Our old friend Jamie rented a house near us for his 50th Birthday party, and on a glorious English summer day, we spent a lovely 10 hours in the garden drinking bubbles, eating lovely food, playing croquet (always interesting after bubbles), talking about the weather (for we English it is a constant source of fascination) and chatting to his nearest and dearest. He asked me to do his cake and with the weather so glorious, I decided to make this Summer Berry confection.
This lovely thing is actually quite simple consisting of light as a feather genoise sponge, vanilla chantilly cream, and handfuls of strawberries, raspberries, blueberries and red currants. The red currants came from the garden and ripened just in time thanks to the hot (yes we are all beginning to say too hot) weather.
This cake is in fact a massive throw back to my past. When I was a teenager I used to do something very similar with a lot more cream and chocolate shavings on the side and chocolate wafers around the top. Back in the 70’s there was no talk of genoise sponge and chantilly cream – no such foreign nonsense was tolerated. It was simply a Strawberry Gateau (Gateau being one bit of foreign nonsense that was allowed). Making Jamie’s cake brought many fond memories back to me.
Oddly though this is the first time I have made full on Genoise Sponge since my teenage years. Despite careful preparation there were a few dramas. I wanted to make this cake dramatic and after much maths working out volumes of a tube ( it is Π x the radius squared x the height by the way) I upped the quantities by a 10th to turn this from a 4 tier 8 inch cake to a stacked 10 inch and and 8 inch cake – and there lay the source of the problems.
Genoise sponge has no rising agent in it. It gets all its rise form the whisking of the eggs which nearly double in volume, and you need to take great care folding in the flour without knocking out the air in the eggs. With 9 eggs my stand mixer was just too small as the egg mixture started to get alarmingly close to the top of the paddle. Added to that folding in the flour evenly without knocking out the air became much harder. Mine sank to the bottom of the mix and it was only when I started pouring into the tins that I realised the mixture wasn’t even. I shall not repeat the swear words that emanated from my mouth, but the situation was just rescued. My advice would be to do the mixture in 2 batches especially if this is your first genoise.
The other advice? Well frankly I am not going to line the side of a cake tin ever again. On a light sponge like this the paper pulls inwards where it is uncovered, leaving you with a sloping edge to your sponge – a real pain if you are icing, though less of an issue when you are doing a naked cake like this one. We have a wonderful cake baking shop near us and the owner Claire said she just greases and flours the side of the tin to avoid this very problem. I shall be following her advice in future.
My last tip is that this tiered variety looks great, but does not serve very neatly so looks less great when it is on the plate. This one is a personal choice frankly so I will leave it up to you.
Whatever you do this is a perfect summer treat and highly adaptable. With the sun shining and set to do so for a while, it will be making a reappearance
- two 9″ (22cm) cake tins (or for the tiered variety a 10″ and 8″ tin), lined on the bottom and greased and floured on the side
- a thin cake board
- hand electric whisk
- greaseproof paper
- a beautiful cake stand
- plenty of room in the fridge – it needs to be kept in the fridge before serving
For the Sponge
- 8 medium eggs
- 250g golden caster sugar
- 50g butter
- 250g plain flour
For the Filling
- 600ml double cream
- 2 tablespoons icing sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 750g selection of summer fruit – strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, redcurrants, grapes and anything else that takes your fancy
- mint leaves
For the 2 tier 10 inch and 8inch variety, increase the eggs to 9 eggs and all the other ingredients by 10%.
If you are inexperienced do the sponge in 2 batches. Whist it will take a little longer you will have better quality sponges. For the 10 inch/ 8 inch variety split the mixture 1/3rd and 2/3rds.
- pre heat your oven to 180C (160C fan)
- put the eggs and sugar into a heat proof bowl
- place the bowl on top of a pan with boiling water (the water should not touch the bottom of the bowl)
- whisk the mixture with a handheld electric whisk until the mixture is hot and starting to thicken
- take off the bowl and whisk for about 10 minutes until the mixture has doubled in volume
- the test for this is called the Ribbon Test . the mixture should run off the whisk in ribbons and leave a ribbon on the surface which then gradually sink bak into the mixture
- melt the butter until slightly brown
- pour into the cake mix with the whisk going to distribute the butter quickly thorugh the mix
- carefully fold in the flour until evenly mixed
- pour into the 2 tins
- bake for 25-30 minutes until a skewer comes out dry
- cool in the tin on a wire rack for 10 minutes and then tip out and cool
Whipping cream seems such a simple thing, but I have learnt to watch it like a hawk as it changes consistency very fast. With Chantilly you need to catch it at the very soft peak stage (where the whisk leaves indents in the cream when you lift it out, but doesn’t stand up in peaks yet), then add the sugar and vanilla and finish off whisking to stiff peaks (which happens very quickly so keep your eye on the mixture).
- prepare your fruit leaving some of the strawberries whole with their leaves on
- whisk the cream to soft peaks
- add the sugar and vanilla extract
- whisk to stiff peaks
The Cake Assembly
- cut your cakes in half – I mark the middle with toothpicks using a ruler to get an even split and then leave 2 picks in each half so I can line them up as I stack
- the layering goes
- cream and fruit, smoothed off with cream
- cream only
- cream and fruit, smoothed off with cream
- topped off with cream and fruit using the whole strawberries
- build this straight on a cake stand if possible, but if you need to store this in the fridge for a while before serving build it on a thin cake board to make it easier to lift the cake onto a stand later
- on the top of the cake, pile and arrange the fruit to your artistic desire – the redcurrans and garpes are great for draping over the side
- shortly before serving dust with icing sugar