After pondering over the idea for a long time, I finally gathered the onions and joined the Daring Bakers. The waiting period was quite a trial on my nerves. Twisting my hands and worrying about the challenge ahead ( Will I be able to do it (Phyllo pastry – No way! Joconde Imprints -Are your kidding me?!), whether the ingredients will be readily available etc etc ), it was almost a relief when I saw the challenge. At least, the suspense was over!
The host for this month was Jana from Cherry Tea Cakes and the challenge was to make Fresh Fraisiers. I went through the recipe and felt it was doable. Strawberries in Chennai, that too in July? Nope, the fruit needs to be substituted. So technically my cake cannot be called a ‘Fraisier’ anymore.
But leaving the technicality aside, the Chiffon cake seemed OK, the pastry cream recipe was so detailed that I couldn’t see anything going wrong there. The comfort factor was so much that I didn’t bake the cake until the last minute. Once I started assembling the cake, I understood why it was called ‘Daring’!
Things went smoothly, I made the cake and the pastry cream without any problem. Then came folding in the whipped cream and that’s when things started to fall apart – literally! I have seen only low fat cream in supermarkets here, so it is not good for whipping. I have learnt the lesson the hard way when I tried making a black forest cake sometime back. Apparently, I had forgotten the lesson, so instead of looking for another pastry cream recipe, I went ahead with cream that won’t whip!
The choice of fruit was grapes and banana. I had some chocolate flowers too, which I hoped to use for this challenge. I kept the assembled cake(s) in the refrigerator overnight. The next day, I took it out and saw that the grapes were immersed partially in the cream and the bananas were off color. Oh My! That would still have been OK, but the blunder was keeping the assembled cake outside and then yacking for 20 minutes. Result – a weeping cake!
My ‘not so stable’ pastry cream was just looking for an opportunity to run out of the cake. It had oozed all over and it was really a heart breaking scenario. Luckily my tummy supported me in this crucial moment, it really didn’t mind the “crying” look of the cake.
I was really careful with the second cake, took the photos first, kept it back in the fridge. It maintained its humble looks for a longer time than the first cake.
Basic Chiffon Cake:
All purpose flour : 1 cup + 2 tablespoons (270 ml) (5½ oz/155 gm)
Baking powder : 1 teaspoon (5 ml) (4 gm)
sugar : 3/4 cups (180 ml) (6 oz /170 gm)
Salt : 1/2 teaspoon (2½ ml) (1½ gm)
vegetable oil : 1/4 cup (2 fl oz/60 ml)
Egg yolks : 3 large
Water : ⅓ cup + 1 tablespoon (3.17 fl oz/95 ml)
Vanilla extract : 1 teaspoon (5 ml)
Lemon zest : 3/4 teaspoon (3¾ ml) (3 gm) , grated
Egg whites : 5 large
Cream of tartar : ¼ teaspoon (1¼ ml) (1 gm)
- Preheat the oven to moderate 325°F (160°C/gas mark 3).
- Line the bottom of an 8-inch (20 cm) spring form pan with parchment paper. Do not grease the sides of the pan.
- In a large mixing bowl, stir together the flour and baking powder. Add in all but 3 tablespoons (45 ml.) of sugar, and all of the salt. Stir to combine.
- In a small bowl combine the oil, egg yolks, water, vanilla and lemon zest. Whisk thoroughly.
- Combine with the dry ingredients and mix thoroughly for about one minute, or until very smooth.
- Put the egg whites into a stand mixer, and beat on medium speed using a whisk attachment on a medium speed, until frothy. Add cream of tartar (can be substituted by 1/2 tsp lemon juice) and beat on a medium speed until the whites hold soft peaks. Slowly add the remaining sugar and beat on a medium-high speed until the whites hold firm and form shiny peaks.
- Using a grease free rubber spatula, scoop about ⅓ of the whites into the yolk mixture and fold in gently. Gently fold in the remaining whites just until combined.
- Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 45 to 55 minutes or until toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
- Removed the cake from the oven and allow to cool in the pan on a wire rack.
- To unmold, run a knife around the sides to loosen the cake from the pan and remove the spring form sides. Invert the cake and peel off the parchment paper. Refrigerate for up to four days.
