a mirror for my ineptitude - july DB challenge

it is my fourth month as a daring baker, and my third month in a new kitchen, my second month in a new job, and my first month after finding a new, permanent home (beginning in september). to recap, i missed the crepe cake challenge; i bungled the gateau st-honore; i was vaguely repulsed by the bagels. but i learned a lot of things, like the best way to make crepe batter; different techniques for making choux; and the proper way to feed yeast for bread. (i still have a picture in my head of the happy, happy yeast in my bagel dough).

i seem to have set up a streak for myself. in this fourth month, i again tackled the challenge—strawberry mirror cake--with alacrity. i set up my ingredients. i plotted carefully. i thought, for the first time, that i was prepared for the challenge. the trick to this challenge, i decided, was planning ahead and working in stages. accordingly, i baked the cake layers—soft, springy and gorgeous—as i counted down the moments until midnight on july 21st. over the course of the next week, i made the bavarian crème base, the strawberry puree, and got ready to make the mirror.

here is where the customary bungling began.

it took me three tries to make the bavarian crème. i ran out of milk and eggs. i had to buy—i cringe to say it—a&p house brand milk instead of my beloved milk fresh from my csa delivery. i have a long history of seriously screwing up custard bases, to the point where i gave up making custard-base ice cream and despaired of ever getting proper pastry cream. it’s been a unicorn for me, impossible to catch, always out of reach. and people have been telling me for months that it is easy to make, they can’t understand why i continually fail and am quivering with fear at the mere thought of thickening eggs in hot cream.

now, i did, at last, find success. several of my fellow bakers offered this simple but shockingly effective advice: always bring the base ingredients to room temperature when making custard.

worked like a charm. i stared in amazement at the thickened crème, waiting to see the usual bits of curdled egg floating around. they never came. i felt emboldened, which led me to my next bungle—i added the gelatin mixture to the bavarian crème. days before i actually had a chance to spread it all over the cake. so while i sit here, drooling over the picture-perfect smooth creations of some of my compatriots, i am hiding with shame from the thick, somewhat lumpy mass on the bottom shelf of my refrigerator.

most appallingly, i failed to grasp the best possible strategy for the crème—the pouring of the cream over the cake layers. (of course, even had i realized this, i would have been unable to accomplish it, since my crème was perhaps a bit stiffer than the recipe intended, owing to its prolonged stay in my refrigerator) i was flustered by the fact that even with my nine-inch cake rounds, the cake was still smaller than my 9-inch springform. i didn’t understand (until about 11 last night, as i sat trying to watch pride and prejudice but really contemplating my errors), that the slight size discrepancy allowed the cream to pile smoothly around the cake, leaving a relatively clean surface for the mirror.

i, in my frustration, wrapped a layer of tin foil around my cake to contain the mirror, and needless to say, the mirror was neither smooth nor clean (although i will say that it was damn tasty).

i actually haven’t even had a chance to taste the cake as a whole. i know that the elements are delicious, however malformed they might be, so i am not afraid of what awaits me at home tonight.

but for all of that, i will steadfastly refuse to post a picture. if drooling is what you are after, check out some of the others

Strawberry Mirror Cake
3 eggs
3 egg yolks
¾ cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 egg whites
1/8 tsp cream of tartar
2 TBSP sugar
2/3 cup sifted cake flour
½ cup water
1/3 cups sugar
2 TBSP kirsch or strawberry liqueur

Strawberry Bavarian Cream

2 ½ TBSP unflavored gelatin
1 ½ cups strained strawberry puree(1 ½ baskets)
5 egg yolks
2/3 cup sugar
1 ½ cups milk
1 TBSP lemon juice
several drops of red food coloring
1 ¾ cups whipping cream
Strawberry Mirror
1 tsp lemon juice
1 TBSP kirsch
1 TBSP water
1 TBSP unflavored gelatin
Few drops of red food coloring

Strawberry Juice

1 ½ pints of strawberries(18 oz)
¾ cup sugar
¾ cup water

1.Preheat oven to 450F. Butter and flour the sides of an 11-by-17 inch jelly roll pan(rimmed baking sheet). Line bottom of pan with a sheet of parchment paper cut to fit bottom pan exactly.
2.Beat eggs, egg yolks and ¾ cup sugar together in a medium bowl until thick and light. Beat in the vanilla.
3.In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites until foamy, ad cream of tartar and beat until whites begin to form peaks. Add the 2 TBSP sugar and beat until the whites hold stiff, glossy peaks(do not over beat).
4.Sift flour over the egg yolk mixture and fold in . Stir in one fourth of the whites. Then carefully fold in the remaining whites.
5.Spread batter evenly in pan. Bake until light brown and springy to touch(7 to 10 minutes). Cool in pan 5 minutes. Run a knife along edge to loosen. Invert cake tin to cut out 8 ¼ inch circles of cake. Wrap the cake layers, separated with waxed paper, and set aside. Cake may be frozen at this point.
6.To make soaking syrup: Combine water and the 1/3 cup sugar in saucepan; bring to a boil to dissolve sugar. Cool to room temperature; flavor with liqueur. Set aside or refrigerate in glass jar until ready to use.
7.To assemble cake: Brush sides of 10-inch springform pan lightly with flavorless salad oil or almond oil. Cut out a cardboard circle that is exactly the same size as the bottom inside of the pan; cover cardboard with aluminum foil and fit into bottom of pan. Center one layer of the cake bottom of pan. Brush the cake with some of the soaking syrup to just moisten(not drench) the cake; set aside.
8.Prepare Strawberry Bavarian Cream. Immediately pour about half of the Bavarian Cream over the first layer of cake in the pan. Set the next layer of cake on top of the cream. Pour remaining Bavarian Cream over cake and smooth top of the cream with spatula. Refrigerate until the cream sets(1 to 2 hours).
9.Prepare the Strawberry Mirror.
10.To serve: Wrap a hot towel around the outside of springform pan for a few minutes. Run a small sharp knife tip around the edge of the Strawberry Mirror to separate it form the sides of pan. Mirror will tear when sides are unlatched if it is stuck at ANY point. Slowly unlatch the pan and slide it off the cake. Slice cake in wedges and serve in upright slices.

