Every year, someone who really cares about me makes me a simply stupendous birthday cake. This year, it was an incredible Strawberry Margarita Cake with Lemon Mousse and Torched Meringue. I’m so nice to me :).
Honestly, I had plans to be super nice to me anyway, because I was going to make my unbelievably good Maple Coffee Gateau. But I was at Hercules Morse, my local cafe/bar about a week before my birthday, and Ash the manager passed me a spoon containing a strawberry that had been soaking for a week in tequila – he was planning to offer Strawberry Margaritas to his clientele. And right there, I knew. I had to have a cake with those inside. All I had to do was figure out what else it needed.
I’ve had a bit of a love affair with lemon mousse since I visited Denmark two years ago. And what else goes into a margarita? I knew that lemon mousse would be a great pairing for margarita strawberries, so then all I needed was a beautiful light génoise sponge (courtesy of Ottolenghi’s book Sweet), and a drift of meringue for frosting, and I would have a pretty good looking and tasting Strawberry Margarita Cake! Topped with a few gold leaf strawberries, I can tell you it made a superb dessert.
It was even better because we demolished it at Hercules Morse, and Ash had this strawberry infused tequila for making Strawberry Margaritas! How lucky was that? I was a bit concerned that my ten guests would barely scratch the surface of the cake (it looks very rich), but the Strawberry Margarita Cake is so light, the lemon mousse tart, the margarita strawberries so fresh, that everyone went back for seconds. A great dessert. It was roundly proclaimed “the best yet”. I hear that a lot :).
Strawberry Margarita Cake
serves 12-18 (makes 18 portions but people generally want two!)
50mL orange liqueur, such as Cointreau
50g caster sugar
Hull the strawberries and slice thinly (approximately 2-3mm slices). Place in a shallow container, and pour over the tequila and orange liqueur. Sprinkle the caster sugar over. Refrigerate, stirring from time to time, for about 6 hours.
makes two 20cm square sponge cakes
150g caster sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla powder
1/4 tsp salt
90g unsalted butter, melted, cooled
Grease two 20cm square baking tins with butter and line the bases with baking paper.
Combine the eggs, caster sugar, and vanilla powder in a heat-proof bowl, Fit the bowl over a saucepan filled with simmering water (the bowl should not touch the water) and whisk the egg and sugar mixture until it reaches 55 degrees Celsius. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl (preferably of a stand mixer but a hand-held electric mixer will work fine too), and, using the whisk attachment, whisk until the mixture is cool and has tripled in volume. The mixture will form a ribbon when dripped from the whisk when it is ready. While this is happening, combine the flour and salt and sift together twice. The easiest way to do this is to sift the mixture onto a sheet of baking paper, then tip back into the sifter. Once you have sifted twice, return the mixture to the sifter again.
When the egg mixture is whipped, sift half the flour over, then gently fold into the eggs, using a spatula. Repeat with the remaining flour. Next, pour the melted butter gently over the mixture, and carefully fold this into the mixture.
Pour the mixture equally into the two tins, scraping out the bowl gently (don’t try to get all of the mixture out, as the dregs will be very deflated and spoil the rise of the sponges). Gently spread the mixture into the tins, then tap each tin two or three times on the bench to remove any large bubbles.
Bake the sponges at 170 degrees Celsius for about 20 minutes or until the sponges are risen and golden, and when touched with a finger, the sponge is left with a small indent which does not bounce back. Cool in the tins. When cold, split each sponge into two layers.
When you are ready to assemble the cake, you will need to gel the margarita strawberries and prepare the lemon mousse. This process will take 1-2 hours, so make sure you have enough time.
Assembling the Strawberry Margarita Cake
two sheets titanium gelatin
First, gel the strawberries.
Soak the gelatin sheets in cold water for about 10 minutes.
Drain the Margarita Strawberries and heat up about 1/3 cup of the liquid until nearly boiling. Remove from the heat. Squeeze the water from the gelatin and add to the liquid. Stir to dissolve. Return this mixture to the strawberries (and remaining liquid), and stir well. Drain the strawberries away from the liquid and chill both.
Prepare the Lemon Mousse (recipe below). During the chilling process for the lemon juice in the mousse recipe, prepare the pan for the cake assembly. Line a straight sided, 20cm square cake tin with two long sheets of cling wrap, carefully pressing the wrap into the corners of the tin, and ensuring that there are no gaps between pieces of the wrap. There should be at least 20cm of wrap draping down the outside of all four sides of the tin.
