It’s been a while since my last post. I hope that the beginning of 2013 has been delightful for all of you so far!
I’ve been eating too much, traveling, and falling sick. Things have been not too bad otherwise.
I’ve a couple of backlog posts that I have wanted to do but didn’t have the time to.
I shall dedicate the first post of 2013 to one of my favourite cakes: Le Fraiser, a traditional French strawberry shortcake.
I love how pretty it looks: its top being drapped with light pink or pale green marzipan; its sides showcasing neatly lined up strawberries. I love how it tastes: the sweet juxtaposition of intense vanilla and fresh strawberries.
It may not be as light and airy as its Japanese counterpart which is often made of light sponge layers with crème Chantilly and strawberries. But I love a cake with richer flavours. This is one of my favourite celebration cakes especially when strawberries are in season.
There are many variations of this cake but a traditional one is made with two layers of genoise sponge brushed with sugar syrup, filled with a vanilla flavoured crème mousselline and lined with strawberries, topped with a thin layer of marzipan. The words “Le Fraisier” would be piped onto the marzipan top using dark or white chocolate.
My version of this cake uses a slightly lighter genoise sponge. It’s a in-between of the light Japanese sponge and a rich, dense French genoise. With a lighter sponge, I opted for the lighter crème diplomat instead of the butter-rich crème mousseline.
I also found it easy to make my own marzipan. Since I don’t store marzipan at home and the taste of store-bought marzipan is often not good at all, I just make a small batch of marzipan every time I need it.
Even though this cake require more time and attention, it’s definitely a good addition to have in your repertoire of celebration cakes.
p.s Please do feel free to drop by with any comments or questions. Love hearing from you!
Recipe: Le Fraisier (French strawberry shortcake)
Makes 8 inch round cake
This is my version of the traditional French strawberry shortcake. It is slightly lighter compared to its French counterpart.
240g eggs (about 4 large eggs)
100g caster sugar
100g unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
100g plain flour, sifted
1. Preheat oven to 165 degrees celsius. Line and grease a 8″ springform cake tin.
2. Warm eggs and sugar up over a bain marie, until sugar has dissolved and egg mixture is lukewarm to touch. Be careful not to cook the eggs.
3. Whisk the egg mixture at maximum speed for about 6-8 minutes untill pale, thickened, and triple in volume. Batter should be at ribbon consistency.
4. Pour in melted butter (warm but not hot) and fold through the batter.
5. Fold in the sifted flour through the batter thoroughly. Pour cake batter into cake tin and bake immediately in the pre-heated oven for about 28 -30 minutes, until it springs back to touch. Do not open the oven in the first 20 minutes of the baking or the cake may collapse.
6. Allow the cake to cool completely on a cooling rack. Trim the brown top and bottom off and divide the cake diagonally into two equal halves. Use a cake turn table and a long serrated knife for best results.
pinch cream of tar tar
100g ground almonds
10g egg white
dash of almond extract (optional)
pink food colouring (I used Wilton colour paste)
1. Boil sugar, water, cream of tar tar in a pot, stir occasional to make sure that sugar dissolves properly. Heat mixture until 115 degrees celsius (240 degrees F) – Check temperature with a kitchen thermometer
2. Immerse the pot in tap water to stop cooking. Sugar syrup should start to look thick and slightly opaque.
3. Stir in ground almonds and egg whites and put it back over low heat. Stir for another 2 minutes until marzipan mixture comes together. Add more egg whites if it is still too dry and clumpy. Add in almond extract, if using.
4. Turn marzipan out and use immediately. Add colouring (I use one or two drop of Wilton pink colour paste). Knead marzipan with your fingers until colour is uniform.
5. Dust table with icing sugar and roll out marzipan until about 1.5-2mm thick. Cut it neatly with the same cake ring that you made your cake in. Store in the fridge until you start to assemble the cake.
75 ml water
Grand Marnier (to taste)
1. Place water and sugar in a small pot over medium heat. Bring to a boil before turning the heat off and adding grand Marnier to taste.
2. Brush over cake tops when it is still warm as it allows the sugar syrup to soak the cake layers better.
300ml full-cream milk
1/2 vanilla bean
60g egg yolks
60g caster sugar
1. Make a creme patisserie: Boil milk and scrapped vanilla bean seeds in a pot.
2. In the meantime, whisk egg yolks, caster sugar and cornflour in a separate mixing bowl.
3. When the milk comes to a boil, pour it over the egg yolk mixture and whisk.
4. Pour egg and milk mixture back to the pot over low heat, continue to whisk vigorously until mixture thickens and comes together. Creme pat should be smooth, glossy, thickened and comes away from the sides of the pot. Mix in the butter at this stage.
5. Pour out the creme patisserie onto a tray and cling wrap it. Chill in the fridge until completely cool.
6. Whisk cream in a clean mixing bowl at maximum speed until it reaches firm peaks.
7. Loosen up the creme patisserie with a whisk until smooth and soft. Add in a quarter of the whipped cream and whisk to lighten mixture (to get a similar consistency to the whipped cream).
8. Fold through the rest of the whipped cream until uniform and light, be careful not to knock out unnecessary air. Use immediately.
a punnet of strawberries (pick out strawberries of similar size)
acetate ribbon strip/baking parchment strip
8″ cake ring
*Ensure all components of the cake is done before assembling. The creme diplomat should be done right before assembling.
1. Line the sides cake ring with acetate strip (If you don’t have acetate, you can use baking parchment instead). Place this on a cake board.
2. Transfer the first of your genoise cake layer onto the cake board. Take a look to see if the genoise layer is too high, if it is, you can trim it at this point. Brush the genoise sponge with sugar syrup if you have not done so already. Ensure that the sponge is well-soaked.
3. Slice strawberries into half. Arrange the strawberries neatly around the cake ring, with its cross-section facing outside. Trim the height of the strawberries if necessary so that they would all be of uniform height. They need to be packed rather tightly without any gaps.
4. Fill the center of the cake with creme diplomat. You can choose to pipe or you can simply use a spatula. Use a small palette knife to push the creme diplomat to cover the gaps between the strawberries or you may get a cake with unfilled area at the sides.
5. Topped the creme diplomat with plenty of cut up strawberries in the center of the cake.
6. Place the second genoise layer on top of the creme diplomat and push down firmly all around the cake to ensure there are no gaps. Using a palette knife, spread a layer of creme diplomat on top of the second genoise layer. This layer of creme diplomat would be a very thing one. Just enough to cover the surface area of the cake.
7. Let it set in the fridge for a while before transferring the marzipan layer right on the very top.
8. Refrigerate for about four hours before serving. You can decorate the top with fresh berries and melt some chocolate to pipe “Le Fraisier” across the center of the cake, or in my case, I piped “Happy birthday!” instead.
– The proportion of the creme diplomat to the genoise sponge is very important. The creme diplomat should be about 1cm above the height of strawberry. Make sure the cake layers are not too thick. Trim if necessary. You can make an extra mini Le Fraisier if you wish.
– You can make the genoise sponge a few days before assembling. Store the cooled sponge in a few layers of cling wrap and keep it in the freezer. Allow for it to come to room temperature before using.
– You can make part of the Creme diplomat ahead of time. Make the creme patisserie. Store it in the fridge (well-wrapped) Prepare the whipped cream on the day of assembling and fold through.
– Ensure the sponge layers are well-soaked in sugar syrup. Best to brush the syrup over the cake when the syrup is right off the stove. Brush over twice or even thrice. This will keep the sponge soft and moist.