This is the post some of you have probably been waiting for - the post where I swear. A lot.
Fraisier Cake can go fuck itself.
When done right, I have no doubt this cake is incredible. And make no mistake - I plan to attempt this cake again - after a lengthy break from it where I perfect the separate elements of this cake on their own and then come back to this asshole cake.
Fraisier cake is a combination of Genoise sponge, crème pâtissière, marzipan, and strawberries.
Genoise sponge and crème pâtissière are fiddly as hell. Marzipan isn't hard to make but it's one extra step in the whole production. Strawberries are the easiest thing to work with out of the whole cake - because they're strawberries. Basically this cake is fiddly and fucky and fuck this cake.
This cake featured on series 3 (Netflix GBBO: Beginnings season 1), episode 9, Pâtissière. It was the week's technical bake - and for good reason. Fuck this cake.
I used Mary Berry's recipe. If you look at Mary's notes on the recipe, she says: "An incredibly pretty French cake filled with delicious strawberries and crème pâtissière. Tricky to achieve but certain to impress."
Tricky to achieve. I did not, and I should have, watched the GBBO Masterclass episode that featured this cake. I probably should have rewatched the episode it featured in. More preparation. Less gung-ho enthusiasm for something that contained THREE FUCKING THINGS I've never made before. Tricky to achieve. Oh sure. I'm sure it'll be fine. It was not fucking fine.
It's a cake. And god damn cream filling. "How hard can it be?" I asked myself.
Fucking hard. A pain in the ass, bullshit cake that is probably worth it when you can actually pull it off but not worth it when you are still figuring out how to keep a genoise sponge light and airy and not accidentally fold all the air bubbles out of it.
On to the recipe.
For the sponge
For the crème pâtissière
For the lemon syrup
To finish the cake
Just in case you were curious, the methodology for this recipe has 34 steps BEFORE I added the extra steps of making my own fucking marzipan. (I'm apparently a masochist.)
I have not included all 34 steps. Because I didn't make it to all 34 fucking steps. Instead I have adjusted the steps to include my modified version of the final cake. I do not have a picture of the final cake. About midway through this bake, I threw my hands in the air and said "fuck it" and decided it didn't matter any more.
The final cake was not pretty. It did not look appetizing. It tasted fine, but you wouldn't guess it from the appearance.
1) Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4.
2) Grease, flour and line the base of a 23cm/9in spring-form or round loose bottom cake tin.
3) Place the sugar, eggs and lemon zest in a large bowl set over a pan of simmering water.
4) Using an electric hand whisk, whisk the mixture over a medium heat until doubled in volume and pale in colour. The mixture is at the right stage when it forms a ribbon trail when the whisk is lifted out of the mixture. Remove from the heat.
5) Sift in two-thirds of the flour and gently fold into the whisked mixture with a metal spoon or spatula. Add the remaining flour and fold again. Try to keep in as much of the air as possible. Make sure all the flour is incorporated into the mixture.
6) Gently fold in the melted butter.
7) Pour the mixture into the cake tin and bake for 25-30 minutes or until the sides of the cake begin to come away from the tin and it is pale golden-brown.
8) When cooked, allow the sponge to cool a little bit in the tin, then turn out onto a cooling rack. Be careful as this sponge is quite delicate. It should be just under 5cm/2in in height.
9) To make the crème pâtissière, pour the milk into a wide based pan, split the vanilla pod along its length using a sharp knife, and add it to the milk along with the vanilla seeds. Bring the milk up to the boil, then take it off the heat.
10) Whisk together the eggs, sugar, kirsch and cornflour in a medium sized bowl until blended.
11) Remove the vanilla pod from the milk and pour the hot milk through a sieve into the egg mixture. Whisk to combine.
12) Pour the custard back into a clean saucepan and set over a medium heat.
13) Stir the custard constantly until the mixture thickens. The mixture will take about four minutes to thicken, but when it does it happens very quickly, so you need to really keep stirring to prevent lumps. Whisk until smooth.
14) Cook the mixture until the crème is very thick, so that it can be piped and it will hold its shape. Stir in the butter until thoroughly melted and combined.
15) Allow to cool slightly, pour into a shallow dish and chill in the fridge for about an hour until really cold and set firm. This chills it faster as it cools over a larger surface area – alternatively you could fill the piping bags with it at this stage and leave overnight to chill.
The following section is my own set of instructions rather than Mary Berry's, starting with number 17. Number 18 is also Mary Berry, but the rest of these instructions are all me.
16) Place the ingredients for the lemon syrup in a small saucepan with 70ml/4½ tbsp water. Heat gently until the sugar dissolves, then boil rapidly for two minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool.
