Wednesday, May 9, 2012

I'm often of the mindset that if you want something done right, do it yourself.

Or train someone to do it the way you would do it.

Unfortunately, I don't have any pastry assistants running around my home kitchen to help me when needed. So on Monday, I set about making my own birthday cake.

You may wonder why I would do this, especially since the Turks love sweets. There are dozens of pastry shops within walking distance from our apartment here in Istanbul. However, no one, that I've found yet, makes a cake the way that I would. 

I want my cake to have a nice crumb texture. It should be moist and tender. Most importantly, the cake's custard filling should be made from real whole milk, heavy cream and granulated sugar - not made from an instant package or mass-produced mix.

During our recent trip to Italy, I ate a strawberry torte that was exactly like how I would make it. As soon as I spotted the wild strawberries in the pastry display case, I knew I had to have one of those desserts at Gran Caffè Gambrinus in Naples. My husband is lucky he even got a bite of this delectable dessert!
The pastry display case in Naples, Italy. I ordered a slice of cake with these wild strawberries.
As soon as we returned to Istanbul, I knew I would be replicating that strawberry torte for my own birthday cake. Strawberries are in season right now and are cheap. Only 4 TL or less per kilo!

The sponge cake recipe that follows is one of my favorites. I've used it for several years in many of my restaurant desserts and for layered cakes. A genoise is a rich, light cake that is meant to be soaked in a syrup - an Amaretto syrup in this case.

I layered my cake with a homemade vanilla bean custard and fresh strawberries. I finished my cake just in time to let in set up in the freezer as my husband walked in the door from work. At least, he cooked the antrikot steak and did all the dishes for me for my birthday.

I might even have a piece of my cake with my coffee in the morning.

Afiyet olsun!
Strawberry Sponge Cake done right! But next time, I would add even more strawberries.
Genoise Vanilla Sponge Cake
Yields: 2-9-inch (22 cm.) round cake pans

11        ea.                                large eggs at room temperature
1 2/3    c.         (375 g.)            granulated sugar or vanilla sugar
1          ea.                                zest of a lemon, finely grated
2 1/3 c. + 1 1/2 T. (375 g.)      cake flour, sifted
1 1/2    tsp.                              lemon juice or vanilla extract
1/2       c.         (125 g.)            unsalted butter, melted

As needed:
1          c.         (240 ml.)          simple syrup spiked with Amaretto or left plain
Fresh strawberries
Custard filling of your choice
Whipped, lightly-sweetened cream

1. Preheat the oven to 350 F/175 C.
2. Place baking paper circles in the bottom of the cake pans. Grease or pan-spray the pans. Set aside.
3. Place the eggs and sugar into a metal mixing bowl. Using a hand mixer or a stand mixer, whip the eggs and sugar until they have turned pale in color and increased in volume. You must whip the ingredients until they fully reach the ribbon stage - about 10 minutes. (You are relying on this stage to create the volume for your cakes.)
4. Next, add the lemon zest and lemon juice. Then, add the flour while the mixer is running to avoid getting any flour pockets in your cake batter.
5. Then, add the butter by hand, using the whisk attachment to carefully fold the ingredients together.
Here you can see how smooth and ribbon-like the cake batter should be.
6. Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans. Bake the cakes for 20-25 minutes. Insert a toothpick or metal cake tester to see if they are done.
7. Let the cakes cool on a metal rack. Then, trim and slice each cake into half. You will have 4 cake layers. Use an adjustable metal cake ring to help you assemble your cake.

8. Then, soak your cake layers with the simple syrup. 

9. Add a bit of custard and sliced strawberries in between each layer. Repeat.

Let the finished cake set in the fridge/freezer for at least an hour before unmolding and decorating.
I decorated my cake with a simple lightly-sweetened chantilly cream.
We made a half recipe of my Saffron Risotto Milanese to go with our antrikot steaks.
This risotto is our favorite for birthdays or special dinners.

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Cuisine de Provence said...

Happy Birthday Joy!

Erica (Irene) said...

"Happy Birthday"!!! What a yummy delicious cake...wouldn't mind a piece myself. Looks awesome.

jaz@octoberfarm said...

happy birthday to you! that cake looks delicious. there is not one decent bakery in this city!

Joy said...

@Barbara, Erica (Irene) and Joyce, thanks for the birthday wishes! I decided against having cake with my coffee this time, but I will enjoy another slice tonight. ;-)

Unknown said...

Hi Joy! Happy Birthday to you! Your cake looks just divine, you really are a super pastry chef. And I really like the look of what hubby made too!

Joy said...

@Claudia, thank you! Been very busy baking lately. Time to bake some more things today for tomorrow's delivery.

Olga said...

Happy birthday, Joy! Very fair criticism of the Turkish cakes. The best I've eaten was in Pelit Pastanesi but yours looks fantastic!

Terry (Adventures in Ankara) said...

Happy Birth-week! I agree, making my own birthday meal has always been the best. Yours looks lovely!

Melissa Tz said...

I tried your "Birthday Cake" at Denizen cafe the other day - it was fabulous - happy belated b-day