Daring Baker Challenge July 2011: Fraisier.

Jana of Cherry Tea Cakes was our July Daring Bakers’ host and she challenges us to make Fresh Frasiers inspired by recipes written by Elisabeth M. Prueitt and Chad Robertson in the beautiful cookbook Tartine.

I was excited for this challenge because I had a cause to share my dessert. If I'm honest, the Daring Baker Challenges are starting to wear on me if only because I don't know enough people to share them with. On occasions like last month's baklava, I had no trouble polishing up most of the dessert myself in a full week's time, but this month's choice of fraisier is not what I'd call a "good keeper". Depending on next month's challenge choice, I may put a declaration on my Facebook page for any Milwaukee area readers to come share the dessert, like a pie social for the 21st century. If that sounds right up your alley, keep an eye out!

I had never heard of a fraisier before. Essentially, it is sponge cake soaked with simple syrup, layered with fruit and a gelatinized pastry cream. It was supposed to be topped with a final layer of rolled almond paste, but I spread a thin layer of orange spiked whipped cream instead.

My whole flavor scheme this month was really inspired by the success of my strawberry guajillo jam. Just after making it earlier in the week, I made a thin sauce of strawberry, guajillo peppers, and a touch of cayenne powder. Then I flavored the other components along the way with little whispers of my orange liqueur. The finished dessert was light, and not at all too sweet, the perfect thing for a hot summer evening spent with friends.

The sauce wasn't a true simple syrup, but did sink into the layers pretty well and lent that little bit of heat that I was looking for. I also brought along a little bottle to use on top for those who wanted a little more strawberry heat. I think it would also be an excellent component to drinks, to drizzle on ice cream (basil ice cream perhaps?), to add to milk and stir - enjoying far more than you did as an 8-year-old pigtailed girl slurping slowly (quickly?) out of a Nesquik Rabbit cup...

Stawberry Guajillo Cayenne "Sauce"
  • 3/4 c. crushed strawberries
  • scant 3/4 c. raw sugar
  • 1 dried guajillo pepper, stemmed and finely chopped (I used the seeds as well)
  • 1/4 - 1/2 t. cayenne pepper powder (to taste)
Combine strawberries, sugar and guajillo pepper, and let sit at room temperature for 6-8 hours (I did this in a non-reactive pot seen above, then used the same pot to bring it up to a boil). Bring the mixture to a boil, let simmer one minute, then remove from heat. Transfer to a blender and blend until completely smooth. Pass it through a fine sieve, saving any pulp to use as jam. Add cayenne to taste.

unbaked, the batter reached the top of the tin...

When I first read over the recipes for the challenge, two things caught my eye straight away. The first were the implicit instruction that this dessert should be a free-standing cake and not a trifle. The second was that the pastry cream recipe had only a single egg.

The sponge cake, a true chiffon, was supposed to be baked in an ungreased 8 inch springform tin, which I dutifully did after confirming several times that it was an 8 inch pan. I figured if the cake stuck miserably and I would break instruction and just make a trifle since judging from the batter I could tell the cake was delicious. The chiffon cake needs no pan greasing because the batter needs to "climb" the sides. Once completely cool, a knife run between the cake and the sides of the pan breaks the seal, and the cake pops out. Even though the cake mushroomed out over the top of the pan, once cooled it did remove easily. I was quickly able to remove the domed top with a serrated knife.

(There was no height on the pan size, and since my pan was 2 1/2 inches high, I can only assume that the cake tin size should be taller or that the cake should be baked in a 9 inch tin and be slightly less high when finished. Next time I make this cake, I will either use a taller 8 inch springform, or maybe 2 8 inch cake pans and divide the batter. To make a quicker version, I'd also be unopposed to making it as a sheet pan cake.)

