Strawberry Shortcake: my version

It has been a while since I baked and assembled a nice-looking cake from scratch. It was my mom’s birthday last Friday, birthdays = cakes. I originally thought of just making some kind of dessert but a cake is just much more celebratory. I wanted to make a fresh mango cake but mangoes were not in season (too bad). Strawberry it is. I didn’t really follow a specific recipe for the whole cake except for the basic sponge cake. I used a Génoise cake recipe, the ingredients are very simple but it is not the simplest cake to make. It is basically just eggs, sugar, flour, butter and a little vanilla extract. The layers consist of whipped cream, my own homemade strawberry jam, fresh strawberries, and a honey syrup. I used chopped pistachios as a garnish on top and sides – makes a very good contrast of colours with the strawberries!

Ingredients:

Génoise Sponge Cake (7″ cake):

  • 3 Large Eggs (approx. 55 grams each)
  • 100 grams Granulated Sugar
  • 100 grams Cake Flour (soft wheat flour) – sift
  • 50 grams Melted Butter
  • 1 tsp. Vanilla Extract

Layers:

  • 450 mL Whipping Cream
  • 3 tbsp. Granulated Sugar
  • Approx. 6 Large Strawberries – wash, dry, hull and cut into halves + more for garnish
  • 2 tbsp. Honey + ¼ cup Hot Water – mixed together (honey syrup)
  • ¼ cup Strawberry Jam + 1 tbsp. Hot Water – mixed together  (I used homemade – definitely made a difference in taste)

Method:

Génoise Sponge Cake:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F/180°C. Prepare a 7″ cake pan – line only the bottom with parchment paper.
  2. Sift flour and melt butter.
  3. Break eggs in a medium sized mixing bowl and whisk with sugar. Set eggs over a water bath (simmering, NOT boiling) until the the eggs reach about body temperature, stirring occasionally – avoid cooking eggs so be careful not to have the heat too high.
  4. Mix with an electric mixer or on a stand mixer on high speed until increases in volume and becomes a creamy colour. *Important*: continue beating eggs on medium speed until eggs reach a “ribbon” stage (testing with a whisk, draw the mixture up, away from the bowl and allow it to flow back to the mixing bowl, if it looks like you can almost write letters in the mixture without it being too runny then it has reached the “ribbon” stage). It is difficult to describe in words so I might consider documenting the whole process in another post. 🙂
  5. Add in sifted flour and FOLD in flour with a rubber spatula until just mixed in. (try to do this in a fast motion and DO NOT over-mix)
  6. When flour is all mixed in, add butter + vanilla and FOLD until well mixed (DO NOT over-mix).
  7. Pour batter into cake pan and tap the pan the counter to remove any big air bubbles, bake right away in preheated oven for about 30 minutes. Try not to open the oven door during the baking process. The cake is done when a knife is inserted into the centre and comes out clean.
  8. Cool cake, remove from pan – slide a paring knife around the pan and cake should come out easily when pan is flipped over (metal knives are not recommended for “non-stick” pans).

Layering:

  1. Beat whipping cream with sugar until firm peaks form. Chill in fridge until ready to use.
  2. Cut cooled cake into three even layers. If the cake is shaped like a “dome” on top, cut off the excess to make a flat layer.
  3. Brush honey syrup onto the bottom two layers.
  4. Place strawberries on the bottom layer of cake and spread on whipped cream evenly, place second layer of cake on top.
  5. Spread strawberry jam on cake and top with a thin layer of whipped cream.
  6. Coat the top and sides with remaining whipped cream.
  7. Pipe cream for decoration (if desired – might require more cream). Garnish with strawberries and chopped pistachios.
  8. Chill until ready to serve.

It is not the best-looking cake but it is not bad. 😛 I didn’t take a picture of the cross-section, I thought that it would be nice to see it in an illustration. I didn’t sweeten the whipped cream too much because my mom is a not a big fan of overly sweet desserts. I also cut back on the cream (trying to be a tiny bit healthier). The end result was VERY yummy, the cake had a rich egg flavour and the layers had a very aromatic strawberry flavour – with fresh berries and the jam. Glad mom enjoyed it, she even had two pieces (she usually stops at one).

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Summer Eats: Creamy Nut Oolong Tea Gelato

I can feel the heat outside the house as I am writing this post. My house is usually cool even during the summer, if I can feel heat, it is REALLY warm out. 🙂 Which is good, considering we didn’t really get much of a summer for the past month or so in Vancouver. Hot weather calls for yummy frozen treats! I was shopping at a tea shop a few weeks a ago (I am a tea lover), looking for a tea blend that would work well in my gelato. The tea expert recommended that I try their “Creamy Nut Oolong”. The tea description: “This high grade Chinese Oolong contains apple pieces, caramel bits, almond pieces, safflower, sunflower, mallow flower and natural aromas.” So I decided to give it a try. It turned out to be very delicious, the caramel flavour worked exceptionally well with the creaminess of the milk and cream in the gelato. I also used honey, its floral aroma also worked well with the floral notes in the tea blend. Ice-cream or gelato is actually very simple to make, as long as you have a good base recipe, you can flavour it with different aromas. I made small batch to try, my brother asked me why I didn’t make more. 😀

Ingredients:

Makes 2 – 3 servings.
  • 2 tsp. of “Creamy Nut Oolong” tea blend
  • 1 cup Milk
  • ½ cup Whipping Cream (at least 30% milk fat)
  • 2 Egg Yolks
  • 2 tbsp. Granulated Sugar
  • 2 tbsp. Liquid Honey

Method:

  1. Place milk, cream and tea leaves in a small saucepan and heat on low heat for about 10 minutes.
    *We want to steep the tea, so don’t boil the mixture.
  2. Whisk together the egg yolks, sugar and honey until foamy and light (see image above).
  3. After steeping, pour the milk into the yolks and sugar mixture slowly and whisking at the same time.
    *Careful not to pour the hot milk into the yolk mixture all at once, we don’t want to have scrambled eggs. Also whisk as you pour in the hot milk.
  4. Pour the custard through a FINE sieve, removing the tea leaves or any solid bits.
  5. Return the custard to the pan on LOW heat, stir with a wooden spoon as the custard heats up.
    *NOTE: This step takes a bit of patience and you have to keep an eye on it because we don’t want to overcook the mixture and have solid lumps of egg yolk to affect the texture of the gelato.
  6. Cook until the custard coats the back of a wooden spoon and draw a line with your finger to test if the custard has reached the right consistency (see image above). The custard will not be very thick but will be a creamy consistency. If you see lumps, remove the pan from heat immediately and cool mixture.
  7. Cool custard and chill in the refrigerator for a few hours or overnight.
  8. Churn the mixture in an ice-cream maker, following its manufacturer’s instructions.
  9. Transfer the gelato into a seal-able container and freeze until firm.

My ice-cream maker is probably one of the simplest and inexpensive models that one can get. It consists of a moving part that has a switch to and a bowl that is to be frozen before the mixture is churned. I think freshly churned gelato actually tastes the best because its temperature is bit higher than freezer stored gelato (unlike the professional freezers in gelato shops). Its consistency is so soft and creamy. So if you are serving gelato from the freezer, you might have to “defrost” it for a short time in the fridge to get a softer texture.