Monday, July 30, 2007

Mirror, Mirror on the Cake

Once upon a time, in a land far, far away there lived a group bakers. Now these bakers weren't just any ordinary bakers but they were Daring Bakers who leapt tall mountains of pastry cream with a single bound and slew evil crepes with their magic whisks and all was well in the land of Sugar and Butter.

I'd like to tell you that the rest of this tale will have a happily every after ending but this ain't no fairy tale because it is a monthly challenge of the Daring Bakers! And pray tell, what would a monthly Daring Baker challenge be without a few kitchen mishaps I ask??! This month's challenge was presented by the fabulous Peabody of Culinary Concoctions by Peabody; who apparently was on the same fairy tale wavelength as I this month when she wrote her post! She selected a summery sounding (and tasting) dessert called a Strawberry Mirror Cake.

When I first read the recipe for this cake, I thought to myself, "Piece of cake! I've done all these things (meaning the pastry cream, the cake, and aspic)". The only thing I hadn't done was put them all together. Basically, a mirror cake is an egg white based layer cake, slathered with pastry cream, and then topped with a fruit flavoured colored gelatin to create the mirror.

Making the cake was a piece of cake (he-he). The cake is baked in a jelly roll pan to make nice thinish layers. The batter came together well and baked nicely. My first problem came with cutting the cake out of the jelly roll pan. I had it in my head that the circles had to be 8" in diameter and the springform pan called out in the recipe was a 10" diameter pan. I also had it in my head that my springform pan was 9" in diameter. So, knowing the recipe called for a 10" springform pan and 8" cake meant you should have 1" of pastry cream between the pan and cake right? RIGHT??!! So, dufus-marlow here cuts her pattern for her cake circles to be 7" because 9" minus 7" equals 2", meaning 1" of pastry cream right? RIGHT??!! Um...I own a 10" springform pan. Who knew??!! The cake circles were nice though.... AND I didn't burn any sugar when I made the soaking syrup for the teeny-tiny cake rounds, making it the FIRST time in a Daring Baker Challenge I didn't have to throw away any sugar/water cooked mixture, burn my fingers, or scrub out a pan!!!

The pastry cream also came together pretty well even though I wasn't thinking straight at the grocery store when I got the milk. I grabbed 2% instead of whole milk so I had to stand for forty-five freakin' minutes stirring and stirring and stirring and stirring and stirring...well you get the picture. It took about twice as long for the pastry cream to thicken but it finally did and it was ever so lovely and tasty and yummy and scrumptious once the strawberry puree was added. I decided to go for "Girly Pink" for my pastry cream, so I was very light on the red food colouring. Plus, since I had decided that more pastry cream was better as a frosting when I cut out the cake rounds too small (eh-hum) I didn't want a dayglo red frosting. I was actually kind of worried there wouldn't be enough pastry cream to frost the cake (especially after having to "sample" it on a scrap of the cake left over from cutting out the circles...ok maybe there two or three samples...but who's counting??) But, by the hair of my chinny chin chin, I got the two layers frosted and deposited in the fridge for its overnight sitting...and THEN read Tanna's of My Kitchen in Half Cups advice to make sure the pastry cream was absolutely even on top or a lopsided mirror would result. WHAT!!! The recipe didn't say anything about that!! I had gotten all fancy with swirlies on top.

I dashed for the fridge in hopes to smooth out my top but it was too late, the pastry cream had set and all I managed to do was mangle the top...

Perfect, I'm going to be lopsided... Oh well, the pastry cream was still delicious.

The next morning, I made the mirror part of the cake by combining strawberry juice with unflavoured gelatin, oh bother...go read the recipe over at Peabody's. Anyways, it was easy-peasy and set up really nice. Loosely covering the cake, I put it in the fridge to finish. A few hours later, I decided to check on the cake and to my horror I found that my loose covering had deflated itself onto the gelatin mirror! I had a smuged and splotched mirror!!!

Oh the humanity of it all... I quickly wondered if this meant seven years of bad baking but after throwing some salt over my left shoulder, removing all ladders from the house, I felt pretty sure I would be ok. Notice the really crappy smoothing of the pastry cream poking up through the mirror? Nice huh?

I took the cake to Connecticut to share with my landlady and her family. I must say that despite the heat of the summer the cake traveled very, very well! It arrived in good shape, and after letting it cool a bit, I unmolded it. Yup, Tanna was right, lopsided.

But look at all that pastry cream! Have I mentioned how good that pastry cream was?

And how did it taste you ask? Did the mirror reflect darkly you inquire? Well look for yourself, do you see a reflection?

Yup, it reflected. It shimmered. It wiggled when I flopped the slice over onto its side. And notice how much pastry cream is all over those pieces of cake!!! Oh yum...

Now go check out all the other wonderfully summery Strawberry Mirror Cakes my fellow sisters and brothers have made! You can find links to all their blogs at the new official home of the Daring Bakers.

Did I mention the pastry cream was yummy??....