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July 30, 2007

Daring Bakers Challenge: Strawberry Mirror Cake


Given my love for strawberries, it was with delight that I saw the challenge Peabody gave us Daring Bakers for July: the very classic and beautiful Strawberry Mirror Cake!

This type of dessert is a mainstay of French pâtisserie: layers of light, airy genoise layered with smooth, creamy mousse - the European equivalent of America's buttercream layer cakes, if you will. The recipe for the challenge uses a Bavarian cream, which has gelatin in it so it will set up when chilled, and a "mirror" - the thin layer of strawberry glaze on top. Altogether, this cake is a natural for an elegant and impressive presentation.

And in spite of its seemingly complicated appearance, it's actually less of a project than it seems. The genoise bakes up in a couple ticks of the clock's hands, and the Bavarian cream also holds no surprises if you've made a creme anglaise or pastry cream before - not a problem for a Daring Baker! I will caution against using too much gelatin in the Bavarian; it's easy to panic if the mixture appears too soft and liquidy and attempt to remedy the situation by throwing in some more gelatin "just in case". However, the Bavarian will set up nicely in the refrigerator to its firm yet still yielding consistency: too much gelatin will turn your Bavarian into rubbery Jello-ness. The amount given in the recipe worked perfectly for me.

The semi-liquid state of the Bavarian is, also, what made putting together the cake less daunting than assembling a buttercream cake: since you essentially pour the Bavarian over the cake layers, it's easy to get a smooth and even surface with minimal effort. If only making all desserts was this simple! As a side note, the recipe calls for using a 10" springform pan; I only had a 9" springform, but simply cut the genoise layers a little smaller so they would fit and leave room for the Bavarian cream on the side. I did end up not using all the Bavarian to fill the pan so as to leave room for the glaze, which was a shame but not a big deal.

After the Bavarian sets, all that remains is make the mirror glaze and pour over the top. I'll note that although the recipe called for adding food coloring to the Bavarian and the glaze, I decided not to because the color imparted from the strawberries was already strikingly sufficient - I'm always amazed at how much red comes from strawberries (not to mention how they stain everything in the kitchen if I'm not careful!)

My mirror had a satisfactory smoothness and shine; I think the top of my cake was not completely even so the glaze pooled up in a few corners which kept the surface from being completely smooth, but on the whole I was pleased to serve it. And the taste? Well, with organic strawberries coming from the local farmer's market, fragrantly ripe and begging to be used, I can't think of a better place to have put them. The Bavarian was pleasingly cold and smooth, vibrantly strawberry in flavor, the cake a mild, unobtrusively mellow base.  Altogether, a beautiful summery treat (even if San Francisco is covered in fog right now!)

You can go over to Peabody's site for the recipe, and be sure to check the Daring Baker blogroll to the left to see everyone else's cakes. As for myself, I am off to enjoy another slice of this cake!


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Very beautiful!!! I love the light pink shade of your cake - fits your overall blog template well :)

yummy! I love how everyone's cakes are similar and yet very unique :)

Wow, so beautiful. The layers of your cake are all so even.

I think you used the right words 'elegant and impressive'. It certainly sums up this cake.

Wow - your cake looks so delicate and perfect. I just love how the pale cream contrasts with the vivid mirror. Very nice! And I also love how you didn't overcook the cakes (oops....). Great work!

Oh it looks great! All it needs is a bow!

Another gorgeous mirror cake from a Daring Baker. Though my experience was not without it's stumbles, I had fun making this. You are so right that the semi liquid state of the bavarian made it easy to handle!

Just gorgeous, Anita! I loved your assessment of the cake, and I agree with not adding the food colouring in (I didn't because I have sensitivities) - I think the cake is still beautifully coloured! Congrats on another lovely challenge completed!

Gorgeous - great color in the layers. I've been bouncing around the Bakers' sites this morning and this looks like one I'll want to tackle while strawberries are still in season!

Your cake turned out so beautiful and delicate! Just lovely!

Did I expect anything other than beautiful?! Those are very lucky strawberries.

Your photos are gorgeous. It sounds like this was a walk in the park for you!!

I love how torte like your cake turned out. Anita, lovely as always!

Gorgeous cake, perfect layers and the beautiful thin mirror.

It was delicious, wasn't it? I'm trying to stay strong and not have another piece, but I think I might break soon. Beautiful cake!

Your cake is lovely, I also made the comment in my post that my mirror is not perfectly even because my fridge shelves are not perfectly straight (or so it would seem)...

Anita- as a lways you did a wonderful job!
Glad you enjoyed it.

Anita I was dying to see yours. It looks lovely just as I had expected. I think we can all pat ourselves on the shoulder after this challenge!

Simply gorgeous, Anita! But I knew that it would be. =)

You've got me craving strawberries after I thought I wouldn't want one for a very long time! ha!


Lovely and glossy top. You can cook for me any day :-D

Oh, Anita! I just knew your cake would be so beautiful. And after reading your post you really put it into perspective. It's true. It wasn't really all that complicated. Well done!

I totally agree about omitting the red food coloring and letting the natural redness shine through. Especially since we're getting some great strawberries this year. Your cake is perfect which I what I've come to expect from you! =)

Delicious cake Anita, as all the ones you make! Yum yum!

Lovely cake!

Anita, your cake looks like the essence of summer. It sounds like your bavarian was a bit less stiff than some...I sense a great relaxation with baking here. Lovely cake!

bravo, your cake looks very elegant.

This looks so light and delectable! Well done!

So many experiences from one recipe! So many cakes from one recipe!
It would seem there was not much point to the added food coloring.
I simply love your cake!

Beautiful job Anita...but I did not expect any less than perfection! I used lemon vodka instead of kirsch and no coloring either. I love the colors of the cake!

so delicate and all the desserts you make!

gorgeous as always! the lighting in your photos makes the cake looks so pristine and divine (not that it isn't on its own, anyhow). the pink hue of your cake is so beautiful and natural, too. fabulous job!

I'm so impressed with your cake. Everything looks just perfect to me--and the photos are wonderful!

She's a beauty Anita! well done :)

Your cakes are always such eye candy!

Work of art, Anita!

Your cake looks so delicate, Anita, with the pale pink and vanilla colours. Beautiful!

The cake looks so pretty with the even cake layers.

What a perfect cake, Anita. That's what I would need to work on next time with my cake -- perfect balance in the layers of the genoise and the bavarian creme. Absolutely lovely.

Gorgeous! I suspect it's the pale pink, but your version just says baby shower to me.

Simply beautiful

Love your photos! Your cake looks stunning!

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