(Jana of Cherry Tea Cakes was our July Daring Bakers’ host and she challenges us to make Fresh Frasiers inspired by recipes written by Elisabeth M. Prueitt and Chad Robertson in the beautiful cookbook Tartine.)

Another fun month!  Every time I do one of these pretty desserts, I wish I entertained more. This would have made a perfect dinner party dessert.

I didn’t take a million assembly pictures this time – none of the sub-recipes was particularly hard or particularly photogenic, so I didn’t drag out the lights for them.  Someday, I’ll have a kitchen with beautiful, natural light, but not this month.

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The top and bottom are a basic chiffon cake. I was worried about mine – I get eggs from my CSA, but they’re not very consistent.  They’re always fresh, but they’re never quite large enough to be large or small enough to justify adding an extra one to a recipe, so I worry about baking with them.  The chiffon cake involved beating 5 egg whites to firm peaks, while mixing the rest of the batter (oil, egg yolks, flour, a bit of lemon zest), then carefully folding everything together. 

I’m getting better at folding, so mine came together without a hitch, and baked up beautifully. 

While the cake was baking, I made the pastry cream.  It was also a reasonably standard recipe – heat the milk, temper in an egg, cook until thick, then cool.  One it’s cool, fold into whipped cream to lighten it.  Did I mention how good I’m getting at folding things into other things?

I should have added some sugar to the whipped cream – I like mine pastry cream a little sweeter then this turned out to be, but it was still good.  I saved a bit of whipped cream and colored it pink, to decorate with later.

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Assembly was straightforward.  There’s a Good Eats episode where Alton Brown shows you how to precisely split a cake with a hacksaw blade, but I never remember to get an extra one when I go to Home Depot, so mine came out a bit crooked. 

The bottom gets soaked with a simple syrup, then the fruit goes on top.  I put some around the edges and the rest in the middle.  The pastry cream goes on top, then the top layer of cake.  I left it in the fridge overnight at this point to make sure it was entirely set up before trying to cut it.

When I took it out the next day, I dusted it with powdered sugar, added some accents of pink whipped cream, and served.IMG_5918

It turned out great!  There weren’t a lot of strong flavors besides the strawberries, so they really stood out.  I’d have liked the pastry cream to be a bit sweeter, but next time I’ll just use a different recipe or add a bit more sugar.  I’m thinking next time I’ll try a chocolate chiffon cake, with fresh cherries in the middle.  Or maybe a banana pastry cream with bananas.  Or…

( see the recipe )

(The January 2011 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Astheroshe of the blog accro. She chose to challenge everyone to make a Biscuit Joconde Imprime to wrap around an Entremets dessert.)

I’m never good at artistic Daring Bakers recipes, so I put this one off until the end of the month.  The idea was simple – make a decorated sponge cake to wrap around a filling.  The recipe called for almond flour in the cake, so I figured a cherry mousse would be the perfect filling. 

And if the center was going to be cherry, then the design on the cake should also be cherries. 

I started by mixing up a half batch of the Joconde Paste.  It was very simple – some butter, some sugar, a lot of eggs, and a bit of flour.  I used my good gel candy colors to get a bright red and green:

Biscuit Joconde Imprime/Entremet

Piping it was fun and easy.  I laid out two long rows of cherries for the “wrappers”, and a few more because I had more room left. 

They went in the freezer for 15 minutes to solidify, so they wouldn’t get distorted when I poured the cake over them.

Biscuit Joconde Imprime/Entremet

The sponge cake was easy, too.  Cake and almond flour, more eggs (the entire recipe took 13 eggs, 10 of them whites only, so I have 10 egg yolks in the fridge waiting for a use), a bit of sugar.

The eggs got beaten into a foam, then folded back into the batter.   I was careful not to deflate the eggs, but my sponge came out a bit thick.  A bit more melted butter would have helped, but I didn’t realize it was too thick until it was baked – and by then, I was out of eggs.

