Monday, 27 June 2011

Cream Filled Genoise with the First Summer Strawberries

The main thoroughfare in  our neighbourhood in Ottawa is undergoing massive reconstruction which means that vehicles are being redirected onto the less travelled side streets.  

One of these side streets leads to the entrance of the weekly Lansdowne Farmer's Market and to keep this street safe from frustrated speeding drivers, the city installed a traffic "speed minder" that clocks a driver's speed he zooms towards it.  Above it is a huge digital sign that displays the speed at which one is travelling.   
On Sunday morning as I walked towards the market and the speed minder, the display clocked me in at 10 kph.  

Why the rush?  The season's first fresh, luscious strawberries of course!
Worth hurrying down the street
To celebrate the arrival of the delicious local strawberries, I created this simple cake.  It's easy to make, quite light, not too sweet, and it's pretty too!

The base is a cake called Genoise which I posted a few weeks back. I hope you practised it because here is a great way to use it. 

For this cake you will need:
One genoise sponge cake at room temperature.

The Strawberries:
1 quart plus one pint ripe strawberries
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
Optional aromatic additions to the strawberries according to your tastes:  1/8 teaspoon of any one of finely chopped: fresh lemon thyme, fresh lemon balm, fresh rosemary, fresh mint, fresh lavender, or lemon zest

Cream Filling:
1 1/2 cups (355ml/348g) whipping cream
1/4 cup (22g) powdered sugar 
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste
Soaking Syrup:
1/2 cup (118ml/118g) water
1/3 cup (70g) granulated sugar
Optional:  1/4 cup less 1 tablespoon (40ml/40g) white rum

1-2 tablespoons (10-20g) powdered sugar

Serrated bread knife or cake slicing knife
Hand held beaters or a stand mixer with a whip attachment
Parchment paper 
Pastry brush
Small offset spatula
Optional:  Piping bag with a Wilton "1M" star tip or Kaiser 13mm star tip, 9" cardboard cake round, pretty cake stand or cake plate

Prepare the Strawberries
Wash the berries and set aside 8 of the best ones for garnish. Remove the calyx from the remaining berries and slice them lengthwise into halves or quarters depending on their size.  Sprinkle them with sugar and the optional aromatics if you are using them.  Mix gently and set aside. 

Prepare the Soaking Syrup
In a small saucepan, combine the water and sugar. Allow the mixture to boil for 2 minutes.  Pour the syrup into a bowl and set aside to cool to room temperature.

Slice the cake in half and place it on the parchment paper
Cover your work surface with parchment, enough to accommodate at least twice the width of the cake.

With a sharp, serrated bread knife or a cake cutting knife, slice the cake in half lengthwise.  The bottom of the cake will become the top of the finished cake and the top will become the bottom.  If you lined the cake pan with parchment, remember to remove it.  Place the bottom layer on a cardboard round if you have one.  This will make it easier to lift the cake to its final destination.

Now is the time to add liqueur to the syrup if you are using it.
Using a pastry brush, brush both halves of the cake with syrup making sure that there is syrup everywhere on the cake, especially towards the sides.  Don't saturate the cake, just moisten it.  You may have some syrup left over. 

Prepare the Cream 
Spread the cream
Pour the cream into a chilled bowl and add the powdered sugar and vanilla. Beat on high to stiff peaks. Set aside.
First, reserve about 3/4 cup of the whipped cream for making the rosettes on the top of the cake.
Divide the remaining cream into two.  Using an offset spatula, gently spread out half the cream on each half of the cake.  Spread the cream within 1/2" (1cm) from the edge.  If you put cream too close to the edge of the cake the cream will squeeze out the sides when you put the top on.
Arrange the berries

Pour the macerated strawberries into a sieve to separate the liquid from the berries.  Arrange half of the berries in the cream on one half of the cake. Return the remaining berries back into the reserved liquid and refrigerate.  

Flip the half of the cake without the berries on top of the one with the berries and press gently until the cream comes closer to the edge.  Don't press too hard - you don't want the cream to squirt out the sides.

Dust the top with powdered sugar

Put the 10g of finishing powdered sugar into a fine sieve.  Tap the side of the sieve to lightly powder the top of the cake.  Now gently lift the cake and place it on a serving plate or cake stand or you can do this after you have finished the next steps.

If you have a piping bag, fill it with the reserved 3/4 cup cream.  Pipe 8 evenly spaced rosettes around the top of the cake and top each of them with a strawberry.  If you don't have a piping bag, just drop the cream by the spoonful.
Pipe rosettes on top of the cake
To make an even pattern, imagine your cake as a clock face.  Start by piping one rosette at 12:00 then 6:00, 3:00 and 9:00.  Finally, pipe a rosette in between each.  This will create 8 equal servings. Place a reserved whole strawberry on top of each rosette. 

Cut and serve the cake at the table and pass the remaining macerated berries with a spoon so guests can help themselves.

This cake is best served the day that it is made. After that the cream's texture changes.  Of course this doesn't mean that you can't have a piece as a midnight snack.  All for the greater good, of course.

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