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Monday, July 30, 2007

daring bakers go all gelatinous

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For those who aren't familiar with the self-titled 'Daring Bakers,' we are a group of bloggers who, every month, tackle the most trepidatious of baking challenges....and we all post about them on the same day.

I actually made this cake a couple of weeks ago for my husband's grandmother's 70th birthday, but I couldn't reveal one little iota of the adventure until today. The challenge recipe for July was a beautiful strawberry mirror cake.

I know, you haven't heard of it either.

Basically, the concept is that you have two layers of white chiffon cake, surrounded by mounds of strawberry bavarian cream, topped with a strawberry gelatin layer (i.e., the mirror). Easy, peasy, eh?

And I'm sure it could be, if you used a box cake, J-E-L-L-O and all that fake stuff.

But that's not how the DB'ers work. We make EVERYTHING from scratch on these challenges....and while I'm all for making things from scratch, this was quite the baking feat for me (I really don't do a lot of baking requiring tremendous amounts of technique) and I was SUPER nervous when I saw the sheer amounts of gelatin involved.

I hate Jello. I hate jellied salads. I hate panna cotta. I don't like anything with that nasty, chewy, GELATINOUS texture. It just grosses me out. Anytime I've made something with gelatin before, I'm just so icked out at the texture, I can hardly bear to even look at it on my plate. So, in addition to worrying about my sub-par baking and decorating skills on this challenge, I was more than a little nervous about even liking (or, hehe, foisting the cake on others) what I was making.

On the upside, I was totally stoked at the prospect of purchasing strawberry booze, and even more so when I found this baby on the shelves of the trusty LCBO:
cooking with booze

And on the even upper side, I was even more stoked that the making of this cake coincided almost exactly with the arrival of the kitchenaid (yes, I know you've all seen the pics of it before, in addition to my incessent adoring yammering). This is the first time I got to use it.
i love my new toy

So now I'd like to walk you through the making of the recipe. I took SO many pictures, and I am, in this case, hoping that the quantity of photos makes up for the rottenly shoddy quality of the final ones (didn't have my usual 1000 W lighting set-up...grrrr...).

Here is the story of the strawberry mirror cake.

Strawberry Mirror 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 sifted cake flour (ack, why all of this insistence on sifting. LAME)
½ cup water
1/3 cups sugar
2 TBSP kirsch or strawberry liqueur (I didn't want to buy kirsch, and ended up finding strawberry cream tequila...this was clearly win-win, as my strawberry cream martini was great liquid courage for the tackling of this cake)

strawberry cream martini

Strawberry Bavarian Cream
2 ½ TBSP unflavored gelatin
1 ½ cups strained strawberry puree(1 ½ baskets) (shoot me now, I didn't strain it....see the seeds?)

strawberries, pre blending
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

Strawberry Mirror

1 tsp lemon juice (had to omit - lemon juice + strawberry cream tequila = a curdled nasty mess. had to start that part over)
1 TBSP kirsch
1 TBSP water
1 TBSP unflavored gelatin
Few drops of red food coloring

Strawberry Juice
1 ½ pints of strawberries(18 oz)
¾ cup sugar
¾ cup water

1.Preheat oven to 450F. Butter and flour the sides of an 11-by-17 inch jelly roll pan(rimmed baking sheet). Line bottom of pan with a sheet of parchment paper cut to fit bottom pan exactly. (I don't own an 11x17 jelly roll pan, and all of my baking sheets have deteriorated to such a sorry state that I no longer cook food on the surface....I ended up cheating here and using 2 8" cake pans....which came back to bite me in the arse, as you'll see later)

2.Beat eggs, egg yolks and ¾ cup sugar together in a medium bowl until thick and light. Beat in the vanilla.

My egg separator was quite handy for this.
egg separators are very handy

3.In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites until foamy, add cream of tartar (couldn't add it, didn't have any and hubs was gone by this point) and beat until whites begin to form peaks. Add the 2 TBSP sugar and beat until the whites hold stiff, glossy peaks(do not over beat).

I was so enthralled with my brand new kitchenaid (that arrived JUST in time for me to pop its red cherry on this recipe!) that I took a photo of it in action. Wheeeeee!
go kitchenaid go!

4.Sift flour over the egg yolk mixture and fold in .

Sifting is still one of my least favourite kitchen tasks. meh. At least I bought the cake flour though.
i still hate sifting

Stir in one fourth of the whites. Then carefully fold in the remaining whites.