17) To make the marzipan, mix the ground almonds and sugars together in a bowl. Add the egg and the almond essence. Knead with your hands in the bowl to form a stiff paste, but take care not to over-knead as this will make the paste oily. Wrap in cling film and store in the fridge until required. This mixture will make roughly double what you need for the recipe, so place half the marzipan in a a freezer bag and freeze for up to a month.
18) Roll out a thin disc of marzipan to fit a 23cm/9in circumference circle. It is best if you draw around the 23cm/9in base of another loose bottomed tin for the perfect circle. For best results and a perfectly flat surface, chill it in the fridge until it is needed.
19) Slice the sponge in hal-- nope. No we're not doing that part. Instead: Lay your sad single layer of genoise sponge that did not rise properly down on a nice, decorative plate.
20) Stab your cake most of the way through with a toothpick - all over the surface of the cake. Just put holes all over that bitch.
21) Proceed to liberally apply lemon syrup to your single layer of sad pseudo-genoise sponge. I started strong, brushing the cake with syrup the way you're supposed to. I even managed to do it for about half the quantity of syrup I made...and then I dumped the second half of the lemon syrup on it while yelling "absorb damn you!"
22) Take the crème pât out of the fridge and spoon it into a piping bag. Pipe some of the crème pât on top of the sponge.
23) Hull and chop a bunch of strawberries. All the strawberries, some of the strawberries. It doesn't matter. Life is pointless. This cake is a lie. Actually it's not a lie. Mary Berry was honest about this cake. I was just full of hubris. No one tell the Greek gods. This will be my eternal punishment. Making this cake and fucking it up in some way every. Single. Time.
24) Spread the strawberries out on top of the crème pât.
25) Pipe another layer of crème pât. Try and get fancy with it. Use an offset spatula to smooth everything out. Stare at the hot mess that is your attempt at this cake and throw the spatula in the sink.
26) Get your marzipan disk from the fridge. Gently lay it on top of the top layer of crème pât.
27) Accidentally rip your marzipan disk in eight different places in the process. It's fine. Try and cut off the excess edges of marzipan. Nearly cut the tip of your finger off. Slice off some of the cake. Finally just give up and mush the marzipan against the side of the cake because it's 1 AM and what even if your life at this point?
28) Try to artfully decorate the top of your cake with some sliced strawberries.
29) Fight the urge to throw away your ugly cake.
30) Eat a slice of the fucking cake and appreciate that at least the flavors are right.
Fuck. This. Cake.
I'm not sure I've made my feelings very clear. Do I need to repeat myself again? No? Okay...are you sure?
So here's the thing. I remade both sponge and the custard. I ran myself out of eggs, butter, AND cornstarch making this bake. Because I made the key components of it TWICE. And they STILL didn't turn out properly.
If I'm being fair to myself, the crème pât was getting much closer to being technically correct. The flavor was right, the consistency was pretty well perfect aside from being just a little bit lumpy. I suspect I need to use a different pan next time I make crème pât and also turn the temperature down. The recipe says to keep the temperature on medium, but I think medium-low may be a better bet.
The genoise sponge is the one that really got me angry, though. The first time I made it, I knew I had knocked too much air out of it. I baked it anyway, but it didn't come through for me. So I made it again.
The second time I made the sponge, It looked and felt airier. I could tell I'd better folded the flour into the dough. It took up more space in the springform - I felt much more certain the second attempt would rise properly and I'd be able to make a proper layer cake with it.
By this point I'd already binned the first sponge. It was tough and rubbery and just...very sad, overall. Being fair to myself, I've never made a genoise sponge before. I've never made any cake where it was this fussy trying to get it to rise properly.
The disappointment when I checked on my second sponge and it hadn't risen, despite looking and seeming like it would do better, was a physical weight in the air around me. Andrew could practically see it, and could hear the distress in my voice. He reassured me it would be fine. We wouldn't have a proper layer cake Fraisier cake. It'd still be delicious.
And don't get me wrong. It was delicious. But it looked like a hot. God. Damn. Mess.
The Fraisier Cake has not defeated me. It won battle number one. I'll be coming back to it and trying it again in a few weeks after I've done some other bakes and attempted both the genoise sponge and crème pât without doing them TOGETHER. Maybe that will help.
But for now? Fuck this cake. Fuck all this fiddly fuckery bullshit.
I feel better for cursing about it.
Fortunately there are some less stressful, tasty bakes coming soon on the blog. The next post will be about Paul Hollywood's garlic naan, and shortly after that will be his mini pear pies. There are a lot of things on my docket right before I go back to work - so keep an eye out for more posts coming soon.
I hope you enjoyed the struggle that was this cake. I'm sure there will be more technical bakes like this in the future, but there's something special about the first one. ;)