We've gone straight back to the land of cream and sugar with our Daring Bakers' challenge this month, but that's to be expected when our sugar loving Peabody is at the helm. She chose this elegant and luscious Strawberry Mirror Cake because it just said "Summer" in rather loud and bossy tones. If you're going to make a cake that calls for several pounds of strawberries then this is the time to do it. The layers of sponge soaked in Kirsch-laced syrup (mine were getting in shape for bikini season and are on the skinny side) are surrounded by a strawberry bavarian cream and topped by a strawberry jelly "mirror". A pretty-in-pink dessert for a summers day.
I have a post-birthday party little one suffering the aftermath of a sugar overdose sitting beside me, so you'll have to forgive a brief post and a rapid dissection of the cake. I didn't have any major problems this time round, making it in one day and my fingers emerged unscathed with not a burn in sight. The sponge is a foam-based one which needs much beating of eggs to get that whoosh of volume needed for a fluffy cake. My baking tray was smaller than that called for in the recipe so I was a little too cautious with the quantity of batter I poured into it, hence the slimline cakes, though thankfully the texture was still light and airy. The sponges are brushed with a sugar syrup to add flavour and Kirsch was the tipple of choice as it matches well with the strawberries.
I didn't get off scot-free though as the custard base of my bavarian cream curdled the first time round. Bavarian cream is egg-custard based, set with gelatine (or agar-agar), enriched with cream and, in this case, flavoured with a large quantity of gorily, pulverized strawberries (my little one worryingly got great pleasure out of this stage). When set it becomes mousse-like in texture. I was faithfully stirring away waiting for the custard to thicken when I caught the unmistakable smell of scrambled eggs. Some choice phrases later, followed by "Mummy are you grumpy?", followed by me starting all over again resulted in an, eventually, smooth pink-hued cream. This needs to be poured over the sponge layers immediately, before it begins to set. Put the first sponge layer in a spring-form about an inch wider than it and pour over half the cream, centre the other layer on top and pour over the rest. This method gives the cake the lovely effect of cake layers suspended in strawberry mousse. Take a break now as a two hour stopover in the fridge is necessary at this point.
The mirror was my favourite part, as the only jelly I had ever met was the packet type that needed to be dissolved in water and re-set. Unimpressed with this as a kid, I got a real kick out of making my own from scratch. Once you have extracted every drop of juice from yet more strawberries and added your setting agent (throw in some more Kirsch for good measure) you cool it until it becomes syrupy and pour it over the the top of the strawberry cream. Make sure you let the mirror cool enough so that all your hard work doesn't dissolve into a pink puddle before your eyes. Leave the whole ensemble to set overnight, just to be on the safe side.
I couldn't bring myself to decorate the cake, I claim elegant minimalism you may say lazy, but this is really about the strawberries so why mess around. In fact the hardest part of this challenge was trying to get a decent picture. I don't know why exactly but the mirror refused to come out red and decided to go with an orange look for it's internet debut. I tried several slices at so many different angles but to no avail, leaving me with a number of slices to dipose of (all of which tasted red), please leave your sympathies in the comments below.
Below is the recipe as swiped from Peabody, anyone needing conversions to weight measurements just let me know. I can't resist a quick picture of the birthday girl (forgive the presence of the inevitable fizzy drink bottle) She has begun to emerge from her sugar-coma and is becoming very vocal in her protests at the length of time I've spent in front of the computer. Perhaps a medicinal slice of cake is necessary.... for both of us.
Strawberry Mirror Cake
3 egg yolks
¾ cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 egg whites
1/8 tsp cream of tartar
2 TBSP sugar
2/3 cup sifted cake flour
½ cup water
1/3 cups sugar
2 TBSP kirsch or strawberry liqueur
Strawberry Bavarian Cream
2 ½ TBSP unflavored gelatin
1 ½ cups strained strawberry puree(1 ½ baskets)
5 egg yolks
2/3 cup sugar
1 ½ cups milk
1 TBSP lemon juice
several drops of red food coloring
1 ¾ cups whipping cream
1 tsp lemon juice
1 TBSP kirsch
1 TBSP water
1 TBSP unflavored gelatin
Few drops of red food coloring
1 ½ pints of strawberries(18 oz)
¾ cup sugar
¾ cup water
1.Preheat oven to 450F. Butter and flour the sides of an 11-by-17 inch jelly roll pan(rimmed baking sheet). Line bottom of pan with a sheet of parchment paper cut to fit bottom pan exactly.