I used the metric weigh measurements, and frozen egg whites. I also found (probably due to the height of the cake) that my cake baked almost 20 minutes longer that the suggested baking time. I covered the top lightly with aluminum foil for the last 20 minutes so that the top didn't continue browning and it baked perfectly. Just make sure a long skewer inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. The only other addition I made to the recipe was to add the zest of one orange, and substitute 2 t. of orange liqueur for the vanilla extract.

Chiffon Cake (Elisabeth M. Prueitt and Chad Robertson, Tartine cookbook via The Daring Kitchen)
  • 1 cup + 2 tablespoons (270 ml) (5½ oz/155 gm) all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon (5 ml) (4 gm) baking powder
  • 3/4 cups (180 ml) (6 oz /170 gm) sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2½ ml) (1½ gm) salt, preferably kosher
  • 1/4 cup (2 fl oz/60 ml) vegetable oil
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • ⅓ cup + 1 tablespoon (3.17 fl oz/95 ml) water
  • 2 t. orange liqueur
  • zest of one orange, grated
  • 5 large egg whites
  • ¼ teaspoon (1¼ ml) (1 gm) cream of tartar
Preheat the oven to 325°F (160°C/gas mark 3). Line the bottom of an 8-inch (20 cm) spring form pan with parchment paper, and do not grease the sides of the pan.

In a large mixing bowl, stir together the flour and baking powder. Add in all but 3 tablespoons (45 ml.) of sugar, and all of the salt. Stir to combine.

In a small bowl combine the oil, egg yolks, water, vanilla and zest. Whisk thoroughly. Combine with the dry ingredients and mix thoroughly for about one minute, or until very smooth.

Put the egg whites into a stand mixer, and beat on medium speed using a whisk attachment on a medium speed, until frothy. Add cream of tartar and beat on a medium speed until the whites hold soft peaks. Slowly add the remaining sugar and beat on a medium-high speed until the whites hold firm and form shiny peaks. Using a grease free rubber spatula, scoop about ⅓ of the whites into the yolk mixture and fold in gently. Gently fold in the remaining whites just until combined.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 45 to 55 minutes or until toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Removed the cake from the oven and allow to cool in the pan on a wire rack.

To unmold, run a knife around the sides to loosen the cake from the pan and remove the spring form sides. Invert the cake and peel off the parchment paper. Refrigerate for up to four days.


My next battle was the pastry cream filling, which I made when the chiffon cake was cooling. I have never seen a recipe for a pastry cream that has a single whole egg in it. I suspect I didn't cook it long enough, and it never did set past the "slightly beaten whipped cream" stage. I saved it to make into ice cream, and made a second, more reliable batch of Dorie Greenspan's pastry cream which uses 6 egg yolks. (I froze the remaining egg whites, (6, plus the 3 from the earlier cake) and I'm well on my way to making an angel food cake!) Because I made Dorie's recipe for the pastry cream, I had to approximate the amount to mix with the gelatinized whipped cream to make the filling as written. I just eyeballed it, but it worked well and was fairly stable when assembled. You can find the pastry cream recipe on The Daring Kitchen website, but I made this version:

Dorie Greenspan's Pastry Cream (plus gelatinized whipped cream for Frasier Filling from Elisabeth M. Prueitt tand Chad Robertson, Tartine cookbook via The Daring Kitchen)

for the Pastry Cream:

  • 2 c. milk (Dorie says whole milk, I used 2 %)
  • 6 large egg yolks
  • 1/2 c. sugar
  • 1/3 c. cornstarch, sifted
  • 2 t. orange liqueur (originally 1 1/2 t. vanilla)
  • 3 1/2 T. unsalted butter at room temperature, cut into small pieces
Bring milk to a boil in a small saucepan.

Meanwhile in a heavy-bottomed saucepan, whisk egg yolks with sugar and cornstarch until thick, and lightened yellow in color. When still whisking, slowly add about 1/4 c. of the hot milk to temper. While continuing to whisk, add in the rest of the hot milk.

