Small Batch Gluten Free Strawberry Shortcake Cake

This small batch gluten free strawberry shortcake cake is bound to become your new summer favourite. With soft and fluffy vanilla sponges, luscious whipped cream, an overabundance of juicy strawberries and a generous drizzle of strawberry syrup, it’s the ultimate summer showstopper. The recipe makes a two-layer, 6 inch cake that serves 4-6 people, but it’s easily doubled to make an 8 inch cake.

Gluten free strawberry shortcake cake on a wooden cake stand, with a tea towel and dessert plates next to it.

Regardless of what you call this dessert (is it a strawberry shortcake cake or is it a strawberry & cream cake??), one thing is for certain: it’s the ultimate summer showstopper.

It’s delightfully messy, in a deliciously decadent manner – with dollops and swoops of softly whipped cream peaking over golden sponges and the whole thing is absolutely laden with juicy, ruby-red strawberries, the latter drizzled with their juices that have been reduced until thick and sticky and syrupy.

Every bite of this cake tastes like summer.

A slice of gluten free strawberry shortcake cake on a white dessert plate.

 

Here’s why you’ll LOVE this gluten free strawberry shortcake cake

  1. The gluten free vanilla sponges – they’re perfectly soft and fluffy, with a delicate, melt-in-the-mouth texture. That’s largely due to the so-called “reverse creaming method”, which I love using for layer cakes as it always produces the most delicious results (more on that below).
  2. The whipped cream, stabilised with cream cheese – it’s whipped to the soft peak stage and it holds its shape beautifully thanks to the addition of cream cheese. In addition to stabilising it, the cream cheese also adds a slight tang to the frosting, which pairs beautifully with the sweet strawberries.
  3. The juicy strawberries – the cake is absolutely packed with strawberries. They’re macerated for about an hour or so, which allows them to release their juices and become even more aromatic and delicious. The juices are then reduced down to a syrup, which I like to liberally drizzle all over the finished cake (and over the individual slices as well, just for good measure).
  4. It’s a small batch cake! This recipe makes a 6 inch, two-layer cake that serves 4-6 people – though you could easily double the recipe to make an 8 inch cake instead.
  5. It’s gluten free – not that you could possibly guess!
  6. It’s drop dead gorgeous. Just look at it!!!

Gluten free strawberry shortcake cake on a wooden cake stand.

Before we get to the bits and bobs of making this wonderful cake – if you like what you’re seeing, subscribe to my newsletter to keep up to date on the latest recipes and tips!

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Note: the whole recipe, including the ingredient quantities, can be found at the bottom of this page – just scroll down to the bottom, or click the ‘Jump to Recipe’ button at the top of this post.

How do you make gluten free vanilla cake sponges?

Making these gluten free vanilla cake sponges truly couldn’t be easier. You don’t even need a stand or a hand mixer (though you can use them if you want). This recipe uses the so-called “reverse creaming method”, pioneered by Rose Levy Beranbaum, which gives the cake a delicate, melt-in-the-mouth texture and an even aeration, while also minimising doming.

Here’s how to make THE BEST gluten free vanilla cake sponges:

  1. In a large bowl, sift together the dry ingredients (gluten free flour blend, almond flour, baking powder, xanthan gum and salt) and sugar. Add the softened butter,
  2. and, using your fingertips, work it into the dry ingredients until you get a mixture resembling breadcrumbs.
  3. Mix together the milk, egg and vanilla, and add half of the wet ingredients to the dry.
  4. Whisk well until combined and smooth,
  5. then add the rest of the wet ingredients.
  6. Whisk well until you get a smooth cake batter with no flour clumps.
  7. Divide the batter evenly between two buttered and lined 6 inch (15cm) round cake tins, and smooth out the top.
  8. Bake at 350ºF (180ºC) for 22-24 minutes,
  9. until golden brown on top
  10. and an inserted toothpick comes out clean. Then, allow to cool in the tins for about 10 minutes before turning them out onto a wire cooling rack to cool completely.

The first 6 steps of the 10 step process of making gluten free vanilla cake sponges.

The last 4 steps of the 10 step process of making gluten free vanilla cake sponges.

Macerating the strawberries & making the strawberry syrup

To get the most flavour out of the strawberries (that have been halved or quartered depending on their size), it’s best to macerate them. That is, toss them with caster/superfine or granulated sugar, lemon juice and vanilla bean paste and then let them to their thing for a while – I like to do this either at room temperature for 1-2 hours or overnight in the fridge.

Maceration extracts the juices from the strawberries and also enhances their flavour. And, of course, the addition of vanilla makes them even more delicious.

Macerated strawberries in a glass bowl.

