There’s an overwhelming sense of familiarity when I visit Tampa Bay area strawberry markets.
The smell of the berries hits my nose as I look out over the fields of green, little red gems popping out in between leaves. I’m transported back in time to trips after school to grab strawberry desserts with my Papa.
It’s a tradition my family has kept up to this day. Even at 25 years old, I get giddy about taking a drive to get some strawberry goodness.
Parkesdale Farm Market, a Plant City institution, was the spot growing up — Papa with his strawberry milkshake and me with my shortcake. Now, it’s Goodson Farms Strawberry Market in Wimauma, where we often walk out with strawberry onions and a red cafeteria tray’s worth of bowls filled to the brim with “The Works” — a combination of cake, strawberries, soft-serve vanilla ice cream and fresh whipped cream.
It’s memories like this that make this time of year all the better for those of us who live in eastern Hillsborough County. And it’s why I took it upon myself recently to go “shortcaking.”
I explored four spots in Hillsborough known for their strawberries to uncover which one serves up the best — and cheapest — slice of shortcake, then ranked each dessert based on visual appeal, taste and cost.
Here’s what I found.
Parkesdale Farm Market
3702 W Baker St., Plant City
The ambience at Parkesdale is perfect if you’re looking for the complete strawberry shortcake experience. Culture and nostalgia reporter Gabrielle Calise details the history of the place here. My adventure included a brief wait in line outside before ordering a “No. 2″ — strawberry shortcake plus vanilla ice cream and nondairy topping. Once you receive your order, you pass through the produce area to an atrium featuring large picnic tables. There’s also a strawberry throne, which should be familiar to those who attend Plant City’s annual Florida Strawberry Festival, that makes for a great photo. While I was pleased with Parkesdale’s iconic atmosphere, I wasn’t sold on the shortcake (a cross between angel food cake and a biscuit). Personally, I prefer a simpler yellow cake because of the taste and texture. The berries and whipped cream, however, were delicious.
Price: $7 (card or cash)
Overall ranking: 5/10
Bonus: For visitors with dietary restrictions, Parkesdale offers many options including no-sugar berries, vegan vanilla strawberry mini cupcakes, nondairy topping and more.
Lum’s Farm & Farmers Market
4898 James L. Redman Parkway, Plant City
If it wasn’t for fellow east Hillsborough resident and Tampa Bay Lightning beat reporter Eduardo A. Encina, I would’ve missed out on this hidden gem. Thankfully, the red building immediately catches your eye from the road. My strawberry shortcake was made all the more memorable with strawberry and vanilla swirl soft-serve ice cream and red sprinkles, complete with a whole strawberry for garnish. It’s big enough to split with someone, too. And while you’re there, say hello to the farm animals around back.
Planning your weekend?
Subscribe to our free Top 5 things to do newsletter
You’re all signed up!
Want more of our free, weekly newsletters in your inbox? Let’s get started.Explore all your options
Price: $6 (card or cash)
Overall ranking: 7/10
Bonus: In addition to a variety of sweets, you can purchase fresh produce, pickles, honey and soaps in the Lum’s general store.
3931 E State Road 60, Dover
A staple in the Dover area, Berry Barn was one of my top stops on this shortcake expedition. The cash-only establishment is a favorite among my friends, and it’s worth seeking out on a nice afternoon. After checking out the menu, I opted for a traditional shortcake topped with whipped cream and vanilla ice cream. The portion was big enough for two and well worth $7. The cake was just dense enough to absorb the strawberries’ juices without falling apart, and the berries remained the highlight as they married their tart flavor with the sweetness of the other components. Picnic tables out back overlook Berry Barn’s strawberry field, in case you want another photo op.
Price: $7 (cash only)
Overall ranking: 8/10
Bonus: The shortcake is takeout-friendly and holds up hours after ordering. If you prefer, you can get it deconstructed so your layers don’t mix until you’re ready to eat.
Goodson Farms Strawberry Market
12405 County Road 672, Wimauma
My absolute favorite was the strawberry shortcake at Goodson Farms. It’s the cheapest option I found, and it’s also the perfect portion size. You leave feeling satisfied but not stuffed. I ordered “The Works” — cake, strawberries, ice cream and whipped cream — to snack on while I was there, alongside a slice of strawberry pizza (more on that below!) for later. The cake was not as moist as Berry Barn’s, but the ice cream was creamier and the whipped cream was delicious. The produce is spectacular as well, which is why I couldn’t pass up a quart of strawberries, a head of broccoli and cauliflower and some strawberry glaze packages for desserts I plan on making at home.
Price: $5.50 (card or cash)
Overall ranking: 9/10
Bonus: The strawberry pizza (sugar cookie crust topped with cream cheese, strawberries and whipped cream) is incredible and worth the splurge for a take-home treat. Goodson Farms offers Cuban sandwiches and other food items, too, if you’re looking for a full meal.