Monday, July 30, 2007

Summery Daring Delight

In eight months, the daring Bakers have gone from two to eighty-nine members. Not all of them participate each month, but many do. We now, thanks to our founder Lis and Ivonne, have a website with a blogroll where you can link to other Daring Bakers' sites and see what they all have done with this challenge.

Strawberry Mirror Cake

Peabody of Culinary Concoctions by Peabody has given the Daring Bakers a challenge for July that produces a beautiful 10” cake, uses an awesome quantity of eggs and strawberries, and presented some new challenges for me. It’s called the Strawberry Mirror Cake - the perfect cake for summer. When it is unmolded from the spring form pan, the Bavarian cream forms a pale pink shell, topped with a glistening mirror of red tinted but clear strawberry gelatin. You can find the recipe on Peabody’s site here and at the bottom of this post. If you refer to it as you read through this post, it will make more sense.

First of all, I’ve never made a mirror cake before. I’ve never made a Bavarian cream either. My sponge cake skills were rusty since it’s been years since I made one. The good news is that I did have a small bottle of Kirsch (clear cherry brandy) in the cupboard, and some cake flour left over from the
March challenge. Although I use it once in a blue moon, I also had some cream of tartar.

The first part, lining the jelly roll pan with parchment paper, was easy and fun and I was so glad that I let Sweetie talk me into buying some new 11 x 17 inch rimmed pans recently…sure I probably would have bought them anyway, but it was nice that he wanted me to…I think he enjoys the challenges as much as I do. Being the official taste tester has its advantages.

Since I knew that I would be doing separated eggs for both the cake and the Bavarian, I separated the eggs for both at the same time, then saved the Bavarian eggs in sealed containers for later. Separating the eggs while they were chilly, then letting them come to room temperature to bake with seems to work well. I also made the strawberry juice the day before I made the Mirror. Since I was processing strawberries for the Bavarian cream, it seemed like a good time to do it.

Sponge Cake
One of the key things about making the sponge cake is to beat the eggs and sugar for a looooong time to get the air incorporated. Because I only have one Kitchen Aid mixer mixing bowl, I actually beat my egg whites first, with sugar added as directed, almost to glossy stage, then transferred them to another bowl while I beat the eggs and sugar.

Once the eggs and sugar were light and thick and yummy looking, with vanilla incorporated, I whisked the whites in the non-mixer bowl for a while to bring them up to glossy stage, then followed the recipe by sifting flour over the egg sugar mixture and folding it in. I lightened the mixture with some of the whites, then folded in the rest of the whites gently, taking the spatula down the center, then up the side of the bowl, turning the bowl a bit, then repeating…center, side, turn, center, side, turn.

The most nerve wracking part was spreading the batter in that huge pan, trying to keep the air in the batter in the process. This batter bakes up into a fairly thin cake, but that’s OK. You need room for two layers and the Bavarian cream in that spring form pan.

I also found that leaving the parchment on the cake while cutting out the two layers was a good idea, but peel the parchment off fairly soon so it doesn’t stick when the cake cools the rest of the way. The diameter of the cake needs to be about ½ to 1 inch smaller than the spring form pan to allow the Bavarian cream to surround it.

Bavarian Cream
I made the Bavarian cream a couple of days later. The cake was in the fridge and it seemed like it would keep for a couple of days. We had invited guests for dinner on Saturday and I wanted to serve the cake to them. I left the mirror part for Saturday morning, but I did make the juice early…more on that later.

The first thing I did was prepare the puree. Since I had bought a large clamshell of strawberries at the grocery store…about 4 pounds of them!...I estimated how many would make 1 ½ cups of puree. After removing the caps and slicing them, I put them in the food processor and let it whirl until it looked like a puree, seeds and all. Then I left for lunch and put it in the fridge. When I came home, I put the puree in a bowl and sprinkled on the gelatin, stirred the gelatin in, then set it aside.

When the yolks that I had separated the day before were at room temperature, it was back to beating eggs and sugar a long time until light. I had no trouble with the hot milk, with adding it carefully to the sugar and yolk mixture (and yes, I did temper it), nor with cooking that mixture the proper amount.

No trouble with adding the puree/gelatin mixture, but the cooling over ice water was a problem. Turns out that my ice maker was not making much ice, so the cooling too forever.

