Monday, May 7, 2012

Strawberries And Cream "Anime" cake.

Summers in Madras lie in the spectrum that ranges between Harsh and Brutal. Right now, I'd say that the pointer was teetering at the Cruel gradation. In cooking terms, an evening out on Purasaiwalkam High Road is the equivalent of getting confited in your fat. Gross, but not entirely untrue.

Your hoarded chocolate melt into puddles that stubbornly cling to the foil; please do not suggest refrigeration, I'd never do that to chocolate. Nutella bottles lie untouched. Yogurt and watermelon and Air-Conditioning seem (and are) heaven-sent. It's a little unnatural.

So when I had to make a cake for the brother to be, I didn't even consider the Caramel Peanut Brownie Cake I made him last year. Not only do I frown on repetition, but the heat wouldn't permit more than a forkful. Unless you shovel heaps of Vanilla Bean Ice Cream into the salty caramel. Mmm. There's an idea.

Designing the cake around a person's favourite memory, malt-drink and tastes is the best part about making a birthday cake, in itself. BTB wrote a couple of poetic verses on White Forest Cake, and I knew my options.

Harassed the fruit vendor for two boxes of his best strawberries (last of the season! Depressing.) at 10 percent off.

Bought a couple of vanilla beans from Spice Route (at Express Avenue). They cost up to 150 bucks, but you can stash the deseeded beans in a canister of sugar and Reuse/Recycle.

Strawberries and Cream cake, Strawberry Cake with Cheesecake Frosting, Strawberry Shortcake (Misnomer alert!). Call it any thing you want and get away with it.

You get away with a lot of things when you layer stunningly-vanilla scented sponge cake with a coulis of ripe, red strawberries and the lightest, fluffiest whipped cream. You can even drizzle a little while chocolate ganache over the strawberries, to fancypants it up a little bit. Even if you have an intense revulsion (Mum would knock me on the head if I used that word for food) dislike for "white chocolate". You do it, because your nerdface Brother-to-be likes it.

I'm ready for that Best Sister award any time soon. And I can be paid in Nutella. Once this heatwave/kathiri goes from scorching to muggy.

The sponge cake is your classic sponge: the type with no butter in it, the fluffiness achieved by whipping the egg whites into a frenzy. I folded in 1/3 cup of melted butter towards the end, because I panic in a world where there's no fat in a birthday cake.

The frosting can be made without cream cheese. Whipping cream with sugar is an excellent substitute. However, I wanted a stiff, Japanese-style frosting (the ones stabilised with gelatin) without mucking around with melted gelatin. Read the ingredients list completely before you start shopping... the same things will pop up annoyingly!

Strawberries and Cream "Anime" Cake:

(Sponge cake recipe adapted from Williams Sonoma Magazine)

For the Sponge Cake:

1 ¼ Cups All-Purpose Flour (maida)
2 ½ tsp Baking Powder
1/8 tsp Salt
5 Large Eggs, separated
1 ¼ Cups White Granulated Sugar
5 Tbsp Boiling Water
1 ½ tsp Vanilla Extract
Pods from 1/2 a vanilla bean (optional)
Grated zest of 2 Lemons
1/3 cup melted butter (optional)

For the coulis:

2 cups strawberries, hulled and halved
2 tsps lemon juice/balsamic vinegar/rosewater
5-6 tbsps white granulated sugar

For the frosting:

1 ½ cups fresh cream (whipping cream)
60 grams cream cheese, softened.
1/2 cup powdered sugar, more as required.
1 tsp vanilla essence or pods from 1/2 a vanilla bean

For the ganache:

1/3 cup white chocolate, chopped
2 tbsps fresh cream

10 extra strawberries, for decorating.


For the Sponge Cake:

Preheat the oven to 350 F/180 C. Grease and flour a 9" round pan.

In a bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Keep aside.

In another big bowl, whip together the egg yolks and sugar on Medium Speed until thick yellow ribbons form when you lift the beater. The mixture will be grainy.

Pour in the boiling water. Turn off the mixer and scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl. Increase the speed to high and whip again until thick. Stir in the vanilla extract/pods and lemon zest. Fold in the flour mixture until just combined.

In a separate, CLEAN, DRY BOWL, whip together the egg whites on Medium-High, with CLEAN, DRY beaters. Whip until thick, but not entirely dry.

Fold in half the egg whites into the batter, then the other. Do NOT overfold. You can now stir in 1/3 cup of melted butter, if using.

Gently spread the batter in the prepared pan. Bake until a wooden skewer inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, about 30 minutes. Let the cake cool in the pan for 10 minutes.

Turn it out onto a wire rack, and let it cool for a couple of hours (throw in the freezer for 20 minutes if pressed for time). Take it out and cut into two layers, horizontally, using a serrated knife or thread. You can attempt more layers, but I didn't want to risk it.

For the coulis.

Marinate the strawberries in the lemon juice and sugar for around one hour. Blitz half the strawberries in a mixie/food processor. Heat the pureed strawberries and juice over low heat for 5 minutes until you get a nice syrup.

Reserve the remaining marinated strawberries.

For the cream:

Beat the whipping cream until soft peaks form. Make sure the cream is cold when you beat it. Keep aside.

Beat the cream cheese (at room temperature) until it forms soft peaks. Add in the sugar and beat until incorporated. Beat in the whipping cream and vanilla until combined. Taste to see if you require more sugar.
Keep in the refrigerator until use.

For the white chocolate ganache:

Melt together the fresh cream and white chocolate in a microwave safe bowl until smooth. Set aside to cool.

Assembling the cake:

On one layer of the sliced cake, spread the strawberry coulis. The reserved whole macerated strawberries should be arranged along the circumference/perimetre of the cake.

Spoon over half the whipped frosting on the cake.

Make sure some of it overflows, so it looks appetizing from the outside.

Close with the other layer of cake. Spoon over the remaining frosting. Decorate with the ten strawberry halves.

You can do some piping with the ganache that you've made, but this is strongly optional.

Refrigerate assembled cake for up to 4 hours. Take the chilled cake and place it out for around 20 minutes before serving, so it's all moist. If you live in a hot/humid/cruel/harsh/brutal place, three minutes should do the job.

Enough cribbing. You now have an Anime Cake, named wistfully after the type of pastry that keeps on coming up on various manga. You can practically hear the "tih-din-tih-din" Animax break-tune. Ultra Maniac is probably on next. School vacations were just about the only tolerable thing about Summer. Apart from Mangoes. Sigh.