Prep Work
Strawberry Bavarian Cream
1.Sprinkle the gelatin over the strawberry puree in a small bowl and set aside until spongy.
2.Combine egg yolks and sugar in a bowl' beat until light. Bring milk to a boil in sauce pan. Pour hot milk into yolk mixture ans stir with a wooden spoon(it doesn't say so but I would temper the egg mixture first to be safe). Return this mixture to the saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until your finger leaves a clear trail in sauce when drawn across the back of the spoon.(Do not boil or mixture will curdle.) Immediately remove from heat and stir in softened gelatin mixture. Pour into a stainless steel bowl places over a bowl of ice water. Stir in lemon juice and a few drops of red food coloring. Cool over ice water, stirring occasionally, until mixture thickens to the consistency of softly whipped cream.
3.White gelatin mixture is cooling, whip the whipping cream until it holds soft peaks. When the gelatin mixture resembles softly whipped cream, fold the whipped cream into the gelatin mixture.

Strawberry Mirror
1.Prepare strawberry juice.
2.Place lemon juice, kirsch, and water in a small bowl. Sprinkle gelatin over this mixture; set aside until spongy and soft.
3.Measure 1 ½ cups Strawberry juice into a small saucepan and bring to a simmer; pour over gelatin mixture and stir to dissolve gelatin. Tint to desired color with red food coloring. Place bowl over bowl of ice water and stir occasionally until the mixture is syrupy and just beings to thicken(do not let jell); remove from ice water.
4.When mixture is syrupy, pour a 1/16-inch layer over the top of cake. Refrigerate until set.

Strawberry JuiceWash and hull strawberries; coarsely chop. Place strawberries in saucepan; crush to start juices flowing. Place over low heat; add sugar and water; simmer slowly 10 minutes. Pour juice and pulp through damp jelly bag or cheesecloth-lined colander and drain into a bowl for 15 minutes(Do not press down on fruit).
Adapted from Cakes and Pastries At The Academy by the California Culinary Academy 1993


Sara said...

Aw, it sounds like a frustrating time. But hey, as long as it tastes good, that's all that matters, right?

Nazca said...

lol getting it right is over rated. messing up and having loads of people laugh with you is better I say. Check out my Honore blog if you want a giggle :-)

Dagmar - A Cat in the Kitchen said...

I also failed several times with my custard.

Well done anyway!

Quellia said...

Hehehe good read! Congrats on the challenge, even if it didn't quite turn into what you wanted.

breadchick said...

I am so glad you got your custard to finally work!! YEA! I know you think you turned in a bad cake but you didn't! You completed the challenge and that is what it is all about!

Deborah said...

The taste is what really matters!! I hope you enjoy it tonight.

Laura said...

I was keeping an eye in the DB site to see if your custard would work and I was so happy when it did, mine took two tries and I don't think I would have been up to a third. I still would have liked to see a picture of your end result!

Hilda said...

Sometimes I find there are just days where I can't get a hard boiled egg right, so I totally sympathize with you on this one. And I made mistakes along the way but you don't learn anything if you don't make any right? All that really matters is that it tasted good in the end, and congratulations on getting your bavaroise to work!

Ivonne said...


Sorry to hear that you had some struggles with the cake, but good for you for trying considering how busy you've been!

Canadian Baker said...

I think we were both part of a small minority where the cake didn't turn out fabulous. Good on you for trying and more than once to boot!!

MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

Consider Devra,
Success isn't all it's cracked up to be. Success is a very poor teacher.
You give me a thrill to know I'm not the only one to miss the significance of the gap the first time around.
I say bring your mistakes into the sunshine especially when you can enjoy the tasty results!

Lis said...

I'm so glad the bavarian cream finally worked out! And I'm also happy to hear it tasted good, yay!

Way to go, Devra.. you could have given up, but you didn't.. you rock! =)


Peabody said...

I hope you got to taste it all together. Thanks for hanging in there.

veron said...

oh devra, I admire you so much for hanging in there. Getting your custard to work is a big Yey. I have curdled many a custard before so it is a learning experience.

Jenny said...

Room temperature really helped me. The first time I did it with the eggs and not the milk, and the second time did the milk too and that made all the difference! That and turning the heat down much further than medium.

Culinarily Curious said...

But you GOT the custard to work. That's accomplishment! Congratulations!