2.Beat eggs, egg yolks and ¾ cup sugar together in a medium bowl until thick and light. Beat in the vanilla.
3.In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites until foamy, ad cream of tartar and beat until whites begin to form peaks. Add the 2 TBSP sugar and beat until the whites hold stiff, glossy peaks(do not over beat).
4.Sift flour over the egg yolk mixture and fold in . Stir in one fourth of the whites. Then carefully fold in the remaining whites.
5.Spread batter evenly in pan. Bake until light brown and springy to touch(7 to 10 minutes). Cool in pan 5 minutes. Run a knife along edge to loosen. Invert cake tin to cut out 8 ¼ inch circles of cake. Wrap the cake layers, separated with waxed paper, and set aside. Cake may be frozen at this point.
6.To make soaking syrup: Combine water and the 1/3 cup sugar in saucepan; bring to a boil to dissolve sugar. Cool to room temperature; flavor with liqueur. Set aside or refrigerate in glass jar until ready to use.
7.To assemble cake: Brush sides of 10-inch springform pan lightly with flavorless salad oil or almond oil. Cut out a cardboard circle that is exactly the same size as the bottom inside of the pan; cover cardboard with aluminum foil and fit into bottom of pan. Center one layer of the cake bottom of pan. Brush the cake with some of the soaking syrup to just moisten(not drench) the cake; set aside.
8.Prepare Strawberry Bavarian Cream. Immediately pour about half of the Bavarian Cream over the first layer of cake in the pan. Set the next layer of cake on top of the cream. Pour remaining Bavarian Cream over cake and smooth top of the cream with spatula. Refrigerate until the cream sets(1 to 2 hours).
9.Prepare the Strawberry Mirror.
10.To serve: Wrap a hot towel around the outside of springform pan for a few minutes. Run a small sharp knife tip around the edge of the Strawberry Mirror to separate it form the sides of pan. Mirror will tear when sides are unlatched if it is stuck at ANY point. Slowly unlatch the pan and slide it off the cake. Slice cake in wedges and serve in upright slices.
Strawberry Bavarian Cream
1.Sprinkle the gelatin over the strawberry puree in a small bowl and set aside until spongy.
2.Combine egg yolks and sugar in a bowl’ beat until light. Bring milk to a boil in sauce pan. Pour hot milk into yolk mixture ans stir with a wooden spoon(it doesn’t say so but I would temper the egg mixture first to be safe). Return this mixture to the saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until your finger leaves a clear trail in sauce when drawn across the back of the spoon.(Do not boil or mixture will curdle.) Immediately remove from heat and stir in softened gelatin mixture. Pour into a stainless steel bowl places over a bowl of ice water. Stir in lemon juice and a few drops of red food coloring. Cool over ice water, stirring occasionally, until mixture thickens to the consistency of softly whipped cream.
3.While gelatin mixture is cooling, whip the whipping cream until it holds soft peaks. When the gelatin mixture resembles softly whipped cream, fold the whipped cream into the gelatin mixture.
1.Prepare strawberry juice.
2.Place lemon juice, kirsch, and water in a small bowl. Sprinkle gelatin over this mixture; set aside until spongy and soft.
3.Measure 1 ½ cups Strawberry juice into a small saucepan and bring to a simmer; pour over gelatin mixture and stir to dissolve gelatin. Tint to desired color with red food coloring. Place bowl over bowl of ice water and stir occasionally until the mixture is syrupy and just beings to thicken(do not let jell); remove from ice water.
4.When mixture is syrupy, pour a 1/16-inch layer over the top of cake. Refrigerate until set.
Wash and hull strawberries; coarsely chop. Place strawberries in saucepan; crush to start juices flowing. Place over low heat; add sugar and water; simmer slowly 10 minutes. Pour juice and pulp through damp jelly bag or cheesecloth-lined colander and drain into a bowl for 15 minutes(Do not press down on fruit).
Adapted from Cakes and Pastries At The Academy by the California Culinary Academy 1993