Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Strawberry Sponge Cake

I mentioned earlier that a friend of mine had her birthday last Monday. That was the same day that I brought the hot cross buns in to work. I asked her what sorts of flavors she liked and she said she likes fruity things like tarts. I looked all around for a suitable recipe, but quickly realized that I do not own any tart pans. And a pie would only serve so many people.

So I was leaning towards a cake of some sort when I came across this recipe for a berry cake that looked light and airy ( That seemed perfect to me. Plus I have some jelly roll pans that I thought would be good for making this cake. I didn't think about the fact that it was a bit smaller than the suggested half sheet pan until I went to prepare the sheet for baking. By then, I already had all the ingredients and was not about to turn back. I also realized that the sides of a jelly roll pan do not come up very high. I was fairly anxious about that part of things, I was so worried that the cake would just overflow while baking.

The sponge cake was a lot of fun to make. I enjoyed watching the changes in the batter as the beating time went by. I couldn't get over just how much the cake increased in volume in a few minutes. Changes like that are totally cool. I decided to grease the pan rather than use parchment paper. When it came out of the oven and I let it cool for a while, it was still a bit difficult to remove from the pan. It took a lot of patience and a couple of spatulas to make sure the cake came out in one piece.

The syrup was also easy to make. Though I should admit that my OCD self turned my back to do the dishes (hey, I couldn't stand to have a few minute of not getting something accomplished and the dishes in the sink were calling to me) and the next thing I knew I heard sizzle sizzle. The syrup had boiled out of the pot onto the stove. Of course I was annoyed with myself for not paying closer attention and I knew it would be a pain to clean all the sugary syrup up off my stove. I tasted the syrup and thought the lemon flavor might be a bit over powering for the cake. Had the recipe been from anywhere other than King Arthur Flour, I would have used a portion of the suggested syrup on the cake. But since that website has yet to steer me wrong, I went ahead, though not without trepidation. I went ahead and soaked the syrup into the entire cake before cutting it to fit in the cake box.

The mascarpone filling was simple to make, though I did have a little bit of trouble finding it in the store. I will know to look in the specialty cheese section first next time. I had been looking near the ricotta and cottage cheese, but obviously I am the only person who thinks that is where it should be.

The recipe does not mention slicing the strawberries before placing on the bottom layer of the cake. Also, I thought it was a bit backwards to put the strawberries on, then the cheese filling, so I switched that. I had a small scrap of the cake left over from cutting it to fit in the cake box, so I experimented with that piece first. I sliced the berries and added some filling. When I tried to eat it, the whole strawberry slice came out in the first fork-full. OK, so that means that chopping the berries seems like a better path to take.

I added the filling and the strawberries and placed the second cake layer on top. I added the cheese filling on top. Then I looked at the didn't seem quite as perfect as I wanted. The picture leaves the sides of the cake open, but since I baked the cake in one piece, then cut it some of the edges were exposed. I couldn't leave it like that, so I iced the sides as well. I just barely had enough of the filling to finish the cake, but I made it!

Now on to the decoration on the top. I had plenty of strawberries, but wasn't sure I wanted my cake to look like the one in the picture. I played around a bit and decided to make flowers/stars out of strawberry pieces. I fit six on the top. But that didn't seem like enough, so I kept going. I made a border along the bottom of the cake with quartered strawberries and up the four corners. But that didn't seem like enough, I cut small strips of strawberry and made a border along the top edge. Now I felt happy with the decoration of my cake. It is a great leap forward in my presentation skills, though I know I still have a long way to go.

To make the cake seem even fancier, I placed the cake on a cake board in the bottom of a cardboard cake box. Now it looks good. If only I had a logo for my bakery, then I would have placed a sticker along the edge. I will need to start thinking about what sort of logo I want. That will be a good thing to think about while swimming or running, it will help the time pass quicker.

When I brought in the cake to work, my coworker was just soo excited. She smiled big and gave me a hug, even though she is not a hugging type of person. She said it was just perfect. I had a bottle of apple cider left over from New Years, so I brought that in as well. She was so excited, she sent out an email for everyone to come by for cake and cider later that afternoon. While out to lunch, she got two more bottles of cider.

4PM came around, and I went and set out the cake and plates and all. Everyone was extremely impressed with the cake and one person even asked if it was a professional bakery that had made the cake. His review was 'double hot damn' upon tasting the cake. I don't think I could have gotten any better compliments. It gives me hope that I may be able to sell my creations and that I can have the presentation that is good enough to sell. There wasn't one negative or even potentially slighting remark made, nothing to change in the future. One of my friends even made sure to mention her birthday is in a few weeks. I told her to let me know whatever she might like and I will be sure to bring it for her.

A few people were even asking me if I wanted to have my own bakery. Of course I would love that, or even just make enough to be able to sell from my home, perhaps online or even just through word of mouth. I just need to stay positive and keep working and keep learning. I never know who will read this or who will taste my next creation and that just might be the springboard that I need to take this to the next level.

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