I went back to my usual pile of books this week and made a Fraisier from Edd Kimber’s Patisserie Made Simple. A fraisier is a strawberry cake. Strawberries and custard (called crème mousseline in this recipe) are sandwiched between two layers of genoise sponge with a layer of marzipan on the top. It sounded pretty complicated and, from the picture in the book, and those that came up when I Googled, it looked complicated too. Here’s what I ended up with.
I was pretty pleased with my effort. At least you can tell what it’s supposed to be. It did take me a whole day to make it though, and the birds ended up with one failed Genoise sponge.
I started with the crème mousseline. First, I put some vanilla bean paste and whole milk into a pan and heated it. I put it on quite a low heat, to give me time to mix eggs, extra egg yolks, sugar and cornflour into a smooth paste/batter before the milk boiled. I poured the hot milk over the top of the cornflour mixture and whisked for my life.
Perhaps the milk was too hot, or maybe my whisking was below par, but my custard turned lumpy. I kept going though and put it all back into the saucepan, put it back onto the heat and kept whisking until I had a thick custard. It was still a bit on the lumpy side, but it tasted OK. I put it into a clean bowl and mixed in some unsalted butter. According to the recipe, I was supposed to add booze here (kirsch to be exact). For the sake of the children I left it out. I covered the surface of the custard with a layer of clingfilm and left it to cool.
Next, I made the sponge. The recipe uses a 23cm cake tin and makes one sponge which is then cut in half. I prepared my tin, whisked eggs and sugar in the KitchenAid, and then folded in flour, cornflour and melted butter (which I’d carefully mixed with some of the cake mixture first). A Genoise sponge relies on the air you beat into it for its rise. I know that, and I thought I’d whisked enough (my mixture was pale and, when I lifted the whisk there was a slowly dissolving ribbon that sat on the surface as per the recipe).
It wasn’t even cooked. Out for the birds it went. Off to the corner shop I went (more eggs).
Genoise sponge – take two
My second attempt was better. I whisked for ages. At least ten minutes in the KitchenAid. This time, the mixture was much thicker. I decided to use a smaller tin. The 23cm tin was in the dishwasher and the recipe cuts the 23cm round into a 20cm round anyway. After 20 minutes in the oven at 160° fan I had a very well-risen and golden brown Genoise sponge.
While the sponge was cooling, I made lemon syrup by dissolving caster sugar in lemon juice and I finished off the custard by adding it slowly to more butter which I’d beaten in the KitchenAid. Oh, and, I almost forgot, I hulled and halved a punnet of strawberries.
To assemble the cake, I first cut the sponge into layers. There were supposed to be two, but my sponge was in the smaller tin and, if I cut it in half, the layers would be too thick. I cut three layers and used one as an early taste test. Not bad.
I put one layer back into a cake tin and lined the sides with acetate. I’m not sure whether you can buy acetate especially for baking, but I used one of those clear plastic folders you use for filing the bank statements you got before paperless billing.
I brushed the cake with the lemon syrup and stood halved strawberries around the edge with the cut side facing out. Next, I filled a disposable piping bag (i.e. a freezer bag) with the crème mousseline and got into a complete mess as it squirted everywhere. I will buy some proper disposable piping bags for the next thing I make that requires piping. I always say that, and then the memory of the horror that is piping fades and I convince myself that a freezer bag will be fine. No. It will not be fine. Just get some disposable piping bags for God’s sake.
I did manage to get some custard into the middle of the cake before giving up on the bag. Spooning it in and leveling it off with a knife seemed to produce much the same effect as my piping. I put a layer of chopped strawberries onto the custard and spooned some more custard on top. I brushed the second layer of sponge with lemon syrup and pressed it, syrup-side down, onto the top of the cake. The cake went into the fridge and I started scraping the custard off the floor, the cupboard doors, the windows…
The cake stayed in the fridge for a couple of hours and, when I took the acetate off it, miraculously held its shape. I topped it with a circle of marzipan and a sprinkling of icing sugar. I was supposed to decorate it with strawberries, but I’d used all the good ones in the punnet to make the sides of the cake. The rest were too mushy despite being within the sell-by date. Shame on you Sainsbury’s.
Here’s the final fraisier
Was it worth it?
It was good. Syrup-soaked sponge, all of the decent strawberries in the punnet, and a delicious vanilla custard, lumps and all. Definitely worth a day in the kitchen.