gluten-free strawberry shortcake

I’m in the middle of strawberry swooning season. It happens every year. We wait all year long, patiently, and then not so patiently, for real strawberries to appear at the farmstands here. From the fall until spring, we can wait. We freeze the red berries so we have some more smoothies and the occasionally decadent fruit pie in January. There are chilly lovely touches to the winter foods too. However, by April, we can’t wait.

And every year, we fall for it again. Maybe this will be the time that the plastic clamshells stuffed with perfectly shaped huge berries will be right this time. And so we buy one, take it home, tug off the green top, and bite down. Then, we come up with grimaces. We fell for it again. Inside those bright red spheres? White, white, pale and deathly white. Those aren’t real strawberries.

So, when they finally do arrive — smaller than the grocery store strawberries, a bit smushed on one side, and so sweet they taste as though they have been dipped in honey — we go wild. We have a strawberry riot. We let the strawberries sit in some sugar and lemon juice to make jam, then set aside some of that syrupy goodness for homemade strawberry sodas. We make strawberry coulis with black pepper and balsamic. We put whole berries into cold yogurt and make Lu popsicles for the summer evenings. We freeze them. We make pies. And we eat them, by the handful, sighing into the sweetness and that dark dark red inside.

Oh my, it’s strawberry season.

A couple of weekends ago, I had the joy of seeing a passel of kids I adore gathered around our table, hands reaching, bare chests covered in red splotches, giggling, and cutting up strawberries. Some of my best friends here on the island came over to bake bread and talk about our lives. The kids ran around our yard, happily shrieking as they climbed trees or turned sticks into swords. At one point, all the adults were called out to “see the play! We made a play!” We stood on the deck, these women and I, watching our children gather under the cherry tree, holding hands, and babbling something incomprehensible about princesses and rescuing turtles and a pirate with a bandana mistakenly covering his eyes. The kids dispersed to go down the slide and have pretend tea parties and the women and I returned to the kitchen.

Someone asked if I had a strawberry shortcake recipe I like. Having just found one I love, I said, “Let’s make some.” As I pulled more flours out of the cupboard, some of the older kids wandered into the house. “Are you baking? Can we watch?”

We pulled chairs up to the counter for the little kids, who followed the big kids in adoration. As I cut up butter into small cubes and explained why we were mixing flours and butter, I looked to my right to see 8 children under 8, craning their necks, jostling for position on chairs, and asking to feel the dough. In that moment, all was alive in the world.

“Okay, we need some strawberries cut up,” I said. The kids jumped down from their chairs, the older ones shouting, “I know how to use a real knife!” We mamas set up cutting boards and grabbed butter knives and plopped pints of strawberries onto the table. The kids chattered happily, some of them eating more than cutting, juice running down their chins. The sun was shining through the windows from the west, the windows were thrown open, everyone felt released into the warmth of summer that took a long time coming this year.

A few moments later, one of these wonderful women said to me, “This is why I moved to this island. This: kids playing, women baking, wonderful talking, someone is nursing, we’re sharing our lives.”

I felt as much amazement as she did.


After we pulled the shortcakes out of the oven, spread a bit of melted butter over the tops, and let them cool just enough to keep them together, we pulled the plates down from the cupboard. We only had five shortcakes — and one had been nibbled to bits by all the tasting — so I plopped shortcakes on plates, topped them with strawberries we had let sit with sugar and lemon juice, then grabbed forks for every kid.

And for a few moments, there was silence. We reached toward those red berries and flaky crumby biscuits and sighed.

Then the room exploded in happy talking, the joy of berries finally in season, the gathering around the table. All the women in the room looked at each other and smiled.

We were here. And so were the strawberries.

GLUTEN-FREE STRAWBERRY SHORTCAKE, adapted from Cristina Ferrare’s recipe in Big Bowl of Love

After months of working on shortcakes, with recipes from some of my favorite cookbooks turning out fine but not flaky, I was thrilled to find this one emerging from our oven. It’s a sweet, slightly crumby biscuit, with enough gravitas to hold a tumble of sugared strawberries without falling apart, yet light enough to disappear on the teeth.

And we owe this one to Cristina Ferrare.

A few months ago, I had the joy of sharing breakfast with Cristina when she was here in Seattle for her cookbook tour. I’d been a fan for awhile after watching her on the Oprah show and seeing her recipes appear on the big O’s magazine and website. I love her warm and generous nature, which clearly infuse her food. For Cristina, food is the reason for gatherings, for family, for passed plates and stories told, for hands reaching and that feeling of being at home at the table. How could I not like her?