I finally added a package of frozen limas that no one wanted to eat. That helped. In the end I put the bowl of gelatin mixture directly in the freezer and stirred it about every minute until it was almost the right consistency, then finished it in the ice bath. Unorthodox, but necessary. Here is how the gelled bavarian without cream looks:

Folding the whipped cream into the gelatin mixture was similar to folding the whipped whites into the cake batter. You get the idea.

Now that the cake has had plenty of time to cool in the fridge and the Bavarian cream is made, it’s time to assemble the cake, up to the Mirror part.

I put together the soaking sugar syrup flavored with the kirsch, then prepared the 10-inch spring form pan. Covering the circle of cardboard with foil was not as simple as I had thought it would be. I ended up going over the whole disc with a rolling pin to flatten everything nicely. I also made sure to coat the sides of the pan all the way up to the rim with the oil. Notice the space between the edge of the cake and the sides of the pan in the photo below. That's where the Bavarian goes.

The syrup went on the cake nicely, the Bavarian cream needed a little pushing down with the spatula to make sure it covered the space between the cake and the pan sides, but putting the cake together was simple. I had lots of Bavarian cream, but needed to restrain myself from using too much so that there would be room for the Mirror. In the photo that came with the recipe, it looked like the cream was supposed to be about the same depth as the cake. I almost forgot to use the soaking syrup on the second layer, but remembered right before I covered it with the cream.

The top was as even as I could make it, but not really level.

Into the fridge it all went to chill overnight. The kitchen looked like a cyclone had hit it. Even though I made the cake early, there were still an amazing number of bowls, pans, and spatulas to wash.

The official recipe puts the Mirror next, but you need to make the Juice before you can make the mirror, so here we go…

The strawberries need to be processed first, caps removed and sliced or chunked to make them easier to crush. While the berries and sugar were simmering, I discovered that I had no more cheesecloth, nor a jelly bag, so I improvised by using a coffee filter. Worked like a charm. It is important to not press on the fruit, just let the mixture drip. That way your juice is clear and your mirror will be lovely.

On to the Mirror. It’s Saturday, in the morning. I have a ton of things to do to get ready for the dinner party, but the mirror is first.

I stirred the gelatin into the lemon juice, kirsch and water mixture. The hardest part was deciding how red to color the mirror. I think I used 4 drops of red food coloring. The ice bath situation was not any better than it had been for the Bavarian, so I did some freezer time, stirring the mixture with my clean fingers to keep the heat level even as it cooled, then finished it in the ice bath. The layer I poured over the Bavarian, which had been chilling overnight, was more than 1/16 inch because the top was not even and I wanted to make sure that the mirror was over the whole cake. The limitation was that I didn’t want to have it go over the rim of the spring form pan. Tricky!

It’s Saturday afternoon. The Mirror has set, the house is clean, the dinner prep is underway and it’s time to finish the cake. Oh, yes, and take photos, too.

The towel I use to wrap around the pan is too short! I add some paper towels quickly doused in hot water and wrung out. While they sit on the outside of the pan, I take a small sharp knife and run it all around the edge at the rim, making sure that the tip of the knife hits the Bavarian cream and that I get all around without taking the knife out. Now for the most daring part. I take off the towels, slowly unlatch the pan and….ta da!...the cake is ready for the serving platter. Well, almost ready. The sides of the cake look pretty plain, although the mirror is lovely. Since I still have lots and lots of strawberries, I decide to slice them and march the slices around the side of the cake. When I plated the slices after dinner, I drizzled a spiral of strawberry puree on each dessert plate first, then put on the cake slice.

Thank you Peabody for picking a very good challenge for July. Making the cake increased my skills and the cake itself was certainly enjoyed by our guests and by Sweetie. It was pretty, sweet, light, and rich…prefect for a dinner party. I would probably make it again, but most likely with raspberries. I would also make sure that I had plenty of ice for the ice water baths. Now I only wish I could give you a piece of the Strawberry Mirror Cake.