5.Spread batter evenly in pan. It was very light and fluffy batter....also very tasty batter....please tell me I'm not the only one to nosh on the leftover batter in the bowl....
before i f'ed it up

Bake until light brown and springy to touch(7 to 10 minutes). (my cake was overdone at seven minutes...blast the 8" pans!!!!!!) Cool in pan 5 minutes. Run a knife along edge to loosen. Invert cake tin to cut out 8 ¼ inch circles of cake. Wrap the cake layers, separated with waxed paper, and set aside. Cake may be frozen at this point.

Here is my overcooked cake:
slightly overcooked chiffon

6.To make soaking syrup: Combine water and the 1/3 cup sugar in saucepan; bring to a boil to dissolve sugar. Cool to room temperature; flavor with liqueur. Set aside or refrigerate in glass jar until ready to use.

7.To assemble cake: Brush sides of 10-inch springform pan lightly with flavorless salad oil or almond oil. Cut out a cardboard circle that is exactly the same size as the bottom inside of the pan; cover cardboard with aluminum foil and fit into bottom of pan. Center one layer of the cake bottom of pan. Brush the cake with some of the soaking syrup to just moisten(not drench) the cake; set aside.

8.Prepare Strawberry Bavarian Cream. Immediately pour about half of the Bavarian Cream over the first layer of cake in the pan.

My bavarian cream was not exactly pouring consistency (barely even 'shovable', to say nothing of 'spreadable', but I could see even after the first layer that there was going to be a bit of a tight squeeze in this pan....
after the first layer of cake...uh-oh!

Set the next layer of cake on top of the cream. Pour remaining Bavarian Cream over cake and smooth top of the cream with spatula. Refrigerate until the cream sets(1 to 2 hours). (you'll note in the photo that because my cakes were a bit larger and thicker, I've got bavarian cream up the ying-yang and almost overflowing the stupid pan.....GRRRRR)

Here is my lovely bounty of (only slightly lumpy) bavarian cream:

9.Prepare the Strawberry Mirror. (I love how this is one TEEENSY little step....what a pain)

10.To serve: Wrap a hot towel around the outside of springform pan for a few minutes. Run a small sharp knife tip around the edge of the Strawberry Mirror to separate it form the sides of pan. Mirror will tear when 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.

Prep Work

Strawberry Bavarian Cream
1.Sprinkle the gelatin over the strawberry puree in a small bowl and set aside until spongy. (I stirred my gelatin right in)

I also didn't strain my strawberries. So sue me.
strawberry goo

2.Combine egg yolks and sugar in a bowl' beat until light. Bring milk to a boil in sauce pan. Pour hot milk into yolk mixture a tiny little bit at a time and stir with a wooden spoon. Return this mixture to the saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until your finger leaves a clear trail in sauce when drawn across the back of the spoon.(Do not boil or mixture will curdle.) Immediately remove from heat and stir in softened gelatin mixture. Pour into a stainless steel bowl places over a bowl of ice water.

Mine actually looked really pretty at this point!
before I f'ed it up

Stir in lemon juice and a few drops of red food coloring. Cool over ice water, stirring occasionally, until mixture thickens to the consistency of softly whipped cream. (I would love to know where this elusive stage is! Mine was already a bit too set when I stirred in the whipped cream, which ended up with me having strawberry gelatinous lumps blobbed all throughout the bavarian cream. MEH)

3.While 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.

Strawberry Mirror

1.Prepare strawberry juice.
2.Place lemon juice, kirsch, and water in a small bowl. Sprinkle gelatin over this mixture; set aside until spongy and soft.
3.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.

My lovely strawberry goo mixture, chillin' in its ice water bath:
strawberry gel gelling
Word to the wise here: definitely wait until the strawberry juice REALLY has started to thicken....because otherwise you will have a lovely puddle of strawberry goo streaming across your cake, onto the counter, onto the floor (etc.). Of course, the problem would have been alleviated had I not filled the springform pan to the brim in the first place.....

This is what happens when you take pictures while under the influence of strawberry cream get cocky, careless, and fail to notice the obvious liquidity of your strawberry goo:
pre-goofing up

This is what happened the first time (after, of course, I'd cleaned up the disaster all over my counter):

4.When mixture is syrupy, pour a 1/16-inch layer over the top of cake. Refrigerate until set.

If at first you don't succeed, try try again...
cake topped with strawberry goo

Strawberry Juice

Wash and hull strawberries; coarsely chop. Place strawberries in saucepan; crush to start juices flowing.
cooking strawberries to make strawberry juice

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).

I was quite enthralled with the making of the juice. Very cool process. I think it would be a fun thing to do again.
go strawberry juice go!