She turned out to be even more gracious and real in person than I had expected. Her daughter (the hilarious Alex Thomopolous) was diagnosed with celiac recently. Alex began reading this site, then started her own gluten-free cooking and baking blog as she also began culinary school. Watch for this one and her website, Dishn’ It Out with Alex. She knows what she’s doing. And so, Cristina came to breakfast open and excited to meet me. (That kills me.) We could not stop talking and laughing and I felt as though I had known her for years. That’s what happens when you sit at the table with someone open to life.

Cristina’s cookbook, Big Bowl of Love, has been in our kitchen ever since. The gorgeous photographs were taken by our friends Todd and Diane, who shot our cookbook trailer (Watch these two. They’re taking over the world.), so we were a little biased going in. But what Danny and I both love about this book is how simple, homey, and hugely accessible the recipes all are. This is food meant to be put on the table on big plates so you can say to your family, “Dig in, everyone.” We’ve been inspired by it.

The keys to these shortcakes? Cold butter. Working deftly and not over-handling the dough. Having a biscuit cutter and cutting straight down instead of twisting into the dough. And mostly, breathing into these and remembering why you are making them. Feed your family. It’s strawberry shortcake.

315 grams gluten-free all-purpose flour blend 

1 teaspoon psyllium husk powder

½ teaspoon kosher salt

1 tablespoons baking powder

3 tablespoons organic cane sugar

115 grams (1 US stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes

1/3 cup whole yogurt

2/3 cup cold buttermilk (if you can’t do buttermilk, check this post)

flour for dusting

2 tablespoons melted butter


Preparing to bake. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Grease a large cast-iron pan with butter. (If you don’t have a cast iron pan, may we suggest you get one? In the meantime, you can try the largest skillet you have.)

Combining the dry ingredients. Combine the flour, psyllium powder (if using), salt, baking powder, and sugar. I like to put them in the food processor and let it run for a few minutes to aerate the flours. You can also use a whisk and bowl.

Working the butter into the flour. Put the butter cubes into the bowl of the food processor. Pulse the ingredients together, about 7 times, until the butter chunks are about the size of lima beans.

(You can also work the butter into the flour with a pastry cutter or your fingers, if you prefer.)

Finishing the dough. Move the flour mixture to a large bowl. Make a well in the center of the ingredients. Mix together the yogurt and 1/3 cup of the buttermilk. Stir the liquids with a rubber spatula, moving in gentle circular motions, incorporating the flour as you go. The final dough should just hold together, with all the ingredients moist. If there is a bit of flour left on the sides of the bowl, add a dribble more of the buttermilk, then combine, then a dribble more if necessary. If the dough grows too wet, don’t fret about it. Just add a bit more flour. You’re looking for a shaggy dough, not a smooth round.

Sprinkle a little flour on a clean board. Turn out the dough on the board and sprinkle with just a touch more flour. Fold the dough in half, bringing the back part of the dough toward you. Pat the dough into an even round. fold the dough in half again and pat. this should make the dough fairly even. If not, you can fold the dough a third time. Pat out the dough to a 1-inch thickness.

Cutting the shortcakes. Dip a 2 1/2-inch biscuit cutter into a bit of flour and push it straight down into the dough, starting from the outside edges. Do not twist the biscuit cutter. Cut out the remaining biscuits. Working quickly, pat any remaining scraps into another 1-inch thick dough and cut the last biscuit.

Move the biscuits to the prepared cast-iron pan, nudging them up against each other. If you nestle the shortcakes alongside each other, edges touching, you will have taller shortcakes after baking. (They have nowhere to go but up!)

Baking the shortcakes. Slide the skillet into the oven and bake the shortcakes for 6 minutes. Rotate the skillet 180 degrees and continue baking until the shortcakes are firm and light golden brown, about another 6 to 8 minutes. remove the skillet from the oven and brush the tops of the shortcakes with the melted butter. let them rest for 10 minutes, then remove them from the pan gently. Split open the shortcakes and serve with strawberries.

Feeds 6.



