Could you say that the strawberry is the food of celebration? Closely behind the drink of celebration – Champagne, of course – but there is something smile inducing about a bowl of fat red strawbs, freshly washed and ready to be drizzled with cream, smashed and whipped with meringues or even popped in that flute of celebratory fizz. It might have something to do with the fact that the arrival of those properly fat British strawberries in the supermarkets, slapped with the Union Jack (or better, the Saltire) signals summer is here. The time for ideals of Pimms in the garden, rained-off barbeques and jam making with a giant biodegradable basket from the pick-your-own. It always makes me sad to see them go come September, when they are replaced with their sadly lesser compatriots from Spain. Sunshine and strawberries, what else do you need for a celebration?As it turned out, only one of the above was required for my Mam’s 50th birthday party a couple of weeks ago. Grand plans of a barbeque, tables dotted with tealights in jam jars and guests milling around the garden were quickly dampened quite literally with the forecast, a sort of F-you, it’s not *quite* summer yet from the skies. My dad as always did a stellar job in the whipping winds cooking steaks, satay chicken and sausages and the piles of salads and breads and sauces were all devoured happily despite the weather. I guess I was secretly pleased there would at least be some sunshine in the form of the three tier birthday cake I had made, stuffed with almost 1kg of the summer fruit that screams celebration and sprinkled with pretty edible rose petals, slivers of pistachio with the top tier surrounded by white chocolate shards. I have to admit, I have no idea if they did indeed temper as per the recipe below – in the construction stage there was a fridge overflow and the tray was transferred to a still-hot hob. Floppy shards were the result, but nothing a quick freezer blast couldn’t fix, in case you run into the same Benny Hill kitchen moments like the Peases do.
When commissioned to create my Mam’s birthday cake, I wanted to bake something that looked feminine and pretty whilst making the most of the in-season fruit. A combination of the discovery of tiny edible rose petals in Tesco (Ingredients aisle, total cake gamechanger FYI) and London Bakes’ recipe for Strawberry and Rose Cake were my inspiration for this cake and a test drive earlier this month led to a tweaked version with a touch less rose water and a dam of pure roasted strawberry in the middle of each layer, hidden away by piping a concentric circle of naturally pink Swiss meringue buttercream folded with the puree around each cake to stop the sauce leaking out. As always, my tiered cake recipes seem long and ardous but it is certainly worth your time. I made the puree and chocolate work the night before and got ahead lining tins and weighing ingredients before I started baking at 7.30am. Allowing for a few coffee stops and cake chilling time, the whole thing was finished by around 1pm, so it is certainly doable and straightforward. I’d add that there is no need to temper and dip strawberries in white chocolate and coat with edible glitter as I did as it was a tad overkill in terms of decoration. Simply pile any leftover strawberries on top if you like – after all they are the stars of the season.
Adapted from London Bakes
- -For the Roasted Strawberry Puree
- 900g strawberries, hulled
- 2 tsp honey
- -For the chocolate shards
- 200g good quality white chocolate (I used Green & Blacks)
- Small handful pistachios, chopped
- Edible rose petals
- -For the rose cakes
- 340g unsalted butter, softened
- 340g caster sugar
- 6 eggs, lightly beaten
- ½ tsp rose water
- 340g self-raising flour
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 3 tsp milk
- -For the Roasted Strawberry Swiss Meringue Buttercream
- 7 egg whites
- 350g caster sugar
- 700g unsalted butter, softened
- -To decorate
- chopped pistachios
- edible rose petals
- strawberries (optional)
- To make the strawberry puree, preheat the oven to 180oc/160oc and place the berries on a baking sheet and drizzle with honey. Roast in the oven for 35 minutes until soft and juicy then transfer to a jug or food processor once cool. Blitz with a stick blender or the food processor until smooth then set aside.
- To make the chocolate shards, finely chop 50g of the chocolate and place in a small bowl. Roughly chop the remaining 150g and place in a heatproof bowl suspended over a pan of simmering water, taking care not to let the bowl touch the water. Melt the chocolate to 45-50oc then remove the bowl from the heat and pour ⅓ of the melted chocolate into a separate bowl and keep warm near the hob. Add the finely chopped chocolate and keep stirring to bring the temperature down to 26 – 27oc. To raise the temperature, add the warm chocolate back to the bowl to 28-29oc then pour immediately onto a baking sheet lined with baking parchment and spread to a rough rectangle shape. Sprinkle over the pistachios and rose petals and as it hardens, score into triangular shards with a sharp knife to make it easier to break. Cool to room temperature then store flat in the fridge.
- To make the cakes preheat the oven to 170oc/150oc fan and grease and line two 18cm, two 5cm and one 10cm round cake tins. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter and sugar together, stopping the machine and scraping down the sides until it is light and fluffy. With the mixer running, whisk the rose water into the eggs and pour in a little at a time, stopping the machine to scrape the sides to ensure it is well incorporated. It may split a little towards the end but the flour will bring it back together.
- Sift the flour and baking powder together and fold into the cake mix then divide evenly across the five cake pans. I roughly went for around 140g for the small pans, 300g for the medium sized tin and 380g for the largest two. Bake the three larger cakes for 25 minutes then bake the two smaller ones for 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and leave to cool in the tins for ten minutes then turn onto a wire rack to cool completely.
- To make the Swiss meringue buttercream, place the egg whites and sugar in a heatproof bowl (if your stand mixer bowl is plastic use a glass bowl for this step) suspended over a pan of simmering water, taking care not to let the bowl touch the water else you’ll end up with scrambled eggs. Whisk the mixture constantly until it reaches 70oc on a digital thermometer and is starting to froth then transfer the mix/bowl to a stand mixer and whisk on high to stiff peaks. Once the bowl has cooled to room temperature and isn't hot to touch, start to add cubes of the butter to the meringue until it has all been whisked in and is a pale yellow colour. Fold in ¾ of the roasted strawberry puree to a delicate pink colour and remove three large scoops into a plastic piping bag to assist with assembly.
- To assemble, place each cake on a plate – splitting the middle cake lengthways - and spread with a generous layer of the buttercream. Pipe a circle of buttercream around the circumference of each cake and use as moat to fill with the reserved strawberry puree. Top with the matching cake then do a light crumb coating to seal any gaps with the buttercream. Place each cake in the fridge to harden slightly for around thirty minutes before repeating a second time.
- Place the largest cake on a cake stand and fill any gaps on the bottom with the piping bag of buttercream and smooth with a palatte knife. Place two cake rods in the centre of the cake and press the middle cake on top. Repeat to fill any gaps joining the two cakes then place one rod around 3cm flush at the top of the middle cake and press the smallest cake on top. Pipe and smooth any gaps then give the cake a once over with the buttercream and press the chopped pistachios and rose petals around the bottom of the two larger cakes. Break the chocolate shards into triangular shapes and press into the buttercream on the top tier and top the cake with candles or strawberries or both to finish.
It looked v impressive and tasted absolutely delicious. I appreciate all the hard work you put into it. X
Oh my goodness this is incredible. You are so talented, my dear!!!
Thank you so much Mimi!