Le Fraisier Cake
Fraise: French for “Strawberry” - I discovered Le Fraisier the same way I seem to discover all my new recipes: I turned to Google. I typed “French.” Then “Pastry.” Then “Strawberry.” In an instant I was greeted with a slideshow better than I could have imagined! Beautiful alternating layers of sponge and strawberries enveloped in cream, with a thin sheet of marzipan to top it all off. Suffice it to say, it was all the inspiration I needed to get going...
Le Fraisier is as refreshing, satisfying and simple as they come. The techniques you’ll want to master while attempting this dessert are three-fold: genoise sponge, marzipan, and mousseline cream. Did I mention it was simple? Of course, when simplicity is the name of the game, you want to go over the top with the quality of the components. That means extra butter in the mousseline, extra loving care when soaking the sponge, and strawberries that are extra-flavorful. I also like to save an extra helping for myself, but that’s just personal preference.
I don’t mean to beat around the strawberry bush anymore. Let’s get down to the components and assembly of this sweet spring and summer dessert!
Genoise (French sponge cake) Recipe
Crème Mousseline Recipe
Pate d'amande (Almond Paste) Recipe *See instructions for Marzipan
Simple Syrup Recipe
Springform pan or round cake ring
Acetate sheet (optional)
1 quart fresh strawberries, hulled and sliced (I halved some and quartered some, depending on the size)
Tempered chocolate for garnish (optional)
Genoise (French Sponge Cake) Recipe | Yield: 1 - 10" cake layer
1/2 cup (56g) Unsalted Butter (room temperature)
1 cup (120g) Cake Flour
7 (350g) Eggs, separated
1 cup (200g) Granulated Sugar, divided
2 teaspoon (10g) Vanilla Bean Paste
1/4 teaspoon (1.25g) Salt
Additional butter and all-purpose flour for cake pans
Position oven rack in the lower third of oven and preheat to 325° F. Melt the 1/2 cup (56g) of butter in a microwave just until melted and set it aside to cool. It must be no hotter than tepid when used.
Use additional butter to grease the bottom of a 10-inch springform pan and line it with a round of parchment or waxed paper; grease the top of the paper. (DO NOT grease the sides of pan) Dust the inside of the pan with all-purpose flour; knock out any excess. Sift the cake flour three times, return the flour to the sifter, and set aside.
Using the whip attachment on your mixer, whip the yolks on medium-high speed until thickened, about 3 minutes. Continue beating on medium high and gradually add 1/2 cup (100g) of the sugar, about 2 Tbs. at a time; beat for 20 to 30 seconds between additions. You may need to stop to scrape the bowl occasionally. Beat on high speed until very thick and pale, about another 3 minutes. When the whip is raised, the yolks should fall into the bowl and form a slowly dissolving ribbon. Beat in the vanilla. Scrape the mixture into a large, wide bowl. Wash and dry the mixing bowl and the whip.
Combine the egg whites with the salt in the bowl of the mixer and begin mixing on medium low until frothy, about 1 minute. Increase the speed to medium and mix until the whip leaves distinct traces in the whites and forms peaks that curl softly at their tips when the beater is raised, about 4 minutes. With the mixer running on medium, gradually add the remaining 1/2 cup (100g) sugar, about 2 Tbs. at a time, beating for 20 to 30 seconds between additions. Continue beating on medium to medium-high speed until the whites hold a firm shape and form peaks that curl only very slightly at their tips, another 1 to 2 minutes. (DO NOT beat to stiff unwavering peaks)
Check the melted butter to be sure it’s tepid (about 95°F) and liquid. The butter must not be at room temperature or it won’t blend into the batter properly. If necessary, rewarm it briefly.
Scoop about a quarter of the whites over the yolk mixture and fold together gently with a few broad strokes of a large rubber spatula to lighten the mixture. Rotate the bowl a bit with each fold, and don’t be too thorough at this point: It’s all right if streaks of white remain. Sift about a third of the cake flour over the mixture and scoop about a third of the remaining whites over the flour. Fold together gently, turning the bowl as you go; but again, don’t be too thorough. Sift half of the remaining flour and scoop half of the remaining whites onto the batter and fold in the same manner. Sift on the last of the flour and add the last of the whites; fold gently but thoroughly, only until the batter is an even yellow color.
Remove a couple scoops of batter and stir it into the butter then gently fold the butter mixture back into the remaining batter using just a few broad strokes. Carefully scrape the batter into the prepared pan (the pan will be about half full), spread it evenly, and put the pan in the oven immediately.
Bake until the cake is golden brown and springs back when gently pressed, about 40 minutes; don’t under bake. Let the cake cool in the pan on a rack for 10 minutes. Run a sharp knife around the edge to release the cake from the sides; unclasp and remove the bottom of the pan and the paper liner. Replace the paper on the cake bottom and, cover with another rack, and invert. Let cool completely. If storing, wrap the cake tightly in plastic wrap.