I didn't want to do too much to interfere (or hide?) with the mirror, but I did want to do a little something for the celebratory occasion. I don't think I'll ever be ANY good at icing anything, but I like to think of my style as quirky. Yes, that's it. It's QUIRKY. :)

as close as I will ever get to actually icing something

The birthday girl was incredibly gracious and appreciative (always a true pleasure to really put forth an effort for someone who is always so giving and so generous). The cake put up a bit of a fight with the candles (note to self: don't try to stick candles in a jellied mousse cake's a bit resistant and has a somewhat perplexing tendency of spitting said candles out at opportune times. After a 150 km trek, several hours on ice and much jostling, it was with relief that the cake came out beautifully.

happy birthday!

Here is a slice, for you to behold....presentation is a little lacking, light is a little sparse, but hopefully you'll forgive me. I'm all about culinary realism, and so this is what I ate:
cake time!

Now, back to the initial question of whether or not the cake was any good. Well....this is what was left at the end. Strawberry gelatin bits and all, I think it's safe to say that the cake was an unequivocal success. In the true Canadian way*, the platter has been licked clean.

what was left...

*True Canadian Way - meaning that there is one tiny little sliver/scrap left because no one wants to be responsible for taking the last piece.....

I had loads of fun with this month's challenge and would like to thank Peabody for finding and hosting this challenge. The cake was wonderful (despite my chewing apprehension) and it was a lot of fun to try a recipe that I can most assuredly say, I NEVER would have tackled without a lot of guidance....

I cordially invite all my readers to see how the other DBs fared this month: DB members range from RANK amateurs (like ME!) to professional pastry chefs. So much talent, so much beauty. I can't wait to see how everyone does this month - I'm sure the presentations will all absolutely smush my little Royal Chinet plate, but I was just so pleased to be able to share such a lovely dessert with such a wonderful family, and to be a part of the challenge.

Thanks for reading. :)


Anh said...

Your cake looks wonderful. The most important thing is everyone likes it!

Dharm said...

Hey Leslie! its a great cake! You and I sound like we had similar problems especially with overloading the springform with Bavarian. What I didnt mention was that as I was carrying the pan to the fridge, I created spills of strawberry mirror all over the floor..!!! Well done you!

Anonymous said...

"Liquid courage" was a great idea..I could have used a little of that myself. Gelatin grosses me out, too. (This is disgusting, but I've made many large batches of marshmallow at work, and 40 sheets of leaf gelatin whipping in hot syrup smells like a slaughterhouse.) I sub'ed agar, but I had never used it before and it didn't work out quite as well as I'd hoped.

Jenny said...

Nice pictures and great write up!
Good work on the cake!

Pille said...

Those are some brilliant step-by-step photos! I'm also not too keen on all things gelatinous, although I love panna cottas. And just like you, I needed to do my mirror twice, as the first one refused to settle. But the end result is all that matters :)
Well done!

Helene said...

Leslie: great pics, love the lighting! Glad the family ejoyed it!

Peabody said...

Ha, ha...that is the Canadian don't want to seem like a pig taking that last piece.
I think I should have thrown back a little liquid pain killer for my ankle!
Great job.

KJ said...

I really enjoyed your post. Your cake looks lovely and it was enjoyed. That's the main thing.

Don't worry, a fair bit of my cake batter ended up somewhere other than the pan.

And I am seriously jealous over your kitchen aid.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for all the photos! It was such fun looking at them. I had so much trouble with the cake layers. Great job!

Anne said...

The cake looks wonderful. I also liked the step by step photo's. Well done :)

Andrea said...

Great story and photos! I, too, had some tequila while making the cake, but for a different reason. We were preparing some tequila lime marinade for chicken and decided to "sample" a couple different tequilas... :-)

Hilda said...

That was awesome to share the step by step process with us. I had never used gelatin before and am not crazy about it now that I've used it, but the cake was pretty cool to present.

Janet said...

That looks incredible - nice job! I've never even heard of this type of cake before today.

Jerry said...


Anonymous said...

Wonderful job, Leslie! I really enjoyed your post and pictures - and can totally relate to the "True Canadian Way"... LOL!
Congrats on a challenge well done!

Unknown said...

Great post Leslie, I love your matching Blender and mixer by-the-way! I'd have no problem swiping the last piece of cake.

Amanda at Little Foodies said...

Great cake and love the strawberry cream martini. Lucky hubby's grandma.

breadchick said...

Leslie, what a wonderful birthday cake! I loved the step by step photos in your kitchen.

Great job!

Sara said...

Hey as long as it tastes good, right?

Anonymous said...

