11 June 2008

Strawberry Shortcake

Strawberry Shortcake (with title)
I'm feeling a little bluesy today. I began to think about the last time I undertook a real creative endeavor. I think it was high school, which is sad. That's about the time I had one sketchbook after another, filled with fair maidens, knights, monsters, forests, and seas. The latest sketchbook I have is being flipped at the slow rate of one page every 4-6 months, and it's only to sketch a face of a real person-- not very creative.

My hand also hurts a little from playing too much Guitar Hero (on a controller-- no guitar. I was thinking I can save up for a new WACOM Tablet, but what use is it if I've no ideas to bring to life, heh). Anyway, I'm really getting into the music (Heart, Cheap Trick, Foo Fighters, Kansas) and I appreciate the talent that went into each of the songs. The problem is, I'm finding my current piano playing to be bland. It's certainly not as expressive or meaningful as I want it to be. I was supposed to insert a "Strawberry Fields Forever" Piece here but it didn't cut the mustard.
Strawberry Shortcake (slice)
I also noticed that my food photographs of late have been repetitive(ly poor). Often I have a grand idea of how the shoot should play out, but I either don't have the power to realize it as a stylist or what I see with my naked eye doesn't match the meh pictures I capture. You guys might recognize that the topmost shot is almost exactly the same as the Fraisier-- another strawberry cake-- I made. It's a shame because I'm not able to communicate the excitement I feel with regards to the food.

The fundraiser for Bri is steadily still raising money; I wish I could combine my skill in watercolors now with my vision when I was younger. Sigh. I could have contributed a really good painting for the raffle. Right now when I try to visualize something fantastic, I only see a cacophony of colors, and I'm not into making abstract art. I bought an excellent book by Shirley Trevena called Taking Risks With Watercolour; hopefully it'll be enough inspiration. Maybe someday I can produce something with a greater value than I put into it, haha :)

Strawberry Shortcake
Classic American Spongecake adapted from The Simple Art of Perfect Baking

  • 100g (1 cup sifted) cake flour (I used 78g all-purpose flour and 22g cornstarch)

  • 170g (1 cup minus 2 tablespoons) granulated sugar, divided in 2 (85g or 7 tbsp)

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

  • 1 tablespoon sugar

  • 7 large eggs at room temperature

  • 1 teaspoon cream of tartar

Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat to 150°C (300°F). Line the bottoms only of 2 8-inch cake pans with parchment paper. Don't grease the pans.

Sift the cake flour (or combination all-purpose flour and cornstarch) if you haven't yet onto a sheet of waxed paper. Separate the eggs, placing all the whites in a stainless steel mixing bowl and the yolks in a medium-sized deep bowl. To the yolks, add 85g sugar and the vanilla. Beat at high speed for 5 minutes, when ribbons that fall from the beaters take a few seconds to dissolve on the surface. Beat the egg whites with clean beaters on low speed for 30 seconds, then add the cream of tartar and 1 tablespoon sugar. Beat at medium-high speed for 4-5 minutes, or until the whites appear velvety and stiff but not dry or granular. Pour the yolks onto the whites and sprinkle half the remaining 85g sugar onto the surface. Fold the yolks into the whites with a few strokes, then sprinkle all the remaining sugar onto the surface and fold to fully incorporate the yolks, the whites, and the sugar. Fold in the flour in 3 additions until each addition is just incorporated.

Gently pour the batter into each of the cake pans (they will each hold about 340g batter, if I recall clearly). Spin the pan around on the counter to level the top of the batter. Bake for 35-40 minutes (switching the positions of the pans halfway through baking) or until the top springs back slightly when touched and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean (if it doesn't, you can bake it for 5 minutes longer until it does).

Invert the pans onto a cooling rack (if your pans are shallow and the cake has risen beyond the rim of the pan, support the rims only by using 8 glasses), cool for an hour, then turn the pans right-side up and cool for 30 minutes longer. To free the cake, simply hold the side of the pan in one hand and slap the side of the pan for the entire circumference; you will see that the cake will separate from the pan cleanly. Invert onto a platter then invert right-side up onto another platter. Repeat with the other cake.

  • 750g (3 cups) heavy cream, chilled

  • 3 tablespoons granulated sugar

  • 1-1/2 teaspoons powdered gelatin dissolved in 1 tablespoon cold water (optional)

  • 200g (7-1/2 ounces) small-medium sweet strawberries, washed and hulled, 8 perfect ones reserved, and the rest sliced

Using a chilled bowl and chilled beaters, add the sugar to the cream and whip the cream until it just starts to hold stiff peaks (it will thicken further as you pipe it, so don't overdo it or it will be chunky). If using, place the gelatinized water over a double boiler or in a microwave on LOW for 10 seconds to dissolve. Fold the liquid gelatin into 1/4 cup of the cream, then return this cream to the large bowl and fold everything together. Load 1/2 cup of the cream onto a piping bag fitted with a decorative tip.

Place the fuglier cake layer on the bottom of the serving platter and spread some whipped cream on top. Pipe a dam of cream on the circumference, then fill the interior with sliced strawberries. Cover the top with more whipped cream. Place the other cake layer on top then frost all over with whipped cream, smoothing with an icing spatula. Pipe 8 rosettes of whipped cream on top, then place an inverted strawberry in each. Chill for at least 2 hours. Serve as soon as possible, especially if you did not stabilize the whipped cream with gelatin.

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