Strawberry Mirror Cake

I joined the Daring Bakers in September 2007 with my inaugural recipe being Cinnamon Rolls & Sticky Buns, but prior to my joining, the group had already made 10 fabulous, daring recipes. It is my goal to eventually tackle all of them, as well as the few that I had some trouble making since I joined. When my friend Annie said that she was interested in making the Strawberry Mirror Cake that was chosen by Culinary Concoctions by Peabody in July 2007, I figured it was a great way to jump start my way to completing all of the ones I had missed. And true to Daring Baker form, this was certainly a challenge! But I stuck it out, and it was definitely worth it, both for the sense of accomplishment and flavor of this wonderful cake.

Things started out just fine when I made the cake, but the problem arose with the Bavarian cream. As I found out, there is a very small window of time between the “thickened to the point of softly whipped cream” and “turned into jello”. I waited perhaps a minute too long to fold my whipped cream into the cream/strawberry puree/gelatin mixture, because all I got were clumps of almost solid jello. I was frustrated. I swore. I banged things. My poor dog came running into the kitchen to make sure everything was okay. At that point I had had enough in the kitchen, saved the cakes, and decided to forge ahead in a few days.

Yesterday I strapped on my apron and tried again! I scaled the recipe and used my 4.5″ springform pan figuring if it was another bust I wouldn’t waste a huge amount of ingredients. I’m happy to report that this time I had great success, and would advise anyone who tries this to definitely err on folding the whipped cream in earlier as opposed to waiting. Everything else went just fine, although I didn’t have quite enough room for a large layer of Bavarian cream on the top of my cake, but no matter, it came together perfectly. We thought the cake itself was a little on the dry side (which may have been due to my freezing them from the original attempt), but the strawberry flavors in the cream and mirror were fabulous, and hey! I made homemade Jello! Who would have ever imagined? :)

This was one of the more complicated recipes I have tackled, but would encourage everyone to give it a try! Creating something like this, even with missteps, leads to such a sense of accomplishment!

Strawberry Mirror Cake

Yield: 8 to 10 servings

Prep Time: 3 hours 15 minutes

Cook Time: 10 minutes

Total Time: 3 hours 25 minutes

Ingredients:

For the cake:
3 eggs
3 egg yolks
¾ cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
3 egg whites
1/8 tsp. cream of tartar
2 tbsp. sugar
2/3 cup cake flour, sifted

For the soaking syrup:
½ cup water
1/3 cup sugar
2 tbsp. kirsch or strawberry liqueur

For the strawberry Bavarian cream:
2 ½ tbsp. unflavored gelatin
1 ½ cups strained strawberry puree
5 egg yolks
2/3 cup sugar
1 ½ cups milk
1 tbsp. lemon juice
several drops of red food coloring
1 ¾ cups whipping cream

For the strawberry juice:
1 ½ pints strawberries (18 oz.)
¾ cup sugar
¾ cup water

For the strawberry mirror:
1 ½ cups strawberry juice
1 tsp. lemon juice
1 tbsp. kirsch
1 tbsp. water
1 tbsp. unflavored gelatin
a few drops of red food coloring

Directions:

1. To Make the Cake: Preheat oven to 450°. Butter and flour the sides of an 11×17-inch sheet pan (rimmed baking sheet). Line the bottom of the pan with a sheet of parchment paper cut to fit exactly.

2. Beat eggs, egg yolks and ¾ cup sugar together in a medium bowl until thick and light. Beat in the vanilla. Set aside. In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites until foamy. Add the cream of tartar and beat until the whites begin to form soft peaks. Add the 2 tablespoons of sugar and beat until the whites hold stiff glossy peaks (do not overbeat). Sift the flour over the egg yolk mixture and fold in. Stir in one fourth of the whites. Then carefully fold in the remaining whites.

3. Spread the batter evenly in the prepared pan. Bake until light brown and springy to touch, 7-10 minutes. Cool in pan 5 minutes. Run a knife along the edge to loosen. Cut out two 8 ¼-inch circles of cake. Wrap the cake layers, separated with wax paper, and set aside. (Cake may be frozen at this point.)

4. To Make the Soaking Syrup: Combine the water and sugar in a saucepan. Bring to a boil to dissolve sugar. Cool to room temperature; flavor with liqueur. Set aside or refrigerate in an air-tight container until ready to use.

5. To Make the Strawberry Bavarian Cream: Sprinkle the gelatin over the strawberry puree in a small bowl and set aside until spongy. Combine the egg yolks and the sugar in a bowl and beat until light. Bring the milk to a boil in a saucepan.

6. Slowly pour the warm milk mixture into the egg yolk mixture, whisking constantly. Return this mixture to the saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until your finger leaves a clear trail in the sauce when drawn across the back of a spoon. Do not allow the mixture to boil! Immediately remove from heat and stir in the gelatin mixture. Pour into a stainless steel bowl placed over a bowl of ice water. Stir in the lemon juice and a few drops of red food coloring.

7. Cool over ice water, stirring occasionally, until the mixture thickens to the consistency of softly whipped cream.

8. While the gelatin mixture is cooling, whip the whipping cream until it holds soft peaks. When the gelatin mixture resembles softly whipped cream, fold the whipped cream into the gelatin mixture.

9. To Make the Strawberry Juice: Wash and hull strawberries; coarsely chop. Place strawberries in a saucepan; crush to start juices flowing. Place over low heat; add sugar and water; simmer slowly for 10 minutes. Pour juice and pulp into a fine-mesh sieve placed over a bowl. Allow to drain for 15 minutes. Do not press down on fruit.

10. To Assemble the Cake: Brush the sides of a 10-inch springform pan lightly with flavorless salad oil or almond oil. Cut out a cardboard circle that is the exact same size as the bottom side of the pan; cover cardboard in aluminum foil and fit into bottom of pan.

11. Center one layer of cake in the bottom of the pan. Brush the cake with some of the soaking syrup to just moisten the cake. Immediately after preparing the Bavarian cream, pour about half of it over the first layer of cake in the pan. Set the next layer of cake on top of the cream. Brush with soaking syrup to just moisten as before. Pour remaining Bavarian cream over the cake and smooth the top with a spatula. Refrigerate until the cream sets (1 to 2 hours).

12. To Make the Strawberry Mirror: Place lemon juice, water and kirsch in a small bowl. Sprinkle gelatin over this mixture; set aside until spongy and soft.

13. 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 a bowl of ice water and stir occasionally until the mixture is syrupy and just begins to thicken (do not let jell). Remove from the ice water. When the mixture is syrupy, pour a 1/16-inch layer over the top of the assembled cake. Refrigerate until set.

14. To serve, wrap a hot towel around the outside of the springform pan for a few minutes. Run a small sharp knife tip around the edge of the strawberry mirror to separate it from the sides of the pan. The mirror will tear when the sides are unlatched if it is stuck at any point. Slowly unlatch the pan and slide it off the cake. Slice cake in wedges and serve in upright slices.

(Source: Cakes and Pastries At the Academy by California Culinary Academy, 1993)