41 comments on “gluten-free strawberry shortcake

  1. Cari

    I am so jazzed I am going to make these this morning! I love shortcake and it is one of the things I have missed. More importantly your story took me way back in time . . . “turning sticks into swords”. When my youngest brother was four his best friend turned a stick into a sword and poked Jimmy’s eye out (don’t fret, a wonderful eye doctor saved the day). Jimmy spent two weeks in a hospital bed during which time the medical staff reported my parents to Child Protective Services for nutritional neglect. Jimmy was a very pathetic looking child, pale, frail and with that telling distended belly and constant diarrhea, surely he had failure to thrive. It would be years, almost 45 to be exact, before the medical community got it right, Celiac Disease. In the mean time, fighting for their youngest child’s eye my parents had to go to court defending his frail health. No one bothered with any additional medical work up, they just wanted to make sure my parents were feeding the obviously under nourished child. After a “complete review”, including “house visits” from county social workers, Jimmy came home only to struggle for the next 45 years with his health. Were it not for his diagnosis 6 months before my own diagnosis, I probably would have spent the average 7 years trying to figure you what was causing my symptoms. I know huge digression but the image of the sticks and swords stirred this memory up for me big time. Which my friend, is why I read your work! So poignant and real. Love you! Now onto the shortcake!

    1. shauna

      Cari, this is an awful story! I cannot believe that your parents had to go through this. If only they had done a celiac test…

      1. Cari

        Right, such an obvious answer but . . . go for the neglect instead. So crazy. I tell the story only to highlight the struggle this disease presents to families. I have taken care of several very young children who present with the very same symptoms and still today getting Celiac on the radar is not so easy. I can count at least 3 classical cases just in the past year that as a nurse I have told parents they need to push for a Celiac work up when even the pediatric GI doc is bucking. I really was fortunate my brother sort of paved the way for me otherwise I might be spinning my wheels today!

        1. Mary

          What a different story you all have to share compared to me, who was diagnosed before I even had symptoms… Thank you to all the folks out there who got us this far! My mad scientist dream is to have a lithmus test for gluten (dipstick that turns colors in the presence of gluten). How cool would that be!?!

        2. Tarythe

          Cari, my parents went through the exact same thing (except without the eye complication) when I was just old enough to start eating crackers. The hospital REFUSED to do any testing, it was such an obvious black-and-white case to them of parental neglect! The doctors told my mother that she stayed up with me all night night after night while they had me on IVs with sugar water (to increase my energy and get colour back into my face) because she felt guilty for neglecting me. They also told her that because I had such little energy she needed to feed me LOTS of carbohydrates, and gave her a list complete with toast, crackers, rolls, etc. After a little while my father even started to doubt that my mother was feeding me, because that’s what everyone was telling him (and he was at work all day, so how could he be sure?). Social workers visited us frequently and my mother fought to keep me from being taken away. I was over a year old and couldn’t hold my head up, and the pictures of me with the distended belly and every rib disgustingly visible are AWFUL. I wouldn’t have survived another 6 months had we not finally figured it out.

          I’m now 26 years old, very healthy, active, and happy. 13 weeks pregnant with my first (after trying for 3 1/2 years!!! Hoorah!), and am almost in tears right now thinking about how awful it would have been to go through that as a new mother.

          I hear so many stories of people who were diagnosed recently, or later in life, who were sick all their life and couldn’t figure out what it was. It is rare for me to hear other stories of people who struggled but finally got a diagnosis 25 years ago when there was NOTHING but rice cakes. Even Bette Hagman hadn’t written her cookbooks yet, which, as far as I’m aware, were really the first ones out there (in fact the first gluten-free “cookbook” I remember in my house was a small pamphlet, about 10 pages long, with all the things you could do with rice cakes like put peanut butter on them, or pepperoni and cheese, etc.). So reading Cari’s story made me want to share.

          Let’s rejoice in the wonderfully large and supportive community we have, in the awareness of Celiac that has been growing exponentially the last 10 years, and and HUGE number of companies that are either providing options or catering to the GF diet exclusively! Also, I love to think about all the supremely delicious foods that are naturally GF that we don’t have to substitute anything for, like in-season strawberries! Life really is beautiful.

          *Sorry, I didn’t mean for this comment to get this long!*

        3. shauna

          This is such a powerful story. My goodness! It’s horrifying to think how many people suffered — and are still suffering — because no one can diagnose them with celiac. (And congratulations on the pregnancy!)

        4. merrie

          My heart goes out to the children and parents who suffered in this way. Thank goodness there is more awareness in the lay and the medical communities these days and that sprue is getting more and more to be in the differential diagnosis for failure-to-thrive and other conditions. I know of several cases in my circle where the doctor tested for sprue without being asked to!

          However, not to diminish the suffering many people went and still go through before they are diagnosed (that would include me), please remember that 45 years ago–in the 1960’s–blood tests for sprue hadn’t been developed. It wasn’t until later that sprue was even recognized as an autoimmune condition, or that a diagnostic lesion in the gut or antibodies in the blood could be used for diagnosis. And, trust me, back in the 1960’s you wouldn’t have wanted to have an EGD anyway. Modern endoscopes are a relatively recent invention.

