The July Daring Bakers Challenge was organised by Peabody of Culinary Concotions fame, who chose Strawberry Mirror Cake.
A colleague recently left her job to move back to her hometown and during the time we worked together she became a good friend to me. I wanted to make something special for her farewell morning tea and I thought that the mirror cake would be perfect for her since one of her favourite colours is pink.
It’s winter in New Zealand right now so the only strawberries in the stores are imported from the US. I couldn’t find frozen strawberries so as per the allowable ingredient deviations I opted to make a raspberry mirror cake. Wouldn’t you know it on the day I chose to make the cake I went to the supermarket for some fresh cream and saw Australian strawberries at a very reasonable $3.95 per punnet. I chose to stick with the raspberries because I needed to free up the space in my freezer.
I have come to the conclusion that the degree of difficulty of a Daring Bakers challenge should be measured by the number of bowls you dirty during the process. Mirror cake is certainly up there with the best of them. I dirtied 2 bowls for my Genoise sponge, 1 for the syrup, 3 for the Bavarian Cream and another for the mirror – total bowls used = 7 and let’s not count the saucepans.
What went wrong along the way and what would I do differently?
1. I didn’t have a pan suitable for making the sponge so I just used two round cake pans. I think it was a better way of doing it – no wastage.
2. I queried the baking temperature of the sponge because it was hellaciously hot (450 degrees F) and other recipes I’d read were 100 degrees lower. Of course I didn’t query this until I was about the start baking so went with my gut feeling (which turned out to be incorrect) and baked my sponges at the lower temperature. They still turned out OK. A little tip for contact lens wearers – do not be too hasty to peer into the oven or else your contact lenses will feel like they have melted to your eyeballs. I expected them to be all crinkly round the edges when I took them out but I guess they’re made of stronger stuff that I thought.
3. This was really my first attempt at working with gelatin and I had no idea what to expect. The instructions said “Sprinkle the gelatin over the strawberry puree in a small bowl and set aside until spongy.” What spongy meant I didn’t really know. The raspberries I used were pureed straight from the freezer and I worried that my gelatin wasn’t going to do it’s first dissolving bit so I scooped off as much as I could without disturbing the puree. The top had gone a bit wrinkly but I wouldn’t have described it as spongy. I thought it would be a good idea if the raspberries were at least at room temperature so I stirred up the stray bits of gelatin and nuked the puree and tried again. Seemed to work OK.
4. When making my Bavarian cream I think I may have been dangerously close to curdling my mix. I blended it with the gelatin mixture but there was no sigh of it being remotely like the texture of softly whipped cream and I panicked and added some more gelatin (previously softened in water of course). When I layered all the components and put the cake in the fridge to set for the allocated 1-2 hours I was not at all surprised to find that my Bavarian layer was a little on the firm side – oops.
5. Unlike my lucky US counterparts I do not have a fridge with an icemaker and one tray of icecubes wasn’t going to go very far so I just used a bowl of cold tap water to cool my Bavarian cream
6. When it came to making the mirror I didn’t have anything to drain my berries through and sorta kinda maybe just a little bit pressed down on them to extract the juice which of course is what gives you a foamy appearance and why the recipe says not to do it! Fortunately, because I had used raspberries and the colour was very dark it wasn’t too noticeable.
7. In hindsight, I probably wouldn’t have spent $40 on a bottle of booze just to used a couple of tablespoons in this recipe. I don’t think you could taste it. I’m pleased that I hadn’t splashed out and got a slightly more expensive but delicious sounding “raspberricello”.
The verdict – a heck of a lot of faffing about with all the steps involved in creating this masterpiece but I would describe it as gorgeous, impressive, and delicious.
Special thanks to Lis for helping me out with my post this month. You're a doll!