Daring Bakers in July: Strawberry Mirror CakeJuly 30, 2007 at 3:43 pm | Posted in cakes & tortes, daring bakers, groups, sweet things | 50 Comments
Sometimes when a challenge is thrown my way, I shake my Magic 8 Ball to predict the outcome. But here, I think I’ll take a cue from the Queen in Snow White: “Mirror, mirror on the wall. Will I skate through my first Daring Bakers challenge, or will I fall?”
Yes, that’s right. I’m now a whisk-wielding member of Daring Bakers. For months I’ve read about the escapades of this group, and I’m very pleased to be able to display the logo myself. Isn’t she cute?
Our hostess of the month, Peabody from Culinary Concoctions by Peabody, had us tackle a strawberry mirror cake. I’ve actually made a similar cake once before (in culinary school…I think we called it “fruit mousse miroir”), so I was reasonably familiar with its components– sponge cake Bavarian cream and gelée. I knew that gelatin is what makes this cake possible, but I don’t eat red meat, so I also do my best to avoid gelatin. One of the hard and fast rules of DB membership is that you must make the recipe the way it is written, and resist the urge to tinker and tweak. An exception is allowed for food allergies or strong aversions, so the green-light was given to use agar-agar as a gelatin substitute.
Armed with my agar powder, a whole bunch of eggs and several baskets of surprisingly nice-looking winter strawberries, I set out to make the cake.
I started by making the sponge cake, which was easy and really delicious. I had a fair amount of scrap left over, so I stuck it in the freezer where it is waiting to be reincarnated, possibly as a trifle….mmm.
From there, however, things took a turn for the difficult. I had never actually used agar-agar before, and really had no idea how. I did some reading on the subject, but perhaps too much, because I wound up confused. You can substitute powdered agar-agar for powdered gelatin in equal amounts, but strawberries are acidic, so they might require more agar…you need to boil it, but it sets at room temperature, blah blah blah. What did I get myself into?
In terms of dissolving the agar-agar in boiling liquid, I did what I thought was best without altering the amount of liquid in the recipe (that was my real concern with using the stuff). Everything looked the way it was supposed to, which was a good sign. So I crossed my fingers and slid the cake tin in the fridge for a nice long rest. When I popped the cake out of the tin, I couldn’t believe how big it looked on the stand–with only two of us in the house, I’m used to just making little six-inchers. It was quite shiny and splendid in all its red and pink glory, and I could actually see a bit of my reflection on the surface!
It’s not all about looks here, though. What’s inside counts, too. I knew I had to bite the bullet and cut the cake, and I was nervous. The Bavarian cream was a bit softly set, but held up fine. Sadly though, it had a bit of a pasty texture that I wasn’t too fond of. I know that had nothing to do with the original recipe. It was the fault of the agar, or more likely, the fault of the person using the agar.
I’m not too keen to blindly experiment with agar-agar again anytime soon, but I have a packet in my pantry in case the urge surfaces. I am a Daring Baker now, after all.
To see how the other DB members tackled this assignment, visit the Daring Bakers’ Blogroll. And if you know of any worthwhile books with recipes designed specifically for agar-agar, or if you’ve had good luck with any of the Kosher gelatins available, please let me know!