Monday, September 2, 2013

September Girl!

Yesterday I had one of the most amazing and memorable days! Lately I've been feeling extra nostalgic because a couple of weeks ago my sister and I were remembering one of our all time favourite birthday from our childhood.
My sister's birthday is in the beginning of October and mine is on the first of September, so on the year that we had just returned from living in Pakistan and were lucky enough to spend time in Canada with grandma  before heading out on a new adventure to live in Iraq we combined both birthdays in early September with cake!  Strawberries being rare in many parts of the world we lived in I requested a white vanilla strawberry cake without any hesitation. I just love strawberries, not to mention "strawberry girl" became a nickname of mine as a toddler because I was born with a strange bright strawberry red birthmark on one side of my upper lip, it was cute but luckily faded away as a I grew up. My mother says that while living in Pakistan and pregnant with me she craved strawberries like crazy!

As we reminisced about those days we had this idea to recreate the cakes this year, and a couple of days before the day it occurred to me that those memories were exactly 20 years old since it was the memory of my 7th birthday back then and this year I'd be turning 27!!  It was also my sister's 5th birthday memory and she's turning 25 this year, I'm going to keep details of my sisters cake a secret because we will try to recreate it in October so stay tuned for that :)

I chose a more grown up version of that strawberry vanilla cake, it's three thick layers of cake containing a bit of that special picual spanish olive oil from Olive That!  in the batter.

The filling is a roasted strawberry balsamic (an 18 year old balsamic vinegar, also from Olive That!) and all frosted up with two batches of vanilla swiss meringue buttercream in a white to rosey pink ombre colour.

I hope you enjoy this sequence of shots from yesterday's party as we also celebrated the end of summer on this labour day weekend.

Ombre Cake (Balsamic Strawberry and olive oil Cream Genoise Cake)
(Genoise adapted from Cookpad)

Makes one 18cm diameter cake

(Note: I have baked the recipe below three times yielding 3 cakes)

3 eggs
120 grams caster sugar
105 grams cake flour
15 grams unsalted butter
15 grams spanish olive oil
38 grams milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

To make Genoise:
Preheat the oven to 180 degree celcius (or 160 degree celcius fan-forced). Line a 18cm round cake pan with a removable base with parchment paper.

In a clean bowl, whisk together eggs and sugar until thick and foamy. Place the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water, whisking constantly, until the mixture feel quite warm to the touch (about 40 degree celcius). Remove from heat and transfer the mixture to the bowl of your electric mixer. Beat on high speed until the mixture has cooled and holds soft peaks.

Meanwhile, combine butter, olive oil, milk and vanilla extract in a bowl and place over a saucepan of simmering water. Once butter has melted, stir to mix, and when mixture feel quite warm to the touch, remove from heat, and set aside.

Sift flour over the egg mixture. Using a spatula, fold the flour through thoroughly, taking care not to deflate the mixture too much.

Add a cup of the batter to the butter mixture and mix well. Add remaining batter, and fold in gently until combined.

Pour batter into prepared baking pan and bake for about 30 minutes. The cake is done when the top is golden brown and springy to the touch. 

Immediately turn the cake out of its tin onto a cooling rack. Place a plastic container over the cake (This helps the cake to retain the moisture). When cake is cooled completely, slice cake horiontally to get 2 layers OR as I did simply use 3 cakes as three layers.

(Cake recipe source)

Balsamic strawberry syrup:

3 cups strawberries, remove tops and slice into half or quarters (if they're very large) 

1 tbsp balsamic (18 year old balsamic vinegar) 
1 tbsp sugar 
1 tsp lemon juice

Bake in a shallow glass casserole on 400 F in the oven for about 20 minutes or until it caramelizes and smells delicious! 

Allow the strawberries to cool and strain them in a fine strainer reserving only the juice for the cakes.  Use the rest of the mashed strawberry to make popsicles or in smoothies or ice cream! 

Spread a layer of the balsamic strawberry syrup over each layer of cake before spreading with buttercream. 

Swiss Meringue Buttercream:

Make this recipe of buttercream twice to have enough to frost the cake above.  Make sure to wash all utensils and bowls between batches with warm soapy water to remove any grease and then wipe down with vinegar as well to remove traces of grease of else your egg whites (first step) will not come together and whip and the recipe will fail.

Yield: 5 cups


5 large egg whites (30g each–total 150g)

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons superfine granulated sugar

3/4 pound (3 sticks) unsalted butter, softened, cut into cubes

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Pinch of salt


Wipe the bowl of an electric mixer with paper towel and vinegar, to remove any trace of grease. Add egg whites and sugar, and simmer over a pot of water (not boiling), whisking constantly, until temperature reaches 160 degrees F, or if you don’t have a candy thermometer, until the sugar has completely dissolved and the egg whites are hot.

With whisk attachment of mixer, begin to whip until the mixture is thick, glossy, and cool. Switch over to paddle attachment and, while mixing on medium speed continuously, add softened butter in chunks until incorporated, and mix until it has reached a silky smooth texture (if curdles, keep mixing and it will come back to smooth). Add vanilla and salt, mix well. You can also add a wide variety of flavourings, extracts, and more.

Note: Because it does take some time to make, I always make in batches of 3 (vanilla), because it freezes so well and saves time. A batch of 3 fits perfectly in a 5QT KitchenAid mixer bowl. You can then thaw, divide, add separate flavours, purees, etc. I have recently decreased the amount of butter I use in my buttercream, because I find it has a lighter, fluffier quality to it. I’ve adjusted the recipe accordingly, but you can add more butter if you prefer. I’ve also recently started heating the egg whites and sugar to 160° F, rather than 140° F, and I find the meringue comes together so quickly this way (just an observation, however 140° F has worked for me for years). Just a note!

Troubleshooting: After the egg whites are mixed add the butter in small thumb size pieces into the bowl while it whips and make sure it incorporates well, if it begins to split and go "soupy" place the bowl into the freezer for a couple of minutes and then rewhip using the paddle attachment and add the remaining butter in pieces until it looks like a butter cream.

It helps to watch a couple of videos on youtube too before attempting to make this buttercream recipe. 

Sunday, September 1, 2013

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