What a lovely cake, Leslie. I'm with you with making the strawberry juice, it was one of my favorite part. It's funny how people don't want to be responsible of finishing off the last slice , he?

Anonymous said...

I have no shame - I would have gone after the last slice :)

Awesome recap and great pictures.

Nazca said...

Mmm strawberry booze! I couldn't find any... which I also said is why my cake actually turned out properly this time! :-)

Well done, looks lovely!

Deborah said...

I loved the step by step - I like seeing photos of what everyone goes through.

I'm starting to think that I work with a bunch of Canadians - whenever I bring treats to the office, no one will ever take the last piece!!

Jenny said...

The cake looks great!

I will admit though, my stomach lurched when I saw the bottle of Tequila Rose...memories of a "bad" night in university residence spent drinking out of a plastic cup. I've no doubt that it tasted MUCH better in the cake!

Lis said...

har! Great post! I enjoyed that very much.

Your cake turned out gorgeous! I'll bet his grandmother was just tickled pink.

You did a beautiful job, Leslie =)


Anita said...

What a perfect birthday cake to serve! Wonderful job!

Connie said...

a great take on the db cake! it would make a great party cake.

Alpineberry Mary said...

I love your use of "culinary realism". I think that really exemplifies the experience of being a Daring Baker. Sometimes we have great results and sometimes not so great. But it's always fun.

I love your red KA mixer. I bought my white KA many years ago before they had colors available in the model I chose.

Chris said...

Fabulous!! Looks beautiful and I love the martini! I could have never gotten through....well, maybe if I sang, drank, and baked...ha!!

monica said...

great post and step by step instructions! your cake looks fabulous and i'm glad your family enjoyed it! good idea with the liquid courage....

Amrita said...

Love the step by step procedure! IT MAKES it such a joy to read your post!

Tara said...

Congrats on getting your kitchenaid! I LOVE mine to pieces...

Glad everyone enjoyed your cake too, it is beautiful...

Inne said...

Don't know how it goes on your side of the pond, but I'm 'genetically incapable' of appreciating jelly. I'm convinced you have to be British to do so.
Great how you managed to make strawberry cream martinis out of your cake! Superb idea.
And as for your 'true Canadian way'... in Flemish it's called 'schaambrok', an awful word which translates as 'chunk of shame' because no-one wants to eat the last piece of something.

Anonymous said...

I love how you had this whole baking adventure but had to keep it all inside until the appointed posting day arrived! Very dramatic.

That said, I really enjoyed the post with all the photos and your accompanying narrative. I didn't know it was a Canadian thing to leave the last slice because no one wants to take the last one - it's totally the way of things in my family too! lol

Ari (Baking and Books)

MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

Wooo, "my strawberry cream martini was great liquid courage for the tackling of this cake" , Leslie, what a place to start. That would have finished me right there.
It's never about smashing anybody, it's all about sharing and seeing how and what worked and didn't.
Seems like it worked very well for you.
Welcome to the Daring Bakers! And now for August . . . the heat is on.

sunita said...

You did a wonderful ecake came out nicely.

Cheryl said...

I love all the pictures. I love seeing the whole process.

You have the same red kitchenaid mixer as me, and I must now get one of those egg separators, that is ingenius.

Dolores said...

The process-princess in me loves how you documented each step photographically. But inquiring minds *really* want the recipe for your strawberry cream martini!

leslie @ definitely not martha said...

holy crap are there ever a lot of comments! Thanks so much everyone!!!!!!

I can't acknowledge everyone, but I will, at the very least, answer the all-important question of how one goes about crafting a strawberry cream martini..... :)

1.5 ounces strawberry cream tequila
1.5 ounces vodka

Shake 'em up and serve. You could rim the glass with sugar, or decorate with a strawberry. This drink isn't for the faint of heart though - despite its innocent appearance, it will totally put hair on your chest.

I'm still plucking.


Heather said...

I love how you found a use for the cake and that others enjoyed it. I know it was a hit with everyone but me. And here in Kansas too, there was one teeny tiny sliver left on the cake plate this morning. :)

Amy said...

Your cake is beautiful! I loved your step-by-step photos.

Elle said...

What a fun post...and great photos. Congrats on the Kitchenaide mixer...great color, too. I like the quirky decoration for the birthday and laughed at the description of trying to put candles in the gelatin surface of the mirror. Great job Daring Baker!

Kelly-Jane said...

Great post, and lovely mirror cake :)

Anonymous said...

Wow, Leslie, what an amazing job with this "obscure" cake. I always love the commentary and step-by-step photos.
Daring Bakers, indeed!
Can't wait to see what awaits in August.

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