Sponge Cake Shortcakes
Cut the stems off the strawberries. Wash under cold water, then drain and pat dry with paper towel. Grate the rind of the lemon onto a small plate and set it aside. Cut the lemon in half and juice it into a medium bowl, using 1 hand to catch any falling seeds. Cut the strawberries into slices and add to the bowl along with 3 tablespoons sugar. Toss until the sugar has dissolved. Do this at least 1 hour (or up to 4 hours) before you serve them so that the berries get nice and juicy. Refrigerate them.
In a large mixing bowl, beat the cream and remaining sugar with a good-size whisk or an electric mixer until the cream starts to thicken. Add the brandy and lemon zest, and keep beating until the whipped cream holds little soft peaks. You can whip the cream up to 1 hour before you serve the shortcakes. Keep it refrigerated.
Just before serving the shortcakes, add the berries and their juice to the bowl of whipped cream. Stir them together gently until the berries are distributed throughout the cream. The whipped cream will get soft and a little runny, which is exactly what you want. Set a shortcake shell in the center of each plate and spoon the berry cream over it.
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