Wednesday, July 27, 2011


After last month's Daring Bakers baklava fail, I was so happy to see this month's challenge!

Jana of Cherry Tea Cakes was our July Daring Bakers’ host and she challenged us to make Fresh Fraisiers inspired by recipes written by Elisabeth M. Prueitt and Chad Robertson in the beautiful cookbook Tartine.

A fraisier is basically a chiffon cake, with a pastry cream/whipped cream mousse filling, exposed strawberries on the sides, more strawberries inside, another layer of chiffon, and a layer of almond paste. Yea! Actual baking! No mandatory rolling! I love that Jana gave us lots of leeway to make this dessert our own. The only mandatory items were a cake with exposed fruits around the sides of the center layer, a pastry cream mousse and simple syrup, all from scratch, of course. We could play with different fruits, or flavors, but never having had a fraisier before, and since strawberries were still in season, I decided to stick to the recipe that was provided, except for a few minor changes.

I made the pastry cream filling first, because it's a two steps process, and needs to chill before you can move on to step two, and then use it to assemble the cake. I love pastry cream. It's a good thing I don't think of using it too often, because it could get very dangerous. It's like better, richer, silkier vanilla pudding. I would have used it as is, but adding the gelatin and the whipped cream made for a lighter filling (in texture only, of course).
Pastry Cream Filling
1 cup whole milk
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt, preferably kosher
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 cup sugar
1 large egg
2 tablespoons (1 oz) unsalted butter
3/4 teaspoon gelatin
1/2 tablespoon water
1 cup heavy cream
Pour the milk, vanilla, and salt into a heavy saucepan. Place over medium-high heat and scald, bringing it to a near boiling point. Stir occasionally.
Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk the cornstarch and sugar to combine
Add the egg to the sugar and cornstarch and whisk until smooth.
When the milk is ready, gently and slowly pour it down the bowl into the egg mixture, whisking constantly.
Pour the mixture back into the saucepan 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, one piece at a time, until smooth.
Cover the cream with plastic wrap, pressing the plastic wrap directly onto the top of the cream to prevent a skin from forming. Chill in the refrigerator until cold, and for up to five days.
In a small dish, sprinkle the gelatin over the water and let stand for a few minutes to soften.
Measure 1/4 cup of the chilled pastry cream into a glass measuring cup and warm it on medium power in the microwave until it reaches 120 F (48.8 C). Add the gelatin and whisk until smooth. Gradually whisk the gelatin mixture into the remaining cold pastry cream.
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.
I baked the chiffon in a smaller springform pan, maybe 6 or 7 inches, and used the leftover batter to make 4 mini cakes in an individual cheesecake pan. Although the bigger cake baked unevenly in my awesome oven (I should have rotated the pan halfway through the cooking time, but I was afraid that opening the door of the oven would make the cake collapse), the smaller cakes baked perfectly. I leveled out the bigger cake and split it, and I thought the layers were perfect height. The smaller cakes were much taller, and the finished cakes looked weird, with the cake layers being too thick for the amount of fruit and filling.

Chiffon and sponge cakes are not our favorite cakes - we would have preferred a shortcake type cake instead - but it did work in this recipe. It was light and summery, with the lemon flavor coming through nice and bright.

Basic Chiffon Cake
1 cup + 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt, preferably kosher
1/4 cup vegetable oil
3 large egg yolks
⅓ cup + 1 tablespoon water
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3/4 teaspoon lemon zest, grated
5 large egg whites
¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
Preheat the oven to moderate 325°F.
Line the bottom of an 8-inch 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 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 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.

Once the cake is cooled, and the pastry cream filling is chilling in the fridge, the cake is leveled and split horizontally. The cake layers are then soaked with a simple syrup. I made it easy on myself, and poured the simple syrup in a squeeze bottle, so I could drizzle it on. Not sure what it did for the cake, but hey, easy enough to do. And added sugar is never a bad thing!
Simple Syrup
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup water
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.
In order to assemble the fraisier, you need to line the springform pan in which you baked the cake with plastic wrap. I used acetate thinking it would give me a cleaner looking finished product. (It didn't really.) A bottom layer of cake which has been soaked in simple syrup goes in first, then you press cut strawberries against the side of the pan, and pipe the pastry cream filling around the strawberries to get them to stay upright against the side of the pan. A thin layer of filling goes on in the middle of the cake, then cut up strawberries, then the leftover filling, before topping the whole thing with the top layer of cake. You may want to check out the daring kitchen for full instructions and original recipes.

I've never had almond paste, and frankly, paste of any kind is not appetizing to me. I wanted a shiny red glaze on top of my cake, and as I was perusing old DB challenges, I came across the mirror cake from 2007. Perfect. So instead of the traditional almond paste, I went with a strawberry gelée.

