The summer before my senior year of high school, two of my friends from the junior class decided to learn how to play the oboe. They asked me for help, so I headed over to spend the afternoon teaching them the basics. Yet when I rang the doorbell with my instrument case in one hand and a stack of sheet music tucked underneath my arm, the two girls led me straight into the kitchen…
Where they begged me to help save their cookies instead!
They had bought a bag of sugar cookie mix at the grocery store, but when it failed to come together like the package’s instructions outlined, they had added milk… Lots and lots of milk. It looked like wet muffin batter, not pillowy soft and scoopable cookie dough!
I grinned, set down my purse, and immediately switched into baking mode. We searched the pantry for flour and sugar — flour to thicken, sugar to compensate for the flour and maintain the right sweetness level — and after a few minutes of sprinkling and stirring them in, the cookie dough finally looked right.
At the last second, they tossed in handfuls of chocolate chips before dropping mounds of dough into baking sheets and sliding them in the oven. When the timer buzzed, I watched as they carefully pulled out the trays, and after a few more moments of impatiently waiting, we each grabbed a hot cookie, broke it in half, and took a bite.
The girls’ eyes widened in shock…
The cookies actually tasted delicious! Sweet, buttery, soft, chewy, everything a cookie should be… Despite the near disaster of “muffin batter” cookie dough!
Yet after that adventure, the two girls asked me for something else in addition to oboe lessons that summer…
Baking lessons! And as their first made-from-scratch recipe, they requested strawberry shortcakes, a classic summer dessert staple.
So when they showed up at my house the following week, I printed a recipe off of the internet and guided them through each step: proper measuring techniques, different methods of mixing ingredients together, and patience. Because even when dough doesn’t look quite right in the mixing bowl… It often comes together in the end, if you don’t panic and just keep following the instructions! 😉
When I spotted strawberries at the grocery store last week alongside packages of premade shortcake dessert shells, memories from our first official baking lessons floated through my mind. Since the recipe I had picked to make back then wasn’t exactly healthy, I decided to purchase a few pints of berries and try creating my own version…
Which eventually resulted in these Ultimate Healthy Strawberry Shortcakes! They taste just as buttery as the ones we baked in high school, with the same lovely moist texture inside, and they’re filled with juicy fruit and dollops of luscious whipped cream.
However… These contain no eggs, refined flour or sugar — and there’s a dairy-free option too! You also need just one bowl to make them, and they’re only 121 calories!
WHAT ARE SHORTCAKES?
What are shortcakes? I’m glad you asked! 😉 From what I’ve learned, shortcakes originated in the US. They were biscuit-like desserts, often with a texture tending towards dry and crumbly (like scones!) rather than supremely tender and airy (like traditional cake!). That biscuit-like portion was sliced in half and filled with fresh fruit and whipped cream.
Although we typically think of shortcakes as only strawberry shortcakes, that wasn’t always the case! Any type of fruit could be sandwiched between the shortcake layers. Blackberries, raspberries, peaches, bananas… You name it!
As for the name? “Short” supposedly means “crisp,” the way it was previously defined in earlier centuries… So “shortcakes” were pastries that were made with a somewhat crisp texture using a fat source like butter or lard. (Similar to how “shortbread” cookies are made crisp with lots of butter but no eggs!)
I love nerdy baking history like that! But history isn’t all that delicious on its own… So let’s move on and talk about more important things! 😉
HOW TO MAKE THE BEST HEALTHY STRAWBERRY SHORTCAKES
Let’s go over how to make the best ever healthy strawberry shortcakes! I learned a lot while developing this recipe, so I’m sharing plenty of nerdy tips and info with you to make sure you end up with the perfect strawberry shortcakes too.
Nerd Alert #1: Flour
While most recipes call for refined all-purpose flour, we’re trying to make the ultimate healthy strawberry shortcakes… So you’ll skip that refined flour and use white whole wheat flour instead!
Yes, it sounds a little contradictory. White whole wheat flour? But I promise such a thing actually exists — and it’s not just a combination of white (aka all-purpose) flour and regular whole wheat flour! Instead, it’s made by finely grinding a special type of soft white wheat (hence the name!), whereas regular whole wheat flour comes from a heartier variety of red wheat. They have the same health benefits (like extra fiber!), but white whole wheat flour has a lighter taste and texture… And that lets the buttery flavor of your healthy strawberry shortcakes really shine!
Tip: It’s like the difference between red and green grapes! Same health benefits, just a slightly different taste.
Also, make sure you measure the flour correctly using this method or a kitchen scale. (← That’s the one I own and love!) Too much flour will make your shortcakes incredibly dry and crumbly, and the dough might not even hold together enough to bake. Not good… So I promise it’s worth taking a few extra moments to properly measure the flour so you end up with the best ever healthy strawberry shortcakes!