Put the pan over medium heat and whisk "constantly and thoroughly", bring the mixture to boiling. Boil for 1-2 minutes, whisking all the while, until thick. Remove the pan from heat.

Whisk in orange liqueur, and let cool for 4 minutes. Whisk in small bits of butter, stirring until they are fully incorporated and pastry cream is smooth.

Transfer to a clean, glass bowl and press a piece of plastic wrap on the surface to prevent a skin from forming. Transfer to the fridge until chilled. (Finished pastry cream will last 3 days.)

to make the Pastry Cream into Fraisier Filling:
(from the source listed above)
  • 3/4 teaspoon (3¾ ml) (4 gm) gelatin
  • 1/2 tablespoon (7½ ml) water
  • 1 cup (8 fl oz/250 ml) heavy cream
In a small dish, sprinkle the gelatin over the water and let stand for a few minutes to soften.

Put two inches (55 mm) of water into a small sauce pan and bring to a simmer over a medium heat.

Measure 1/4 cup (2 oz/60 ml) of the chilled pastry cream into a small stainless steel bowl that will sit across the sauce pan with the simmering water, without touching the water. Heat the pastry cream until it is 120 F (48.8 C). Add the gelatin and whisk until smooth.

Remove from the water bath, and whisk the remaining cold pastry cream in to incorporate in two batches (because I made another recipe for the pastry cream, I approximated the amount of pastry cream to use, about 2/3 of the whole recipe of Dorie's).

In a stand mixer, fitted with the whisk attachment (I used a hand mixer to blend the whipping cream since is was a small amount), whip the cream until it holds medium-stiff peaks. Immediately fold the whipped cream into the pastry cream with a rubber spatula. Refrigerate until fully chilled.

To Assemble:

Since the components can be made over the course of a day or two, the cake is actually easy to assemble, the sponge is a dream to cut hardly losing any crumbs at all. Line the sides, but not the bottom of the 8 inch springform pan with plastic wrap. The easiest way I found to do that was to fit the bottom on top of the wrap, then cut off the excess from underneath. I used tape to fix the bottom of the pan to a glass serving platter.

Place one half of the sponge into the bottom of the pan, and brush heavily with the syrup (sauce). Fit the strawberries decoratively around the sides of the pan. Help keep them in place by piping the pastry cream in around them, and then piping a thin layer of pastry cream across the bottom. Smooth, and fill with a layer of sliced strawberry and then top with the remaining pastry cream filling. (This should bring you to the top of the springform pan.) Top with the remaining sponge cake layer, and brush heavily with syrup (sauce). See pictures below.

Just before leaving with my cake, I whipped another half cup of heavy cream with just a tablespoon of confectioner's sugar and 2 t. more orange liqueur. I spread it across the top in a thin layer and garnished with a strawberry. I cut off additional plastic wrap from the top of the springform pan, so all I'd have to do to unmold it is open the springform and peel away the sides. Even though my layers were not perfectly even, the cake was neat in appearance and stayed together well. I refrigerated it as recommended, at least 4 hours before transporting it. It cut much easier than I expected, and the slices held their shape.

Even though my finished recipe wasn't quite as pretty as our host's, I was still happy with the result. It really is an elegant cake for Summer, which could be easily adapted to any fruit and liqueur combination. I look forward to having an excuse to make it again! Even though it seems a touch time consuming, the work can be split over a day or two and the finished cake assembly time is nominal - a half hour at best.

Thank you to Jana for an interesting challenge!

**Note to Self:

I did make the failed pastry cream and the leftover Dorie Greenspan pastry cream into strawberry ice cream. I blended the pastry creams with a cup of yogurt and 1/4 c. of leftover strawberry jam/syrup runover in a blender and got it nice and cold. It tasted exactly like frozen strawberry cheesecake, I think because the yogurt added a bit of a sour tang. I'd make it again, actually - and definitely won't be too sad if I ever have failed pastry cream again.