall. I enjoyed the strawberry shortcake that was provided annually through the generosity of an alumnus. My kids listened to me tell and retell the story at family gatherings. Two of my daughters (Ann Stanford and Nori Jones) contacted Yale Catering, who sent them the original recipe for the shortcake. At my 93rd birthday party, I was surprised by a strawberry shortcake feast.”

The purported endowment for strawberry shortcake in the Yale dining halls was mentioned in the Yale Daily News no fewer than six times between 1932 and 1978—and denied by dining hall officials each time. Regardless, the dessert was clearly a favorite for generations of Elis, so we couldn't resist asking Collins to share the recipe with us. Below is the list of ingredients, provided by Yale Catering, followed by the instructions Collins's family wrote to turn the ingredients into shortcake.

YALE STRAWBERRY SHORTCAKE

(Makes six three-inch biscuits or 12 smaller biscuits)

INGREDIENTS

Biscuits 

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter unsalted, frozen 

1/4 cup sugar extra fine

2 tablespoons egg (about 2/3 of one large egg)

2-1/3 cup flour 

2 tablespoons baking powder 

1 cup buttermilk (use what fat % you can find)

1.22 oz sanding sugar (optional)

 

Strawberries    

3 pounds strawberries (washed, hulled, & quartered)

3 tablespoons sugar, extra fine 

2 lemons, fresh squeezed (about 2.5 oz)

Whipped Cream  

2 cups heavy whipping cream

3 tablespoons confectioner sugar 

1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla 

 

INSTRUCTIONS

The Strawberries 

Cut up three pounds of fresh strawberries. 

Add the juice of two lemons (2.5 ounces). Note: You can purchase lemon juice instead of using lemons.

Add three tablespoons of extra fine sugar.

Mix the ingredients and let them sit (they will form a juice in an hour).

Preheat the oven to 425 (based on the King Arthur recipe)

 

The Biscuits 

Set out one plate and two bowls.

Add one stick of cold unsalted butter to a plate and unwrap it on the plate but keep the butter wrapper under it. Cut the butter lengthwise in three, then in three again, and then into cubes. Use a butter knife to keep from cutting the paper. Please put it in the freezer to keep it cold while preparing the other bowls.

Bowl one

Whisk one large egg. Measure two tablespoons of the egg and discard the rest—unless you plan to brush the biscuits before adding sanding sugar.

One cup buttermilk whole milk.

1/4 cup extra-fine sugar (quick dissolve or regular).

Mix the above ingredients.

Bowl two

2-1/3 cups all-purpose flour (we used King Arthur)

Two tablespoons baking powder.

Mix the flour and baking powder together and put them in a food processor. Add the cold unsalted butter from the freezer. Turn on the food processor just enough to mix and have pea-sized butter. Ensure the butter is present because you want the pieces to remain.

Return the flour, baking powder, and butter mixture to the bowl. Stir in the wet ingredients with a spatula or wooden spoon until just combined, and you can press it together into a dough. Do not overmix. It is okay if there is some dry flour left. 

Pour the crumbly dough out onto a surface lightly dusted with flour.

Gently form the dough fast, perhaps folding it over a few times. The less touching, the better for keeping the butter firm. Pat into a rough rectangle about 3/4-in thick.

Take a round glass (for six large biscuits) or biscuit cutter (for about 12 smaller biscuits) and cut out the biscuits.

(Optional) using a pastry brush, apply egg wash with the remaining egg and sprinkle lightly with sanding sugar before baking. 

Bake for 15 to 17 minutes until golden brown. Take them out of the oven and sit for a few minutes. (Smaller biscuits may take less time.)

The Whipped Cream

Take the heavy whipping cream from the fridge (2 cups – buy a 16 oz size to save measuring).

3 tablespoons confectioners sugar 

Add 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract.

Use a hand mixer, starting from low to high, until it looks like whipped cream, and then a bit more. 

 

FEAST

Slice the biscuit to form two wide halves. Add the strawberries and whipped cream.

1 comment

  • Alan Kenney
    Alan Kenney, 1:14pm July 09 2024 | Ico flag Flag as inappropriate

    I arrived at Yale in 1963 as a freshmen in JE. From 1965 thru 1998 I worked for Yale dining halls, the last 17 years as director of dining halls. There was never any strawberry endowment.

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