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.
A fraisier is a French pastry consisting of two layers of cake soaked in simple syrup with strawberries and pastry cream sandwiched between. Essentially, it is a free-standing trifle, but the special thing about a fraisier is the exposed fruit around the sides. To make a true fraisier, you have to use strawberries (fraise = strawberry), so I’m not really sure what to call my strawberry-raspberry-blueberry combination – a baies mélanger-ier doesn’t really have the same ring to it. But whatever you want to call it, it was tasty!
I did this challenge while I was in California visiting my aunt and uncle, and it was extra challenging because I was baking in an unfamiliar kitchen and also contending with a wheat and corn allergy. But it turned out beautifully and just proves that you don’t need fancy equipment or lots of space to make a spectacular dessert. Jana gave us lots of freedom with the flavours in our fraisiers – the only caveats were that it had to include cake, cream, and exposed fruit around the sides. I knew I wanted the berries to be the star of the dessert, so I shrugged off my initial reaction of “OMG chocolate everything!!!” and went instead with floral flavours. I used lavender sugar to make the chiffon cake and simple syrup, and I used vanilla bean in the pastry cream for an extra vanilla hit. By happy accident, my aunt didn’t have any regular sugar so I ended up also using honey in the pastry cream, which turned out to be an awesome flavour along with the vanilla and lavender.To make the cake wheat-free I used a gluten-free baking mix from Bob’s Red Mill. The pastry cream called for corn starch, and I wanted to replace it with tapioca starch, but I couldn’t find any in the grocery store. Instead, I used regular tapioca granules – the kind used for making tapioca pudding. This only sort of worked: it thickened up nicely, but it had the little tapioca pearls in it (the texture of which totally puts me off 🙁 ) so I sieved the pastry cream to remove them, and ended up with not quite enough pastry cream. It worked out in the end, but lesson learned: tapioca for pudding is NOT the same as tapioca starch! (Also FYI, the little tapioca pearls, when dry, are hard as rock and IMPOSSIBLE to crush!)The finished dessert looked beautiful and tasted great, but if I were to make it again (which I probably will – it is a fantastic summer dessert with the airy cake, cream, and fruit) I think I would follow this recipe. Instead of using a chiffon cake (very small amount of oil in the batter), this other recipe uses a génoise cake, which contains butter, giving it a slightly more substantial crumb. The pastry cream is also quite different: it is actually a crème mousseline, which doesn’t use gelatin, contains more egg yolks, and seems like it would taste a little more like crème anglaise, which I like. However, this Daring Bakers Challenge introduced me to a great new form of dessert, and the chiffon cake recipe is awesome!! Thanks, Jana, for hosting this one! Head on over to the Daring Bakers website to see all the other beautiful fraisier creations this month – there are some seriously gorgeous cakes!
PS – If anyone knows what you would call a “mixed-berry fraisier” in French, please enlighten me!
“Fraisier” with Mixed Berries, Lavender Cake, and Honey-Vanilla Pastry Cream
All components (cake, pastry cream, simple syrup) can be made in advance. The assembled cake needs to be refrigerated for at least 4 hours for the pastry cream to set. I made the cake early in the day, then made the pastry cream, and then assembled everything that evening and let it sit overnight to eat as dessert the next day.
Note: I halved all the recipes to make a 6″ fraisier (I brought my sweet little 6″ springform pan in my luggage!). The normal yield for the recipes below is an 8″ fraisier.
Lavender Chiffon Cake
For flavour variations on the chiffon cake (and the other components), see the challenge recipe. This cake rose quite high in the oven, so consider lining your pan with a collar of ungreased foil or parchment paper if you think it might overflow out of the pan.
Preheat the oven to 325˚F. Line the bottom of an 8″ spingform pan with ungreased parchment paper. Do not grease the sides of the pan – the cake batter needs to be able to stick to them to keep its volume while baking.
In a large bowl, mix together the dry ingredients:
1 cup + 2 tbsp flour (or gluten-free baking mix of your choice)
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup lavender sugar (or 1/2 cup regular white sugar + 2 tsp dried lavender – make sure it is unsprayed, ie: safe to eat)
1/2 tsp salt
In a small bowl, combine the wet ingredients:
3 large egg yolks
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup + 1 tbsp water
1 tsp vanilla extract
5 large egg whites
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
1/4 cup lavender sugar (or 1/4 cup regular sugar + 1 tsp lavender)
Place egg whites in a bowl and beat with an electric mixer on medium speed until frothy. Add cream of tartar and continue beating on medium speed until soft peaks form. Slowly add lavender sugar and beat on high until stiff, shiny peaks form.With a spatula, scoop about 1/3 of the egg whites into the cake batter and fold gently to combine (I found it easiest to do this with a whisk).Fold in the remaining egg whites until just combined, being careful not to deflate the batter too much.Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake on the centre rack for 45 to 55 minutes, until the cake is fully risen and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean (it’s important not to under-bake the cake or it will fall as it cools and you will have a crater in the top of your cake). Remove the cake from the oven and let cool on a wire rack. (If it hasn’t risen over the top of the pan, you could invert it to cool, which will help keep it from deflating as it cools.)When cool, run a knife around the side of the pan and remove the springfom sides. Remove the parchment paper from the bottom and refrigerate, wrapped in plastic, for up to 4 days.
