Lundulph had been talking about fancy jellied fruit contraptions and I thought I'd give that a go.
Sadly my capabilities with gelatine are limited to say the least, thus it was effectively a failure, but a highly edible one. So I'll be repeating the exercise as soon as possible.
First of all, a word on the design - I'd spotted a big three page article about strawberry cakes in a newspaper and cut it out and saved it in such a safe place that I wasn't able to find it. Thus plan B - improvise and make it look sort of the same way.
Thus, bright and early we went off to our PYO for strawberries. I picked 3 punnets, not sure how much that was, but I wanted enough for 500 ml of purée, a number of roughly equal sized ones for the filling and a few really big and red ones for decoration.
For the sponge I made a Génoise from Lenôtre's Desserts and Pastries. I made the single batch which gives a 20 cm sponge, about 5 cm high. The method was quite interesting too, never seen it before. I didn't have vanilla sugar, so used extract instead.
78 g caster sugar
3 medium eggs
2 ml vanilla extract
23 g unsalted butter
78 g plain flour
- Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees C. Line a cake tin with baking parchment and boil up some water for a bain marie, making sure that the top bowl will not touch the water in the bottom saucepan.
- In the top bowl, place the sugar, eggs and vanilla extract. Place the bowl over the saucepan with the boiling water and whisk by hand for 1 minute.
- Take off the double boiler, then whisk with an electric whisk on high for 2 minutes, then a further 5 minutes on low. It will be very pale and foamy and form ribbons.
- Melt the butter on low heat, while sifting the flour into the egg mixture and carefully folding it in. Then fold in the butter.
- Quickly pour into the cake tin and bake for 30 minutes until golden brown.
The first part of the whisking over a bain marie made the eggs runnier and they mixed very well with the sugar. It sounds overly complicated, but was well worth it and doesn't actually take too long to do. The resulting sponge was very light and moist. I let it cool completely, then cut it in two.
Next it was time for the mousse. I used the instructions from my Le Cordon Bleu Complete Cooking Techniques.
While the Génoise was baking, I made the strawberry purée and strained it to get most of the seeds out. I then made mistake number 1. The mousse is made with gelatine, and I was worried that if I used the recommended amount on the packet, I'd end up with a jelly texture, rather than a mousse texture which I was after, so decided to halve the amount of gelatine. Big mistake! Huge!
leaf gelatine to set 810 ml
500 ml strained strawberry purée
1 dl caster sugar
310 ml double cream
- Soak the gelatine in water according to the packet instructions, then squeeze out and put into the strawberry purée along with the sugar.
- Place the purée over a bain marie and heat up gently, stirring constantly to dissolve the gelatine.
- Let the purée cool down, then whisk the double cream to stiff peaks and fold it into the purée gently.
Putting the cake together
- Place one of the Génoise halves at the bottom of a cake ring.
- Brush over it with a little orange juice.
- Pour a thin layer of the strawberry mousse and spread it evenly.
- Cut some strawberries in half and line along the edge of the cake ring, with the cut side outwards. Then fill in the middle with more strawberries.
- Pour over more of the mousse to cover the strawberries.
- Brush the second Génoise with a bit more juice, then place it on top in the cake ring.
- If there is space and there's mousse left over, pour over the second Génoise. Then chill for at least 4 h until the mousse has set.
- Decorate with more strawberries shortly before serving.
Here is where I made my second big mistake. I wanted to glaze the decoration strawberries with more jelly and for this purpose had specifically bought a packet of so called Red Quick Jel, which is specifically designed for the purpose of glazing red fruit. I followed the instructions, however didn't realise how very fast it would set, so started covering the fruit far too late and ended up having to scoop it off the cake and ruined what I thought was a pretty cake decoration.
Once ready to serve, carefully cut around the cake ring (if the top layer is mousse), then even more carefully remove the ring.
My cake held long enough for me to take a photo, but by the time I'd taken it to the table for serving, the strawberry halves were poking out of the mousse and cutting the first piece pretty much made the whole lot collapse into what could be called an advanced Eton Mess.