Paris has finally shedded the thick layer of gloom that has shrouded the city’s skies in dreariness since the winter months. The sun is starting to peek out again, replenishing our much depleted vitamin D reserves. Days are becoming increasingly longer as we head into summer, with the sun setting as late as 10 in the evening these days. Warmer weather also signals the debut of the summer fruits season! Strawberries and cherries started to make an appearance at the fruit stands lining the outdoor markets as early as April, but I knew better than to be tempted by their fragrant scent and bright colors. April is a bit too early for strawberries and cherries to develop their sweetness and flavor, particularly in France, where the weather is a bit milder. Only a couple of weekends ago did strawberries start becoming sweet enough to eat, and the timing couldn’t have been better.
My dear co-worker just earned a much deserved promotion, which was the perfect opportunity to make a cake to celebrate! I recently came across a recipe for a Japanese fraisier in the latest issue of Fou de Pâtisserie, which is a much lighter take on the traditional French fraisier. It is composed of a couple layers of genoise, whipped cream, and of course, strawberries, whereas the French version is filled with a mousseline cream (pastry cream + butter). Though the cake was light and flavorful, I was a bit disappointed because the whipped cream was too light to maintain the cake’s shape when cutting into it. However, if made with US ingredients, the cake might have held up better, since the fat content of whipping cream in the US, if I’m not mistaken, is 36%, while the standard cream found in grocery stores here in France is only 30% fat.
The recipe yields a denser genoise than I’m used to making, which helps support the weight of the strawberries. But, that alone was not enough to hold the cake together when serving. If I were to make this cake again, I would whip some mascarpone into the whipped cream and perhaps add some gelatine to give the cream a bit more body. The recipe didn’t call for any alcohol, but I added some rum, and would add even more next time to the soaking syrup. Nevertheless, this is a great, light cake for summer.
Fraisier à la Japonaise
4 eggs, yolks separated from the whites
120 g sugar
3 tbspns milk
1/2 tspn vanilla extract
120 g sifted flour
a pinch of salt
20 g melted butter
Preheat oven to 180°C (360°F). Butter and lightly flour an 18 cm round cake pan.Beat egg whites with a pinch of salt until soft peaks form. Add the sugar while continuing to beat the egg whites until the mixture becomes a bright meringue. Slowly pour the egg yolks in a steady stream while still beating the mixture. Pour in the milk and vanilla extract. Then gently mix in the flour with a spatula. To finish, incorporate the cooled, melted butter. Pour the batter into the cake pan and tap the bottom against the counter a few times to force the air bubbles to the surface. Bake for about 25 minutes. Once done, remove from the pan and allow to cool on a wire rack. Cut the cake in two and trim the edges
50 g sugar
5 cl water
5 tbspns rum (or more, according to taste)
Put the sugar and water into a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Add the rum to the syrup once cooled.
250 g strawberries
30 g powdered sugar
25 cl whipping cream
1/2 tspn vanilla extract
Whip the cream until stiff peaks form. Incorporate the powdered sugar and vanilla extract.
Rinse and dry the strawberries. Set aside a few to top the cake. Cut the rest into thin slices (about 4 slices per strawberry).
The recipe indicates to decorate the cake by covering the top with inverted whole strawberries. I only decorated mine with a couple of strawberries that I had cut into the shape of flowers and lined the bottom with a layer of red decorative sugar. Place in the fridge for at least an hour before serving.