I am disturbingly indecisive these days. This is strange because I usually know exactly what I want (salespeople hate me) and go after it without too much internal debate. Lately, however, the prospect of the smallest decision, like choosing a sandwich at lunch, is making me want to either run away in panic or bury my head in the sand (I can't decide which one... heh).
For example, this Bavarian cake. The internal monologue went something like this: "Omg, I hate this cake. There are just too many components. I mean, who wants to make a cake and strawberry puree AND a batch of pastry cream AND whipped cream AND stabilize it with gelatin?? I am crazy, aren't I? I'm preparing to have 12 people over for brunch. Why could I not have chosen a simple tea cake or something? OH MMMMM.... wait, this cake is AMAZING! It's fantastic, in fact! I am totally making this again! Well -- maybe without the pastry cream... But the pastry cream is SO GOOD! Maybe skip the gelatin? BUT......" and then my head exploded. But at least, I got to eat this cake, and so should you because, really, it's a perfect summer cake and it's totally worth it. I think.
The only problem I found with this recipe is that it makes way too much cake. I mean, you only need 2 layers, and I had enough cake left over to make 8 mini-trifles (cake cubes layered with strawberries, strawberry puree and whipped cream). Not that I'm complaining, the cake itself was deeeelicious, even if it took an extra half hour to bake, but I don't like surprises in baking, so next time, I would either halve the cake recipe (it halves beautifully) or make it a tall, 3-layer cake with less filling between each layer.
1 Chiffon cake, cut into 2 layers (note: this recipe makes way too much cake. Next time, I will either do a tall, 3 layer cake, or halve the chiffon cake recipe) Fruit puree (recipe below) Filling (recipe below) Whipped Cream Topping (recipe below) Strawberries - about 2 pints (20 oz)
Assembly directions: Prior to assembly, bake the cake and cut it into 2 layers. Make the strawberry puree and the pastry cream. Then, line the sides of a 10-inch springform pan with plastic so that it does not cover the bottom, but there is enough overhang to cover the top of the cake completely. Fit the bottom layer inside and moisten it with half of the fruit puree. At this point, make the gelatin-stabilized whipped cream and mix with pastry cream.
Spread a little of the cream filling on the bottom layer, just barely to cover. Cut about 7-8 strawberries in half and line them up against the sides of the pan, pressing into the cream (so the strawberries go all the way around). Leaving the other strawberries whole, stand them up on top of the bottom layer of the cake, pressing into the cream. Carefully, spread the rest of the filling on top and fit the second layer on top of the filling. Moisten the layer with the remaining fruit puree. Cover in plastic and press gently to spread the filling evenly. Leave in the refrigerator to set for 4 hrs or overnight.
When you are ready to finish the cake, unmold it carefully from the pan and peel off the plastic, then whip the whipped cream with the sugar for the topping until soft peaks form and frost the top of the cake. Decorate. The cake will keep for 3 days (just be careful that it does not absorb the smells of the refrigerator).
Chiffon Cake 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour 2 tsp baking powder 1 1/2 cups sugar 1/2 tsp of salt 1/2 cup of vegetable oil 6 large egg yolks (I used 5) 3/4 cup of water 2 tsp vanilla extract 1 1/2 tsp lemon zest, grated 10 large egg whites (I used 8) 1/4 tsp cream of tartar
Preheat the oven to 325F. Line the bottom of a 10-inch springform pan with parchment paper cut to fit the bottom exactly. Do not grease the sides of the pan.
Sift together the flour and baking powder into a large mixing bowl. Add 1 1/4 cups of sugar and add the salt, whisk to combine. In a small bowl, whisk the oil, egg yolks, water, vanilla and lemon zest. Make a well in the flour and add the yolk mixture, and then whisk thoroughly and quickly until very smooth.
In a large mixing bowl, beat the egg whites on medium speed until frothy. Add the cream of tartar and beat on medium-high until the whites hold soft peaks. Slowly add the remaining 1/4 cup of sugar until the whites hold firm, shiny peaks. With a rubber spatula, fold about one-third of the whites into the batter to lighten and then gently fold the remaining whites until combined.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan, smoothing the top with a spatula if necessary. Bake for 45-55 minutes until the top springs back and the tested inserted into the center comes out clean (note: in my oven, this took an extra 30 minutes - I was checking every 10 min). Let the cake cool in the springform pan (so the cake holds its shape) and then run a sharp knife around the edges and unmold. Fruit puree
1/2 pint (6 oz) strawberries 1/4 cup of sugar pinch of salt
Combine everything in a blender or food processor and blend until smooth.
Filling 1 batch of Pastry cream (about 2.5 cups) 1 1/2 tsp powdered gelatin 1 tbsp water 2 cups heavy cream
In a small dish, sprinkle the gelatin over water to soften. Heat about 1/2 of the pastry cream (in the microwave or in a double boiler) until hot and whisk in the gelatin until smooth. Whisk half of the remaining pastry cream into the hot mixture, then whisk in the rest. In a mixing bowl, whip the cream until it holds medium-stiff peaks. Immediately and gently fold the pastry cream into the whipped cream with a rubber spatula. Because the filling will begin to set as soon as the gelatin is mixed into anything cold, it's best to use it immediately (see instructions above on assembly).
Topping 1 cup heavy cream, very cold 4 tsp sugar
Whip the cream on high speed until thickened. Add the sugar slowly and whip to soft peaks.
You can make a liqueur-flavored sugar syrup in place of the fruit puree for moistening the cake layers. In a small saucepan, combine 1 cup minus 2 tbsp sugar (6 oz) and 1/2 cup water and bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. When the sugar has dissolved, remove the pan from the heat and refrigerate until cold. Select the liqueur or other spirit that complements the fruit you are using and whisk 2-4 tablespoons into the sugar syrup.