Vanilla Bean Shortcakes with Strawberries in Basil Syrup from “The Picnic”

April 23, 2017



Fresh berries are a perfect pick for picnics, as detailed in the delightful cookbook, “The Picnic: Recipes and Inspiration from Basket to Blanket.” Authors Marnie Hanel, Andrea Slonecker, and Jen Stevenson shared their springtime stunner of a strawberry shortcake recipe with us in celebration of National Picnic Day 2017.  Find this recipe and more in “The Picnic” available at Powell’s Books, and wherever you shop for your favorite cookbooks.

Vanilla Bean Shortcakes with Strawberries in Basil Syrup

Excerpted from The Picnic by Marnie Hanel, Andrea Slonecker, and Jen Stevenson (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2015. Illustrations by Emily Isabella.

YIELD: 8 servings



1 1⁄2 pounds strawberries, sliced (about 2 pints)

2 tablespoon tiny fresh basil leaves, or thinly sliced large basil leaves

1 batch Basil Simple Syrup (see below)




2 cups all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon granulated sugar

1 tablespoon baking powder

3⁄4 teaspoon baking soda

1⁄2 teaspoon fine sea salt

8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, cubed and chilled in the freezer for at least 10 minutes

1 vanilla bean, halved lengthwise

3⁄4 cup buttermilk

1 large egg

1 tablespoon water

Turbinado or granulated sugar, for sprinkling

Chantilly Whipped Cream (see below)



  1. To make the topping: Fill a 1-quart jar with the strawberries and basil and pour the syrup over them. Replace the lid and invert the jar a few times, so that the syrup coats the berries and basil. Let the topping stand for at least 30 minutes, or up to 1 day in the refrigerator. Invert the jar occasionally.


  1. To make the shortcakes: Preheat the oven to 425°F.


  1. Sift the flour, granulated sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together into a large bowl. Add the butter and combine using a pastry cutter or your fingertips until the butter is broken into pea-size bits.


  1. Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean into the buttermilk and stir to distribute. Stir the buttermilk into the dry ingredients with a rubber spatula just until the dough comes together. Dump the dough onto a well-floured countertop and pat it into a 11⁄2-inch-thick disk. Cut the disk into 8 wedges and place them on a cookie sheet at least 2 inches apart. Whisk the egg and water together until foamy. Brush the shortcakes lightly with the egg wash and sprinkle them with turbinado sugar.


  1. Bake until the tops are golden and the bottoms toasty, 14 to 16 minutes.


  1. Cool, then wrap the shortcakes in an attractive kitchen towel and put in the basket along with the toppings. At the picnic, slice the shortcakes in half and spoon strawberries and syrup over the bottoms. Top with dollops of whipped cream and cap with the remaining halves of the shortcakes.


Basil Simple Syrup

Makes 1/2 cup


1⁄2 cup water

1⁄2 cup sugar

1 cup fresh basil leaves



  1. Bring the sugar and water to a gentle simmer in a small pot. Stir frequently until the sugar has dissolved and the syrup is clear. Remove from the heat and add the basil. Let the syrup steep for 1 hour. Strain the syrup into a jar.


Chantilly Whipped Cream

Makes about 2 cups


1 cup very cold heavy (whipping) cream

1 tablespoon sugar

1⁄4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract



  1. Place the cream, sugar, and vanilla in a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and whip on medium speed until soft peaks form (when the whisk is drawn from the cream, a peak forms and curls over). Alternatively, whip the cream in a large metal bowl using a whisk or a handheld electric mixer. Cover and refrigerate until the picnic, or for up to 1 day, then transport in a cooler.