Thursday, 24 May 2012

Strawberry Mascarpone Cream Cake Failure

I've had this cake bookmarked for ages as something I wanted to try, so with my birthday coming up I thought it was the perfect excuse to make it. It’s a strawberry mascarpone cream cake, that’s essentially sweet strawberries in mascarpone and cream, sandwiched between two halves of a lovely sponge cake.

Well, that’s in theory. In practice, it was a bit tricky, and unfortunately it wasn’t a huge success. And when I say 'wasn't a huge success', I mean I had one piece and then left the rest. Last time I failed at making a cake I promptly burst into tears, but this time I was brave and held back the tears. But after all that effort making it, I wanted to show you what I did (it looks really pretty). I'm also hoping someone will have some good tips on where I went wrong...

For the cake
3 eggs at room temperature
1 medium lime
1/2 C sugar
3/4 C plain flour
3 tablespoons butter
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 inch spring-form tin (try and get as close to this size as possible. Smaller and the cake will be too thick, larger and the cake will be too thin)

For the strawberry-mascarpone cream
About 450g fresh strawberries. Make sure there are about 8 - 10 nice big ones that are all about the same size. These become the strawberries around the edges that make it look pretty.
110g mascarpone, softened
7g unflavoured gelatin powder
1 teaspoon vanilla (extract not essence...essence is the fake stuff, extract is the delicious stuff)
110g heavy whipping cream, well chilled

Notes: This cake needs to set for at least 5 hours, so make sure you make it the night before. Also, if I was to do this again, I'd probably make about 1/3 more of the strawberry-mascarpone cream mixture (or shorter strawberries to line the edges of the tin) because when I put it all together I didn't have enough to fill the middle completely.

Get all your ingredients out and ready to go, and pre-heat your oven to 180 degrees. Grease the bottom of your 8 inch spring-form tin really well, but DO NOT grease the sides. Cut a circular piece of parchment paper the size of the base of the pan and line the base with it. Now that's the boring stuff out of the way. Next the tricky bit, the sponge, which I did twice and failed twice...

Now just to explain to you what went wrong for me, my sponge didn't rise and was way too dense. I tired it to the original recipe the first time around, and then the second time around I separated out the whites to try and make it a little less dense, and added some baking powder to help it rise but it was no good. In the end, I used the two attempts to form the top and bottom of the sandwich as opposed to cutting one nice fluffy sponge in half. Technically, the cake got finished, it just didn't taste too crash hot. 

To make the sponge, use an electric mixer and beat the 3 eggs on high until they're fluffy. When I tried this the second time around, I only mixed the yolks so I could separately beat the whites. Gradually add the 1/2 C sugar and mix on high until its tripled in volume and forms a slowly disappearing ribbon on the service. If you've separated out the whites, this won't really happen so just mix the sugar in.

Fold in the 1/4 teaspoon of salt, and the zest and juice of the lime.

Sift the 3/4 C of flour and melt the 3 tablespoons of butter.  Fold 1/4 C of the flour into the egg mixture, then one tablespoon of butter, then flour, butter, flour, butter. If you used the whole egg at the beginning, you can now pour the batter into the tin.

If you just used the yolks, now you need to beat the egg whites until they are stiff and fold them into the flour and sugar mix. This didn't work too well for me though as the flour and sugar mix was quite dough like, so all the good I did by beating the egg whites went out the window as I had to be quite rough mixing the whites in. Also, add in about a teaspoon of baking power and pour the batter into the tin.

Bake for about 25ish minutes, or until the top of the cake springs back when you press down a little. The other way to see if it's ready is to poke it with a skewer it should come out clean. After you've taken it out of the oven, loosen the cake from the edges of the tin, and let it cool completely in the tin. Once it's cool, cut it in half horizontally with a serrated knife.

Now for the filling. Set aside the 8 - 10 strawberries that you want to use for decorations. I set aside 10 as wanted to make sure I had a good amount to line the edges of the tin, after all, this recipe is just as much about presentation as it is taste. Dice the rest of the strawberries quite small.

Sprinkle the 7g of gelatin powder on the 110g of chilled heavy whipping cream. Let the powder soften, and then whisk it together well and set it aside. Then, with an electric mixer, whip the 110g mascarpone, 1/2 C sugar and 1 teaspoon of vanilla until it's nice and creamy and lump free.

Mix together the cream mixture and the mascarpone mixture with the electric mixer on medium-high until it's nice and fluffy and a little stiff. Don't beat it too much, or it will turn to butter. Fold in the lovely diced strawberries.

Now to assemble your masterpiece. Put the bottom half of the sponge you've cut in half back in the spring form tin, cut side up. Take the 8 - 10 strawberries you've set aside and cut off the bottom and cut them in half. Put the cut strawberries around the tin, cut side against the tine, so they go all the way around the edge.

Spoon the creamy strawberry mix into the middle of the tin and fill it up. Use the cream to push the strawberries snuggly against the tin. You want to completely cover the strawberries with the cream.

Mine didn't really completely fill, which is why I'd probably make more cream mixture next time. Finally, put the other half of the sponge on top, cut side down. It needs to be put in the fridge for a least 5 hours before it's served, to help the gelatin set, so this is a good one to make in advance. I dusted it with icing sugar before I served it, just to add an extra touch.

So that's it. Where did I go wrong? I don't know. Would I try it again? Maybe, but probably when strawberries are in peak season as throwing away that many strawberries off season hurt a little. But no matter what, it was still baking and it was still fun!


  1. You know what, Liss? I love good cooking failure posts. Not because I relish watching failures, but more because it shows reality. Was it a rich? You said you only ate one piece and threw the rest out...

  2. Agree Steph...there's no point pretending we always make amazing dishes that work out perfectly! Plus, hopefully I'll learn something. It actually wasn't rich. Creamy, but not over the top because the strawberries in the mixture cut through the cream. I didn't eat it more because the cake really wasn't nice. I wanted fluffy and light, but it was dense and heavy.