Daring Bakers Challenge: Strawberry Mirror Cake

July 30th, 2007

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Given my love for strawberries, it was with delight that I saw the challenge Peabody gave us Daring Bakers for July: the very classic and beautiful Strawberry Mirror Cake!

This type of dessert is a mainstay of French pâtisserie: layers of light, airy genoise layered with smooth, creamy mousse – the European equivalent of America’s buttercream layer cakes, if you will. The recipe for the challenge uses a Bavarian cream, which has gelatin in it so it will set up when chilled, and a "mirror" – the thin layer of strawberry glaze on top. Altogether, this cake is a natural for an elegant and impressive presentation.

And in spite of its seemingly complicated appearance, it’s actually less of a project than it seems. The genoise bakes up in a couple ticks of the clock’s hands, and the Bavarian cream also holds no surprises if you’ve made a creme anglaise or pastry cream before – not a problem for a Daring Baker! I will caution against using too much gelatin in the Bavarian; it’s easy to panic if the mixture appears too soft and liquidy and attempt to remedy the situation by throwing in some more gelatin "just in case". However, the Bavarian will set up nicely in the refrigerator to its firm yet still yielding consistency: too much gelatin will turn your Bavarian into rubbery Jello-ness. The amount given in the recipe worked perfectly for me.

The semi-liquid state of the Bavarian is, also, what made putting together the cake less daunting than assembling a buttercream cake: since you essentially pour the Bavarian over the cake layers, it’s easy to get a smooth and even surface with minimal effort. If only making all desserts was this simple! As a side note, the recipe calls for using a 10" springform pan; I only had a 9" springform, but simply cut the genoise layers a little smaller so they would fit and leave room for the Bavarian cream on the side. I did end up not using all the Bavarian to fill the pan so as to leave room for the glaze, which was a shame but not a big deal.

After the Bavarian sets, all that remains is make the mirror glaze and pour over the top. I’ll note that although the recipe called for adding food coloring to the Bavarian and the glaze, I decided not to because the color imparted from the strawberries was already strikingly sufficient – I’m always amazed at how much red comes from strawberries (not to mention how they stain everything in the kitchen if I’m not careful!)

My mirror had a satisfactory smoothness and shine; I think the top of my cake was not completely even so the glaze pooled up in a few corners which kept the surface from being completely smooth, but on the whole I was pleased to serve it. And the taste? Well, with organic strawberries coming from the local farmer’s market, fragrantly ripe and begging to be used, I can’t think of a better place to have put them. The Bavarian was pleasingly cold and smooth, vibrantly strawberry in flavor, the cake a mild, unobtrusively mellow base.  Altogether, a beautiful summery treat (even if San Francisco is covered in fog right now!)

You can go over to Peabody’s site for the recipe, and be sure to check the Daring Baker blogroll to the left to see everyone else’s cakes. As for myself, I am off to enjoy another slice of this cake!

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