Saturday, March 13, 2010

Happy Birthday Mummy!: Strawberry Cake

After the failed attempt last week, I was determined to try again this week, to the horror of my mum and sister. They dreaded any cake-making attempts from me as they will be asked to eat the cake, regardless whether it was a success or not. But with a researcher's mindset, if you don't try, you will never know where the problem lies.

The sponge cake rose twice as high as last week's. This time round, I made sure the eggs were not cold, I beat it for 5 minutes, until the batter was quite stiff. I could write the figure 8 on the batter without it disappearing for a few seconds. Did I overbeat it? Anyway, I quickly folded in the flour and butter, trying my best not to deflate the batter. But inevitably, the batter still got deflated by a certain amount. But at least this time round it filled about 60% of the cake pan. I baked it for 30 minutes but it seems a little wet in the centre. I increased baking time for another 2 minutes before removing the cake pan and unmolding it. During the cooling process, the cake deflated by a little, but at least it was still soft and light.

Next up was the whipping cream. It was another disaster. I do not have much experience with whipping cream, thinking that it will be okay to use a hand-held electric mixer to whip it till stiff. I was totally wrong. I managed to get it to soft peaks, but it turned into butter before I managed to see the stiff peak stage. So I wasted one carton of whipped cream. I had to go to the mart to get another carton. This time round, I placed the bowl in ice bath and only used the electric mixer to whip till soft peaks. After that I used the manual whisk. After whisking for a minute or two, the stiff peaks appeared. But I still suspect I may have over whipped it as the cream became grainy while I was frosting the cake. Maybe I should just get non-diary whipping cream next time.

I never knew it was *that* hard to frost a cake. As we are not fans of whipping cream (plus the amount of fat content), I tried to use as little cream as possible. But that was not easy as the cake crumbs will start to mix with the cream. And the more I tried to smooth the cream, the more the cream became butter-like. In my hasty assembly, I managed to put the second layer of cake lop-sided ala Leaning Tower of Piza, which maked it even more difficult to frost. As usual my decorating skills were not fantastic. There were so many gaps between the strawberry pieces, I decided to chop up some chocolate to cover it and add colours to the cake.
Not too bad for a second attempt I guess. I will try again when I have another chance. The taste was better than I expected. I'm glad to get positive feedback from my mum and grandma. But my sister says the cake is not as soft and fluffy as those bought outside, and it's a tad too sweet. Oh well, I will try again, if anyone wants to eat, that is.

Lessons Learnt: Try to heat the egg mixture for a bit before beating. Perhaps that could increase the volume of the cake. Try not to whip cream for too long, or perhaps just get non-diary cream. Cool the cream in the fridge before and after whipping. Assemble the cake properly before frosting.

After this successful attempt, I shall reveal the source of the recipe. I got this strawberry cake recipe from Happy Home Baking blog. This is my favourite baking blog because the pictures are beautiful and the cakes all look so good! And most importantly, the recipes are very detailed and very informative.

Ingredients (makes one 18cm sponge cake):
Sponge layer:
100g cake flour
3 eggs, room temperature
90g caster sugar
20g unsalted butter, melted
2 tablespoons fresh milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 pack of strawberries (about 250g)
200ml whipping cream
1 tablespoons caster sugar
2 tablespoons hot boiling water
Chopped chocolate for decoration (optional)

Sponge layer:
  1. Sift cake flour for 3 times, set aside. Line bottom and sides of an 18cm (7 inch) round pan with parchment paper, set aside. Pre-heat oven to 170degC. Position rack at the lower bottom of the oven.
  2. With an electric mixer, whisk eggs and sugar on HIGH speed for about 5 to 7 mins, until the batter turns pale, becomes thick, double/triple in volume and is ribbon-like (the beater should leave a ribbon-like trail when the batter is lifted up). Turn to LOW speed and whisk for another 1 to 2 mins. Whisking at low speed helps to stabilise the air bubbles in the batter.
  3. Sift over cake flour into the batter in 3 separate additions. With each addition, use a spatula, gently fold in the flour until well blended. Take care not to deflate the batter.
  4. Mix the melted butter, milk and vanilla extract in a bowl. Pour 1/3 of batter into the melted butter mixture and fold.
  5. Pour the butter and 1/3 batter mixture back into the batter and fold gently until well blended.
  6. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 30~35 mins, or until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean. Unmold and invert onto cooling rack, cool completely.
To Assemble:
  1. Dissolve caster sugar in hot boiling water, set aside to cool.
  2. Reserve 10 strawberries for decorating the cake. Slice remaining strawberries into thin slices.
  3. Slice sponge cake horizontally into 2 layers.
  4. Whisk cream with an electric mixer till stiff peak.
  5. Place bottom sponge layer cut-side up on a cake board or serving plate and brush the surface with the sugar syrup. Spread on some whipped cream and arrange the strawberry slices over the surface. Spread over with some whipped cream.
  6. Brush the cut-side of the top layer with the sugar syrup and place it over the bottom layer.
  7. Frost sides and top of cake with whipped cream. Decorate as desired and garnish with reserved strawberries and chopped chocolate.
Adapted from HHB's Japanese Strawberry Shortcake.

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