FOR THE CREME MOUSSELINE
2½ cups (600ml) whole milk
2+2 tbsp Kirsch
1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped
3 large eggs
2 egg yolks (save the whites)
3/4 cup (150g | 5.3oz) granulated sugar
1/2 cup (56g | 2oz) corn starch
454g (1lb) butter, softened, divided
FOR THE SPONGE CAKE
3 large eggs
2 egg whites (saved earlier)
1 cup (120g | 4.2oz) powdered sugar
1/2 cup (75g | 2.6oz) unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 cup (28g | 1oz) corn starch
1/2 tsp salt
FOR THE SIMPLE SYRUP
1/4 cup (50g | 1.8oz) granulated sugar
1/2 cup (60ml) water
3 tbsp Kirsch
900g (2lb) fresh strawberries (plan on 10 to 12 large to go around cake, 12 medium for center, 5-6 large to garnish top)
150g (5.3oz) marzipan
Powdered sugar to roll the marzipan
Pink or green food coloring (use VERY little)
50g (1.8oz) marzipan to make flowers, if desired
1-2 tbsp melted cocoa butter
FOR THE CREME MOUSSELINE – PART I
• In a medium saucepan, combine the milk, vanilla seeds and 2 tablespoons of kirsch and bring to a slow simmer over medium-low heat. Do not let the milk come to a boil.
• While the milk is warming, combine the eggs, egg yolks and sugar in a mixing bowl. Whisk vigorously until the mixture turns a light shade of yellow and becomes slightly thick and frothy, about 3 minutes. Add the corn starch and resume whisking until it’s completely incorporated.
• Slowly pour the warm milk into the egg mixture while whisking continuously. If you’re in no position to do both at the same time (like if you’re taking pictures, for instance) add the milk delicately and about a cup at a time, whisking well between each addition. This precaution will insure that your eggs slowly come up in temperature, preventing them from cooking and scrambling.
• Once all the milk has been added to the eggs, pour everything back into the saucepan. Set the pan back over medium heat and start whisking! From now on, you won’t be able to stop whisking, not even for a second, until your cream has come to a full boil. Be extra mindful to always cover the entire bottom of the pan, as pastry cream tends to attach to the pan and burns fairly easily, leaving all kinds of brown bits in your cream.
• Initially, the mixture will be fairly thin and frothy, but it will eventually start to thicken. When this happens, pause whisking every 10 seconds or so, to see if the mixture has actually come to a boil. It is imperative that the cream come to a complete boil so it reaches its full thickness. When large bubbles start coming to the surface, continue whisking for 15 seconds, then remove from heat and whisk in half of the butter.
• If you find that your pastry cream has too many little brown bits in it for you liking, you can force it through a fine mesh sieve to get rid of them.
• Transfer your pastry cream to a jelly roll pan and cover it with a piece of plastic film pressed directly against its surface.
• Place in the refrigerator and chill completely.
FOR THE SPONGE CAKE
• Preheat the oven to 375°F; grease and flour one 8″ round cake pan. Hold the pan upside down and knock it gently against the counter a few times to remove any excess flour. Set aside.
• Combine the flour, corn starch and salt in a bowl; mix well and set aside.
• Crack the eggs into the bowl of your stand mixer, add the egg whites and powdered sugar and whisk on high speed for 10 minutes, or until the mixture is really pale and thick and forms a ribbon when you lift the whisk and let it drip.
• Add the flour mixture by sifting it directly over the eggs, in thirds, and delicately fold with a rubber spatula after each addition, being careful not to deflate the eggs: gently go down in the batter, then back up over towards the middle and down again, rotating the bowl slightly as you go. Fold just until the flour is barely incorporated.
• Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for about 20 minutes or until the top is nice and golden brown and bounces back when pressed delicately with your finger. Do not open the oven door sooner than 15 minutes into the baking process and shut it very gently to not disturb the rise of the cake.
• When fully baked, remove the cake from the oven and allow it to cool slightly in the pan for about 2 minutes, then turn it onto a wire rack to cool completely.
FOR THE SIMPLE SYRUP
• Combine the sugar and water in a small saucepan; bring to a boil over medium heat and keep boiling for one full minute, or until the sugar is completely dissolved and the syrup has a slightly viscous consistency. Don’t let your syrup get overly thick, else your cake won’t be able to absorb it well. Remove from heat, stir in kirsch and reserve.
FOR THE CREME MOUSSELINE – PART II
• Take your chilled pastry cream out of the refrigerator and place it in the bowl of your stand mixer. Whip on high for about 2 minutes, or until the cream is nicely emulsified.
• Add the rest of the butter and resume whisking on high, for about 5 minutes this time, or until the cream is light and fluffy.
• Put about 1/4 cup of mousseline in a small bowl and whisk in 2 tablespoons of kirsch. Add this back to the main bowl and whisk on high for a few seconds to fully incorporate the alcohol. Set aside until ready to use.
ASSEMBLY – PART I
• Split your cake into two even layers: gently place one hand on top of the cake and with your other hand, score the side of the cake with a long serrated knife, exactly halfway up the height of the cake. Score all around the side, cutting about half an inch deep into the cake. Keep rotating the cake and cut about 1 inch into the cake; rotate the cake some more, cutting deeper and deeper inside the cake until your cake is split into two separate layers.
• Place a 9.5″ x 2.5″ cake ring on a 10″ cake board or plate. Make sure it’s well centered.
• Place one cake, cut side up, right in the center of that cake ring.
• Hull 10 to 12 large, picture perfect strawberries and slice them in half lengthwise.
• Arrange your sliced strawberries vertically, narrow tip facing up, around the circumference of the cake circle with the cut side facing out as this side will be revealed once the cake ring is removed. Press them lightly to ensure good contact with the metal ring.
• Brush about 1/2 of the kirsch syrup all over the surface of the cake, paying special attention to the edges, then top with about half the reserved mousseline cream; spread it all the way to the edge, making certain that you push the cream well against the ring to fill in all the cracks between the strawberries.
• Hull and dice 12 medium strawberries and distribute them over the top of the mousseline, making sure that none of them come in contact with the cake ring.
• Top with the second cake layer, cut side up, press it down lightly and then brush it with the rest of the kirsch syrup.
• Top with the rest of the mousseline cream and smooth the top with an offset spatula.
• Place in the fridge to set for at least 2 hours, or up to overnight.
ASSEMBLY – PART II
• Tint your marzipan with the desired color (the classic colors are green or pink) You want to keep that color very light and pastel, so you really won’t be needing much food coloring at all.
• Spread the colored marzipan into a thin 10″ disk. Dust your work surface with powdered sugar to prevent the marzipan from sticking, then use a dry brush to brush off any excess.
• Carefully remove the ring from around the cake, clean it well and wipe it dry. Use that cake ring to cut your marzipan into a perfect circle of the perfect size.
• Delicately place that disk of marzipan over your cake.
• If you wish to decorate your cake with marzipan flowers, spread about 50g (1.8oz) of white marzipan and, with the help of a plunger cutter tool, cut out as many or as little flowers as you wish to use.
• To make the flowers adhere to the top of your cake, brush a tiny little bit of melted cocoa butter in the spot where you want your flower to go and then delicately press your flower in place.
• Garnish the center your cake with a handful of extra large, picture perfect strawberries, cut in half. To prevent the marzipan from becoming soggy from the moisture that’s in the strawberries, brush the area where your strawberries will be with a little bit of melted cocoa butter.
• You are now ready to slice and serve!
• Leftovers should be stored in the refrigerator in an airtight container, for up to 5 days.