A Fraisier is a French strawberry cake and, as is generally the case in France, there are a number of variations. The cake is made with a génoise or sponge cake that is flavored with a simple syrup that may contain some alcohol, such as Grand Marnier, Cointreau, Cognac, rum or kirsch, or either lemon juice or vanilla. It is usually layered with pastry cream or perhaps a crème mousseline, which contains butter. The top on the classic Fraisier is frequently rolled marzipan with various decorations.
This recipe, however, is much simpler, easy to make, and delicious. It was adapted from a Fraisier served at the bistro Au Chien Qui Fume in Les Halles, Paris. The génoise in this recipe is adapted (very slightly) from Nick Malgieri’s recipe. You will find many of his outstanding cake recipes in his books, including Perfect Cakes, and on his web site.
He has several techniques that work rather well with this recipe. First he replaces the butter that you find in many recipes for a génoise with extra egg yolks. Incorporating butter into a light airy batter may cause it to fall. The extra egg yolks, however, both enrich the batter and add greater stability to the foam. He then whisks the egg mixture over a pan of simmering water before using an electric mixer to triple it’s volume. He also blends corn starch with the cake flour.
If you prefer the extra flavor of butter in your génoise, Julia Child’s recipe works extremely well and also produces an outstanding cake. But this particular recipe has several layers of flavor with the addition of strawberries and Cointreau or Grand Marnier and I think it works better with this version of a Fraisier.
Génoise (makes a 9 inch round cake pan)
3 large free range eggs
3 large yolks from free range eggs
a pinch of sea salt
1/2 cup of unrefined organic sugar, such as organic Turbinado sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup cake flour or all-purpose flour
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/3 cup of unrefined organic sugar
1/3 cup of water
1 tablespoon (or to taste) Cointreau, or Grand Marnier, or you can substitute your favorite triple sec, kirsch, or whatever you prefer, or just use vanilla or lemon juice
Filling, Whipped Cream and Garnish
1 quart of fresh strawberries
1 tablespoon unrefined organic sugar
1 tablespoon (or to taste) Cointreau or Grand Marnier or whatever you prefer
2 cups of heavy cream
Preheat the oven to 350º F and set a rack in the middle level of the oven.
Half fill a medium saucepan with water, bring it to a boil over high heat, then lower to a simmer. Whisk the eggs, yolks, and sugar together in a stainless steel bowl. Place the bowl over the saucepan with simmering water and whisk gently until the mixture is just lukewarm, about 100 º. You can test it with your finger. Remove from the heat and place the egg mixture in the bowl of an electric mixer or use a hand electric mixer. Add the vanilla to the bowl and with the whisk attachment, whip on medium-high speed until the egg mixture is cooled and tripled in volume. The egg foam will be thick and will form a slowly dissolving ribbon falling back into the bowl when the whisk attachment is lifted. This process will take about 5 minutes.
Mix together the flour and corn starch. Sift 1/3 of the flour mixture over the beaten eggs. Use a rubber spatula to gently fold in the flour mixture, making sure to scrape all the way to the bottom on every pass through the batter to prevent the flour from accumulating there and making lumps. Repeat the process with another 1/3 of the flour and finally with the remainder.
Rub a 9 inch round pan with unsalted butter on the sides and bottom. Cover the bottom with a round piece of parchment paper or wax paper. Rub the parchment paper with the butter and then lightly flour the pan. Shake gently to cover the bottom and sides and discard any excess flour. Repeat the process with a tablespoon of sugar.
Add the batter evenly into the prepared pan and bake until the cake is lightly golden, risen and firm to he touch about 25 to 30 minutes. Let the cake cool for 10 minutes, then run a sharp knife around the edges to loosen the cake. Gently remove the cake onto a plate and then turn it over onto a rack to finish cooling. Remove the paper when the cake is cool.
Reserve several whole strawberries for the garnish and slice the rest. Place half of the sliced strawberries in a bowl and add a tablespoon of sugar and a tablespoon of Cointreau. Mix and let the strawberries macerate for 30 minutes at room temperature. Stir several times while macerating. Drain the strawberries and reserve the liquid.
Bring the sugar and water to boil in a saucepan. Whisk until the sugar is dissolved. Add the Cointreau and stir to combine. Add the juice from the macerated strawberries, stir, and remove from the heat. Let the syrup partially cool for a few minutes.
Whip the cream with an electric mixer until the peaks are firm.
Slice the cake in half horizontally. Place the bottom half of the cake on the serving plate that you will be using. Brush it generously with about 1/2 of the syrup. The cake will absorb a good deal of the syrup and should be fairly moist. Spread 1/3 of the whipped cream on the cake and cover with the macerated strawberries. Then cover those strawberries with another 1/3 of the whipped cream. You will then have a layer of flavored cake, a layer of whipped cream, a layer of sliced macerated strawberries and a second layer of whipped cream.
Gently place the remaining layer of cake on top and generously brush with the remaining syrup. Cover the top and side of the cake with the remaining whipped cream. Arrange the remaining sliced and whole strawberries in a decorative pattern on top of the cake. You can, for example, work out from the center with the sliced strawberries in a flower-like design with the whole strawberries in the center or overlap the sliced strawberries around the edge of the cake and add the whole strawberries to the center, or corners. Or arrange them anyway that works for you.
Keep the cake refrigerated until you are ready to serve it, use a very sharp knife and enjoy.