Place one layer of sponge into the bottom of the tin (I use the bottom of one sponge on the base, and the bottom of the other sponge on the top, so that the top is smooth. The two top layers of sponge become the middle layers of the assembled cake). Set aside and continue with the mousse preparation. Don’t forget to check the gelling of the strawberry liquid, you don’t want them to gel completely (if it does start to gel, remove it from the fridge, and even heat very gently over some warm water to melt).
As soon as you have prepared the mousse, you are ready to assemble the cake. Brush the bottom layer of the cake with about a third of the (slightly gelled) strawberry liquid, then arrange a third of the strawberries over in a single layer.
Pour a third of the mousse over this and spread evenly. Place another layer of sponge over the mousse. Repeat the process with the strawberry liquid, the strawberries and the mousse. Repeat the process with the third layer of sponge. By the end of this, you should have used all of the strawberry liquid, the strawberries, and the mousse.
Top the last layer of mousse with the final layer of sponge, cut side facing down.
Press the top layer of sponge down gently, ensuring that it is evenly levelled. Draw the edges of the cling wrap up over the cake and seal it completely. Refrigerate the cake for at least 6 hours, preferably overnight.
To finish, follow the Finishing instructions below.
12g gelatin leaves
3 lemons, yielding 130 mL lemon juice
42g light corn syrup
80g (about 2 large) egg white
yellow gel colouring
Place the gelatin leaves in a small bowl and cover with water, let sit for a few minutes to soften.
Zest the lemons and squeeze the juice. Measure out 130mL of the juice, reserving the rest for another recipe. Place a quarter of the juice in a small bowl and heat in the microwave for about 30 seconds or until steaming. Squeeze the water out of the gelatin leaves, and add to the hot juice, stirring until the gelatin is all dissolved. Add the rest of the juice, and chill the mixture until it starts to set.
Whisk the cream until firm peaks form. Chill.
Place the sugar, light corn syrup and water in a small saucepan and heat, swirling to dissolve the sugar, until the mixture comes to the boil. Boil until the syrup reaches 116 degrees Celsius. While the syrup is coming to the right temperature, place the egg white in a medium bowl and whisk until firm peaks form. When the syrup reaches the right temperature, with the mixer running, pour the syrup into the egg whites in a thin stream. Beat the meringue until it is thick and cool.
Fold the slightly-gelled lemon juice into the meringue mixture, followed by the whipped cream. Tint a pale yellow, folding the mixture gently. The mixture will be of the same consistently as soft whipped cream. Chill for a few minutes.
Finishing the Strawberry Margarita Cake
20cm cake board
Swiss Meringue (recipe below)
6-8 fresh strawberries
about 30mL vodka
edible gold leaf powder
Make the Swiss meringue (recipe below).
Remove the cake from the freezer and unwrap. Trim the edges of the cake, so that all the layers are visible on the sides of the cake. Place the cake on a cake board.
Using a palette knife, spread approximately 3/5 of the Swiss meringue evenly over the sides and top of the cake. It’s not necessary to make the surfaces completely smooth. Fire up your blowtorch and carefully toast the meringue.
Load the remaining Swiss meringue into a disposable plastic piping bag fitted with a 7mm star nozzle. Pipe peaks of meringue along each edge of the cake, then fill in the rest of the cake in an array. You should be able to fit 6 peaks along each edge.
Fire up your blowtorch again and carefully toast the meringue stars.
Pour approximately 30mL of vodka into a small ramekin and sprinkle the gold powder on top. Dip the tips of each strawberry into the ramekin – the gold leaf will stick to the surface of the berry. Let the strawberries dry, then arrange on the top of the cake.
Serve the cake on the same day as assembly, as the Swiss meringue does not keep well. Cut portions of the cake so that each serving has two peaks of meringue.
120g (3 large) egg white
1 tsp vanilla
Place the egg white and caster sugar in a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. Whisk the mixture over the heat using a wire whisk until the mixture reaches 55°C. The mixture will foam slightly during the heating phase but will not take on the appearance of beaten egg whites. When the mixture reaches 55°, transfer the mixture to a bowl, add the vanilla and beat the mixture on high speed until it has cooled to room temperature. During this time, a marshmallowy meringue will form.
Well, there you have it. The recipe looks a little bit epic, but the steps are very straightforward. Make it for someone who blows your mind (its ok if that is you!), because my Strawberry Margarita Cake is out of this world.