Tuesday, January 20, 2009

TWD: Berry Surprise Cake

Welcome to this week's installment of "Tuesdays with Dorie" -- the Berry Surprise Cake from pages 273-275 of "Baking: from My Home to Yours," chosen by Mary Ann of Meet Me in the Kitchen.

Despite some problems, this was dangerously delicious and quite impressive looking! For the recipe, please visit Mary Ann's blog.


As written, Dorie's recipe calls for you to bake a French sponge cake or genoise in an 8-by-3-inch round pan. Then you slice off the top, hollow out the inside, and sprinkle with syrup. Fill the inside with a cream cheese & whipped cream filling, layered with fresh berries. Put the top back on and frost with billows of whipped cream, then decorate with berries. Wow! Two of my favorite foods, berries and cream!

Since fresh berries are not in season here in Wisconsin, and I don't care for the expensive and mostly tasteless ones you can still buy in the store, I decided to go with frozen berries. I had a bag of frozen home-grown wild black raspberries, so I scooped out about 2 cups and made a fruit compote. At some point I realized that some blueberries had snuck into that bag too -- probably I dumped the leftovers from a bag of store-bought frozen ones in at some point and forgot about it. (Moral of story -- label your freezer bags! I'm getting better at that, I really am...)

At any rate, I added in a few tablespoons of raspberry jelly (all that was left at the bottom of the jar), about 1/4 cup of frozen red raspberry puree (also home-grown, from one of my neighbors), and some sugar. After the berries thawed, the mixture seemed a bit watery, so I drained off the liquid, thickened it with about 1/2 teaspoon of Sure-Jell no-sugar-needed pectin, and mixed it back into the berries. Voila! A lovely berry compote.

Next came the cake, and that was where the trouble began. I have never made a genoise before, though I've read about them in cookbooks and on blogs. I was really psyched to try one! The plan was to make a whole recipe of the batter, and divide it between two smaller 6-inch round springform pans. That way I'd have an extra cake to play around with. (By the way, if you want to know how big a pan you should use for half a recipe, multiply the original pan size by 0.707 -- the square root of one-half. If you want to bake a quarter of the recipe, multiply the pan size by 1/2 -- the square root of 1/4.)

For a genoise, you start by beating whole eggs and sugar together. I wondered if I should reduce the sugar, but was worried it would affect the cake badly. However, I consulted another recipe, Rose Levy Beranbaum's "Classic Genoise." (You can find a link to the recipe on this page - look for French Genoise.) Rose's recipe uses the same amount of eggs and about the same amount of flour/starch, but only 1/2 cup of sugar -- so I went with that. I took another idea from Rose's recipe and used clarified, lightly browned butter. Then I warmed up my eggs and beat the h*** out of them! The whole process must have taken about 15 minutes using my hand-held power mixer -- with a couple of trips back to the hot water bath to warm up the eggs again. They were lovely! I wish I'd taken a picture. Pale golden, densely foamy, almost at the "soft peak" stage. They didn't form a ribbon when I raised the one whisk beater -- more of a thick column of egg foam that slowly, slowly poured back into the bowl and formed a little mound before subsiding. I think I got that part right.

I took another hint from Rose and took out some of the egg foam to mix with the melted butter. Good thing I had the hot water bath still around, because the butter had solidified. (We're keeping the heat down, and I still hate to think of the utility bill...) Now it was time to sift the half the flour on top, add the butter, and then sift the other half on top, folding in as you go. Here's where I blew it. I kept spotting streaks and lumps of flour in the batter, and so I kept folding. I was concentrating so hard on those bits of flour -- and then suddenly I paid attention to the batter again and saw that it had deflated dramatically. Oh, %@!*!^%*!

"Well, we'll see what happens," I said, poured the batter into the two pans, and baked it. They rose a bit but were still pretty flat and sad, as you can see below.


So I changed my plans a bit. I trimmed off the rounded tops of the cakes, and also the thin crusts on the bottom. I made a whole recipe of syrup and brushed nearly all of it onto the two cake layers. The trimmings tasted pretty good! Dense, yes. A bit dry, but that's what the syrup is for. But there was a nice nutty/buttery taste from the browned butter. Hm, this might work.


Oh, here's the liqueur I used for the syrup. Good stuff!


