French Strawberry Fraisier for the Daring Bakers

This month’s DB challenge had us baking a moist delicious cake layered with pastry cream and fresh strawberries - a French Fraisier. Layered cakes aren’t new to me nor are pastry type cakes but with this cake, the challenge was to have it free standing on a platter. Layered cakes are usually held together with the outer icing that binds the entire cake and keeps the layers in place. The absence of the outer icing and the fact that the fruit had to be exposed in the layer made this a real challenge. All in all was a good learning experience, and with true Daring Baker spirit,I took this challenge head on and made it look as good looking as I possibly could. Needless to say, it tasted just as good as it looks. 

“Jana of Cherry Tea Cakes was our July Daring Bakers’ host and she challenges us to make Fresh Frasiers inspired by recipes written by Elisabeth M. Prueitt and Chad Robertson in the beautiful cookbook Tartine.”

Recipe Source: These recipes have been adapted from the cook book Tartine by Elisabeth M Prueitt and Chad Robertson, the chefs and owners of Tartine, a beloved San Francisco bakery.

Mandatory Items: You must make a cake with exposed fruits, edible flowers, etc. around the sides of the center layer. You must make all components (cake, pastry cream mousse, simple syrup) from scratch. You may not make a trifle. It must be a free-standing cake on a platter.

Preparation time: The traditional recipe I am providing can be made in stages. As a whole the recipe requires at least 4 hours of time, and 4 hours of refrigeration, BUT the cake, pastry cream and syrup can be made days ahead of assembly to help ease the time burden. Once these three are made, the cake will take about half an hour to assemble followed by 4 hours of refrigeration.

Equipment required:

● measuring cups and spoons for liquid and dry ingredients
● cutting board & knife to prepare the fruit
● electric mixer or stand mixer
● wooden spoon
● rolling pin
● plastic wrap
● parchment paper
● cooling rack
● serving platter of your choice
● 8 inch (20 cm) spring form pan
● 2 large mixing bowls
● small mixing bowl
● whisk
● rubber spatula
● toothpick
● butter knife
● heavy sauce pan
● fine mesh sieve
● small dish
● 2 small sauce pans
● small stainless steel bowl or double boiler
● pastry bag

Basic Chiffon Cake:

1 cup + 2 tablespoons (270 ml) (5½ oz/155 gm) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon (5 ml) (4 gm) baking powder
3/4 cups (180 ml) (6 oz /170 gm) sugar
1/2 teaspoon (2½ ml) (1½ gm) salt, preferably kosher
1/4 cup (2 fl oz/60 ml) vegetable oil
3 large egg yolks
⅓ cup + 1 tablespoon (3.17 fl oz/95 ml) water
1 teaspoon (5 ml) pure vanilla extract
3/4 teaspoon (3¾ ml) (3 gm) lemon zest, grated
5 large egg whites
¼ teaspoon (1¼ ml) (1 gm) cream of tartar


1. Preheat the oven to moderate 325°F (160°C/gas mark 3).
2. Line the bottom of an 8-inch (20 cm) spring form pan with parchment paper. Do not grease the sides of the pan.
3. In a large mixing bowl, stir together the flour and baking powder. Add in all but 3 tablespoons (45 ml.) of sugar, and all of the salt. Stir to combine.
4. In a small bowl combine the oil, egg yolks, water, vanilla and lemon zest. Whisk thoroughly.
5. Combine with the dry ingredients and mix thoroughly for about one minute, or until very smooth.
6. Put the egg whites into a stand mixer, and beat on medium speed using a whisk attachment on a medium speed, until frothy. Add cream of tartar and beat on a medium speed until the whites hold soft peaks. Slowly add the remaining sugar and beat on a medium-high speed until the whites hold firm and form shiny peaks.
7. Using a grease free rubber spatula, scoop about ⅓ of the whites into the yolk mixture and fold in gently. Gently fold in the remaining whites just until combined.
8. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 45 to 55 minutes or until toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
9. Removed the cake from the oven and allow to cool in the pan on a wire rack.
10. To unmold, run a knife around the sides to loosen the cake from the pan and remove the spring form sides. Invert the cake and peel off the parchment paper. Refrigerate for up to four days.