Nerd Alert #2: Leaveners
You need both baking powder and baking soda for these healthy strawberry shortcakes! The combination ensures that your shortcakes rise properly and have the best possible texture. You’ll whisk them in with the flour (and a bit of salt!) to make sure they’re evenly distributed without any clumps.
Nerd Alert #3: Fat
Just like in traditional recipes, I found that cold unsalted butter created the best taste and texture in these ultimate healthy strawberry shortcakes! Yes, it must be cold. Straight from the fridge is fine though — no need to freeze it! Here’s why…
When you put the shortcake dough in the oven to bake, the cold butter starts to melt. When it melts, it creates tender little pockets in the dough. If your butter starts to soften or melt ahead of time, you miss out on that amazing texture… So your shortcakes aren’t nearly as tender.
Hint: This is why I strongly recommend against using coconut oil! Coconut oil melts at a much lower temperature, around 76°F (just a little above room temperature!), which means that it will definitely start to soften and melt as you prepare the dough… And your shortcakes definitely won’t have that same delicious texture!
Tip: For a dairy-free and vegan version, use stick-style vegan butter (like this!) to make your ultimate healthy strawberry shortcakes instead! It results in the same taste and texture as regular butter.
Nerd Alert #4: Mixing In The Butter
Yes, this mixing technique deserves its own Nerd Alert. 😉 You’re going to cut the butter into the flour mixture until it resembles fine crumbs. While it’s possible to use the back of a fork, I love using a pastry cutter like this! It makes the process so much quicker and easier.
Bonus: Pastry cutters are actually really affordable, and they’re great for making pie crusts, scones, and even mashing bananas for banana bread too!
Working in the butter with a pastry cutter (or the back of a fork!) does two things: (a) it doesn’t result in any heat as a by-product that can be transferred to the metal of the pastry cutter or fork, the way that the motor of a hand-held or stand mixer can often create, and (b) it evenly distributes the butter and coats it with flour so all of your ultimate healthy strawberry shortcakes have the same perfect texture.
I know it takes a little extra time and effort to incorporate the cold, stiff butter this way… But again, I promise these strawberry shortcakes are worth it!
Nerd Alert #5: No Cream
Traditional shortcake recipes often called for heavy cream, but we’re skipping that in these ultimate healthy strawberry shortcakes! Instead, you’ll use one of my favorite ingredients in healthy baking…
Greek yogurt! It adds the same moisture to the dough as extra butter or heavy cream but for a fraction of the calories. Greek yogurt also gives your ultimate healthy strawberry shortcakes a protein boost!
Tip: For a dairy-free and vegan version, substitute your favorite dairy-free yogurt. Almond-based, soy-based, coconut-based, and even oat-based will all work!
Also, while we’re on the subject of Greek yogurt and moisture… I actually hate super dry and crumbly shortcakes, just like I hate super dry and crumbly scones. So I intentionally make my shortcakes much more moist and tender. I just think they taste so much better that way!
Nerd Alert #6: Sweetener
While researching recipes, I realized that most shortcakes contained very little sugar… Most of it went into the fruit filling instead! So I stuck with tradition and added only a small amount of sweetener to the dough.
However, instead of refined granulated sugar, you’ll use pure maple syrup instead! That’s the kind that comes directly from maple trees. (Not pancake syrup or sugar-free syrup!) The only ingredient on the label should be “maple syrup,” and it generally comes in thin glass bottles or squat plastic jugs (like this!).
Nerd Alert #7: Secret Ingredient
If you’ve browsed through my recipes before, especially some of my healthy cookie recipes, then you probably know all about this secret ingredient. I love using it in my healthy baking recipes to make them taste just as indulgent as traditional ones. And that’s…
Vanilla extract! Vanilla can imitate butter’s rich flavor, so by adding a full tablespoon to the dough, it makes these ultimate healthy strawberry shortcakes taste just as rich and buttery as traditional ones… Even with SO little butter!
Low calorie, low fat, low sugar strawberry shortcakes that still taste supremely buttery… Such a great trick, right??
Nerd Alert #8: Baking
Traditional shortcakes are baked at a high temperature for a short period of time to get a nice crisp texture on the outside, and you’ll do the same with these ultimate healthy strawberry shortcakes!
Some recipes call for baking the dough in a cake pan as a single large shortcake and then cutting that one large shortcake into individual portions after. Other recipes direct you to divide the dough into individual portions and bake those on a cookie sheet instead. I think the latter look a little cuter — and seem to be what most people envision when they think of shortcakes! — so that’s what I did for these ultimate healthy strawberry shortcakes.