Then I made just half of the recipe for the filling, since I was using a smaller pan. Some folks had mentioned on the "Problems & Questions" forum that they thought the filling was a bit tart, so I doubled the sugar. Since my cake now wasn't going to have any sides to hold the filling in place, I also dissolved 1/2 teaspoon of unflavored gelatin in the last couple of tablespoons of syrup and added that. Oh, and I used Neufchatel instead of cream cheese -- it has a bit less fat.

Then I lined the sides of the original pan with some lightly greased wax paper and started layering in the components -- syruped cake, filling, some fruit compote (I had a bit left over), the rest of the filling, a top layer of syruped cake. The cake chilled for about an hour. Here's what it looked like after it came out of the pan.


Then I whipped up 2/3 of a cup of heavy cream with some vanilla-flavored powdered sugar, 1/2 teaspoon of unflavored gelatin dissolved in 1 Tablespoon of water, and another 1 1/2 teaspoons of liqueur. The compote kind of bled into the whipped cream as I put it on the sides, but I decided to just pretend it was supposed to be that way. And it did look pretty! Then came the fun part -- I pulled out the cake decorating kit I'd recently purchased and used the decorating comb and a couple of decorating tips to "fancy up" the cake. This was my very first time with decorating, so it was a little rough -- but all the same, it was absolutely amazing how much fancier the cake looked!


And it tasted really great, too! OK, the cake was still a little dense, but everything else was fabulous! So my story has a happy ending. And by the time fresh berries are in season, I hope to have figured out how to make genoise. Maybe.

25 comments:

vibi said...

Very pretty, Barbara!
I love how the raspberries mixed with the cream on the sides... gives it a nice whimsical look!
Beautiful!

Danielle said...

Great job. Good idea in stead of hollowing out the cake make two and make a sandwhich!

Flourchild said...

I think your cake looks delicious. I had problems with my cake rising too. You did a great job!

Karen said...

Beautiful and daring! I am so not a risk taker when it comes to baking I am glad to see there are others that are! Looks delicious!

leanne said...

That story has an awesome ending. Beautiful!

Sabrina said...

Beautiful job! Glad it worked well for you!

karen said...

glad to see it all worked out. i loved this cake even with the sinking issues. yours looks really good. :)

pinkstripes said...

Your cake looks gorgeous. I love the way you decorated it. I'm glad it worked for you!

The Mortensens said...

Your cake looks so pretty! I like the adjustments you made. I should have done it that way!

chocolatechic said...

Gorgeous looking cake.

I should have made 2.

Gabe's Girl said...

What a great job. Seriously, I want to jump through the screen and taste yours! Wonderful.

myfamousrecipe said...

Your cake looks terrific. It's making me wish I'd gone all out on this one, instead of improvising an easier shortcut. I'll have to try it another time. Thanks for posting all the photos!

Jessica said...

Your cake looks insanely good -- and delicious! I wish I'd used frozen berries because I think that they'd have better flavor than the fresh berries that I used.

Jules Someone said...

Nice job! I didn't even attempt it this week.

Engineer Baker said...

I like your tweaks - I'm a sucker for browned butter and fruit compotes. Beautiful job!

Fit Chick said...

Great save on the cake! Looks delicious; I liked the idea but did not care for the cake.

Cooking for Comfort by Jennifer said...

You did a STUNNING job! Your cake looks so tasty! I'm jealous!!!!

Di said...

That looks wonderful! I love reading about your process and what worked and what didn't. And nice job with your decorating. =)

natalia said...

Well Barbara you really did a great job in spite of everything !! Beautiful ! Ciao !

dharmagirl said...

oh, barbara! that fruit looks and sounds so scrumptious, the perfect bite of summer these long days.

congrats on your first genoise:)

LyB said...

It looks so good! I wish I could have a slice of it right now!

Jess said...

Your cake looks amazing! Those homegrown (or in my case, local pick-your-own farm) frozen berries are always better than the blah imported ones at this time of year. Now I've got to try this one again - this time with filling/topping.

AmyRuth said...

Wow, I'll bet yours was really delicious with all that fruit goodness. You'll probably be glad you made a compote. Way more moisture for your suprise in the middle. Great job adapting the recipe to your liking and "on hand" ingredients.
AmyRuth

The Shulls said...

Oh Barbara... you got me drooling at the pictures of your cake!!!!! I can't wait to do the challenges again. I miss baking... hopefully we'll have some news next week from the Insurance Co.

Great job!!!!!!

Mohana

Jacque said...

Mmm, it sounds wonderful!

And congrats on your new decorating skills. Looks like you're off to a good start :)