No, this is not a tale about the adventures of a cheeky little redhead with her fruit-named friends and a nemesis named The Peculiar Purple Pie Man. (Which you'll only understand if you're a child of the 80s). We are tip-toeing into strawberry season – which runs from April to August, depending on the where you live – and it's time to start dreaming of ways to use those sweet, tart, peak-season fresh strawberries. Strawberry shortcake is a classic that needs no introduction, but this collection demonstrates there's single "right" way to pull it off. Take your pick.
We'll be totally honest: jaws will drop when you bring this gorgeous, towering layer cake to the table. Cutting it is another story. A dull, long blade may crush that scrumptious vanilla chiffon cake and wreck the layers of strawberry and whipped cream in between. Use the sharpest knife in your quiver. Or, if you have one, use an angel food cake cutter (the gizmo with a row of long tines) to perforate the slice before cutting. Get our Strawberry Shortcake Layer Cake recipe.
These "shortcakes" are actually more like a chocolate drop biscuit-meets-scone – great for individual servings and a new spin on the traditional strawberry shortcake. Get our Chocolate Strawberry Shortcake recipe. Get our Chocolate Strawberry Shortcake recipe.
This strawberry shortcake takes a tasty detour through layers of rich, homemade vanilla custard. You can use packaged shortbread cookies (Walkers brand from Scotland are tasty, and there's a gluten-free variety, too), but if you're feeling ambitious, make your own. Individual servings make this a crowd-pleaser because, really, who wants to share? Get our Strawberry Shortcake Parfait recipe. Get our Strawberry Shortcake Parfait recipe.
You'll never (ever) go back to using those spongy, yellow packaged cake cups once you've made these rich, crumbly biscuits – they soak up the macerated strawberry juice but don't fall apart or turn soggy. Also, if you're weak in the biceps, feel free to use your upright stand mixer with the whisk attachment to make the whipped cream; just remember to freeze the bowl and whisk for about 15 minutes beforehand. Get our Classic Strawberry Shortcake recipe.
There are two schools on the classic strawberry shortcake: you're either on the crumbly, dense, sweet biscuit team or you're of the spongy, angel food cake variety. This recipe is for all you sponge cake people. If you want to go rogue, amp up the whipped cream with an herb, spice or booze that pairs well with strawberries, such as a pinch of ground cardamom, a tablespoon of Grand Marnier, or a chiffonade of basil leaves. Get our Strawberry Shortcake recipe.
A tip of the hat to the Hamburg Inn No. 2 in Des Moines, Iowa, the café where the "pie shake" and "cake shake" may or may not have been invented, but which certainly put them on the map. This recipe is a shortcut to a true cake shake, but feel free to substitute with homemade shortcake (the buttery, crumbly kind) for the wafer cookies, and add sliced, fresh strawberries to the blender. Get our Strawberry Shortcake Milkshake recipe. Get our Strawberry Shortcake Milkshake recipe.
Because everything tastes better on a stick, especially if it's cooked over a campfire, even if it is slightly burned (see: flaming marshmallow s'mores). Okay, okay, this one might be a bit of a stretch if you're doing a serious hike-in to a remote campsite, but for shabby-chic, cabin-by-the-lake summer glamping, this fireside dessert is an easy winner. Get our Strawberry Shortcake on a Stick recipe.
Colleen Rush is a food and travel writer who eats, drinks, cooks, and writes mostly in New Orleans, but also ... everywhere else. She is the author of "The Mere Mortal's Guide to Fine Dining" (Broadway Books, 2006), and coauthor of "Low & Slow: Master the Art of Barbecue in 5 Easy Lessons" (Running Press, 2009) and the upcoming "Low & Slow 2: The Art of Barbecue, Smoke Roasting, and Basic Curing" (Running Press, 2015). Follow her on Twitter or Instagram.