I spotted some lovely looking strawberries in the supermarket recently – sadly we don’t grow any of our own, one day perhaps. Wondering what to do with them I had an urge to bake a Fraisier Cake. Or possibly even mini ones.
I began looking at recipes and remembered that some of the contestants on Great British Bake Off had an awful lot of trouble with this cake one year. If my memory serves me right, it was a technical challenge set by Mary. When I looked at her recipe online it said “tricky to achieve, but certain to impress”. Alarm bells started ringing in my head.
You can see the recipe here. It requires home made sponge, crème patissière and a layer of marzipan.
Now I have to say that making crème patissière is not one of my strong points. In fact I have only ever made it twice before and on both occasions it didn’t thicken. Most disappointing when everyone and their grandmother seems to be able to whisk up a crème pat with effortless ease and it turns out perfect every time. (I have the same trouble with scones. Everyone seems to be able to make perfect scones but not me. You could build houses with mine.)
Then I found a James Martin recipe online for a Fraisier, called “cheat’s strawberry gâteau”, where he uses shop bought sponge flan for the top and bottom layers. You can see that recipe here and it gave me an idea.
Mary’s recipe included a home made fatless sponge for the base and top. I’m good at making fat free sponges but time was an issue so I decided to go with James’ bought cake version. I really wanted to make individual cakes for a special evening with guests but I could imagine myself getting into a terrible mess trying to construct them and turn them out so that they looked half decent. So instead, I decided to make them as desserts, in little glasses.
They were a huge success. I even made crème pat and it set perfectly. I used this recipe here. I used shop bought cake which in France is called “quatre quarts” and its nearest equivalent in the UK would be a madeira cake. I used French cream, beaten and thickened with something called “Chantifix”, which is guaranteed to always thicken your cream and is good as long as you don’t mind the added sugar – which in this case I didn’t as I was aiming for a chantilly effect. In the UK double or whipping cream, sweetened with a little icing sugar would do the same job.
The ones without any alcohol for the children were marked using cocktail sticks, so that there could be no uncertainty.
This month’s Love Cake theme is “no bake”, which, because I (
couldn’t be bothered) didn’t have time to make my own sponge means that the mini Fraisiers fit perfectly. You can see the details here.
I shop bought madeira cake or quatre quarts
1 punnet of strawberries
8 tsp Cointreau
250ml double or whipping cream, or crème entière and a sachet of Chantifix
For the crème pat
4 egg yolks*
65g caster sugar
15g plain flour
350ml whole milk (I used semi skimmed and it was fine)
½tsp vanilla extract
icing sugar for dusting.
You will need 8 glasses, tumblers or dishes of a suitable size.
First, make the crème pat. Whisk the egg yolks and sugar together in a large bowl using an electric whisk, until they turn pale and thick. Whisk in the cornflour and flour.
Put the milk and vanilla into a medium saucepan and bring to a gentle simmer. Remove from the heat and allow to cool for 30 seconds.
Very slowly pour half of the hot milk onto the egg yolks, whisking all the time. Pour the mixture back into the pan onto the remaining milk. Bring gently back to the boil and simmer for one minute, whisking all the time, until smooth and thickened.
Pour the finished crème pat into a clean bowl and dust with icing sugar to prevent a skin forming. Sit the bowl on top of another containing iced or very cold water to cool.
Slice the cake into thin slices about 1cm thick then, using suitable pastry cutters, wine glass rims or jam jar rims, cut 8 large and 8 small circles of the right size to fit the base of your chosen glasses. Put a smaller circle in the bottom of each dish and splash over a teaspoon of Cointreau. (Omit this step for children.) Add a layer of crème pat about 2cm thick.
Rinse the strawberries and slice them into thick slices vertically. Push slices into the crème pat against the sides of the glass. Just slice a few at a time as it’s not easy to say exactly how many you will need.
Whisk the cream until thick (follow the instructions on the Chantifix packet if using) and fill each glass up to the top of the strawberries, making them all even in fullness.
Place a larger disc of cake on top of the layer of cream and dust with icing sugar. Add half a strawberry for decoration. Put slices of strawberry on a cocktail stick to identify any alcohol free portions. Chill in the fridge until needed.
*I have anguished many a time over what to do with unused egg whites. Meringues are another of my not very strong points. I have occasionally resorted to throwing them away after they have lurked in the fridge and haunted me for a few days. I now discover that if you simply cook them in a saucepan like you would make scrambled egg with a whole egg, the dog loves them with her breakfast. One conscience eased and one very happy dog!