There is nothing like strawberry shortcake!! Truly. I don’t know how it is in your culture, but for Japanese people, strawberry shortcake occupies a very special place in our hearts. Soft sponge cake, whipped cream, with sweet strawberries; not only this a beautifully delicate flavor, but also its appearance—the bright red-colored lovely berries being decorated on and between the snowy delicate white cream—are something so magical.
My strawberry shortcake is vegan, cane sugar free, wheat free, and baked with whole grain flour and nuts, sweetened only with 4 tbsp of maple syrup and 5 tbsp of apple sauce. And it is so delicious!! I have spent years trying to figure out the balance of flavor as well as the texture while using the healthy amount and proportion of ingredients. Although I don’t use any white flour, the sponge cake is soft. Although with such a little amount of sweetener, the cake is perfectly sweet with the sweetness of the strawberries. Even the cream is probiotic! I invented a recipe for vegan whipped cream using homemade coconut-yoghurt, which tastes amazing. It is like a dream coming true now to have this cake in a vegan quality that is so fine and delicious!!
My story with strawberry shortcake
In Japan, strawberry shortcake is “the classic” birthday cake. In fact, I have special memories around this. When I was a child, my mother used to bake a birthday cake for me every year. I had always had this dream of having strawberry shortcake for my birthday. But being born in October, strawberries were definitely not the seasonal fruits, and my mother hesitated to buy the greenhouse-grown strawberries. She used different fruits instead of strawberries to create a similar cake, for instance, kiwis. But to a girl’s eyes, it was quite an adjustment to see the magical red berries replaced with the green fruits that had many black dots in the middle! So, I had always carried a sweet longing for strawberry shortcake as my birthday cake.
After many many years, however, when I was already a grown up and it was my birthday, my mother came back home from her work carrying a large box for me. When I opened it, there was a huge strawberry shortcake! I could not believe my eyes. My mother asked her colleagues where she could buy a really good strawberry shortcake and made a trip to get it for me. It was so beautiful, fine, and delicious that is unforgettable to this day.
Therefore, I feel very special to bake a strawberry short cake. I am no longer eating dairy or cane sugar in my daily diet. I also bake without eggs and use whole grain flour. All of these make it not so easy to realize a cake with fluffy sponge cake and airy light whipped cream. And yet, I have been carrying the flavor and feeling of eating it and continued to develop my own recipe every year when the berry season arrives.
And here, the strawberry season of the year has finally arrived! Since I saw them at the farmers market, I had been brewing some additional ideas to try for the recipe. And the result went beyond my expectation. I think I found the recipe I am finally so happy with!
How do I make fluffy whole grain sponge cake?
One of the characteristics of the strawberry shortcake is the soft sponge cake. When baking with white flour, it is not difficult to realize such texture even with the vegan recipe. And yet, when baking with non-wheat whole grain flour, it is inevitable for the texture to get a little denser. But I did not want to give up, since the light sponge cake is one of the signatures for the strawberry short cake. I have been exploring it for years, refining the ways to realize some softness in the cake by using whole grain flour, and I finally found the solution—almond meal, apple sauce, baking soda, but no flax meal!
Almond meal is one of the great solutions. Adding some nuts’ flour decreases the density of the vegan cake by bringing a lighter texture. And it brings such deliciousness with its wonderful nutty flavor.
In my baking, flax meal has been the regular ingredient as an egg substitute for many years to bring a fluffier texture for the vegan cake. Also, apple sauce or shredded zucchini have been used as occasional egg substitute ingredients. But this year, I tried using just apple sauce, and it actually worked better to create a spongy and lighter texture. There was no longer the coarse texture that flax meal could bring. The smoothness and lightness I could taste in the cake was definitely rewarding. And of course, we need a rising agent. I usually use only baking soda with some citrus juice to eliminate the peculiar flavor of it. It really does a good job!
Vegan probiotic whipped cream
I have been using the coconut whipped cream recipe for many years for my vegan whipped cream—taking out only the solid part from the can of coconut cream and whipping it. It has been working wonderfully, and we enjoy it very much. At the same time, I have been noticing its runnier texture, especially when I sweeten it with maple syrup. For the cake like strawberry shortcake, you want to have a little more solid cream, so that you can decorate the side of the cake well. Also, I have been aware of its high fat and calorie content, using quite big amount of coconut cream for decorating one whole cake.
