They are quite rightly the heroes of the occasion. This version is a little different though. We use American-style buttermilk shortcake which is a cousin of the scone and the filling is a simple blueberry compote and mascarpone cream.
1. For the compote, put everything into a pan, mix and warm briefly over a medium heat until the sugar has dissolved and the fruits are starting to burst and release their juices. Tip into a bowl and chill.
2. Heat the oven to 220C/fan 200C/gas 7. For the shortcakes, mix the flour, caster sugar, bicarb and 1/2 tsp salt in a large bowl. Add the pieces of butter and toss together until coated in the flour. Rub the butter into the flour mixture with your hands until large flat flakes form, but stop before it begins to resemble breadcrumbs – large pieces help to create flaky, light shortcakes. Put the bowl into the freezer for 15 minutes to firm up the butter.
3. Remove the bowl from the freezer and, stirring with a fork, slowly drizzle in the buttermilk a little at a time, stirring into the flour mixture as you pour. Once all of the buttermilk has been added and the dough is starting to form clumps, use your hands to bring together into a dough. Tip the dough out onto a lightly floured worksurface and form into a rectangle (roughly 20cm x 50cm). Fold the bottom 1/3 of the dough on top of the middle 1/3, and then the top 1/3 on top of that (like folding a letter). Use your hands to press down to about 2cm thick. Use a 7cm round cookie cutter dipped in flour to cut out as many shortcakes as you can. You may need to reform the scraps to get all 8.
4. Put onto a baking-paper-lined baking tray in two rows of four, sitting them 1cm apart from each other. Having them this close together helps them rise and also protects the edges from becoming dry. Brush with a little extra buttermilk and sprinkle with demerara sugar, then bake for 10-12 minutes or until golden. Cool on a wire rack.
5. For the mascarpone cream, beat the mascarpone in a large bowl until soft and creamy. Add the cream and vanilla, and whisk until holding soft peaks – avoid over-whisking as the mascarpone will become grainy.
6. Split and fill each shortcake with a large dollop of the mascarpone cream, topped with a spoonful of the blueberry compote. Serve warm or at room temperature.