Monday, July 30, 2007

A Daring Bake - Stawberry Mirror Cake

'A Handful of Jelly'

"Holy strawberries Batman! Are we in a jam!"
by Robin

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'



At 1:33 pm, Blogger Canadian Baker said...

Looks fantastic KJ! I'm ogling your mirror, wishing it were mine! :)

At 2:09 pm, Blogger leslie @ definitely not martha said...

Your mirror is awesome. I love your post! Great write-up!

At 2:19 pm, Blogger Dharm said...

Nice mirror KJ! i wish I had thought of taking a picture of the reflection in the mirror! Well done, well done!

At 3:18 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Woolworth's is so much better than Coles! I, too, froze my cake scrap for a trifle, in which I will also incorporate the strawberry pulp left over from the juicing process (mine came out like jam). Your mirror pics are fantastic!

At 3:21 pm, Blogger Jenny said...

Now that was a fun experience with the cake! Great work!

At 3:29 pm, Blogger Anh said...

Great write up! I love the natural color of your cake, too.

At 3:46 pm, Blogger Pille said...

Nice step-by-step photos - very useful for this complicated cake!

At 5:28 pm, Blogger Peabody said...

Your photos are so creative! I am loving them.

At 5:54 pm, Blogger Kelly-Jane said...

Looks fabulous KJ! I love your mirror pictures, although I didn't picture it I stood with my hand over my cake looking at the reflection as well :)

At 6:15 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You take glorious pictures! I loved looking at them. The mirror is perfect!

At 6:18 pm, Blogger Anne said...

Your post is lovely so as the cake. I love reading it :)

At 8:49 pm, Blogger Andrea said...

What a great story about making the cake! I, too, had some challenges along the way. I love the photos, especially the self-portrait! :-)

At 10:23 pm, Blogger Meeta K. Wolff said...

Nice one! I too loved the juice. It was really delish and your contraption was just as wild as mine. Unfortunately I did not photograph mine. LOL!

Nice job!

At 10:31 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

what a fantastic tale leading up to the strawberry mirror. I love the hand in the mirror picture and I love your creativity while draining the strawberries. I should try that next time!

At 11:30 pm, Blogger breadchick said...

Your mirror is incredible! Very nice job!!

At 11:53 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi KJ, I just love your photos - Beautiful! Great work on the cake, and congrats on the challenge!

At 12:11 am, Blogger Jerry said...

We never said we were clean when we baked! Looks gorgeous!

At 12:27 am, Blogger Unknown said...

Fab photos and great post KJ. I had enough jelly left over to make a little jelly-mould for my little one and she's with you it was the best part of the cake!

At 12:40 am, Blogger Amanda at Little Foodies said...

I love that first pic. Great write up too!

At 1:01 am, Blogger Lis said...

What a great write up, KJ! You had me giggling the whole way through :D

Well so okay, there were a couple problems, but you saw the recipe through and I think your final outcome was quite nice, indeed!


At 2:02 am, Blogger Sara said...

Love that last picture. Your cake looks beautiful and your sponge cake layers are so high!

At 3:17 am, Blogger Elle said...

Love the photo with the hand, and the self portrait at the end. Your post really captures some of the highs and lows of making this recipe. Your cake looks delicious!

At 3:59 am, Blogger Deborah said...

I love how you actually show reflections in the mirror! The juice was delicious.

At 6:25 am, Blogger Patricia Scarpin said...

KJ, the cake looks fantastic!

At 6:30 am, Blogger Anita said...

I love how you wrote up the post! Beautiful cake!

At 8:08 am, Blogger Hilda said...

I love that you took pictures of your hand and of yourself in the cake. In spite of all your trials, it looks great and must have tasted just fine. I didn't understand the puree thing to mean a separate batch of strawberries, so my bavarian only lightly tasted of strawberries too, it's actually much better with raspberries I found out a week later.

At 8:17 am, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh, my! What a tale to tell! I love your resourcefulness and your humour. Congratulations on completing a beautiful cake!

At 10:53 am, Blogger Alpineberry Mary said...

Your cake turned out wonderful in spite of the issues you mentioned. I really like the taste of the mirror too.

At 11:56 am, Blogger Chris said...

Looks great! The pictures are stunning!

At 12:01 pm, Blogger Helene said...

I am glad you went ahead and kept your head above cream (ahahah!). Looks natural, light and creamy. Great work!

At 1:35 pm, Blogger MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

I love your hand and the self portrait and the
"Holy strawberries Batman! Are we in a jam!" is absolutely wonderful!
I'm really only wishing you super duper cakes in the future but just consider the incredible value that has come from the discovery of almost leaving the flour out. I really believe there will be countless times you consider the crumb and texture of a cake and think back to this experience.
Your cake is an excellent example of a great Daring Baker!!
Now what are we in for in August . . . bring it on.

At 2:06 pm, Blogger monica said...

your sponge looks perfect! and the mirror...divine. love the photo of the hand, quite clever. awesome job!

At 3:56 pm, Blogger Dolores said...

Great sponge cakes Robin, what a wonderfully reflective mirror! Your story had me laughing, empathizing, commiserating. Beautiful work!

At 3:58 pm, Blogger Dolores said...

Oh and I love love LOVE your strawberry juicing setup!

At 11:26 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What a cool photo! I guess it really is a mirror cake!

Ari (Baking and Books)

At 1:30 am, Blogger Belinda said...

It turned out beautifully in spite of the challenges...and I loved reading about your adventures with the cake!

At 2:09 am, Blogger Cheryl said...

I love the way you slammed the fridge door and just prayed all was well inside. That was so funny.

I think it came out fantastic.

At 5:24 am, Blogger sunita said...

A triumph against odds...your cake came up beautifully...specially the mirror.

At 12:27 pm, Blogger Heather said...

I love your post! The pictures are fantastic!

At 4:44 am, Blogger Inne said...

What an amazing mirror you got! And hurray for clever photographing :)

At 9:47 am, Blogger Unknown said...

I agree with the cream really dulling the taste of the bavarian cream.

Enjoyed your post, especially the reflective pictures. Hee.

At 3:35 pm, Blogger Wendy said...

Very funny post. Your cake looked good and so reflective!

At 4:28 am, Blogger Amy said...

Your sponge cake looks perfect! Great job!

At 7:10 pm, Blogger KJ said...

To all the posters above. Thanks for visiting and thank you for your kind comments.


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