Before baking, divide the dough into 9 portions. I like to pat mine into round biscuit-like shapes. However, the dough is fairly sticky (that’s what makes them deliciously moist and tender!), so I generously moisten my hands with water before shaping each one. That little trick prevents the dough from sticking to your hands!
Then slide the cookie sheet in the oven, set a timer, and… Don’t walk away. These shortcakes require very little time to bake, and you don’t want to burn them or dry them out! 😉
For the best taste and texture, let your shortcakes completely cool to room temperature before slicing, filling, and serving them! This allows the centers to fully set. (And it also makes these ultimate healthy strawberry shortcakes a great make-ahead dessert… All you have to do is assemble them at the last minute!)
Nerd Alert #9: Strawberries
I was seriously shocked when I looked at traditional strawberry shortcake recipes… They all contained SO much sugar in the berry filling! I thought that seemed completely unnecessary, especially if you can find ripe strawberries that are already deliciously sweet and juicy on their own.
So for these ultimate healthy strawberry shortcakes, the berry filling consists of… Strawberries. And nothing else. 😉
There are a few different options for cutting your strawberries! You can slice them really thinly to make the shortcakes easier (and prettier!) to assemble. Or you can dice them to make the shortcakes easier to cut into and eat. Just go with whatever you feel like — or whatever seems easiest to you!
Nerd Alert #10: Whipped Cream
I’ve used a few different creamy fillings for these ultimate healthy strawberry shortcakes! Typically, I make a healthier, lower calorie whipped cream from scratch using half Greek yogurt (I told you it’s one of my favorite ingredients! 😉 ) and half heavy whipping cream, and I add a little stevia to eliminate any potential tang from the yogurt.
However, when I’m crunched for time or forget to buy whipping cream at the store… I’ll make vanilla yogurt “whipped cream!” For that, I use just Greek yogurt (no whipping cream!) and add more sweetener, along with a splash of vanilla extract. Sometimes I’ll even use store-bought vanilla-flavored Greek yogurt. It’s super easy — and everybody still seems to love these ultimate healthy strawberry shortcakes with that sandwiched inside!
Tip: For a vegan version, use coconut whipped cream… Or substitute your favorite non-dairy yogurt in my vanilla yogurt “whipped cream” shortcut!
Don’t these look pretty? And so perfect for a summertime dessert?? Then when you make your own, remember to snap a picture and share it on Instagram using #amyshealthybaking and tagging @amyshealthybaking IN the photo itself! (That guarantees I’ll see your picture! 🙂 ) I’d love to see your ultimate healthy strawberry shortcakes!
The Ultimate Healthy Strawberry Shortcakes
- 1 ½ cups (180g) white whole wheat flour or gluten-free* flour (measured like this)
- 1 tsp baking powder
- ½ tsp baking soda
- ¼ tsp salt
- 1 ½ tbsp (21g) unsalted butter, very cold and cubed (see Notes!)
- ½ cup (120g) plain nonfat Greek yogurt
- 2 ½ tbsp (38mL) nonfat milk
- 1 tbsp (15mL) pure maple syrup (see Notes!)
- 1 tbsp (15mL) vanilla extract
- 2 cups (280g) fresh whole strawberries, thinly sliced or diced
- whipped cream, for serving (see Notes!)
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Cut in the butter with a pastry cutter (highly recommended!) or the back of a fork until the mixture resembles fine crumbs. Make a well in the center. Add the Greek yogurt, milk, maple syrup, and vanilla extract in the center of the well. Gradually stir them in.
- Working with a small amount of dough at a time, shape into a ½”-thick round disc, and place onto the prepared baking sheet. (The dough should be very sticky, so generously moisten your hands with water before shaping each portion!) Bake at 400°F for 12-15 minutes, or until the tops are deep golden and the centers feels firm to the touch. Cool on the pan for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.
- Once the shortcakes have fully cooled to room temperature, slice each in half horizontally just before serving. Top the bottom half of each with strawberries and a dollop of whipped cream. Place the top half back on top, and serve.
View Nutrition Information + Weight Watchers Points
You may also like Amy’s other recipes…
♡ Healthy Mixed Berry Shortcakes
♡ Healthier Strawberry Shortcake S’mores
♡ Healthier Pumpkin Shortcake S’mores
♡ Healthy Strawberry Shortcake Smoothie
♡ The Ultimate Healthy Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp
♡ Healthy Strawberry Pound Cake
♡ Healthy Strawberry Crumble Bars
♡ The Ultimate Healthy Blueberry Crisp
♡ …and the rest of Amy’s healthy summertime recipes!