Italian Style Strawberry Shortcake

by Catherine Down

I have been craving strawberry shortcake something fierce my friends.

Every year at the very beginning of July (and the very tail end of strawberry season), my family goes to a U-Pick strawberry farm in Rhode Island.

We pick an absurd amount of strawberries that are are so juicy and sunripened they are about to explode and thus must be consumed pretty much immediately. 

Their purpose, first and foremost, is to form the red stripes on an American flag cake. Inevitably, we end up having a surplus of strawberries and then we’re just forced to make strawberry butter, jam, or my personal favorite, strawberry shortcake.

Even though I’ve been desperate for some good old fashioned strawberry shortcake (with biscuit-none of this mid-atlantic pound cake nonsense), I saw a recipe for strawberry tiramisu in the NY Times and I knew it was just calling my name. Lady fingers soaked in sweet sparkling wine, creamy mascarpone whipped with vanilla and cream, crushed ripe strawberries? Check, check and check. After a quick jaunt to Piemonte for a weekend of wine tasting, I returned home with a delicious bottle of Moscato d’Asti to perfectly finish the dessert. Richer and more decadent (not to mention boozier) than traditional shortcake, I consider this to be an Italian style strawberry shortcake.

Italian Style Strawberry Shortcake

Marginally adapted from:


3 small containers of strawberries (1 1/2 quarts strawberries in the U.S.)

1/3 cup +1 tablespoon superfine sugar, or more to taste (the original calls for confectioner’s sugar, but that apparently does not exist here in Italy)

1 bottle (750 milliliters) moscato d’asti wine (a sweet sparkling white wine), more for serving

1 kilo (2lbs) mascarpone

1/2 cup heavy cream

1 tsp. vanilla powder (would have used vanilla extract or beans if in the U.S.)

40 ladyfingers (1 large package)


1. Hull and slice 2/3 of the strawberries. Leave remaining whole for garnishing the top.  Put sliced berries in a bowl and gently toss with 1 tbs superfine sugar, adding more if berries are very tart. Add a splash of moscato to bowl and let sit for 15 minutes.

2. Meanwhile in a large mixing bowl, whisk together mascarpone, heavy cream and 1/3 cup superfine sugar. Add the tsp of vanilla powder to the mascarpone mixture. Lightly whisk until soft peaks form.

3. Pour some moscato into a shallow bowl. Dip the ladyfingers into the wine for a few seconds to absorb wine, turn and dip again. Use as many of them as fit to line a 9- by 13-inch baking dish (or other 2-quart casserole) in one layer. Refill the bowl with moscato as needed.

4. Spread half of mascarpone mixture onto ladyfingers. Spoon strawberries and juices on top of mascarpone in an even layer.

5. Dip more ladyfingers and arrange on top of berries in an even layer. Top with remaining mascarpone mixture and smooth the top. Garnish with the remaining strawberries. Cover and refrigerate the “shortcake” for at least 6 hours and for up to 2 days. I made mine at 9 pm and served it the next afternoon. Melissa Clark recommends drizzling the cake with a little more moscato right before serving for some extra pizzazz