Summer Recipe: Gluten-Free & Vegan Strawberry Shortcake

The week I first made this recipe also marked my first my birthday as a gluten-free, dairy-free, and refined-sugar-free person. Friends have expressed their condolences, staring into space with looks of pity (or is that horror?) as they imagine a birthday without a “real” cake.

I, on the other hand, am feeling energized and ready to pile my plate with a tumble of biscuits, strawberries, and cream. It’s strawberry shortcake season!

To be honest, traditional birthday cakes have never been my favorite. Berries are where my heart lies, and as a child I always requested either a fruit tart or shortcake for my special day. So fresh strawberries, which hardly need any sweetener, are an ideal treat. For these shortcakes I just toss the strawberries with a tiny bit of maple syrup and lemon juice, and they’re ready to go.

Perhaps it’s because I grew up in Texas with its Southern traditions, but to me a strawberry shortcake must be on a biscuit, not a sponge cake, pound cake, or any other kind of non-biscuity cake.

Now for the non-traditional part: making it gluten-free and vegan! For the flour, I use a blend of sorghum flour, potato starch, and tapioca starch flecked with ground chia seeds, which act as a binder. Coconut milk and coconut oil give the biscuits a flaky texture and buttery flavor. Top them with coconut whipped cream and juicy strawberries, and make a wish!

Gluten-Free and Vegan Strawberry Shortcake

  • For the biscuits:
  • 3/4 cup + 1 tablespoon coconut milk, divided
  • 2 teaspoons maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 tablespoon ground chia seeds
  • 1 cup white sorghum flour, plus more for dusting
  • 2/3 cup potato starch
  • 1/3 cup tapioca starch
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 5 tablespoons virgin coconut oil, cool enough to be solid but malleable
  • For the strawberries:
  • 2 pints strawberries, hulled and sliced or chopped
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup, or more to taste
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • For the whipped coconut cream:
  • 1 1/2 cups (or one 13 1/2-ounce can) full-fat coconut milk, refrigerated overnight
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla, optional
  • 1 teaspoon maple syrup, or more to taste, optional

Preheat oven to 400°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment.

To make the biscuits, combine 3/4 cup of the coconut milk with the maple syrup and vanilla. Add the ground chia seeds and mix with a fork to make a slurry. Let sit for about 10 minutes.

In a large bowl, whisk together the sorghum flour, potato starch, tapioca starch, baking powder, and salt. Add the coconut oil and mix with a fork until pea-sized clumps form. Stir the coconut milk slurry and add it to the bowl. Mix with a fork until just combined. Gently knead the dough a few times around the bowl until it forms a loose ball.

Transfer the dough to a surface lightly dusted with sorghum flour. Pat the dough to 3/4-inch thick and cut into 8 (2 1/2-inch) rounds. Place the biscuits on the parchment-lined baking sheet and brush the tops with the remaining tablespoon of coconut milk. Bake until the biscuits are just golden, about 12 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool slightly. Best served warm or at the very least on the same day.

While the biscuits are baking and cooling, prepare the strawberries and cream. Toss the strawberries with the maple syrup and lemon juice, and let macerate for at least 10 minutes before serving.

To make the whipped coconut cream, remove the coconut milk from the refrigerator — move it carefully to avoid agitating the contents. Scoop off the cream that has solidified at the top and place it in the bowl of a stand mixer, or a bowl if using a hand mixer. (Save the coconut water at the bottom for smoothies or other dishes.) Beat the coconut cream until soft peaks form, about 3 minutes. Mix in the vanilla and maple syrup, if using. (This can be refrigerated up to 3 days; re-whip before serving.)

To serve, place a biscuit on a plate, pile with berries and cream, top with another biscuit, and add another dollop of cream.