Pastry Cream Filling:

1 cup (8 fl oz/250 ml) whole milk
1/2 teaspoon (2½ ml) pure vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon (1/2 ml) (¼ gm) salt, preferably kosher
2 tablespoons (30 ml) (10 gm)cornstarch
1/4 cup (60 ml) (2 oz/55 gm) sugar
1 large egg
2 tablespoons (30 ml) (1 oz/30 gm) unsalted butter
3/4 teaspoon (3¾ ml) (4 gm) gelatin
1/2 tablespoon (7½ ml) water
1 cup (8 fl oz/250 ml) heavy cream


1. Pour the milk, vanilla, and salt into a heavy sauce pan. Place over medium-high heat and scald, bringing it to a near boiling point. Stir occasionally.
2. Meanwhile, in a stand mixer add the cornstarch and sugar. Whisk to combine
3. Add the eggs to the sugar and cornstarch and whisk until smooth.
4. When the milk is ready, gently and slowly while the stand mixer is whisking, pour the heated milk down the side of the bowl into the egg mixture.
5. Pour the mixture back into the warm pot and continue to cook over a medium heat until the custard is thick, just about to boil and coats the back of a spoon.
6. Remove from heat and pass through a fine mesh sieve into a large mixing bowl. Allow to cool for ten minutes stirring occasionally.
7. Cut the butter into four pieces and whisk into the pastry cream a piece at a time until smooth.
8. Cover the cream with plastic wrap, pressing the plastic wrap onto the top of the cream to prevent a skin from forming. Chill in the refrigerator for up to five days.
9. In a small dish, sprinkle the gelatin over the water and let stand for a few minutes to soften.
10. Put two inches (55 mm) of water into a small sauce pan and bring to a simmer over a medium heat.
11. Measure 1/4 cup (2 oz/60 ml) of the chilled pastry cream into a small stainless steel bowl that will sit across the sauce pan with the simmering water, without touching the water.
12. Heat the cream until it is 120 F (48.8 C). Add the gelatin and whisk until smooth. Remove from the water bath, and whisk the remaining cold pastry cream in to incorporate in two batches.
13. In a stand mixer, fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the cream until it holds medium-stiff peaks. Immediately fold the whipped cream into the pastry cream with a rubber spatula.

Simple Syrup:

You may choose to flavor the syrup. One way is to use flavored sugar (for example: apple cider sugar, orange sugar, or vanilla sugar) or to stir in 1-2 teaspoons of flavored extract. You may also infuse with herbs or spices, if desired or add four tablespoons (60 ml) of fruit juice or liqueur while the syrup is cooling.

1/3 cup (2⅔ fl oz/80 ml) (2⅔ oz/75 gm) of sugar, flavored or white
1/3 cup (2⅔ fl oz/80 ml) of water


1. Combine the water and sugar in a medium saucepan.
2. Bring the mixture to a boil and let the sugar dissolve. Stirring is not necessary, but will not harm the syrup.
3. Remove the syrup from the heat and cool slightly.

Transfer syrup to a lidded container or jar that can be stored in the refrigerator. Simple syrup can be stored for up to one month.

Fraisier Assembly:

1 baked 8 inch (20 cm) chiffon cake
1 recipe pastry cream filling
⅓ cup (80 ml) simple syrup or flavored syrup
2 lbs (900 g) strawberries
confectioners’ sugar for dusting
½ cup (120 ml) (5 oz/140 gm) almond paste*

Note: Instead of the almond paste I used the remaining pastry cream on top with fresh whole strawberries and piped whipped cream.


1. Line the sides of a 10-inch (25 cm) spring form pan with plastic wrap. Do not line the bottom of the pan.
2. Cut the cake in half horizontally to form two layers.
3. Fit the bottom layer into the prepared spring form pan. Moisten the layer evenly with the simple syrup. When the cake has absorbed enough syrup to resemble a squishy sponge, you have enough.
4. Hull and slice in half enough strawberries to arrange around the sides of the cake pan. Place the cut side of the strawberry against the sides of the pan, point side up forming a ring.
5. Pipe cream in-between strawberries and a thin layer across the top of the cake.
6. Hull and quarter your remaining strawberries and place them in the middle of the cake. Cover the strawberries and entirely with the all but 1 tbsp. (15 ml) of the pastry cream.
7. Place the second cake layer on top and moisten with the simple syrup.
8. Lightly dust a work surface with confectioners' sugar and roll out the almond paste to a 10-inch (25 cm) round 1/16 inch (1.5 mm) thick. Spread the remaining 1 tablespoon (15 ml) of pastry cream on the top of the cake and cover with the round of almond paste.
9. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours.
10. To serve release the sides of the spring form pan and peel away the plastic wrap.
11. Serve immediately or store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Fig & Honey Ice-cream

The summer heat has just about reached its peak and any amount of chilled beverages and ice-creams don’t seem enough to cool off. I’ve already made a batch of Mango ice-cream this summer too, and wanted to make other flavours. I also bought a spanking new red Cuisinart ice-cream maker, oh boy, it has just made my life and making ice-creams that much easier! Last week I was at Costco and found fresh figs and I was squealing with joy!! 

