Akin to the impossible reality that there are actual humans on this earth who do not prefer chocolate (HOW!?), my brother is physically repulsed at the mere thought of strawberries. Despite generally not being a picky eater, he would rather swallow a can of pickles than smell a strawberry. It’s pretty inexplicable to me, to say the least, as I love strawberries and love baking with them. My birthday cake last year was a Fraisier cake, not to mention strawberry shortcake has featured twice on our picnic menu.
So of course my baking debut since coming back to Australia would be a strawberry shortcake. I’ve been meaning to make one but sadly it wasn’t a good season for strawberries in Taiwan. But hey, I get to fancy it up with my newly acquired ring mould (which I’ve wanted for ages… before now I would use loose-bottomed cake tins without the base or a cardboard fence to make entremets and it never turned out nearly as neat as it did with a proper ring mold this time). And in all honesty this is not only one of the best-looking cakes I’ve made (minus the rough icing job), but one of the best tasting too with the addition of crème de fraises.
Fancy-ish strawberry shortcake (6″)
For the genoise cake:
pinch of salt
dash of strawberry liqueur, optional
red food colouring (natural gel/paste preferred)
For the filling/decoration:
300g heavy cream
1~2 tbsp sugar
dash of strawberry liqueur, optional
1 pint strawberries, chopped into ~1cm cubes
1 tsp sugar
Preheat the oven to 175°C and line a 11 x 17″ (or similar) baking sheet with parchment paper. Get above a pot of simmering water (only about 1″ – so it doesn’t come into contact with the mixing bowl above it), and place a heatproof bowl (I just used my mixer bowl) with the eggs and sugar in it. Immediately start moving the eggs around whether by whisking or stirring so they don’t scramble, and continue to do this until the sugar has dissolved and the eggs at about body temperature. Whisk the now warm egg and sugar mixture to the ribbon stage, about 10 mins, then stir on low speed for another minute. Sift in the dry ingredients a third at a time, folding gently by hand after each time and stop when no more flour can be seen. Melt the butter with the milk, and combine it with about a cup of the batter. Then pour that mixture back into the main batter and fold gently from the bottom just until even. Divide the batter in two and mix the liqueur and colouring into one of them so that half the batter is plain and the other strawberry. Spoon the alternate colours onto the baking sheet, then swirl them with a finger, making sure you touch the pan as the side touching the baking paper will be on the outside. Even the top out (it doesn’t matter if the colours bleed into each other on the top) and bake for 15-20 mins or until the centre is spongy when touched.
In the meantime, prepare the bits & pieces for assembly. Whip the cream, sugar and strawberry liqueur together to soft peaks. Cover and store in the fridge until needed. Save two good-looking strawberries for decorating the top of the cake, and macerate the rest with sugar and a little liqueur if you’d like. Wait 20 minutes then drain the strawberries, saving the syrup to soak the cake with.
Cover the cake with another sheet of parchment and flip the entire thing over in the pan so as to avoid tearing the cake. Peel off the bottom parchment that was underneath the cake, flip that piece of parchment upside down so the clean side is now touching what was the underside of the cake. Trim long strips of cake with a width that is equal to the height of your ring mold, and fit around the circumference of the mold once. Remove the ring mold temporarily to brush the cake with syrup, and to use it as a guide to cut 3 circles that are slightly smaller. (There wasn’t enough for 3 full circles so my bottom layer is made up of scraps). Place the long strip back against the internal circumference of the ring mold, followed by the bottom circle of cake. Brush bottom cake layer with syrup, and spread on ~1/3 of the whipped cream, followed by scattering ~1/3 of the chopped strawberries. Repeat this twice more, except when you get to the top layer, spread the cream on even and flat, saving some for the decoration. Using a small cookie cutter as a guide, place on the remaining strawberries carefully and remove the cutter. Pipe blobs of cream around the edges and on top of them place on the strawberry wedges.