"Holy strawberries Batman! Are we in a jam!"
This quote pretty much sums up my thoughts when I spotted the newest Daring Bakers' challenge - strawberry mirror cake. The cake itself sounded fabulous, both interesting and delicious.
Rather it was the thought of buying 3 baskets (which I presume is the American term for a tray, rather than a punnet) of strawberries in the middle of a Canberra winter. This would require a mortgage and for all that they would be hard, tasteless and generally horrid.
Fortunately, the interrogation of hapless friends and work colleagues led me to a frozen strawberry source - my local Coles supermarket. I realise this doesn't exactly make them hens teeth, but I am a loyal Woolworths shopper. What their stocking agents have against frozen strawberries I don't know.
Anyway, with the essential ingredient in my hot little hands I could get going.
Day 1 - I make cake.
A plain vanilla sponge cake to be exact. The cake is supposed to be baked in a large jelly roll tin and then cut into circles.
I do not have a jelly roll tin. I'm not even sure what a jelly roll is. I do, however, have a smaller sized lamington tin. So I made the cake twice over using 2/3 of the cake batter each time. The left over cake would go into the freezer to be used in a future trifle.
It all started out really well. I beat and sifted and folded and turned out one lovely light cake.
As for the second cake - well there were issues. About halfway through the phone rang - my Mum reminding me about my nephew's birthday. Then the doorbell rang - the neighbour wanting to borrow a phillip's head screwdriver (I don't have one). Then the phone rang again - friends arranging Harry Potter tickets. I got back to the cake and merrily folded the egg whites into the yolk mixture - without first adding the flour! Aackkkkkk!!!!!!
There was hair clutching and a few non-child friendly words. What to do!!! All I could do was continue on by very carefully folding in the flour and hoping for the best. And it turned out surpisingly well. The crumb of the cake was coarser and a bit tougher than cake number one. But it was perfectly acceptable. It had to be really, I did not have the stamina or the eggs for a third cake.
Day 2 - Time to get stuck into the strawberries. I make juice, puree and syrup.
First the juice. Strawberries and sugar went into a saucepan and simmered away. Then I was supposed to strain it through a jelly bag. I don't have one of those either. The piece of muslin I use for this kind of thing seems to have moved out of home, it was nowhere to be found. So I improvised using a fine mesh strainer. I was quite pleased with my little setup. It worked perfectly.
The strawberry juice was absolutely delicious. It was all I could do not to keep, you know, 'accidently' dropping teaspoons into it. As you do.
Next came the puree. Strawberries into the food processer, mulch and push through a strainer. Easy peasy.
Finally, the soaking syrup for the cake. Sugar went into a saucepan of water and duly dissolved itself. Done.
Day 3a - I make bavarian cream.
I whipped up the bavarian cream with no real problems. The custard thickened nicely. The gelatine dissolved smoothly. The whipped cream folded in beautifully. It was all good.
Nevertheless, I have to say, I was a bit disappointed with the result. The basic strawberry custard tasted fantastic. Adding in the whipped cream diluted the taste quite a lot and it ended up being a wee bit bland I thought.
I pressed on. Everything was going so well, too well. It was at this point that things started going south.
After ages of just hanging around not doing much, the bavarian cream decided to thicken and set at a moment's notice. I didn't so much it pour over the cake as dollop it in in large globs (sounds delicious, no?).
Only then did I realise that I had made the cake layers too thick, meaning that I didn't have enough cream to cover them over and fill up the area between the sides of the cake and the tin. I ended up with a kind of a burial mound effect. A high rise circle in the middle with a depressed rim around the outside.
What's more I knew that, given the thickness of the mix and the hasty way I had thrown it in, there would be big airpockets in the cream down the side of the cake. But I didn't want to push the mixture down to fill them because then the level of cream woudn't be high enough to get a proper mirror across the top. All the jelly would just run off and sit in the runnel around the edge.
So I tried to create a smooth layer of cream over the very top, doing my best to form a tight seal with the tin all around the edge. It looked good and I thought it would be fine.
Yeah right!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!Day 3b - I make a mess and then VOILA.
I made up the strawberry jelly and waited for it to thicken to a syrup. And waited. And waited. I got more and more worried that it would decide to set instantly like the bavarian cream. So I went ahead and poured it over the cake.
Then I stood and watched it ooze out the bottom of the cake tin. It had found it's way down the side, through the air pockets and out.
After a moment of jigging on the spot and flapping my hands in panic I grabbed it, shoved it holus bolus into the fridge, and slammed the door. My only hope was that the jelly would set before it all just drained away.
I spent the next hour and a half glancing anxiously at the fridge door. What horrors lay within? I couldn't bring myself to look. In the end I was overcome by hunger pangs and had to open it up for survival purposes. And I pulled out................ a not too bad cake. I was amazed. Sure the fridge looked like a crime scene, but I actually had a cake with a mirror on it. Of sorts.
If you got the right angle it looked really good (apart from the air pockets).
From other angles, errrr.......not so much.
But still, given what I thought I would end up with, I was quite chuffed. Once cut into slices, I think it looked quite nice.
In these photos, you can really see the difference in the cakes. The first perfect cake is on the bottom, the second screw up cake is on the top. I also let the second cake brown a bit too much. I wish I had either sliced off the bottom of the cake or used it as the first layer.
So there you have it - a strawberry mirror cake.
As for the taste. Well, the strawberry jelly was far and away the star of the show. It had a lovely intense strawberry flavour which really sparkled against the rest of the cake, which I found to be a bit bland.
Overall, I enjoyed it and I'm really glad I made it. But I don't think I will be making it again. What I have been doing is dreaming up all kinds of other uses for the divinely delicious strawberry juice and strawberry jelly.
Thanks to Peabody choosing such a great task. I can't wait to see what's next.
The full recipe is posted here on Peabody's site (if it's not there yet it soon will be). I also encourage you to check out the efforts of my fellow Daring Bakers, links here. They will be posting their results throughout the next day or so.
'Self Portrait in Strawberry Jelly'
Labels: Daring Bakers