The macerated strawberries are then drained, and their juices reduced in a saucepan over medium heat until syrupy (but not quite jam-like). I always like to err on the side of over-reducing (rather than under-reducing) the juices, as it’s easy to dilute them to the right consistency with a splash of water or lemon juice.

How to make stabilised whipped cream

“Stabilised whipped cream” is simply whipped cream that has had another ingredient added that helps it hold its shape better and for longer. There are many ways to stabilise cream, but for this cake, I chose my favourite method: add cream cheese.

The cream cheese serves two purposes:

  1. It stabilises the cream, so that even when you whip it only to soft peaks, it will still hold its shape beautifully (even when laden with strawberries) without drooping or looking limp.
  2. It gives the whipped cream a wonderful subtle, refreshing tang, which pairs beautifully with the vanilla sponges and the abundance of sweet strawberries.

To make the stabilised whipped cream, whisk the cold double/heavy cream with powdered/icing sugar and some vanilla bean paste until very soft peaks form, and then add the cold cream cheese (that you’ve whisked separately to smooth it out). Whisk until combined and soft peaks form. And that’s it!

I prefer to whip the cream by hand, as it allows me more control over its texture/consistency. It also reduces the chances of over-whipping it. However, if you prefer, you can also use a stand or a hand mixer.

Side note: I like to use double/heavy cream for this frosting as it gives a richer, more well-rounded flavour to the cake, but you can also use whipping cream.

Assembling the gluten free strawberry shortcake cake

And now, it’s time for the fun part: assembling the cake! Here’s how:

  1. Make sure that your sponges are completely cooled. If needed, level them off with a sharp serrated knife. Place one of the sponges on a cake stand or serving plate of choice, so that its bottom faces downwards. Dollop half of the whipped cream on top and use a small offset spatula to spread it out. Arrange half of the strawberries on top of the cream in an even layer.
  2. Place the other sponge on top, so that its bottom faces upwards – this will give your cake a nice flat top.
  3. Spread the other half of the whipped cream on top of the sponge.
  4. Arrange the remaining strawberries on top of the cream. Gosh, it’s already looking gorgeous!!!

The 4-step process of assembling the gluten free strawberry shortcake cake.

As the perfect finishing touch, drizzle the strawberry syrup over the top of the cake, allowing it to drip down the sides. I recommend drizzling the cake just before serving for the most beautiful results. And, of course, you can drizzle the individual cake slices with the remaining strawberry syrup as well. Trust me, there’s no such thing as too much strawberry syrup. It’s just SO GOOD!!

Drizzling the strawberry shortcake cake with strawberry syrup.

Now, don’t expect this cake to have a super refined or polished finish. It’s a bit messy and a bit rustic… and honestly, all the more tempting for it.

I could eat this gluten free strawberry shortcake cake all summer long. There’s just something about the combination of soft vanilla sponges, luscious whipped cream and an overabundance of juicy strawberries that’s pure magic. And when you add the strawberry syrup into the mix… expect flavour fireworks.

I hope it will become your summer favourite as well.

Happy baking!

Signature of the author, Kat.

Gluten free strawberry shortcake cake on a wooden cake stand, with more strawberries in the background.

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Gluten free strawberry shortcake cake on a wooden cake stand.
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Small Batch Gluten Free Strawberry Shortcake Cake

This small batch gluten free strawberry shortcake cake is bound to become your new summer favourite. With soft and fluffy vanilla sponges, luscious whipped cream, an overabundance of juicy strawberries and a generous drizzle of strawberry syrup, it’s the ultimate summer showstopper. The recipe makes a two-layer, 6 inch cake that serves 4-6 people, but it’s easily doubled to make an 8 inch cake.

Course Dessert
Cuisine Gluten Free
Prep Time 45 minutes
Bake/Cook Time 22 minutes
Macerating Time 1 hour
Total Time 2 hours 7 minutes
Servings 6

Ingredients

For gluten free vanilla sponges:

  • 150 g (1 ¼ cups) plain gluten free flour blend (I used Doves Farm Freee plain gluten free flour, which doesn't contain xanthan gum. You can also mix your own blend from 50% white rice flour, 30% potato starch and 20% maize flour by weight.)
  • 20 g (3 ½ tbsp) almond flour (You can substitute it with an equal weight of the gluten free flour blend if you're allergic to nuts, but note that the cake will dry out a bit faster.)
  • 150 g (¾ cup) caster/superfine or granulated sugar
  • 1 ¼ tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp xanthan gum (Omit if your gluten free flour blend already contains xanthan gum.)
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 85 g (¾ stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 UK medium/US large egg, room temperature
  • 135 g (½ cup + 1 tbsp) whole milk, room temperature
  • ½ tsp vanilla bean paste (or 1 tsp vanilla extract)

