Jana of Cherry Tea Cakes was our July Daring Bakers’ host and she challenges us to make Fresh Fraisiers inspired by recipes written by Elisabeth M. Prueitt and Chad Robertson in the beautiful cookbook, Tartine. According to Béa over at La Tartine Gourmande, Le fraisier is a classic French cake made with a basic sponge cake, which is then sliced in two halves, and brushed with kirsch liqueur. The cake is traditionally filled with butter cream and fresh strawberries, and topped with red almond paste or Italian meringue.
Jana’s version was slightly different, yielding cups of sweet pastry cream for the filling and a simple syrup in lieu of the liqueur. And then I added sweet Oregon marionberries bursting fresh from the market, and opted out of the almond paste, dusting instead with a light pass of sugar.
In French, fraisier literally means a strawberry plant. And what better time of year to celebrate strawberry plants than in this month when, after an especially cool spring, strawberries are still in season, and oh so deliciously wonderful, eaten fresh from the fields.
Last year in July, I actually was in the strawberries fields–or tunnels really, as I worked on a strawberry farm in Ireland, where most strawberries are grown under cover to protect them from the characteristically cool days and summer rain showers. I worked as an intern, hoping to learn more about horticultural practices using greenhouses and tunnels.
Back home, this year my strawberry garden encompasses a large pot on our third-story balcony. But my, how wonderful are little pot of berries tasted. (We did eat them all, in fact, and are waiting for the second round of berries to be here again shortly).
So I headed to the market downtown where every kind of berry seems to be available this month. And because marionberries, those sweet concoctions developed in the next county over, mean summer in a very special way, I just had to add them in to this wonderful challenge. As we walked downtown, we saw people everywhere, standing around with their berry pints in hand, eating with greedy relish. I am willing to bet most of the berries that were bought did not make it home before they were gone! But that, like this wonderful Fraisier, is summer at it’s finest.
- Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.
- Line the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan with parchment paper.
- In a mixing bowl, stir together the flour and baking powder. Add in all but 3 Tbs. of sugar and all of salt. Stir to combine.
- In a small bowl, combine the oil, egg yolks, water, vanilla, and lemon zest. Whisk thoroughly and combine with the dry ingredients.
- Put the egg whites in a clean bowl and with a stand or hand mixer, beat on medium speed until frothy. Add cream of tartar and beat on medium-high until the the egg whites hold soft peaks. Slowly add the remaining 3 Tbs. sugar and beat until the whites form firm, shiny peaks.
- Using a clean rubber spatula, scoop about 1/3 of the whites into the yolk mixture and fold in gently. Gently follow the same procedure for the remaining of the whites, until the mixture is just combined.
- Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for about 50 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.
- Remove the cake from the oven and allow to cool in the pan on a wire rack.
- To unmold, run a knife around the sides and loosen the cake from the pan and remove the sides. Invert the cake and peel off the parchment paper.
- Combine the eggs, yolks, and 1/2 cup sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat on medium-high speed until the mixture is pale yellow and thick, about 5 minutes. Turn off the machine. Sift in the cornstarch; beat on medium-low speed until combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula.
- Prepare an ice-water bath; set aside. Combine the milk, the remaining 1/4 cup of sugar, and the vanilla. Bring to a boil. Remove from the heat, and whisking constantly, pour half of the hot milk mixture into the egg mixture. Whisk until smooth. Pour the mixture back into the saucepan with the remaining hot milk. Set over medium heat, and whisk until the mixture reaches the consistency of pudding, 2 to 3 minutes.
- Transfer the mixture to a large bowl. Add the butter one tablespoon at a time, stirring until melted and incorporated after each addition. Place the bowl over the ice bath, stirring occasionally, until chilled. Cover the surface of the pastry cream with plastic wrap to prevent a skin from forming; let chill overnight or at least 1 1/2 hours before using.
- Combine the water and sugar in a medium saucepan.
- Bring the mixture to a boil and let the sugar dissolve. Stirring is not necessary, but won’t harm the outcome.
- Remove from heat and cool slightly.
- If there is leftover syrup from recipe, transfer to a lidded container or jar and store in the fridge.
- Line the sides of your 9-inch springform pan with plastic wrap. Do not line the bottom of the pan. You will be putting your cooled and cut cake back into the same pan you baked it in.
- Cut the cake in half horizontally to form two layers.
- Fit the bottom layer into the prepared pan. Moisten the layer evenly with the simply syrup. When the cake has absorbed enough syrup to resemble a squishy sponge, you have enough.
- Hull and slice in half enough strawberries and marionberries to arrange around the sides of the pan. I interspersed marionberries and strawberries. Place the cut side of the berries against the sides of the pan, point side up forming a ring.
- Pipe cream in-between berries and a thin layer forming across the top of the take.
- Hull and quarter remaining strawberries and place them and marionberries in the middle of the cake. Cover the berries entirely with the remainder of the pastry cream. This cake should have a smooth top now to set the second layer on evenly.
- Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least four hours.
- To serve, release the sides of the pan and peel away the plastic wrap.
- Sprinkle with powdered sugar; you can use a doily to gain a design like the one above.