A bounty of berries for a very special birthday

Strawberry Mirror Cake
Yes, this is a strawberry mirror cake. No, I’m not a member of the Daring Bakers clique – but read on…

Whilst I bake cakes fairly often (there is a new cake on the kitchen bench on average once a fortnight), I generally go for plain cakes that don’t require any fancing piping or icing – not as a personal choice, but because my family tend to prefer simple cakes for everyday consumption, and an iced cake is just a tad more difficult to pack for lunch than an cake that has not been gussied up.

What does this mean for me? Well, generally speaking, I have to restrain myself from making fancier cakes, bookmarking the recipes and gazing at them wistfully, the longing in my glances so keen that they could cut glass. The exception to this is when I bake for a birthday, and I tend to go…well, a bit mad with birthday cakes, as there’s nothing better than to see the look of delighted surprise on the birthday person’s face when you present them with a gorgeous cake that you’ve slaved over for hours. When I see that look on their face…well, suddenly all my tiredness and achiness fade away to a little euphoric buzz running through my bones.

AAAAAAAnyway (yes yes, I’m getting to the cake!), when I saw the strawberry mirror cake that Anh posted as last month’s Daring Bakers challenge, I immediately knew that it had to be made for my sister’s 21st birthday the next week. Talk about perfect, my sister’s favourite berries are strawberries, and with this cake taking approximately 1kg of strawberries, how could she not love it? I have to admit that I was slightly hesitant about how much strawberry flavour would shine through with winter berries, but after chatting to Anh and with her urging of how much of a wonderful cake it was, I decided to give it a whirl!

Boe at Cirque Du Soleil
My dearest darling little sister who’s now 21. Sigh, they grow up so quickly!

Thankfully, my sister went out clubbing on Saturday night, which gave me lots of time to make the cake without the threat of her walking in on her surprise cake. After getting back from the supermarket with 4 punnets of berries in hand, I eagerly rubbed my hands together before setting into the process.

Freakin’ hell. Talk about multi-step – you’d best reserve an entire day to make this cake so that you can take your time and go slow, otherwise you’ll be running around like a headless chook whilst trying to make this!

I read through the two pages of instructions, trying to decide a starting point. Since the sponge is the base of this cake, I decided to whip it up, being careful to remove it from the oven as soon as it went golden on top (overbaked sponge = chewing on leather). Once the cake was out, the strawberries went into the pot in order to try and entice every last drop of strawberry juice out. Within half an hour, the entire kitchen smelt like a strawberry patch, and my mother followed her nose to my work bench.

“What are you making?”

“Boe’s birthday cake…” I answered, wary whilst watching her roving eyes and wandering hands.

“You don’t need ALL the strawberries…do -”

HANDS OFF!” I barked, and grabbed a hold of my punnets whilst growling. “No thievery allowed till the creation is complete!”

I could feel my ma sizing me up with her glance, seeing whether I was kidding around, but once she saw that I was dead serious about my berries, she grumbled and retired back to her room, leaving me to continue the berry exhaustive cake-making (aaaaa-hahaha, I made a funny. Ok, shaddup – my brain is dedicated to media analysis at the moment and that’s the most cleverness I can muster).

Strawberry Mirror Cake

Four hours after I’d started, I had bits of strawberry puree all over the kitchen (don’t ask. Actually, just don’t REMOVE the stick blender from the jug of strawberries before turning it off – you’d think that would be common sense, huh?), a few burns from forgetting how hot the pots were, a diced finger from careless berry massacre and a dead shoulder (which, admittedly, was half dead from before the cake making started thanks to Thursday’s kimchi-making session). I felt like I’d just emerged from the kitchen wars of ’88*, but the satisfaction of seeing my setting cake in the fridge led me to have a quick giggle of excitement before I promptly passed out on the floor.

After which I got up and went straight to bed.

I didn’t take a picture of Sunday’s birthday feast, but all I’ll say is that my sister and the rest of the family loved the cake, which just about made my weekend! And, since I know that Boe reads this blog – happy 21st birthday, bucko :) I luvs ya, and your birthday present is late, but on its way!

Now, on an aside – I’ll apologize beforehand but I’m probably going to be a bit quiet on the food blogging circut for awhile. I’ve just had my first week back at uni (for my final semester ever) and it’s looking utterly craptacular in terms of the work I’ve got to do. To put it bluntly, I’m barely going to have enough time to cook and blog a few entries a week, and the few leisurely hours to browse the wonderful food blogs of others are going to be very difficult to scrounge for. :(

* There actually wasn’t an infamous kitchen war in ’88 that I know of, but if anyone knows of one and can pass the info on so I can claim some credulity to this statement, it would be very much appreciated.

Strawberry Mirror Cake

Strawberry Mirror Cake
(Adapted from Cakes and Pastries At The Academy by the California Culinary Academy 1993)

Cake Ingredients
3 eggs
3 egg yolks
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 egg whites
1/8 tsp cream of tartar
2 tbsp sugar
2/3 cup sifted cake flour
1/2 cup water
1/3 cups sugar
2 tbsp kirsch or strawberry liqueur

Strawberry Bavarian Cream
2 1/2 tbsp unflavored gelatin
1 1/2 cups strained strawberry puree (approx. 1 1/2 punnets)
5 egg yolks
2/3 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups milk
1 tbsp lemon juice
several drops of red food coloring
1 3/4 cups whipping cream

Strawberry Mirror
1 tsp lemon juice
1 tbsp kirsch
1 tbsp water
1 tbsp unflavored gelatin
Few drops of red food coloring

Strawberry Juice
510 g strawberries (approx 1 1/2 punnets)
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup water

1. Preheat oven to 230 C. Butter and flour the sides of an 25 x 40 cm 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 3/4 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 2 x 20 cm 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.

Prep Work

Strawberry Bavarian Cream

1. Sprinkle the gelatin over the strawberry puree in a small bowl and set aside until spongy. (Note – this didn’t work for me, so I slowly brought my strawberry puree to a boil before quickly whisking through the gelatin and setting it over a bowl of hot water to keep it liquid.)

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 and 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. White 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.

Strawberry Mirror

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 1/2 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 3-4 mm layer over the top of cake. Refrigerate until set.

Strawberry Juice

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).

[tags]Strawberry mirror cake, strawberries, fruit, cakes, baking, recipes, sweets[/tags]

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