Honey-Vanilla Pastry Cream
In a medium bowl, whisk together until smooth:
1 large egg
2 tbsp cornstarch (substituting tapioca pearls is not recommended!)
1/4 cup honey
In a heavy saucepan combine:
1 cup whole milk
1 whole vanilla bean, split, with seeds scraped into milk
1/8 tsp salt
Scald over medium high heat, bringing it to a near boiling point, stirring occasionally.When it is ready, discard the vanilla bean, then slowly pour the hot milk down the side of the bowl into the egg mixture, whisking constantly.
Pour the mixture back into the warm pot and cook over medium heat, stirring, until the custard is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon and is just about to boil (mine got a little overly thick).
Cut 2 tbsp unsalted butter into four pieces and whisk into the pastry cream, one at a time, until smooth.Cover the custard with plastic wrap, pressing the plastic onto the surface of the custard to prevent a skin from forming.Refrigerate until cool (will keep up to 5 days).
When you are ready to assemble the fraisier:
In a small dish, sprinkle 3/4 tsp gelatin over 1 1/2 tsp water and let the gelatin soften.Measure 1/4 cup of the chilled pastry cream into a small heat-proof bowl and set over a small saucepan of simmering water. Heat the cream until it is 120˚F (48.8˚C), then whisk in the gelatin until smooth. Whisk the gelatin mixture into the remaining chilled pastry cream until smooth.(I was running low on pastry cream so I used a few tablespoons of heavy cream, heated in the microwave, to mix with the gelatin and it worked just fine!)
Lavender Simple Syrup
In a medium saucepan, combine:
1/3 cup lavender sugar (or 1/3 cup lavender sugar + 1 1/2 tsp dried lavender)
1/3 cup water
Bring to a boil and let the sugar dissolve.No need to stir, but it won’t hurt if you do. When the sugar is dissolved, remove from the heat and cool slightly. Can be used warm or cooled completely and refrigerated in a lidded container for up to 1 month.
Assembling the Fraisier
You will need:
1 baked 8″ chiffon cake, cut in 2 layers (trim off the top if it is uneven and cracked-looking)
1 recipe pastry cream (with whipped cream added)
1 recipe simple syrup
about 2 lbs total of strawberries, raspberries, and blueberries, washed, with the strawberries and raspberries carefully cut in half. For a beautiful fraisier, select your berries for colour and uniform size.
1/2 cup almond paste (optional)
Remove the bottom from an 8″ springform pan and place ring (the pan’s sides) on a serving platter. Line the sides of the pan with plastic wrap – do not line the bottom of the pan. (I used parchment paper to make a collar – next time I would also line it with plastic wrap.)Place a layer of chiffon cake in the bottom of the prepared pan sprinkle it evenly with half the simple syrup. The cake should resemble a squishy sponge.Line the outer edge of the cake with strawberries, points up and cut side facing out and flush with the sides of the pan. Line the rest of the cake surface with whole berries in concentric circles.Place the pastry cream in a piping bag (or a Ziplock bag with one corner cut off) and pipe the cream into the gaps between the strawberries around the edges, then between the berries lining the bottom.Line the outer edge of the cake with the halved raspberries, placing them cut side out over the cream-filled gaps between the strawberries.Pipe pastry cream between the raspberries to hold them in place. Repeat with whole blueberries, placing them over the cream-filled gaps between the raspberries.Pipe pastry cream between the blueberries.
Cut up the remaining fruit and combine it with the remaining pastry cream (reserve about 1 tbsp for spreading over the top of the cake). Place it gently in the centre of the cake and spread it level, being careful not to disturb the pattern around the edge.Top the fruit and cream with the remaining cake layer, pressing it down gently and evenly. Moisten the cake with the remaining simple syrup and let it absorb.Spread the top of the cake with the reserved 1 tbsp pastry cream (I used whipped cream because I was out of pastry cream). If you wish, top it with almond paste, rolled out very thin between two sheets of waxed paper/parchment paper, and cut to size using the bottom of the springform pan as a guide.Cover the cake with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours to let the pastry cream set. Can be stored for up to 3 days in the fridge.
To serve, release the sides of the springform pan and peel away the plastic wrap.Garnish with berries, flowers, and confectioners’ sugar, if desired. Carefully cut into slices with a large knife (not serrated), wiping the blade clean after each cut.