This past weekend we went to my cousin Lana’s birthday brunch. There was a lot of good food, including Cremont, a great goat and cow-milk cheese from Vermont that was recently reviewed in the Times. Among the many desserts, we contributed a birthday cake. Having recently learned that Lana likes chocolate, we headed to Alice Medrich’s recipe collection.
Instead of making a more traditional and easy birthday cake, this time we wanted a big challenge, so we decided to bake Medrich’s strawberry birthday celebration cake from her Bittersweet book. This is a two layer chocolate génoise with whipped mascarpone and strawberries in between. Alice Medrich does not usually emphasize the difficulty of her recipes and yet she mentioned that several steps in this recipe were hard to master, so we were both excited and afraid to attempt to bake this cake. The intricacies of the recipe include its artistic design and difficult techniques at almost every step in the creation of the cake. You can see Alice Medrich baking a very similar version of this cake with Julia Child 14 years ago, here.
We started by making an external chocolate coating, which was not that difficult.
A génoise cake is a type of sponge cake that gets its volume from whipped eggs, without the use of any leavening agent. It is the basis of many baked goods. Baking the génoise was fun and easy, but not so much cutting the cake horizontally in two halves. After some juggling, we managed to put one of the layers inside the coating, then added the whipped mascarpone, placed the strawberries, covered them with more mascarpone and then put the other half of the génoise on top.
We then covered the cake with a chocolate – cream glacé and finally with chocolate cones, instead of the more difficult to make fans. Making the cones was difficult, as it involves melting chocolate, pouring it over the back of a warm baking sheet, letting it cool down and then scraping parts of the chocolate off with an offset spatula.
In the end, it was worth the effort. Everybody was very impressed.