Chantilly a la fraise
I had a dessert in mind when I went to the market. But the store was having a sale on strawberries - 1 pint for 98 cents. Though it’s too early for strawberry season and it probably doesn’t have good flavor, I couldn’t resist it. I scratched the dessert idea I had before and I put two pints of strawberries in the cart. Strawberry is such a versatile fruit and you could do lots with it but if you want to have a special sweet to ward off stress that I was feeling then what is the most precious cake I could make? Anyway, I needed to think of something fast while I’m in the store to get the rest of the ingredients.
What a disappointment that was when I had strawberry short cake here in the States long ago. It came in bowl with a biscuit-like base covered with overly sweet, syrupy strawberries and vanilla ice cream and whipped cream piled high on the top. Nothing compared to what I was used to in Japan. I became homesick and lost weight while adjusting to American foods. My husband was thoughtful even then. He went to pharmacy to get lactic acid and citric acid and made me Calpis(カルピス) drink. His close approximation of the original Japanese drink had healing power for me.
This strawberry cake recipe (they named it Chantilly a la fraise) came from a professional patisserie Kenichi Nishio who has his store ‘Patisserie Ken NIshio’ in the city of Nagoya Japan. I believe this nostalgic and romantic cake is the most popular cake in Japan. Every cake shops has their version of this cake (see the pictures at the end of this post). The simpleness of the cake demands perfection and high quality ingredients though. The sponge must be soft and light. The cream should taste fresh and smooth. What is remarkable about this cake is that he doesn’t use baking powder, soda, vanilla or salt. I made a half-recipe because I just needed to curb my craving for sweets but when I finished making it I regretted that I didn’t make enough. If you decide to make the full recipe use a 10-1/2 X 15-1/2 inch pan with at least 1 inch deep rim.
Reduced recipe for 9-1/2 x13 pan lined with parchment paper. You also need a candy thermometer.
- 4 large eggs
- Ultra fine sugar 100g
- Weak power flour (薄力粉）90g sifted - substitute with cake flour.
- Whole milk 20g
- Unsalted butter 20g melted
- Mix eggs and sugar in a medium bowl over a pan of simmering water but not touching the bottom of bowl. Keep mixing until the temperature reaches 105 degrees F.
- Put the warmed egg mixture into the bowl of an electric mixer and beat on high for 5 minutes.
- Lower the speed to medium and beat for about 3 minutes.
- Put flour in gradually with the mixer on low speed
- Add milk and butter and mix on low for 1 minute.
- Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 10 minutes in a pre-heated 400 degree oven (when you making whole recipe then 13 minutes) or until a skewer comes out clean. Cool on wire rack.
- 600 ml Heavy cream
- 45 g Ultra fine sugar
- Beat cream and sugar until soft peaks form, set aside. This is a lot of cream; I didn’t use it all.
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1/4 cup water
- 10 to 15 strawberries sliced
- In a small microwaveable bowl, put sugar and water and heat in the microwave until sugar is dissolved about 40 seconds on high power to make syrup.*
- Cut the cake in half and cut off edges.
- Brush half of the cake with syrup then lay half of the strawberries on top of the cake.
- Spread half of the cream generously over the top of strawberries.
- Turn the other half of the cake upside down and place on top of the strawberries and cream
- Brush the top cake with syrup
- Cover cake with the remaining cream and decorate with the strawberry slices.
*In his recipe he used some kind of liqueur, but this worked just fine.
I was right about the strawberries. They were not very flavorful and quite large so it was somewhat awkward to decorate with but hey, they only cost me $1.96. The cake was soft and had chiffon-like lightness. The best cake I ever made!
Update: At last Tuesday’s restaurant event, we chose Bluehour on 13th avenue to dine out for part of Japan’s relief effort. We were well pleased with their dishes. We liked the cauliflower soup and crab risotto, my entre of quail with polenta was excellent. The basil panna cotta was also nice. My only complaint was the fresh oysters. 6 for $18. 4 of the oysters were so tiny. Their service was friendly and knowledgeable but slow and took over 3 hours to eat. We don’t know about their regular Tuesday but a good crowd filled this chic restaurant. I appreciate their generosity very much.
Jiyugaoka, Tokyo, 2009