This is how I have come to search for something better, and created this vegan probiotic coconut whipped cream. It is absolutely delicious. The slight fresh sourness of the cream, due to the fermentation, adds such freshness and different dimensions to the flavor of the cake, which I loved so much. And the cream holds itself so well that I could decorate the cake with it effortlessly.
Balance in flavor
One of the things I appreciated so deeply about the cake my mother gifted me, which I still remember so clearly to this day, was that the whipped cream was not so sweet. It was a beautiful alchemy between the perfect sweetness of the sponge cake, strawberries, and very subtly sweet whipped cream. It makes such a difference compared to the cake where every part is equally sweet. I wanted to realize this balance of sweetness in my recipe.
First, I decided to make the sponge cake without any use of granulated sugar, only sweetened by the apple sauce and 2 tbsp of maple syrup. It is gently sweet, and I found it to be perfect, as there will be fresh and beautiful sweetness added by the strawberries. And for the whipped cream, I used only 2 tbsp of maple syrup. It has some sweetness, but a more refreshing flavor with the probiotic quality of the cream through which the overall flavor of the cake became fine and balanced.
Fresh tastes the best!
This cake is definitely best to be eaten on the day when you made it! It can be refrigerated, even frozen, but the texture of the freshly made cake brings out the best of this cake, since the sponge cake tends to become denser when you store it in the fridge for a while. When you have it stored in the fridge for hours, I recommend you to take out for about 30 minutes prior to eating. In this way, the cake becomes softer but the whipped cream stays well in its shape.
I hope you enjoy this cake!
Ultimate Vegan Strawberry Shortcake
- 15cmØ Baking form
- For dry ingredients:
- 130 g Whole spelt flour
- 70g Almond meal
- 1/4tsp Baking soda
- For wet ingredients:
- 60ml (55g) Coconut oil
- 120ml (115g) Coconut milk
- 100g Apple sauce
- 30g Maple syrup
- 1tsp Lemon juice
- 1tsp Orange zest (or 2drops Orange E.O.)
- 1/4tsp Vanilla extract
- For syrup:
- 10ml Water
- 5g Maple syrup
- 1tsp Brandy
- For whipped cream:
- Coconut probiotic whipped cream made from 1 can of coconut milk
- 25g Maple syrup
- 1/2 tsp Vanilla extract
- *You can find the recipe for the coconut probiotic whipped cream in my article 'Vegan Probiotic Coconut Whipped Cream.'
- Step 1 Put all the dry ingredients in a bowl and mix together.
- Step 2 Put all the went ingredients in a bowl and mix together.
- Step 3 Heat the oven to 350 F.
- Step 4 Dust the baking form.
- Step 5 Once the oven temperature approaches 350 F, add the mixed dry ingredients to the bowl of wet ingredients and mix together well until there is no more dry flour visible.
- Step 6 Pour the batter into the baking form and put into the oven.
- Step 7 Bake for 25-30 minutes. At around 25 minutes, check the texture with the cake tester and bake further if needed until it is thoroughly baked.
- Step 8 Take the cake out from the oven and let it cool down.
- Step 9 Meanwhile, make the syrup by mixing all the ingredients for it in a small bowl. Also, add the maple syrup and vanilla extract into the coconut probiotic whipped cream, mix them well with the whisk, and store in the fridge, once ready.
- Step 10 Take the cake out from the form once cooled down to room temperature, then slice into three layers.
- Step 11 Divide the layers and start working with the bottom layer.
- Step 12 Brush the syrup on the surface of the bottom layer, add the cream, and spread evenly. Place the sliced strawberries, then add more cream and make it even.
- Step 13 Brush the syrup on the bottom surface of the middle layer and place it on the bottom layer. Brush the syrup on the top surface of the middle layer, then put the cream, strawberries, and cream like the bottom layer.
- Step 14 Brush the syrup on the bottom surface of the top layer and place it on the middle layer.
- Step 15 Decorate whole surface of the cake with the rest of the whipped cream.
- Step 16 Decorate the top of the cake with the strawberries.
- Step 17 Cut and enjoy!