A true shortcake is a biscuit or scone-like pastry and not the sponge cake little cups that you can buy in the grocery store next to the fresh strawberries.
It is a tender pastry made from flour, butter or shortening, milk, sometimes eggs, baking powder and sugar.
What is 'short' about shortcake?
Shortcake gets it's name from the adding of shortening or butter to a dough which makes it tender.
Calling a baking lard or fat shortening comes from the term 'to shorten', a 15th century term which meant 'easily crumbled', probably because it's fibers were short unlike bread.
It is not known exactly when the first strawberry shortcake was made but it is known to go back as far as 1850.
Shortcake however is a European invention that goes back at least to the late 1500's.
Strawberries have been around more than 2000 years, there are records that show that ancient Rome enjoyed them, but putting strawberries and shortcake together seems to be more of a United States tradition.
As with many classic dishes, when the timing is right, the dish becomes a national favorite.
It is known that shortcake has been around at least since Shakespeare as it was mentioned in his play 'The Merry Wives of Windsor'.
A European recipe book in 1594 had a recipe for 'Short Cakes'.
The crumbly shortcake which first resembled the texture and shape of a scone, became round when the typical triangular shaped pastries kept having the point break off; it was thought that a round shape would become more practical.
Strawberry shortcake parties became popular in the United States around 1850, as a celebration of the coming of summer; it was probably the most popular berry back then, as people talked of strawberry fever, but this could also be because the railroads became transcontinental and strawberries could be shipped surrounded with ice to keep them fresh, and advertisements and articles about strawberry shortcake, caused more and more demand.