Great British Bake Off Challenge: Fraisier Cake

This is how I spent my Sunday. Constructing the fanciest cake I've made in some time. There are some days when I feel as though I might be just a little bit addicted to baking. I'd happily bake all day everyday and just hand cakes out to people in street if I could but sadly I doubt it's a hugely profitable career. This weekend has been one full of baking for upcoming posts so I think anyone visiting the second floor kitchen at work tomorrow will be pretty happy. 

In my past bake off challenge posts I have (unconsciously) gone for the showstopper challenges in the show but this week I really wanted to try the fraisier cake from the technical challenge. I honestly didn't find it too difficult. It does require some skill but it's more time you need to dedicate to it than anything. I had never made a genoese sponge before today, I would have liked it to rise more but I'm pleased with my first attempt.

The most enjoyable part of making this cake is putting it all together. It shows how exciting my Sunday is when I get a thrill from all the strawberries fitting perfectly together round the cake. 

The French know how to make a cake don't they? I love patisserie. It's just taking dessert to a higher level. Shame Le Cordon Bleu is so darn expensive or I'd be building gateaux's and croc en bouche's every week.

The little chocolate decorations were really easy to make. When we visited The Cake and Bake Show last month we were given a free sample of Silver Spoon's Easy Melt Dark Chocolate. You just place the sachet in hot water for 7 minutes and cut the corner off the sachet. You can also use it for cake covering as well. I just made patterns on parchment paper and let the chocolate set again. Obviously you can regular dark chocolate as well. 

The original recipe called for a tablespoon of kirsch in the crème pâtissière however I didn't have any to hand and decided not to buy a whole bottle of kirsch for one tablespoon. The crème pât came out great though. Also, don't be put off by all the stages laid out below, a good read of the instructions and hot pot of coffee is all you need to make it to the end.

Fraisier Cake
(Recipe by Mary Berry)

For the geneose sponge
125g caster sugar
4 eggs
2 lemons, zest only, finely grated
125g self-raising flour, plus extra for flouring the tin
50g unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly, plus extra for
greasing the tin

For the crème pâtissière
600ml oz milk
vanilla pod
4 eggs, plus 2 egg yolks
180g caster sugar
100g cornflour
150g butter, cut into cubes and kept at room temperature

For the lemon syrup
75g caster sugar
2 lemons, juice only

To finish the cake
200g marzipan
200g dark chocolate, for decoration
500-600g medium sized strawberries
  1. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4.
  2. Grease, flour and line the base of a 23cm/9in spring-form or round loose bottom cake tin.
  3. Place the sugar, eggs and lemon zest in a large bowl set over a pan of simmering water.
  4. Using an electric hand whisk, whisk the mixture over a medium heat until doubled in volume and pale in colour. The mixture is at the right stage when it forms a ribbon trail when the whisk is lifted out of the mixture. It took about 8 minutes of whisking for me to get to this stage. Remove from the heat.
  5. Sift in two-thirds of the flour and gently fold into the whisked mixture with a metal spoon or spatula. Add the remaining flour and fold again. Try to keep in as much of the air as possible. Make sure all the flour is incorporated into the mixture.
  6. Gently fold in the melted butter.
  7. Pour the mixture into the cake tin and bake for 25-30 minutes or until the sides of the cake begin to come away from the tin and it is pale golden-brown.
  8. When cooked, allow the sponge to cool a little bit in the tin, then turn out onto a cooling rack. Be careful as this sponge is quite delicate. It should be just under 5cm/2in in height.

To make the crème pâtissière:
  1. pour the milk into a wide based pan, split the vanilla pod along its length using a sharp knife, and add it to the milk along with the vanilla seeds. Bring the milk up to the boil, then take it off the heat.
  2. Whisk together the eggs, sugar and cornflour in a medium sized bowl until blended.
  3. Remove the vanilla pod from the milk and pour the hot milk through a sieve into the egg mixture. Whisk to combine.
  4. Pour the custard back into a clean saucepan and set over a medium heat.
  5. Stir the custard constantly until the mixture thickens. The mixture will take about four minutes to thicken, but when it does it happens very quickly, so you need to really keep stirring to prevent lumps. Whisk until smooth.
  6. Cook the mixture until the crème is very thick, so that it can be piped and it will hold its shape. Stir in the butter until thoroughly melted and combined.
  7. Allow to cool slightly, pour into a shallow dish and chill in the fridge for about an hour until really cold and set firm. This chills it faster as it cools over a larger surface area – alternatively you could fill the piping bags with it at this stage and leave overnight to chill.

For the lemon syrup:
  1. Place the ingredients for the lemon syrup in a small saucepan with 70ml/4½ tbsp water. Heat gently until the sugar dissolves, then boil rapidly for two minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool.

To assemble the cake:
  1. Meanwhile, roll out a thin disc of marzipan to fit a 23cm/9in circumference circle. It is best if you draw around the 23cm/9in base of another loose bottomed tin for the perfect circle. For best results and a perfectly flat surface, chill it in the fridge until it is needed.
  2. Slice the sponge in half horizontally, creating two slim discs of cake. The cut must be as level as possible as it will be visible in the finished cake.
  3. Place a strip of acetate plastic around the inside of the springform tin. Or line the base and sides with cling film or parchment lined foil.
  4. Place one layer of sponge cake in the bottom of the cake tin. Then liberally brush the sponge with half the syrup. With the back of a spoon, gently squash the edges of the cake down so that they are pushed directly against the sides of the tin, creating the defined edges necessary for the Fraisier cake.
  5. Rinse, hull and halve about 12 strawberries, try and make sure they are all the same height.
  6. Place the cut sides of the strawberries against the plastic on the inside of the tin. The strawberry halves should be sitting snugly beside each other, so it looks like a little crown inside the tin.
  7. Take the chilled crème pâtissière out of the fridge and spoon two thirds of the crème into a piping bag, fitted with a 1cm/½in nozzle.
  8. Pipe a swirl covering the exposed sponge completely in the bottom of the tin.
  9. Then pipe between each of the strawberries so the gaps are filled right to the top with the crème pâtissière.
  10. Set about 3-5 strawberries to one side for decoration, then hull and quarter the rest of them and place on top of the crème, so it raises the inside of the cake by about an inch.
  11. Pipe another swirl of crème pâtissière on top of the cut strawberries to cover the whole surface. Then smooth with a palette knife.
  12. Place the other disc of sponge on top of this, with the cut side uppermost, so it has a completely flat top. Brush with the remaining syrup.
  13. Gently press the top down quite firmly, so that the cake and filling push against the acetate to create the distinctive smooth and defined sides of the Fraisier cake.
  14. Lay the chilled marzipan circle on top of the cake and put the whole thing back in the fridge to set.
  15. Make some pretty decorations of your choice with melted dark chocolate.
  16. When ready to serve, remove the cake from fridge.
  17. Very carefully release the spring tin/loose bottom and remove the cake from the tin and from the acetate or cling film.
  18. Place onto a serving plate and decorate with reserved strawberries, chocolate decoration and a dusting of icing sugar. Serve chilled.