Pastry Cream Filling:
Whole Milk : 1 cup (8 fl oz/250 ml)
Vanilla Extract : 1/2 teaspoon (2½ ml)
Salt : 1/8 teaspoon (1/2 ml) (¼ gm) salt, preferably kosher
Cornstarch : 2 tablespoons (30 ml) (10 gm)
Sugar : 1/4 cup (60 ml) (2 oz/55 gm)
Egg : 1 large
Butter : 2 tablespoons (30 ml) (1 oz/30 gm) , unsalted
Gelatin : 3/4 teaspoon (3¾ ml) (4 gm)
Water : 1/2 tablespoon (7½ ml)
Heavy Cream : 1 cup (8 fl oz/250 ml)
- Pour the milk, vanilla, and salt into a heavy sauce pan. Place over medium-high heat and scald, bringing it to a near boiling point. Stir occasionally.
- Meanwhile, in a stand mixer add the cornstarch and sugar. Whisk to combine
- Add the eggs to the sugar and cornstarch and whisk until smooth.
- When the milk is ready, gently and slowly while the stand mixer is whisking, pour the heated milk down the side of the bowl into the egg mixture.
- Pour the mixture back into the warm pot and continue to cook over a medium heat until the custard is thick, just about to boil and coats the back of a spoon.
- Remove from heat and pass through a fine mesh sieve into a large mixing bowl. Allow to cool for ten minutes stirring occasionally.
- Cut the butter into four pieces and whisk into the pastry cream a piece at a time until smooth.
- Cover the cream with plastic wrap, pressing the plastic wrap onto the top of the cream to prevent a skin from forming. Chill in the refrigerator for up to five days.
- In a small dish, sprinkle the gelatin over the water and let stand for a few minutes to soften.
- Put two inches (55 mm) of water into a small sauce pan and bring to a simmer over a medium heat.
- Measure 1/4 cup (2 oz/60 ml) of the chilled pastry cream into a small stainless steel bowl that will sit across the sauce pan with the simmering water, without touching the water.
- Heat the cream until it is 120 F (48.8 C). Add the gelatin and whisk until smooth. Remove from the water bath, and whisk the remaining cold pastry cream in to incorporate in two batches.
- In a stand mixer, fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the cream until it holds medium-stiff peaks. Immediately fold the whipped cream into the pastry cream with a rubber spatula.
Sugar : 1/3 cup (2⅔ fl oz/80 ml) (2⅔ oz/75 gm), flavored or white
Water : 1/3 cup (2⅔ fl oz/80 ml)
- Combine the water and sugar in a medium saucepan.
- Bring the mixture to a boil and let the sugar dissolve. Stirring is not necessary, but will not harm the syrup.
- Remove the syrup from the heat and cool slightly.
- Transfer syrup to a lidded container or jar that can be stored in the refrigerator. Simple syrup can be stored for up to one month.
Chiffon Cake : 1 baked 8 inch (20 cm)
Pastry Cream Filling : 1 recipe
Syrup : ⅓ cup (80 ml), simple or flavored
Strawberries : 2 lbs (900 g) (or fruit of your choice)
Confectioners’ Sugar : for dusting
Almond paste : ½ cup (120 ml) (5 oz/140 gm)
- Line the sides of a 8-inch (20 cm) spring form pan with plastic wrap. Do not line the bottom of the pan.
- Cut the cake in half horizontally to form two layers.
- Fit the bottom layer into the prepared spring form pan. Moisten the layer evenly with the simple syrup. When the cake has absorbed enough syrup to resemble a squishy sponge, you have enough.
- Hull and slice in half enough strawberries or the fruit of your choice to arrange around the sides of the cake pan. Place the cut side of the strawberry against the sides of the pan, point side up forming a ring.
- Pipe cream in-between strawberries and a thin layer across the top of the cake.
- Hull and quarter your remaining strawberries and place them in the middle of the cake. Cover the strawberries and entirely with the all but 1 tbsp. (15 ml) of the pastry cream.
- Place the second cake layer on top and moisten with the simple syrup.
- Lightly dust a work surface with confectioners’ sugar and roll out the almond paste to a 10-inch (25 cm) round 1/16 inch (1.5 mm) thick. Spread the remaining 1 tablespoon (15 ml) of pastry cream on the top of the cake and cover with the round of almond paste.
- Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours.
- To serve release the sides of the spring form pan and peel away the plastic wrap.
- Serve immediately or store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
Fraisier banana and grape cake may not be a great looker, but it makes it up in taste department! I am eating a huge piece while I am typing this and it really is plate licking yummy!