Strawberry Mirror Cake

Daring Bakers Challenge #8: July 2007
Host: Peabody (Culinary Concoctions by Peabody)
Post Date: July 30th

Recipe Quantity: One (1) 10" Cake

Special Pans: 11 x 17" Jelly Roll Pan, 10" Springform Pan, 8 1/4" Cake Round or Tin (or pattern)

A. Strawberry Mirror Cake

• 3 eggs
• 3 egg yolks
• ¾ cup sugar
• 1 tsp vanilla extract
• 3 egg whites
• 1/8 tsp cream of tartar
• 2 TBSP sugar
• 2/3 cup sifted cake flour
• ½ cup water
• 1/3 cups sugar
• 2 TBSP kirsch or strawberry liqueur

1.Preheat oven to 450F. Butter and flour the sides of an 11-by-17 inch jelly roll pan(rimmed baking sheet). Line bottom of pan with a sheet of parchment paper cut to fit bottom pan exactly.

2.Beat eggs, egg yolks and ¾ cup sugar together in a medium bowl until thick and light. Beat in the vanilla.

3.In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites until foamy, ad cream of tartar and beat until whites begin to form peaks. Add the 2 TBSP sugar and beat until the whites hold stiff, glossy peaks(do not over beat).

4.Sift flour over the egg yolk mixture and fold in . Stir in one fourth of the whites. Then carefully fold in the remaining whites.

5.Spread batter evenly in pan. Bake until light brown and springy to touch(7 to 10 minutes).

6. Cool in pan 5 minutes. Run a knife along edge to loosen. Invert cake tin to cut out 8 ¼ inch circles of cake. Wrap the cake layers, separated with waxed paper, and set aside. Cake may be frozen at this point.

B. Strawberry Bavarian Cream
• 2 ½ TBSP unflavored gelatin
• 1 ½ cups strained strawberry puree(1 ½ baskets)
• 5 egg yolks
• 2/3 cup sugar
• 1 ½ cups milk
• 1 TBSP lemon juice
• several drops of red food coloring
• 1 ¾ cups whipping cream

1.Sprinkle the gelatin over the strawberry puree in a small bowl and set aside until spongy.

2.Combine egg yolks and sugar in a bowl' beat until light. Bring milk to a boil in sauce pan. Pour hot milk into yolk mixture ans stir with a wooden spoon(it doesn't say so but I would temper the egg mixture first to be safe). Return this mixture to the saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until your finger leaves a clear trail in sauce when drawn across the back of the spoon.(Do not boil or mixture will curdle.) Immediately remove from heat and stir in softened gelatin mixture. Pour into a stainless steel bowl places over a bowl of ice water. Stir in lemon juice and a few drops of red food coloring. Cool over ice water, stirring occasionally, until mixture thickens to the consistency of softly whipped cream.

3.While gelatin mixture is cooling, whip the whipping cream until it holds soft peaks. When the gelatin mixture resembles softly whipped cream, fold the whipped cream into the gelatin mixture.

Strawberry Mirror
• 1 tsp lemon juice
• 1 TBSP kirsch
• 1 TBSP water
• 1 TBSP unflavored gelatin
• Few drops of red food coloring

1.Prepare strawberry juice.

2.Place lemon juice, kirsch, and water in a small bowl. Sprinkle gelatin over this mixture; set aside until spongy and soft.

3.Measure 1 ½ cups Strawberry juice into a small saucepan and bring to a simmer; pour over gelatin mixture and stir to dissolve gelatin. Tint to desired color with red food coloring. Place bowl over bowl of ice water and stir occasionally until the mixture is syrupy and just beings to thicken(do not let jell); remove from ice water.

4.When mixture is syrupy, pour a 1/16-inch layer over the top of cake. Refrigerate until set.

Strawberry Juice
• 1 ½ pints of strawberries(18 oz)
• ¾ cup sugar
• ¾ cup water

1. Wash and hull strawberries; coarsely chop.

2. Place strawberries in saucepan; crush to start juices flowing. Place over low heat; add sugar and water; simmer slowly 10 minutes.

3.Pour juice and pulp through damp jelly bag or cheesecloth-lined colander and drain into a bowl for 15 minutes(Do not press down on fruit).

Soaking Syrup
Combine water and the 1/3 cup sugar in saucepan; bring to a boil to dissolve sugar. Cool to room temperature; flavor with liqueur. Set aside or refrigerate in glass jar until ready to use.

To Assemble the Cake:
1. Brush sides of 10-inch springform pan lightly with flavorless salad oil or almond oil. Cut out a cardboard circle that is exactly the same size as the bottom inside of the pan; cover cardboard with aluminum foil and fit into bottom of pan. Center one layer of the cake bottom of pan. Brush the cake with some of the soaking syrup to just moisten(not drench) the cake; set aside.

