It’s my blog birthday today! One year ago, in Paris, I started Food Lover’s Odyssey. To celebrate my 1-year blog birthday, I made a Fraisier. Not only is the Fraisier a traditional birthday cake in France, I love making them. Whenever someone asks me what is my favorite French pastry to make, this comes to mind for several reasons.
I love the bright colors of yellow and red that play together in this dessert. I love how it looks so simple, but actually takes a caring hand to create. Strawberries are bright and happy “bon jour” from spring, and this cake is all about the strawberries. It's a deceptive dessert. When you it, you feel like you’re eating a light, airy and healthy dessert, but it's really packed with calories. I think I love this dessert so much because it embodies spring and the easy elegance of French pastries.
A traditional Fraisier is crème mousseline (pastry cream with extra butter) and strawberries sandwiched between two sheets of heavily imbibed sponge (genoise) cake, and it is topped with either a sheet of red or green almond paste or Italian meringue. Mine is a Meyer lemon genoise (sponge cake) heavily imbibed with Meyer lemon simple syrup because I love the slight tang of lemon flavor to balance the sweetness of the strawberries. And, I topped it with a thin layer of the rich crème mousseline instead of the very sweet meringue or almond paste.
Below is the recipe and instructions for assembling. I hope you make it and enjoy it. Thank you for joining me this year on my food lover’s odyssey!
To make the Fraisier, you will need:
One 9-inch Meyer Lemon Génoise cake, sliced in half
About 1/2 cup Meyer Lemon Simple Syrup (recipe below)
About 3 cups Crème Mousseline (recipe below)
About 2 pounds (1 kg) fresh strawberries, stemmed and hulled
Fraisier with Meyer Lemon Genoise and Creme Mousseline
For the Meyer Lemon Génoise:
1 cup (125 g) cake flour
2 tablespoons (25 g) butter, melted
4 eggs, at room temperature
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons (130 g) granulated sugar
3 tablespoons Meyer lemon zest (from 2-3 lemons)
Preheat and oven to 350ºF and lightly grease the bottom of a 9-inch cake pan
Sift the cake flour and set aside. Melt the butter and set aside.
Heat the eggs and sugar over a double boiler with simmering water. Whisk constantly until the mixture reaches 122ºF (50 C), about 7 minutes. Once the mixture is heated beat the mixture to ribbons, preferably using a stand mixer. (You can use a handheld mixer or whisk by hand, but it will take a lot longer.) The mixture is at the “ribbon stage” when you pull the batter up with the beater and it stays atop the rest of the mixture, forming a ribbon-like effect. It will take about 8 minutes for the mixture to reach this stage using a stand mixer, about double the time using a handheld.
Fold 1/4 of the egg mixture into the melted butter to lighten the butter. Add the lemon zest to the egg/butter mixture. Fold the egg/butter mixture back into the rest of the egg mixture. Sift 1/3 of the cake flour onto the egg mixture, then gently but quickly fold together. Repeat in thirds until the flour has been incorporated. Gently pour the batter into the cake pan and bake about 17 minutes, or until you insert a knife in the center, and it comes out with a few moist flakes of cake.
Remove from the oven and let cool for 10 minutes, then remove from the cake pan. Let cool completely. (If a mound has formed on the top of the cake, slice it off to make an even and flat top.) Slice the cake into two halves.
*How you fold the mixture together is crucial to the success of a light and spongy génoise. You want to evenly incorporate the flour into the egg mixture while not deflating the aerated eggs. It’s important that you’re quick and gentle at the same time, cutting the spatula down toward the center, lifting the batter from the bottom of the bowl, and turning the bowl with your other hand towards the hand that’s folding.
Meyer Lemon Simple Syrup:
1/3 cup (70 g) granulated sugar
1/3 cup (70 ml) water
4 tablespoons Meyer lemon juice
Bring to a boil the sugar and water. Remove from the heat and cool. Add the lemon juice and refrigerate until you are ready to use it.
For the Crème Mousseline:
2 1/4 cups (600 ml) whole milk
6 (120 g) egg yolks
1 cup (200 g) granulated sugar, divided in half
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons (50 g) cornstarch
1 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons (300 g) butter, room temperature, divided in half
Scald the milk and half the sugar in a heavy bottom saucepan over medium high heat.
While the milk and sugar are heating, whisk together the egg yolks, the remaining sugar and cornstarch until the mixture becomes pale in color.
Once the milk is scalded, bubbling at the edges, slowly pour about 1/4 of it into the egg yolk mixture, whisking until combined. Continue adding the milk in fourths until all has been whisked together. Check the bottom of your saucepan. If there is any scorched milk or film, use another heavy bottom saucepan; otherwise, pour the mixture back into the pan and bring to a boil over medium high heat, stirring vigorously and constantly. Once the mixture boils, continue stirring vigorously over the heat for about 30 seconds more. Remove from the heat continuing to stir until the steam dissipates. Press through a sieve for a smooth cream. Dot the cream with half of the butter in tablespoon-sized chunks. Let the butter melt, then stir in. Cool over an ice bath for 10 minutes. Cover with plastic wrap. The plastic should come in direct contact with the cream, so a film doesn’t develop. Refrigerate until cold, at least 30 minutes.
With a spoon, mix the remaining butter until it’s a soft consistency. Remove the pastry cream from the refrigerator. In a stand mixer, stir until it’s soft. Add 1/4 of the softened butter at a time and combine before adding the next 1/4 of the butter. Place in a pastry bag fitted with a round tip that is 1/2-inch in diameter.
To Assemble the Fraisier:
Place one sliced half of the génoise cake into the bottom of a 9-inch spring form pan. Using a pastry brush, brush about half of the simple syrup onto the top of the cake. (You know you have enough syrup in the cake if you press down on the cake and hear a “squish,” like that of a full sponge.)
Slice 12-15 of the strawberries in half. They should be the same height. Place the strawberries on top of the cake in a ring with the sliced half of the strawberries against the side of the spring form pan.
Pipe a ring “escargot” of crème mousseline onto the top of the cake. Pipe more crème mousseline in a line upwards between each strawberry. Using a flat metal spatula, spread the crème out so that any air pockets are filled.
Quarter the remaining strawberries and place them on top of the layer of crème mousseline. Fill it full with strawberries (fraises)! As my French chef told me, "It's called a Fraisier, not a creme mousselinier."
Pipe another ring in the form of an “escargot” on top of the strawberries. Smooth out with a flat metal spatula.
Brush the remaining simple syrup onto the other sliced half of the génoise cake. Place this slice on top of the crème mousseline layer in the spring form pan. (Be careful because the cake is filled with the simple syrup and extra delicate.) Refrigerate for 20 minutes.
Remove from the refrigerator and pipe a thin layer, about 1/4-inch thick, of crème mousseline on top of the Fraisier. Decorate with strawberries. Serve.
*The Fraisier will keep up to 2 days in the refrigerator.
What food embodies the essence of a place that you love? -- What is your favorite food city?