My pretty piped cherries flatted a bit after baking, and Mike thought they looked more like Christmas tree lights.  I just don’t have the artistic gene.

Biscuit Joconde Imprime/Entremet

I used some small Corning Ware bowls for molds.  My sponge was thick enough that a biscuit-sized version wouldn’t have had enough room for filling, but I thought a springform-pan sized one might lack structural stability.

I cut the wrapper too short on the first one:

Biscuit Joconde Imprime/Entremet

But I got the second one right.  I think if the sponge had been warmer, the ends would have stuck together better, but they did okay even cold.  I should have used a ruler and pizza cutter to get the edges more straight.

Biscuit Joconde Imprime/Entremet

I filled the center with a basic cherry mousse – some whipped cream and a bag of chopped frozen cherries.  It would have been improved with a bit of almond extract.   You can see that the wrapper came a bit unstuck, but it held together. 

Biscuit Joconde Imprime/Entremet

This wasn’t really part of the challenge, but I took some of the random bits and make little “sandwich cakes” with them.  These little ones would have made great finger food for a party, maybe with a very firm pastry cream inside.

Daring Bakers: Biscuit Joconde Imprime/Entremet

All in all, it was a fun challenge.  Next time I’ll make sure to spread the sponge thinner, and think more carefully about how the backside of the decorations will come out.

Or maybe I’ll just wait for the holidays, and then the Christmas tree light design will be perfect!

( see the cake recipes )

( see the mousse recipe )

(The August 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Elissa of 17 and Baking. For the first time, The Daring Bakers partnered with Sugar High Fridays for a co-event and Elissa was the gracious hostess of both. Using the theme of beurre noisette, or browned butter, Elissa chose to challenge Daring Bakers to make a pound cake to be used in either a Baked Alaska or in Ice Cream Petit Fours. The sources for Elissa’s challenge were Gourmet magazine and David Lebovitz’s “The Perfect Scoop”.)

 

This is my first official month doing the Daring Baker challenge.  I made the Chocolate Pavlovas from last month, but I wasn’t signed up and I did it a month late, so that didn’t really count. 

 

This month there were two choices, Baked Alaska or Petit Fours.  I’ve made Baked Alaska before – I have a great recipe for a lemon version in a pie crust I need to post some time – so I did the Petit Fours. 

 

This started with a browned-butter cake.  Besides the browned butter, there wasn’t anything particularly different about the cake.  I’ve done some interesting desserts with browned butter before – I have another un-posted recipe for browned-butter Rice Krispie Treats – so I knew better then to leave it alone even for 2 minutes. Once the butter was browned and cooled, it got mixed with the standard cake ingredients and baked:

 

Brown Butter Cake

 

it came out smelling wonderfully nutty, if not particularly photogenic. 

 

The ice cream was next – I did two batches.  One of them was the vanilla bean from the Daring Baker recipe – I’ve also made that before, because my copy of the Perfect Scoop rarely gets back on the shelf in the summer, and this is one of my favorite recipes from there.  It’s creamy and full of flecks of vanilla, and it was too good to wait for:

Vanilla Ice Cream

After that, I made a quick batch of strawberry shortcake ice cream – most of one quart of strawberries in the food processor until it turns into pulp, some cream cheese, and a can of sweetened condensed milk.  Sort of like this recipe, only with strawberry instead of cherries.

 

I split the cake in half, filled it with the ice cream, and reassembled it in the freezer and left it overnight.  The next day, it got trimmed into squares and then dipped in the ganache:

 

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Then back in the freezer to set again.  They were good right out of the freezer, but they were better after an hour or so out of the freezer.  When the ice cream was slightly melted, it soaked into the cake, and pulled all the flavors together.

Would I make them again?  Probably not.  I wasn’t really impressed with the cake – it smelled better then it tasted.  The ice cream was already a favorite, and I didn’t think it added much to layer it with the cake.  Next time I want to wrap something around ice cream, I’ll make little thin brownies and call them ice cream sandwiches.

( see the recipes )