Daring Bakers in July: Strawberry Mirror Cake

July 30, 2007 at 3:43 pm | Posted in cakes & tortes, daring bakers, groups, sweet things | 50 Comments

strawberry mirror cake

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?

DB whisk

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.

strawberry prep

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!

strawberry mirror cake

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.

strawberry mirror cake

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!


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  1. I’m glad that you experimented with Agar Agar, though – I’d planned to go that route as well, if I’d gotten to making another version of this cake this month. Alas, I didn’t, but I’ll refer back to your experience when I finally do!

  2. I am glad the agar agar worked well! Great job! 🙂

  3. Welcome to the DB’s. Excellent job on your first challenge.

  4. The colour of your mirror is wonderful!!

  5. DaviMack–Let me know how it goes. It was my first try with agar, so if you’ve used it before, maybe you’ll have an easier time.

    Anh–Thanks! Yours looks beautiful!

    peabody–I had a great time doing it! Thanks for picking a good, tough challenge!

    Pille–I’m glad you like it…was worried I’d gotten too happy with the food coloring!

  6. You did a great job, and well done for trying with the agar agar! Welcome to the DBs 🙂

  7. Congrats on a beautiful cake. It has a wonderful colour. Perfect for these drab winter days.

    The agar experiment was really interesting. It’s always worth bearing in mind as an alternative.

  8. I love your cake. It looks so creamy and perfect. I bow to you!

  9. wow! it’s beautiful 🙂 well done!

  10. Glad you were able to find agar-agar and join us this month. Very nice job!

  11. Your mirror looks flawless! Nicely done!

  12. Steph, this looks incredible! Nice to see that the agar is a good substitute here. I think the next time I’ll be using that too!

  13. I wanted to make it with agar agar but was scared off by the quantities and the unclear methods for such a large cake (and I so hate wasting food). Your cake is beautiful.

  14. Hi Steph! Great mirror cake. You were so brave to use the agar agar and it turned out fantastic!

  15. steph – your cake looks beautiful! I love the way the edges of your cake look – just gorgeous! Glad to hear someone experimented with the agar-agar – I was intrigued, but too lazy to follow up.

  16. Welcome aboard! Wonderful pictures of the cake and you did a bang up job on your first challenge. Sorry the Agar Agar didn’t quite workout in the cream but like you said it is all part of the fun of the Daring Bakers!

  17. Nicely done! The cake looks lovely!

  18. Great job on your first challenge, the cake looks gorgeous!

  19. Magic 8 balls are lifesavers. Sadly I usually flip a coin. Cake looks like a shining pink star!

  20. It all looks beautiful Steph, looking forward to your future challenges.

  21. WOW the cake looks fantastic.

  22. Way to go, Steph!! Your cake is beautiful – truly! I’m glad it was a good experience for you – and I’m glad you got to experiment with an ingredient you hadn’t used before. Even if it did not turn out 100% the way you wanted it, at least you can say you gave it your all! =)


  23. Very interesting to read about your experiences with the agar. I have heard it can be tricky – so it sounds like you did great for a first attempt. It looks beautiful!

  24. Your pictures are gorgeous! Great looking cake.

  25. Your cake is the smoothest I have seen so far – I wonder if it’s because of the agar. Your cake honestly looks perfect!!

  26. I love that your cream was not as thick, it looks so much smoother in the finished product. Well done.

  27. Wonderful cake, Steph! Welcome to the Daring Bakers club!

  28. Congratulations on completing your first challenge! You did a great job!

  29. Super job on your first challenge and now we know who to e-mail when we want the skinny on agar-agar. Your cake does look a little bit like the bavarian is softer, but it is a truly beautiful cake.

  30. This is beautiful both inside and out…. The color is simply GoRgEoUs!!!! Woohoo…. we made it through our first challenge!

  31. Looks delicious! Great job on your first challenge!

  32. Great job working with agar-agar. I would have but finances were too low this month (not cheap here). Beautiful job on your first challenge!

  33. gorgoeus strawberry photos and cake! thanks for experimenting with the agar agar for all of us….and great job on the 1st challenge (it was mine too:))

  34. I think your cake looks gorgeous, and I’m glad you found a solution to the gelatin that fits your lifestyle. Welcome to our little cult club. 🙂

  35. wow that mirror is way cool!
    just surfing around on blogroll sites and thought i stop by and say hi. please come visit my blog sometime~

  36. Steph, your cake is fantastic! The mirror is perfect.

  37. Steph, your cake looks absolutely perfect!

  38. The cake looks great…isn’t it nice to be a part of this wonderful group 🙂

  39. Steph,
    How ever did you get the edge around the cake? Wow! No air bubbles . . . fantastic. Sorry about the texture/agar thing. But consider, next time you’ll be working off this experience and be that much farther along. Funny about sometimes too much reading just leaves us confused.
    Welcome to the Daring Bakers!!

  40. Hi Steph!
    We just got your package in the mail! You packed so many goodies in the box! We’re also happy to discover your blog! Stay tuned, we’ll be posting about the package soon.

  41. I think you succeeded! Wonderful looking cake. I love the cake stand.

  42. Nice work on the cake, it looks lovely!

  43. You made a lovely tall cake. I enjoyed your photos along with your story. wmpesblog

  44. Your cake is beautiful and so elegantly decorated!

  45. The agar agar seemed to work really well, I’m glad you could find it and use it! Maybe if I would have forked over the money to buy it then I would have felt better about the whole thing. 🙂

  46. Well even if you didn’t love the cake it does look lovely. Chalk it up to experience as a very daring baker!

  47. Congrats Steph for completing your first challenge with flying colours. You definitely did not fall!

  48. That is so beautiful! I am drooling over my keyboard right now!

  49. Question. I am new to Agar, I am baking a strawberry wedding cake for Labor Day weekend. The catch is that they are from India and do not want any gelatine on their cake..is agar agar a good substitute? can I exchange for example 2tbsp of regular gelatine for 2tbsp of agar agar?

  50. Carmen–I don’t think I actually used the agar properly, as the texture of my mousse was quite pasty and unappealing. If you are using the powder, it should be boiled for several minutes to dissolve, and according to things I read, is substituted for an equal amount of gelatine. There are many online sources of info, here’s one I looked at:


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