Crème Mousseline Recipe | Yield: about 2 1/2 cups
2 cups (480g) Milk
4 (60g) Egg Yolk
1/3 cup + 1 tablespoon (80g) Granulated Sugar
1/4 cup (30g) All-purpose Flour
1/4 cup (30g) Cornstarch
2 teaspoon (10g) Vanilla Bean Paste
1/3 cup (75g) Unsalted Butter (room temperature)
1/3 cup (75g) Unsalted Butter, optional (room temperature)
In a thick bottom sauce pan warm milk over low heat.
In a bowl cream egg yolks and sugar. Sift in flour and cornstarch. Whisk until smooth then add vanilla.
Pour only 1/4 of warm milk into mixture and whisk to combine. Then slowly add the rest of milk while whisking. Pour entire mixture back into pan. Over medium-low heat whisking mixture constantly until it thickens.
Remove from heat and stir in butter. Mix until combines. Transfer to a heat-proof bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let cool to room temperature.
Step 5: (optional)
Cream 1/3 cup of softened butter. Whisk into cooled to room temperature cream until smooth.
Store in air tight container in refrigerator up to 2 days.
If using vanilla bean; split bean in half lengthwise, scrape out seeds and add seeds and pod to milk before heating. Discard pod before adding to milk to yolk mixture.
Pate d'amande (Almond Paste) Recipe | Yield: about 13 ounces
1 1/2 cups (180g) Almond Flour or whole blanched almonds ground to a meal
1 1/2 cups (180g) Confectioners Sugar
1 (30g) Egg White,lightly beaten (room temperature)
1/2 teaspoon (2.5g) Almond Extract (optional)
Extra confectioners sugar for dusting/kneading
In a large food processor (at least 7 cup volume) fitted with a steel blade, process the almond flour and sugar together to combine.
Add in the extract and the egg white. Continue to process until the paste forms a ball. If it seems very sticky add sugar, one spoonful at the time, until it is smooth.
Turn out onto a sugar dusted work space and gently knead into a smooth ball. May be used immediately or store wrapped tightly in plastic wrap then place in zip-top storage bag. It will keep for 3 months in refrigerator or up to 6 months in the freezer. Bring to room temperature before using in recipes.
If concerned about using raw egg you can replace with pasteurized egg white or water.
*TO MAKE MARZIPAN: In food processor; place 1 lb almond paste and 1 lb confectioners sugar and process to a fine powder. Add 1/3 cup (4 oz) light corn syrup and combine. Turn out onto nonstick work surface and knead just until it comes together or when you are able to roll a smooth ball with no cracks. Wrap in plastic wrap and place in zip-top bag and allow to rest on counter top in cool place before use. May be stored long term just like the almond paste. Marzipan can be tinted with gel color while in food processor or tinted in batches at time of use.
Simple Syrup Recipe | Yield: approx 1 cup
1 cup (240g) Water
1/2 cup (100g) Granulated Sugar
1 teaspoon (5g) Strawberry Extract
Combine water and sugar in a small sauce pan and bring to a boil over med-low heat. While stirring, boil 2-3 minutes or until clear and all sugar has dissolved.
Remove from heat add extract and allow to cool. Once cool place in a airtight container. Store in refrigerator up to 2 weeks.
To use: Apply to cake using a pastry brush or spray bottle.
DO NOT "double dip" your pastry brush as this will contaminate the unused syrup. Instead pour amount using in a separate bowl.
Step 1: Prepare pastry components (1 recipe each).
Step 2: Using a leveler or serrated knife, cut baked and cooled genoise in half through the middle, ending with two even layers.
Step 3: Line your cake ring or springform pan with acetate. Place bottom layer of cake inside the ring. With a spoon, press the edges of the cake up against the sides of the ring.
Step 4: Using a pastry brush, evenly coat the bottom and top layers of genoise with simple syrup. (Note: You will not use all the simple syrup.)
Step 5: Place a ring of strawberries, stem-side down, cut-side facing outward, directly on the sponge and against the acetate. Fill center with additional cut strawberries as desired.
Step 6: Fill a pastry bag with mousseline cream. Fill the center of the strawberry ring with mousseline cream, being careful to also fill in the gaps between the berries
Step 7: Top with second half of genoise sponge, cut-side facing up to give a flat surface.
Step 8: Pipe a thin layer of the mousseline cream to cover the top of the cake.
Step 9: Roll out prepared marzipan to 1/8-1/4 inch thick.
Step 10: Using cake ring as a guide, cut the marzipan in a circle to fit on top of the second layer of genoise.
Step 11: Carefully lift and place the marzipan circle on top of the cake.
Step 12: Top with sliced strawberries and tempered chocolate designs.
**Special Thanks to my Jr Pastry Chefs for their contribution to this post!