Monday, April 8, 2013

French Fraisier Cake

Already a year has flown by and once again I found myself celebrating my birthday with my friends and family. This year the celebrations were postponed by a week because I was working at the hospital, though on the day of my birthday I was able to go out to a nice Italian restaurant with my immediate family. We enjoyed a lovely dinner and I was reminded how special each and every person in my family is to me and how much I cherish the warm wishes and speeches they gave.

When it came to celebrating with my friends I invited everyone over for a pizza making party. I set out pre-made crusts and sauce, as well as a variety of toppings, and everyone made their own pizza. The evening actually provided a great opportunity for everyone to catch up as we are all in our last practicum at different hospitals and no longer see each other in school. Also, with graduation only months away we have fewer occasions during which we can all get together.

Just as in the past, I made my own birthday cake and looked forward to showing it off to all my friends. At first I had a hard time deciding on what to make...I wanted it to be different than what I have made before and learn something new. I also wanted something fruity because spring time always makes me crave fruits. When I saw this recipe for a French fraisier cake, which translates to French strawberry cake, I knew I hit the jackpot. I loved how elegant the cake looked with the strawberries all along the side. It also involved a new technique in order to create the visual effect.

This cake truly stood up to its name as I used two pounds of strawberries in total, from the outside
decoration to the filling. Despite its beautiful appearance it was not easy to slice but luckily my friend was able to help me and made sure I got a good picture. Another friend whose father owns a bakery gave me a helpful hint and suggested that next time I freeze the cake for a little bit prior to serving so that it is easier to cut. As I make more layered cakes I have noticed I have this problem quite often so I think I will try out her suggestion next time.

Even with all the slicing difficulties I am still quite happy with the end result. The cake looked beautiful and it tasted great too. I was actually surprised at how pronounced the lemon flavor of the cake itself was considering how many strawberries were in the cake. However the lemon and strawberry played wonderfully against each other and the vanilla pastry cream added extra sweetness. My friends were impressed and I was happy to have met their expectations.

French Fraisier Cake
Note: I used vanilla pastry cream for the filling (recipe found here) and topped the cake with a light layer of whipped cream

For the Meyer lemon genoise cake:
  • 1 cup flour
  • 2 tbsp butter, melted
  • 4 large eggs, room temperature
  • ½ cup + 2 tbsp sugar
  • 2 Meyer lemons, zested
  1. In a heatproof bowl, whisk together the eggs and sugar over a saucepan of lightly simmering water. Whisk constantly and continue to heat until the mixture is lukewarm to the touch, about 3-5 minutes.
  2. Remove mixture from the heat and beat on high speed until it has cooled and tripled in volume, about 3-5 minutes. It should look like softly whipped cream and form ribbons and fall back upon itself when lifting the beaters.
  3. Fold a quarter of the egg mixture into the melted butter to lighten it. 
  4. Add the lemon zest to the egg/butter mixture then fold back into the rest of the egg mixture.
  5. Sift a third of the flour onto the egg mixture, then gently but quickly fold together.  Repeat in thirds until the flour has been incorporated.  
  6. Gently pour the batter into a well greased 9" cake pan and bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for about 18-20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
  7. Remove from the oven and cool for 10 minutes, then remove from the cake pan and let cool completely. 
For the simple syrup:
  • Juice of two Meyer lemons
  • ⅓ cup sugar
  • ⅓ cup water 
Combine all of the ingredients in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat and cool completely before using.

To assemble:
Note: I lined the sides of the pan with plastic wrap before assembling so that nothing would stick and it made for a very clean presentation.
  • Meyer lemon cake from above
  • Meyer lemon simple syrup from above
  • Vanilla pastry cream
  • Whipped cream
  • 2 lbs strawberries
  1. Slice the genoise cake in half. Place the bottom half in the bottom of a 9" springform pan.
  2. Using a pastry brush, soak the cake with half of the simple syrup, making sure it is moist.
  3. Pick out about 12-15 strawberries of the same height and slice in half. Use them to line the perimeter of the cake, with the sliced side facing out. Make sure they are close together and can stand up on their own.
  4. Use half of the pastry cream to pipe a ring on top of the cake and then in between each strawberry, making sure to fill in any gaps of air. Use a spatula to spread the cream evenly across and between the strawberries.
  5. Cut the remaining strawberries into bit sized pieces and place on top of the pastry cream. Pipe the remaining pastry cream on top and spread over the strawberries.
  6. Place the second half of the cake on top and press firmly down. Brush the cake with the remaining simple syrup.
  7. Top the cake with the whipped cream and some strawberries as a garnish. Although not necessary, I recommend refrigerating or semi-freezing the cake so that the layers have time to set.
  8. Once ready to serve, remove the outside of the pan and peel away the plastic wrap. 

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