          My point is that while it would have prevented much suffering to get a diagnosis, the tools available in 2011 are very different from those that were available in the 1960’s. These days there is no excuse, because the tools are available and they are good. There will probably be even better ones in the future. (What I’m waiting for is a quick and accurate (and cheap) way to test for cross-contamination!)

          May all beings with sprue be diagnosed early and enjoy a long healthy gluten-free life!

  2. Deane Ross

    Lovely strawberry shortcakes were once a distant dream. I’ve found a recipe that works from Marcy Goldman ( – Better because of the mistake biscuits.
    Yours has me intrigued and I’ll be off to the kitchen and the local market for just picked berries.

    Just one question. I’m also allergic to dairy. Earth Balance spread (soy free) is an acceptable replacement. Do you have any suggestions for the buttermilk with all its wonderful properties.

    Thank you for taking such pains to enable those of us with celiac condition/gluten sensitivity. Oh the wonders I’ve discovered and shared. I love cooking and baking again; because I can share it with those I love. And most of all, thank you for sharing so much of yourself.

  3. Dru

    I LOVE reading your blog! I’m not sure what I enjoy more, your beautiful writing, fun photographs or the food that I’m about to try!

    Do you ever consider making a vegan version of one of your delicious dishes? In addition to gluten, corn and soy, I’ve recently had trouble with dairy and meat, so I’m taking a “break” from it to give my body a chance to recover. Then I’ll go back, in smaller doses- but I don’t want to give up trying your recipes because of this! Any suggestions? Thanks!


    1. shauna

      Dru, take a look at a post we did called “how to bake without dairy.” People offered wonderful suggestions there.

      1. Dru

        Thank you so much! I’ve been using flax gel in place of eggs for several recipes, but it doesn’t always hold together. I never thought to use coconut oil exclusively for butter in certain baked sweets. That makes sense- and it’s great because my boyfriend and I LOVE coconut! I really appreciate this- I understand that it’s frustrating when you hear naysayers, but really, your blog actually opens up a whole new world to those who cannot have gluten.

        I have to admit that whenever I read them, or your books, I make sure to have a bucket with me to catch my drools. Okay, maybe that’s a slight exaggeration, but not by far! Thank you again.

  4. jeanelane

    This will have to be something I try very, very soon! I made some gf shortcake a couple of months ago. It was so-so. Or maybe less than that. I froze what I didn’t eat and haven’t been anxious to have any more! So I will definitely try your recipe this weekend. And if my tastebuds approve, what is in the freezer will be trash.

    Thank you, Shauna, for doing all the experimenting for folks like me!

  5. Candy

    This looks delightful! I have to ask though, what does the psyllium husk powder do (other than the metamucil effect)? Must go pick strawberries now….yummm.

    1. shauna

      I just wrote about the psyllium in the pasta post. It adds a bit of structure to the shortcake, meaning we don’t need to use the xanthan and guar gum. I made it optional because the shortcakes taste so delicious you might not care about the looks!

      1. Candy

        OOOh, yeah! Not a gummer here. Not sure how I missed a pasta post. Thanks for working so hard for all of us – and to think I do this GF thing by choice!

  6. Shefali Lindsey

    Shauna, I just want to thank you for sharing these recipes and your passion for gluten-free cooking. It has (almost) been 2 years of being a Celiac after spending 24 years of my life eating whatever I wanted wherever. However, I am so happy I am a living, breathing, healthier and happier version of my 2009 self. And, like you, I am married to a man who bless his heart has joined me on the gluten-free cooking adventures. We are reading your book and the cooking book together right now, and we adore every bit of it. So, thank you! P.S. I am so excited to try the Strawberry Shortcake recipe considering it is one of my long lost loves since I have been diagnosed.

  7. Iris

    This looks like a wonderful recipe! I love that it only includes 3 tablespoons of sugar, and would be really easy for me to make sugar free. And I haven’t tried psyllium husks to replace gums yet, so I might have to go out and buy some to make these!

    1. Franchesca

      Yes! I love this idea. We have strawberries in our front rose garden and we are having to pick them every day, at least a quart’s worth!

      This will be our weekend project with the kids. Thank you so much for the sugar-free ability of this! 🙂


      1. shauna

        I love that it’s not that sweet either. If you wanted, you could cut the sugar from the shortcake and use the sweetener of your choice on the strawberries instead.

  8. Maureen Driedger

    Hey Shauna!