Strawberry Juice
1 ½ pints of strawberries (18 oz)
¾ cup sugar
¾ cup water
Wash and hull strawberries; coarsely chop. Place strawberries in saucepan; crush to start juices flowing. Place over low heat; add sugar and water; simmer slowly 10 minutes. Pour juice and pulp through damp jelly bag or cheesecloth-lined colander and drain into a bowl for 15 minutes (Do not press down on fruit).
Strawberry Mirror
1 1/2 cups strawberry juice
1 tsp lemon juice
1 TBSP framboise liqueur
1 TBSP water
1 TBSP unflavored gelatin
Few drops of red food coloring
Place lemon juice, framboise, and water in a small bowl. Sprinkle gelatin over this mixture; set aside until spongy and soft.
Measure 1 ½ cups strawberry juice into a small saucepan and bring to a simmer; pour over gelatin mixture and stir to dissolve gelatin. Tint to desired color with red food coloring. Place bowl over bowl of ice water and stir occasionally until the mixture is syrupy and just beings to thicken (do not let jell); remove from ice water.
I did make another batch of plain pastry cream (no whipped cream or gelatine) to top my cakes once they were assembled and the filling was all used up. On the smaller cakes, for which I have no pictures, I plainly piped on the pastry cream. For the bigger cake, I spread an even layer of pastry cream on top of the cake, piped on a border that would prevent the strawberry gelée from dripping all over the side of the cake.

Once the strawberry gelée was thick enough, I gently spooned it onto the top of the cake, hoping that my border would hold it in. (It mostly did.) Back into the fridge it went to set completely before we could serve it.

The cake was a great success. Although not difficult to make, it makes an impressive dessert, and the perfect cake to serve at the peak of strawberry season.

I was amazed at all the wonderful creations whipped up by other daring bakers this month. This cake really does have the potential to be beautiful. Please visit the Daring Kitchen and spend a few minutes with the slide show on the main page. Beautiful! Too bad strawberry season isn't longer!


  1. Beautiful! I love your strawberry mirror, looks delicious.

  2. Wow, what a wonderful fraisier, it looks elegant and yummy! Great job!

  3. Your fraisier is beautiful, and I have been excited to see your post since first seeing your photos on the forum. You did an absolutely amazing job on this challenge.

  4. Gorgeous Fraisier, looks like it came from a French patisserie :)
    Great job!

  5. des le premier jour j ai adore ton fraisier!! il est tellement beau avec son miroir rouge et sa petite fleur!! merci pour ce plaisir! bises!

  6. Beautiful! very unique and elegant decoration.

  7. This looks like something you'd see in a bakery window in Paris. Beautiful! I love the little strawberry flower on top :)

  8. This is beautiful! The gelée on top and the red of the strawberries is so eye-catching. I'd be beside myself if someone put that in front of me. :)

  9. Your cake cake out perfect. Please, don't be afraid to try almond paste. It is actually one of the most delicious, additive things out there! Regarding the stencil on the top of my almonda paste- it was done with colored food powder. It is what you use for gumpaste flowers.
    Best, Sandie

  10. Absolutely gorgeous! I admire your amazing baking skills!

  11. I loved your creation the minute I saw it on the looks so elegant and professional..
    You did an amazing job

  12. Your fraisier is just beautiful! I've also been admiring this one for a few weeks now. I'm sure it was delicious, but it must have been hard to cut into!

  13. So professional - stunning! The colours just zing :)

  14. Love how your glaze matches your vibrant strawberries so perfectly. Beautiful work!

  15. Wow it looks elegant and perfect! Excellent job on your fraisier!

  16. I just love your fraisier - it's perfect.

  17. Your fraiser looks absolutely perfect. I love the little extra touches - the flower, the trim around the glaze, the writing.. beautiful job.

  18. Wow, this is one beautiful fraisier, love the strawberry mirror, it turned out great. Well done!

  19. It looks gorgeous with the mirror on top! Strawberry season may be over, but I plan to make these with lots more fruits!

  20. Beautiful!!!
    The strawberry blossom was a terific touch!

  21. Wow..what a stunner of a fraisier! This belongs in a 5-star restaurant dessrt case! Beautiful, and it makes me want to make one soon! So bummed I couldn't fit it in!!

  22. This is perfection! It is sooo beautiful.:)

  23. Nice presentation. It looks fantastic! I'm with you, pastry cream is soooo good.

  24. Lovely, the colors are so vivid, and it looks delicious.

  25. This is an impressive cake...great baking. Makes me want to get into the kitchen now and whip one up. Great post.

  26. Your fraiser is so elegant! I love that you added a strawberry mirror. I feel like that is a great technique to have your repertoire.

  27. Your fraisier is just beautiful! I'm sure it was delicious too!!..

  28. Oh you should have tried the almond paste! My favorite coffeeshop back where I used to live a decade ago sells this cake with the almond paste, and it really wouldn't be the same without it. Best cake I've ever had! Rembrandt's coffeeshop in Chattanooga, TN. Wonderful frasier cake!


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