Thursday, 17 November 2011

Strawberry & Cream Celebration Cake

Strawberry & Cream Celebration Cake

This, for me, is the best celebration cake ever. I love the combination of the light sponge, the pastry cream, the whipping cream and the strawberries (what else can you ask for??). Now that strawberries are not in season, you could also make it without them, it is still delicious, trust me. It’s also perfect for children, as the sponge is moisten with sugar and orange syrup. Otherwise if you prefer a nice kick, you can use a mixture of limoncello and water (in equal parts), even better!

Ingredients (for a 24cm round tin) 

For the sponge
  • Eggs, 5 (at room temperature)
  • Caster sugar, 150g
  • Flour 00, 150g
  • Grated zest of a lemon
  • A pinch of salt

For the pastry cream

  • Whole Milk, 500ml
  • Eggs, 6 (medium, and at room temperature)
  • Caster sugar, 140g
  • Flour 00, 80g
  • A vanilla pod
  • A pinch of salt

For the syrup (to moisten the sponge)

  • Water, 150ml
  • Caster sugar, 100g
  • The juice of 2 oranges

For the decoration
  • Fresh strawberries, 500g
  • Fresh whipping cream, 600ml
  • Caster sugar

Another decoration idea


Preparing the Pastry Cream
In a saucepan, bring the milk to the boil with the vanilla pod (and the seeds scraped out into the milk). Allow to cool slightly and remove the vanilla pod. In a bowl whisk the egg yolks with the caster sugar. Sift the plain flour, add it to the egg mixture and mix thoroughly. Pour the milk onto the egg mix, whisking continuously. Return to a clean pan and stir with a wooden spatula, bringing it to the boil over a gentle heat until it starts to thicken. Remove from the heat, transfer the pastry cream into a clean bowl and place some clingfilm over the surface. The clingfilm will prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate and chill completely.
Making the sponge

Heat the oven to 180°C. In a large bowl mix the eggs, the sugar, the grated lemon zest and a pinch of salt. Beat the mixture until very soft and fluffy, for at least 20 minutes! I normally use a kitchen mixer, but an electric handheld one will do. This is key to the success of this recipe, and to obtain a very light sponge. Please remember that you are not using any raising agents, this is why you have to incorporate a lot of air into the mixture. Sift the flour (I usually sift it twice). Fold the flour in, very slowly and gently, a bit at a time, with upward movements. Butter and flour the cake tin. Transfer the mixture very gently into the tin, and bake for about 35/40 minutes. Test the cake by inserting a clean toothpick into the middle of the cake. If the toothpick comes out clean, the cake is done. Let cool completely.
Preparing the syrup

In a saucepan bring the cold water and the sugar to a boil. Turn the heat to low and stir constantly until the sugar dissolves completely and the mixture is clear, approximately 3 minutes.  Remove from the heat. Add the juice of 2 oranges, stir, filter and let cool completely.
Assembling the cake

Make sure that all of the ingredients are cold. Wash the strawberries (leaving some aside for the final decoration), slice them and transfer to a bowl. Add a couple of table spoons of sugar and mix together. Leave aside.  Remove the crust of the sponge, cutting the borders, the top and the bottom. I do this as I like every bits of the cake to be soft and moisten. Don’t worry too much about the shape, as you are going to frost the cake with the whipping cream. Slice the cake horizontally, in three slices/layers. Place the first slice on the plate or cake board. Spoon a little bit of pastry cream on the board, to make sure the first layer will stick to the base. Using a brush, moisten the first sponge layer with the syrup. Spoon half of the pastry cream onto the sponge, and spread it evenly with a flat spatula. Spread half of the strawberries (the ones you have already sliced) evenly on the cake. Repeat the operation with the second layer. Place the third sponge layer on top, and brush with the syrup. Transfer to the fridge to set for at least half an hour.  In the meantime, prepare the whipping cream. Before whipping, transfer the cream in the freezer for about 20 minutes. The cream has to be very cold. Using an electric handheld beater, or by hand, whip the cream until firm, but not too firm. When you see the cream turning a little bit yellow, stop beating immediately, otherwise it turns into butter!  With the help of a flat spatula, spread the cream onto the cake evenly. Decorate with more cream (I used a Wilton M1 tip) and the strawberries that you have previously left aside. Refrigerate for a couple of hours before serving. 

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