    This song from one of mt favorite singer/songwriters kept running through my head as I was reading your post…..

    There’s a light in the kitchen
    There’s a glass on the stand
    Three women round the table
    And they’re holding hands

    They’re care taking the birthings
    Bringing food when they can
    They’re easin’ the leavin’
    And they’re holding hands

    Love can get tangled
    And jumbled sometimes
    You can lose your way in this world
    You can lose your mind

    But there’s something love
    In which I can depend
    It’s the strength in women
    Holding hands

    The night can be dark
    So dark and wild
    And life burns like a diamond

    It’s unbearably hard
    But it’s sweeter than honesty
    Right from the jar

    Your eyes have the look
    Of some different place
    You’ve got one foot in heaven
    And one still in this land

    So we breathe it in deep
    And we let it out slow
    We’re holding up up
    While you’re letting us go

    There’s a free falling feeling
    I’m lighter than air and home burns
    Like a beacon in your eyes
    But somehow we get anchored
    Somehow we get by

    Here’s to the women
    Who bind the wounds tight
    Here’s to the ones
    Who sit talking half of the night

    Here’s to the love
    And the life that they mend
    And here’s to the strength
    In women holding hands

    And here’s to the strength
    In women holding hands
    And here’s to the strength
    In women holding hands

    Credits :
    songwriters: newcomer, carrie
    © carrie newcomer music

    Thanks for all the love you bring to the world!


  9. Leslie DR

    So between the pasta recipe and now this, I’m intrigued by psyllium husk powder – the closest place for me to get it is a Whole Foods; their website lists flavored psyllium husk powders (I assume for people looking to add fiber to their diet) – but is there one without flavor? I have been dreaming of strawberry shortcake, had a recipe I loved from Gourmet for years and had to set aside. Now, fresh pasta AND strawberry (and peach and on and on) shortcake – thank you Shauna!

  10. InTolerantChef

    What a lovely picture you conjured up in my minds eye! Children need to run barefoot and dirty, mouths red from berries and popsicles, little hands leaving smudge marks in the pastry (but I DID wash them Momma!) That’s living!

  11. Helen

    The picture looks so fabulous. I long for the things I used to be able to eat. But the 5+ flours is a huge start-up cost for me. I have 3 kids and a chronic illness (not Celiac) which makes life slow. I did buy some flours and mix them according to your 300/700 mix but haven’t used it yet. I used my postal scale and converted grams to oz. Keep up the good work.

    1. shauna

      Helen, the beauty of baking by weight is that you can substitute any flours you want in your baking. And that includes the flours in your house! The whole-grain mix makes slightly denser biscuits but they will still be fabulous!

  12. Laura

    Beautiful and inspiring. There was a big festival in the town where I live this weekend, and so many vendors were selling strawberry shortcake….. I told a fellow gluten-free friend that I should figure out a gf version…. and ta-da…. here it is. The work already done. Thank you!!!!

  13. Gluten Free & Dairy Free

    This recipe looks great! Buttermilk can be substituted with soymilk and applecider vinegar. I think it is usually 1 tbs per 1 cup of soymilk. And I think lemon juice and regular vinegar may also work.

    I saw the “How to Cook and Bake without Dairy” post. I understand how you can feel frustrated when you have created and shared something great and people aren’t satisfied. I can’t speak for those complaining about the perils of soy and meat consumption, but I can say, as someone who has to avoid dairy (even sheep and goat), we look at you as a savior. You are like a food recipe goddess and it is disappointing when we hit an ingredient that we can’t use. We rely on you to bring food-joy into our lives; however, it is on us to learn to cook, adapt recipes according to our needs. But as we do so we look to those we consider experts to help us understand how substitutes work and don’t work. Any help you provide is fantastic! The rest is up to us! And, yes, we should share our trials, failures, and successes with others. Great idea!

    I just made strawberry shortcake a couple weeks ago. It was not great. Edible. Not great. I am so excited to try this recipe!!! Thanks! I truly love this site. You kept me from dispair when I went gluten-free years ago.

  14. Leslie DR

    Okay! I made these last night, and although I put in waay too much buttermilk so they were a little dense, they were delicious!!!! Having finally put together the flour mix, I am about to go on a GF baking tear – next up, peach pie with the beautiful NJ peaches that are waiting down at the farmer’s market for me. Thanks, Shauna – for the recipes and the opportunity to say “Yes!”

  15. Nancy

    Awesome site! This looks like a wonderful recipe! I love reading your article! fun photographs with the enjoyable children that looks very healthy. thanks for the info!

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