Monday, July 30, 2007

Strawberry Mirror Cake: Daring Bakers July

Strawberry Mirror Cake
This month Peabody of Culinary Concoctions chose a beautiful Strawberry Mirror Cake for the July Daring Baker Challenge. The cake consists of 3 parts: sponge cake, strawberry Bavarian cream, and a strawberry gelatin (none of which I have made before). The whole process took Bettina and I about 2 days to complete. Out of all the days in this month, we just happened to pick the hottest day of this year (remember me complaining about that heat wave?) to do the challenge, which was not a good idea.

The Cake:
I was a little worried the cake would taste too eggy since the recipe called for 6 eggs. Three of the eggs were separated and the whites were beaten to stiff peaks and the 3 yolks were combined with the 3 remaining eggs and beaten "until thick and light." I've never made a sponge cake before so I thought I could beat the eggs by hand, while I leave my KitchenAid to beat the whites. I was feeling particularly lethargic in the heat that day so I didn't want to wash out my mixing bowl after beating the eggs to beat the whites. This is rather ironic because washing the bowl would have taken one minute whereas we spent 10 times longer beating them by hand. I had no trouble beating the whites but beating the eggs by hand was not a good idea when it was 90 degrees indoors. Bettina and I had to take turns beating the eggs. After 10 seconds of beating we would break into a sweat and have to go sit in front of the fan to cool off while the other person took over the beating. They looked a tad thicker but little did I know, they were suppose to double, triple, even quadruple their original volume! The color was supposed to be very pale yellow but mine were still very yellow. Some DBs beat the eggs for 20 minutes in a KA, imagine how long I would have had to beat by hand to achieve the same result! Eek! In the end we were fed up with the eggs and proceeded to the next step. The eggs were still very liquidy rather than light and voluminous, so folding in the cake flour and the whites was very troublesome.

When the cakes emerged from the oven (450 degree oven on a hot summer day, not fun), the tops were an even golden brown and looked very nice. They were springy to the touch. However, they had shrunk to about 7 1/2 inches in diameter, when I baked them in an 8in cake pan. When I flipped the cake out to cool, I noticed the bottom felt tough and rubbery. I crossed my fingers and hoped it was just a thin layer on the bottom of the cake that would be remedied by pouring the cream on top.

The Cream and Mirror:
No major problems with the Bavarian cream or mirror. There was a little foam and bubbles on top of the mirror that I neglected to skim off so the mirror wasn't as shiny or smooth as it could have been. (I was getting a little lazy towards the end.)

The Assembly:
Now here is where it got tricky. In the original recipe, the cake is baked in a 11 by 17 jelly roll pan and then 8 1/4 in diameter cake rounds are cut out of the rectangular sheet cake. A round is placed in a 10 in springform then the Bavarian cream is poured over it when it is thick but still somewhat liquidy. I had a 10 in springform pan however, since my cake layers had shrunk to 7 1/2 inches, that would mean the outer layer of frosting would be over an inch thick, way too thick. I didn't have a 9 in springform but using my Daring Baker ingenuity (dun da da dun!), I fashioned a foil collar that I set around the cake so I could pour in the Bavarian without the outer layer being overly thick of cream. I had to tuck the bottom of the foil under the cake so the cream wouldn't leak. I really wish I had remembered to take a picture of this setup because it was quite a hilarious and ridiculous sight. Bettina and I cracked up every time we looked this "disposable springform".

The Final Verdict:
The Bavarian was fluffy and airy when I made it but setting overnight in the fridge it ended up being a little too rubbery for my tastes. I've never made or had Bavarian cream before so I wasn't sure if Bavarian cream was supposed to have that texture. However, I really loved the flavor of the cream. It was light, full of the lovely flavor and fragrance of fresh strawberries. The strawberries impart a beautiful and delicate pink hue to the cream. When I sliced into the cake, I saw that the bottom 1/3 of the cake was a rubbery inedible mess (due to not beating the eggs enough). The top 2/3 of the cake was spongy and delicious, not too eggy at all. My favorite part aside from the top part of the cake that was actually edible was the mirror. The mirror was the best strawberry gelatin I've ever had. Overall the cake tasted alright but I think I could have done a better job.

I was dissatisfied with the end result of this cake, not because of the recipe, but because of my mistakes and inexperience. I will definitely try my hand at the cake again. I'll remake the sponge cake for a Boston Cream Pie. Next time I remake the Bavarian cream I'll use a little less gelatin.

The Recipe:
Visit Peabody's blog for the complete recipe, courtesy of "Cakes and Pastries At The Academy by the California Culinary Academy". Be sure to check out all the beautiful mirror cakes by visiting the Daring Bakers Blog Roll.

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