I’ve discovered there are a lot of Western desserts that share names with (or seem to be named after) people. I always used to think that most of these desserts like the Charlotte, Madeleines, Crepes Suzette, Apple Brown Betty, Poire Belle Helene (after an opera of the same name), the Victoria sponge (after Queen Victoria) seem to be named after women. Further study into the matter threw up desserts named after men too. There is the Napolean (perhaps after the emperor) and the Battenburg cake (after 4 princes of that name), the Gâteau Saint-Honoré (French patron saint of bakers, confectioners, and pastry chefs, Saint Honoré / Bishop of Amiens), the Runeberg Cake (after Finnish poet Johan Ludvig Runeberg) and the list goes on.
When Jana announced she wanted us to make a Fraisier, that was the first I had heard of that dessert. That’s right, Jana of Cherry Tea Cakes was our July Daring Bakers host and she challenged us to make Fresh Frasiers inspired by recipes written by Elisabeth M. Prueitt and Chad Robertson in the beautiful cookbook Tartine.
So I thought, here’s another one of those cakes that’s named after someone. I was sure there was going to be an interesting story about some guy who had a lot of fruit, eggs and cream on his hands and decided to create some sweet magic with them. Turns out that “fraisier” is French for strawberries!
So the Gâteau Fraisier is a layered strawberry cake. The cake is made of two layers of sponge between which are sandwiched sliced strawberries and pastry cream, and then topped with a thin layer of almond paste/ marzipan. What distinguishes a fraisier cake visually is the beautifully arranged layer of sliced strawberries which forms a pattern on the outside of the cake.
I almost didn’t do this challenge but the words “whipped cream” in the recipe caught my daughter’s attention (she loves the stuff!) and the look on her face and the statement that “She was always ready to eat dessert that looked like that!” meant that I started reading the challenge yesterday morning.
I stuck to the given recipes but adapted them a bit. I couldn’t make a “true” fraisier because strawberry season, here, is still about 6 months away. It is still the season for mangoes so I decided to make what would technically be a Gateau Mangue (am I correct?)
I read somewhere that while making a sponge/ chiffon cake, I could use equal number of whites and yolks, if I didn’t want to waste the extra yolks from more egg whites, so I used 3 egg whites and yolks. I flavoured my pastry cream with cardamom and used agar to set the pastry cream.
My sister had brought me some matcha powder on her last visit, so I used some of that in my sponge cake and since Finla had sent me some readymade almond paste/ marzipan, this was the perfect chance to use that as well.
The challenge in itself wasn’t all that difficult as it entailed making a sponge cake and splitting into two, making pastry cream some sugar syrup, chopping up fruit and putting it all together. For me the difficult part was assembling the cake.
I realised I didn’t have a springform pan of required size and had to use my regular cake tin. I got around this by lining it with cling wrap which made the unmoulding a bit easier but somewhat messy. The rains here have brought down temperatures but it is still warm enough to make the pastry cream (with whipped cream) soften once it was outside the fridge! And the humidity was threatening to make my sponge cake sticky!
Still I triumphed even though I did not have a professionally finished cake, but then I consoled myself that I was a home baker and not running a patisserie (not that I wouldn’t like to)!! You can find the original challenge recipe here, and what follows is the my adapted version.