Aug 24, 2009
This may be my favorite cake so far. I hedged with that "may," because I wouldn't want to commit myself, but just about everything about this cake is perfect.
Because it's a sponge cake, I was afraid it was taste like those individual cakes you buy at the grocery store. But really, they are so far away from this cake that they're not even in the same dessert universe. This recipe makes a delicious sponge cake topped with a mixture of three bright red berries; all the flavors and textures meld perfectly, and topping it off with lightly sweetened whipped cream or whipped cream fraiche isn't gilding the lily--it's presenting the lily in all its natural glory.
You can make this recipe in a regular 9-inch round cake pan, but you can also buy yourself a German tart or flan pan. Since it cost only $6.99, and because I liked the idea of having my very own Tortenboden, I bought it.
I'm rather impressed with myself. This is the third recipe I've made from the sponge cake section, and I'm getting to be an old hand at it. I'm totally comfortable with the process, but not so comfortable that I don't still marvel at the transformation.
Four eggs and small amount of superfine sugar are heated over simmering water
until they're just lukewarm to the touch.
They're then beaten with the whisk attachment of a stand mixer until they amazingly turn into a thick, rich mixture about four times the original volume.
This cake is made with Wondra flour, which mixes into the egg mixture like a dream.
Add a little clarified butter, which, if you're working your way through a cookbook that has clarified butter in a lot of recipes, you have on hand in your freezer.
Because you can, and should, bake this cake at least a day before you're planning to serve it, it's a recipe that can fool you into thinking there's nothing to it. All you have to do is mix the berries, make a syrup, and whip the cream. When you're ready to serve, you can take the plastic wrap off the cake, and there you are.
The berry mixture should be strawberries, raspberries, and currants in order to replicate the "red fruit" (fruits rouges), which Rose says she first ate at Le Bernardin in Paris. You could use all strawberries, of course, or a mixture of berries, but if you used blueberries, which are in season now, it wouldn't be red fruit.
I didn't know where I was going to get currants, but there was one one-pint box at my neighborhood grocery store. The checkout woman asked me what they were, and I told her they were currants. I also told her that she wouldn't find anyone else more excited at finding currants at the store--ever. She looked at me to see if I was crazy, then decided I wasn't. (One of the side benefits of getting older is that people tend to think you're cute, rather than crazy. Or maybe both, but not dangerous).
The strawberries weren't local--that short season has already passed, but they were smallish, organic, and tasty.
The raspberries were local and luscious. I don't remember where the currants came from, but it was probably somewhere in Central America. Definitely not local. They're kind of a pain. They're so tiny, and you have to handle them gingerly, carefully plucking them from the stems, or they squish between your fingers. But they add a lovely shininess to the more ordinary strawberries and raspberries.
After the fruit is mixed, it macerates in sugar for a few hours, until the mixture gives up about two-thirds of a cup of bright red juice.
The juice gets boiled with sugar and, when it's cool, you brush it on both sides of the cake.
Because the cake is fairly sturdy, despite its delicate appearance, it can sit with berries atop for up to an hour without getting soggy. The picture in the book is decorated with tiny meringue stars. They're awfully cute, but not cute enough to warrant that much extra work. I sprinkled a little powdered sugar on top instead.
You can serve it with dollops of whipped creme fraiche, or just plain whipped cream. I had intended to make creme fraiche, but I forgot about it until the day I baked the cake, so I made do with whipped cream. It wasn't much of a sacrifice.
After I tasted the first bite, I said, "If I were choosing the last meal on earth, this might be the dessert I'd pick." I don't see how you couldn't like this cake unless you hated cake, red fruit, and whipped cream, in which case I'd feel sorry for you. My tasters were as enthusiastic as I was, although they didn't go so far as to say they hoped it was the last thing they ate on earth.
Karen, Jim, and I each had a leisurely piece (Jim had seconds) before we drove the rest of it over to a four-person family with instructions to eat it within the next 15 minutes. They seemed ready to oblige. (Two of the four people are under five years old, which is why I didn't include the optional Chambord liqueur in the syrup).
Karen: "Really loved it. I enjoyed the combination of berries and the texture of the cake. When I signed on for [the tasting panel], I was imagining layer cakes oozing with frosting, but this is far better."
Jim: "The cake held up to the juices--it had good texture and flavor. It stood up to the flavor of the berries but didn't overwhelm them. A nice balance."
Rachel: "I thought the cake was fantastic. For me, the berries were the perfect blend of sweet and tart. I don’t like it when the strawberries are too sugary or the cake too wet (I see it’s best eaten right away, before the cake gets soggy), and this had neither. It was really, really good."
David: "Having the cake within the hour was great in terms of getting the moisture just right. I thought the currants were a nice touch -- tasty and a good visual complement to the strawberries and raspberries. And the whipped cream was excellent."
Posted by Marie at 4:38 PM