My last memory of eating fresh figs is from almost a decade ago when ajji (my grandma) used to bring them home when she saw them in the market. This was one fruit I really missed when I came here and didn’t quite know where to buy them or when they were in season here. This year I had kept an eye out for them and came home armed with two whole boxes – about 50 figs in all. By the time I got around to making ice-cream I had polished off about ½ off one box and had to resist eating them all.

I use a lot of the figs to make Fig & Honey Ice-cream, a flavor favourite from childhood and something I haven't come across here in the USA.

You will need:

2 cups chopped Mission figs, about 12-14
2 cups Whole Milk
2 tbsp Custard Powder (Brown & Polson, recommended)
3 tbsp + 2 tbsp Crystal Sugar
3 tbsp Water
½ cup Condensed milk
4 tbsp good quality Honey
2 tsp Vanilla extract
2 cups Heavy cream
Powdered Sugar, if required

Combine the chopped figs,3 tbsp crystal sugar and water in a medium saucepan and place on medium heat. Stir occasionally and cook until figs are soft and the whole mixture has a jam like consistency, about 7-8 minutes. Turn off heat and cool completely. 

Combine ¼ cup of cold milk with the custard powder until dissolved and lump free. Bring remaining milk and 2 tbsp sugar to a boil on medium heat. When it begins to boil, remove from heat and add the custard paste while stirring. Return to low heat and stir until the custard thickens and coats the back of a wooden spoon. Turn off heat and cool completely.

Once the custard is cooled, stir in the condensed milk, honey,vanilla and heavy cream. Transfer to a metal container and chill for atleast 8 hours. Churn in an ice-cream maker according to manufacturer’s instructions. In the last 5 minutes of churning, add the fig mixture. 

 Serve with additional honey drizzled on top if required. 

Mirchi ka Salan - Green Jalapenos Curry

Mirchi ka Salan is a typical dish from Hyderabad traditionally served to be eaten with Biryani. Mirchi translates to Chilli in Hindi and Salan is a gravy so it’s a spicy tangy gravy with chillies in it. This dish can be made with any kind of chilli – hot chillies like the Thai Chilli pepper or Serranos as well as the slightly milder one like the Jalapeno. 

I prefer to use Jalapenos, so that I can make the gravy very spicy and also the Jalapenos hold up well when pressure cooked.

You will need:
10 Green Jalapenos, washed and dried
¼ cup Vegetable Oil
½ cup thinly sliced onions
1 tsp Mustard seeds
Few curry leaves
2 tsp Red chilli powder (optional)
Salt to taste

To dry roast:

2 tbsp Coriander seeds
8 Dried Red chillies (4 Guntur, 4 Byadige)
1 tbsp White Sesame seeds
½ cup raw Peanuts, skinned

Roast each of the ingredients separately until fragrant and slightly brown. Pulverize in a blender to a fine powder. 

To grind to a paste:

½ cup grated fresh coconut
1 tbsp Fried Gram ( Hurgadale)
1 tbsp Tamarind paste (or 1/4 cup Tamarind pulp)
1 tbsp Jaggery (adj. to taste)

Note: You can vary the number of dried red chillies to suit your preference for spicy levels.

Slit the jalapenos in half up to the stem taking care not to cut it completely. Fill each jalapeno with little of the ground powder. Make a paste with the remaining powder and ‘to grind’ ingredients.

Heat oil in a pressure cooker. Add the mustard seeds and when it begins to splutter add the curry leaves. Add the sliced onions and sauté until done. Add the prepared paste and sauté for a few minutes. Now add the filled jalapenos, ½ cup water enough to submerge the jalapenos. Season with salt, stir and then close cooker with lid. 

Turn heat to high, when the steam begins to rise, place weight on lid turn heat to low and cook for 8 minutes. Turn off heat, let cooker cool well before removing lid. Stir and serve hot with rotis.

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