How the months fly by when you are having fun! This is so true when I think about the fantastic Daring Bakers and the monthly challenges. It's hard to believe this is my fourth month with the awesome group and I find it so astonishing that I have managed to complete four challenges with more or less good to pretty good results.
This month it was the brilliant Peabody who was to give us our assignment. I have no problem admitting that I was nervous about it.
If anyone is a regular visitor over at her blog (and I think almost all of you are) will know she dishes out the most incredible cakes, sweets and desserts. So, I knew she would set a high standard.
When the challenge was announced I was on vacation but you can all take a guess what the first thing I did upon returning. I logged into the DB blog and checked out what challenge she had chosen. It was to be a mirror cake - a strawberry mirror cake to celebrate the flavor of summer. She had chosen a recipe from Cakes and Pastries At The Academy by the California Culinary Academy 1993 - a cookbook I have my eye on for a while. So, I was excited to be making something from that.
Reading over the instructions a few times it was all straightforward stuff. I was a bit relieved as, besides the fact that it would be time consuming and there were several steps, it all looked very doable. All I had to do was organize myself and set myself a workable timeline.
As with each challenge there were the rules and the modifications we had to stick to.
The rules for this challenge were:
- Cake must be a white cake.
- Cake must be strawberry (unless there are health issues or one was not able to find strawberries).
- The mirror had to be made.
The allowed modifications were:
- The alcohol may be substituted for a non-alcoholic flavor or omitted.
- Cake may be decorated BUT a portion of the mirror must be visible
I tried to research mirror cakes on the internet and was a bit disappointed not to have found much information on it. Also the library did not produce much useful details for this cake. So, I was more intrigued by the mystery of it. I finally decided to make the cake in one go, instead of dividing it over a span of two days. The entire cake kept me busy for approx. 4 hours, but that was including chatting to other DBs and commenting on the DB blog!
The cake consists of four components:
- Two layers of spongy cake
- Two layers of Bavarian cream as a filling
- Strawberry juice for the mirror
- Finally the actual mirror.
Strawberry Mirror Cake
Adapted from Cakes and Pastries At The Academy by the California Culinary Academy 1993
Special Pans: 11 x 17" Jelly Roll Pan, 10" Springform Pan, 8 1/4" Cake Round or Tin (or pattern)
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
Preheat oven to 230C. 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.
Beat eggs, egg yolks and ¾ cup sugar together in a medium bowl until thick and light. Beat in the vanilla.
In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites until foamy, add 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).
Sift flour over the egg yolk mixture and fold in . Stir in one fourth of the whites. Then carefully fold in the remaining whites.
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.
At this point the cake can be frozen.
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.
My tips: In Germany cream of tartar is called Weinstein Backpulver. Alnatura is the brand I used, which I found at DM Drogerie. I had posed a question on the DB blog about what cream of tartar actually does when added to baking ingredients. As always the DBs are so full of energy and provided me with useful information from O chef.
I did not notice any great difference in my egg whites with the addition of the cream of tartar.
Strawberry Bavarian Cream
2 ½ TBSP unflavored gelatin
1 ½ cups strained strawberry puree
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
Sprinkle the gelatin over the strawberry puree in a small bowl and set aside until spongy.
Combine egg yolks and sugar in a bowl' beat until light. Bring milk to a boil in sauce pan. Add a few tablespoons of the hot milk to the yolk mixture, stirring continuously. Once the egg mixture has tempered you can pour the rest in a steady stream and stir with a wooden spoon. 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.
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.
My tips: I made my strawberry puree by simply throwing them in the blender and pureeing them. It is not necessary to add any extra sugar or lemon juice. If the strawberries are fresh and taste good simply pureeing them will do.
1 ½ pints of strawberries
¾ cup sugar
¾ cup water
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 for 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.
1 tsp lemon juice
1 TBSP kirsch
1 TBSP water
1 TBSP unflavored gelatin
Few drops of red food coloring
Prepare strawberry juice.
Place lemon juice, kirsch, and water in a small bowl. Sprinkle gelatin over this mixture; set aside until spongy and soft.
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 allow to jell); remove from ice water.
When mixture is syrupy, pour a 1/16-inch layer over the top of cake. Refrigerate until set.
My tips: Make sure there are no bubbles when you pour the liquid onto the cake. To get rid of the bubbles simply tap the bowl on the counter a few times to release the air. Do the same with the tin once you have poured it onto the cake.
To Assemble the 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.
- 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).
- Prepare the Strawberry Mirror.
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.
The red and pink are such bright and prominent colors, I thought of adding a bit of contrast in color, but also slightly to the taste, by adding a few lovely green pistachios. They livened the cake up and gave it a bit of crunch. I used some leftover strawberries and cut them in quarters leaving the greens on. I was quite pleased with the end result.
The cake is a stunner. It looks great with the alternating layers of cake and cream and finally the bright red mirror. The green highlights added more to it's good looks. Taste-wise, I have to admit I was a bit disappointed. I used fantastic organic strawberries that were exploding with flavor when eaten pure, however, the taste of the fruit somehow was lost in the cake.
Another thing I was a bit disappointed with was the overall texture. While the spongy cake was perfect and tasted great on its own, the cream was a bit stiff. When I first read the ingredients of the cake, I was a bit taken aback by the amount of gelatin that goes into the cream. It's a large amount and I wonder if that's what made the cream so stiff. I was hoping for a light and fluffy creamy texture but that was not the case.
On the whole though the cake tasted OK. The three of us had a slice each and Tom took the rest for his students over at the uni. They enjoyed it to the last slice.
Would I make this again?
I have mixed feelings about this one. It was easy to make even though it takes a lot of time to prepare. I think if I was to give this another try I would probably use other berries, like raspberries, which are more tart and add more flavor than the strawberries do. I would also reduce the overall amount of gelatin to make it creamier. Furthermore, I would also leave the food coloring out. It does add to the vibrant color of the cake but I think the natural coloring of the berries would have been just as spectacular.
What did I learn from this challenge?
Organization is the name of the game. I took plenty of time for this and organized myself really well. I carried out each component of the cake step by step and it all came together really well. The overall making of this cake was a lot of fun and when I finally poured the mirror over the cake and slid it into the fridge to set, I felt completely satisfied.
Thanks to Pea, for choosing a very interesting challenge. To see the other completed cakes from the rest of the fantastic members visit the Daring Bakers' Blogroll and work your way down the list.
Time to relax for a few days until the next challenge is announced. Hope to see you all here around the same time next month again.
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