For macerated strawberries & strawberry syrup:

  • 320 g (about 2 ½ cups) strawberries, halved (for smaller strawberries) or quartered (for larger strawberries)
  • 50 g (¼ cup) caster/superfine or granulated sugar
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • ½ tsp vanilla bean paste (or 1 tsp vanilla extract)

For stabilised whipped cream:

  • 230 g (1 cup) cold double/heavy cream
  • 115 g (½ cup) cold full-fat cream cheese
  • 80 g (⅔ cup) powdered/icing sugar
  • ½ tsp vanilla bean paste (or 1 tsp vanilla extract)

Instructions

For gluten free vanilla sponges:

  1. Adjust the oven rack to the middle position and pre-heat the oven to 350ºF (180ºC). Lightly butter two 6 inch (15cm) round cake tins and line their bottoms with rounds of baking/greaseproof paper.

  2. In a large bowl (or the bowl of a stand mixer if using it), sift together the gluten free flour blend, almond flour, sugar, baking powder, xanthan gum and salt.

  3. Add the softened butter and, using your fingertips, work it into the dry ingredients until you get a mixture resembling breadcrumbs. You can also use a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or a hand mixer fitted with the double beaters.

    Tip: This order of adding the ingredients (that is, working the butter into the dry ingredients plus sugar before adding the wet) is known as the “reverse creaming method”. It gives the cake sponges a very even aeration, a delicate melt-in-the-mouth texture and a uniform rise (with minimal doming).

  4. In a separate bowl, mix together the egg, milk and vanilla bean paste, and add them to the flour-butter mixture in two batches, whisking well after each addition, until you get a smooth cake batter with no flour clumps. (Again, you can do this by hand using a balloon whisk, or using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or a hand mixer fitted with the double beaters.)

  5. Evenly divide the cake batter between the two lined cake tins and smooth out the top.

  6. Bake at 350ºF (180ºC) for about 22-24 minutes or until well risen, golden brown on top and an inserted toothpick comes out clean.

  7. Allow to cool in the cake tins for about 10 minutes before turning them out onto a wire cooling rack to cool completely.

For macerated strawberries & strawberry syrup:

  1. In a large bowl, combine the halved and quartered strawberries, sugar, lemon juice and vanilla. Mix well until the strawberries are evenly coated with the sugar.

  2. Cover and allow to sit either at room temperature for 1-2 hours or in the fridge overnight, stirring occasionally.

  3. Once the strawberries have released their juices, pass them through a sieve to drain the juices, then return the strawberries back into the bowl and set aside until needed.

  4. Pour the juices into a saucepan and cook over medium-high heat with frequent stirring until thickened and syrupy, but not quite jam-like. This should take about 5 minutes. Once thickened, set aside to cool.

    Tip: I always like to err on the side of over-reducing (rather than under-reducing) the juices, as it’s easy to dilute them to the right consistency with a splash of water or lemon juice. A too runny, under-reduced syrup, on the other hand, will be rather messy when you drizzle it on top of the cake.

For stabilised whipped cream:

  1. In a large bowl, combine the cold double/heavy cream with powdered/icing sugar and the vanilla. Whisk them together until very soft peaks form. You can do this by hand using a large balloon whisk, or using a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment or a hand mixer fitted with the double beaters. If using a stand/hand mixer, whisk on the low/medium-low speed setting – this will ensure that you don't over-whip the cream.

  2. In a separate bowl, whisk the cold cream cheese until it loosens up slightly and is completely smooth.

  3. Add the cream cheese to the loosely whipped cream. Whisk until combined and soft peaks form.

    Tip: The addition of cream cheese stabilises the whipped cream, so that even when you whip it only to soft peaks, it will still hold its shape beautifully. The cream cheese also gives the frosting a wonderful subtle, refreshing tang, which pairs beautifully with the vanilla sponges and the abundance of sweet strawberries.

Assembling the cake:

  1. If necessary, level off the sponges with a sharp serrated knife.

  2. Place the bottom sponge on a cake stand or serving plate of choice.

  3. Spread half of the whipped cream on top and use a small offset spatula to spread it out into an even layer.

  4. Arrange half of the strawberries on top of the cream in an even layer.

  5. Place the other sponge on top, with the bottom of the sponge facing upwards (this will give you a nice flat top).

  6. Spread the other half of the whipped cream on top of the sponge.

  7. Arrange the remaining strawberries on top of the cream.

  8. Finally, just before serving, drizzle the top of the cake with the strawberry syrup. You can also drizzle the individual cake slices with leftover syrup.

Storage:

  1. The gluten free strawberry shortcake cake keeps well in a closed container in the fridge for 3-4 days.

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