2. Prepare Strawberry Bavarian Cream. Immediately pour about half of the Bavarian Cream over the first layer of cake in the pan. Set the next layer of cake on top of the cream. Pour remaining Bavarian Cream over cake and smooth top of the cream with spatula. Refrigerate until the cream sets(1 to 2 hours).

3.Prepare the Strawberry Mirror.

To serve:
Wrap a hot towel around the outside of springform pan for a few minutes. Run a small sharp knife tip around the edge of the Strawberry Mirror to separate it form the sides of pan. Mirror will tear when sides are unlatched if it is stuck at ANY point. Slowly unlatch the pan and slide it off the cake. Slice cake in wedges and serve in upright slices.


  1. Congratulations on a beautiful cake! I had also not made sponge cake in forever and had never made bavarian cream or a mirror, so I learned lots of things this time around.

  2. Elle, I love that you used lima beans to chill the cream! How inventive is that??!! As usual, great job fellow DB Classmate.

  3. haha!! I used frozen peas for my ice bath because I didn't have any ice!! Gorgeous cake!

  4. Your cake looks so pretty! Your cream is smooth and the strawberries lined up around the bottom really have a striking effect.

  5. Love, love, love, your idea of the strawberries on the side. I am smacking myself wishing I thought of that. Beautiful cake.

  6. What a great looking cake. The sliced strawberries are the perfect finishing touch.

  7. Anonymous10:35 AM

    this is a fabulous mirror cake elle! This challenge is quite a learning experience for me too!

  8. LOL- when I first read this(not quite awake yet) I thought you put the lima beans IN the Bavarian cream! Apparently I need more sleep.
    Well done, and I am glad you got to learn more culinary skills.

  9. Oh look at this cake! It looks wonderful. Nice job and congrats! Using the lima beans was pure genius!

  10. your sponge cake looks great. i did not beat mine long enough, so thanks for the tips!

  11. Elle! I love your cake - it's smashing! Such a pretty mirror!

    As per usual.. you did such a lovely job. =)


  12. Elle, I loved reading your write-up. Congrats on making such a gorgeous cake!

  13. Oh the lima beans. I had a hard time getting things to cool on my cake too. I love your idea of putting the strawberries around the outside.

  14. I was scrolling down and I thought my eyes were deceiving me when I say the lima beans! You're a smart cookie! Your cake turned out really nice.

  15. I agree that this cake is challanging to make.. But the result is lovely, right? :)

    Oh, I love the strawberry border you created. very cute!

  16. Anonymous3:57 PM


    You did a great job and I love the ring of strawberries around your cake. For a minute there when I saw the picture I thought you put lima beans in your cake!!!

  17. Nice cake, and great write up!
    Btw, for the ice bath portion,I always line a bowl with refreezable ice packs that I keep in my freezer for lunches. I have some that are gel like so they mold to the bottom of the bowl and make a perfect, reusable ice bath!

  18. Anonymous6:28 PM

    glad you enjoyed your cake! looks great--i really like the strawberry slices lining the side.

  19. you did a GORGEOUS job! I love it!

  20. I hope you get to try it with raspberries, it takes it to a whole new level. Beautiful job Elle!

  21. Well done Elle, your cake looks great, and your mirror is just perfect, smooth and reflective :)

  22. It looks beautiful. Love the step by step pics and writing too.

  23. Your cake is beautiful. Great idea using frozen veg. Why didn't I think of that? I relied on the fact that it was 2C outside to send freezing water through the tap.

  24. Elle, it looks gorgeous! How nicely done!

  25. Anonymous6:28 AM

    Seeing this cake around the food blogosphere today makes me really just how daring you gals really are!

    Ari (Baking and Books)

  26. Reading all of the Strawberry Mirror Cake posts has served as a crash course in baking organization for me! I hope I remember all of the tips for how to juggle multiple baking tasks. Your cake, with its sliced strawberry border, is a beauty! :-)

  27. Hilda, it was fun revisiting sponge cake and learning.

    Breadchick, thanks!...your is beautiful, too.

    Deborah, we Daring Bakers get creative, don't we?

    Andrea, Thanks! That cream took it's sweet time though.

    Cheryl, It was inspiration because guests were coming. Otherwise I probably would have left the sides plain.

