Old-fashioned Blackberry Shortcake

Some things just go together – like summer and Berry Shortcake. A few days ago I would have written “like summer and Strawberry Shortcake,” but I’ve discovered a wonderful hundred-year-old recipe for Blackberry Shortcake, so I needed to broaden my analogy.

Slightly crushed, sweetened, juicy blackberries go between and above tender layers of shortcake biscuits. This delightful old-fashioned dessert, with the “new” twist of blackberries is perfect for a hot summer day.

I did not use any whipped cream when I made this dessert since the old recipe did not call for it, and it definitely is not needed. The sweetened juice from the blackberries soaks into the biscuits and creates a delightful flavor and texture; though, if desired, the Blackberry Shortcake could be topped with whipped cream.

Here is a photo of Blackberry Shortcake that appeared in the old magazine:

Source: American Cookery (Boston Cooking School Magazine), Aug./Sept., 1915
Source: American Cookery (Boston Cooking School Magazine), Aug./Sept., 1915

And, here is the original recipe:

Source: American Cookery (Boston Cooking School Magazine), Aug./Sept., 1915
Source: American Cookery (Boston Cooking School Magazine), Aug./Sept., 1915

If seemed unusual the old recipe called for buttering the split shortcake biscuits before putting the blackberries between the layers, but I gave it a try with several biscuits. The warm biscuits melted the butter, and it really was not very noticeable after the berries were added. I also tried serving this dessert without buttering the biscuits first, and there was very little difference in the taste or appearance.

Here is the recipe updated for modern cooks:

Blackberry

  • Servings: 7 - 9 biscuits
  • Difficulty: moderate
  • Print

2 pints (4 1/2-pint boxes) blackberries

1 cup sugar

2 cups pastry flour (If you do not have pastry flour, use 1 cup cake flour + 1 cup all-purpose flour.)

1 teaspoon salt

2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/3 cup shortening

approximately 3/4 – 1 cup milk

butter (optional)

Wash and drain blackberries. Put in a bowl and sprinkle with sugar. Lightly crush berries with a fork. Set aside. (If desired, put in a saucepan and heat using low heat for 1 – 2 minutes to warm slightly and to increase the juicing of the berries, but do not cook. Remove from heat.)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. In a mixing bowl, stir the flour, salt and baking powder together. Cut the shortening into the flour mixture. Add 3/4 cup milk and stir just enough to combine using a fork to form a soft dough. If the dough is dry, add additional milk and stir a little more to create a soft dough.

On a pastry cloth or other prepared surface, roll shortcake dough to 3/4 inch thickness. Cut into rounds 2 1/2 – 3 inches in diameter. (I turned a water glass upside down and used it as the cutter).  Put on a lightly greased baking sheet.  Cook about 15-20 minutes or until the biscuits are lightly browned. Remove from oven and split the biscuits in half. (I used a bread knife to cut them.) If desired, spread the biscuits with butter. Put the berries between and above the biscuits and serve at once.

I used less sugar than called for in the original recipe because 1 1/2 – 2 cups sugar seemed like an excessive amount to put on the blackberries.