    Sara, Thanks. Love those strawbs.

    Veron, Loved yours, too. The learning can be hilarious, too.

    Peabody, Next time I'll try it with the limas in the cake...NOT. But it got your attention, right?You did great in picking this recipe!

    Meeta, Pure desperation looks like genius now. Thanks!

    Connie, That's why DBs rock...we help each other. Thanks for you kind words.

    Lis,Thanks! Your approval means a lot to me.

    Anita, Thanks! I had fun with the write-up.

    Heather, Yeah, now I'll be known as lima beaner among the DBs. Hee.

    Mary, It was a me too. Your cake btw, is gorgeous.

    Ahn, Will do the border again in raspberries :)

  28. Ivonne, Yesh, it was an eye opener to see that pink lovliness surrounded by floating limas. Thanks for you kind words.

  29. You did a great job...well done!

  30. Love how you used lima beans - Daring Baker ingenuity. :) Your mirror is stunning! It's so clear and smooth! It's really gorgeous!

  31. I love your ingenuity... coffee filters to replace cheesecloth and lima beans to replace ice cubes. And your transparent mirror is absolutely *gorgeous*.

  32. Lol gotta love those lima beans :-)

    Looks fab, great lines.

  33. Anonymous12:31 PM

    OmG.... I love that you put up the step by step pictures! I just wish they had something like this when I was making.... I hate not being able to know what stuff is supposed to look like! Beautiful from beginning to end!


  34. I would never have guessed you were a mirror cake novice, Elle. It looks like you make this thing every week! I love the strawberry decoration around your cake.

  35. Wow, that's impressive! And daring, living up to the Daring Bakers name. And it's the best possible use for lima beans I can think of!!

  36. Your cake is beautiful and your the mirror is just perfect!

  37. I did the gelatin in the freezer trick too. I used all my ice for the bavarian cream and was desperate. It worked fine. I love how clear your mirror is!!

  38. What a lovely cake! And I like your writeup too! The strawberries on the side make it look extra good too. Great Job Elle!

  39. Awesome perfection. Congratulations, Elle.

  40. Quellia,That is a super idea for the ice baths! Thanks...I'll use that next time.

    Steph, Thanks...desperation inspiration this time.

    Thanks Holly,

    Helen,Raspberries sound really good, don't they?

    Kelly-Jane,Thanks for noticing the mirror...not sure how it worked out so well.

    Amanda,You are too kind.

    KJ, Wish it had been 2C here...we were pretty hot that day.

    Thanks Patricia,

    Belinda, The juggling gets easier with practice. Thanks for your kind words.

  41. Thanks Sunita,

    Amy, Yea for DB ingenuity! The mirror turned out better than I thought it would. Must have been using the fingers to stir 'til cool, right?

    Dolores, Glad I didn't get dinged for the coffee filters :)

    Thanks Nazca, Hoo-ha for the limas!

    Linda, You are sweet! Step by step photos would help, wouldn't it? Have to ask Lis and Ivonne if we can do that on the DB blog.

    Inne, I'm a novice on lots of things which is one reason I love the Daring Bakers...pushes me to try stuff.

    Beth, I agree completely on the lima use...heehee.

    Thanks Anne, the recipe helped.

    Jenny,Yeah, not enough ice will drive you to the freezer or drink :)

    Thank you, Dharm, yours was great, too.

    Cynthia, thanks for you kind words. Loved yours as well.

  42. Anonymous5:23 PM

    Every time I see this cake on a blog my mouth starts watering, I really want to try some strawberry Bavarian cream!

    Ari (Baking and Books)

  43. Hey Elle! Great minds think alike with the great step by step pictures! Wonderful decorations!

  44. I'm so impressed with your mirror! Wonderfully done!

  45. Anonymous7:46 PM

    I love seeing everyones creations this month. You did a lovely job.

  46. Ari, Just make the Bavarian with a little less gelatin and enjoy!

    Jenndz, Ha! I's true. Yours was peas, right?

    Brilynn, Thanks. I love that you made 'lemonade' from 'lemons' with your ice cream. Creative!

    Kristen, Yes, the DBs did well this month. Glad to 'see' you.

  47. Anonymous5:54 AM

    What a great blog I came across!!!
    everything look perfect I want to try your biscuits soon.
    Here's my blog if you like Moroccan food:)