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Mirror mirror upon the wall,

Who is the fairest of all?

Hmmm … good question. This is the question that all Daring Bakers attempted to answer this month as we tackled our latest challenge: Strawberry Mirror Cake. Our host for the month is the prolific, brilliant and talented Peabody of Culinary Concoctions by Peabody. Not only is Peabody one of my very favourite blog bakers, she’s also a kindred hockey spirit. Being a good Canadian girl, I know I can turn to her whenever I need comfort.

I’m a Leafs fan. Trust me. I need lots of comfort.

Anyway, back to the Strawberry Mirror Cake. Prior to this challenge, I’d never heard of a mirror cake. Some lightweight searching on Google didn’t reveal very much so I decided to just go ahead and jump in and not worry too much about the details.

The one good thing about waiting until the very last minute to complete these challenges is that I get to read about the experiences of other Daring Bakers on our private blog. In particular, Lisa and Helene provided some excellent guidance.

The mirror cake started with a very basic sponge cake made of eggs, flour, vanilla extract, cream of tartar and sugar. The cake was baked in a jelly roll pan. Once done, I cut out two 8-1/4 inch disks of cake and wet them with a simple syrup flavoured with Kirsch. Based on the end result, I suspect I did not wet the cakes enough as they were a bit dry.

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Once the cake disks were ready, I began preparing the strawberry Bavarian cream that would be the “filling and frosting” of the cake so-to-speak. The Bavarian cream consisted of unflavoured gelatin, strawberry puree, egg yolks, sugar, milk, lemon juice, red food colouring and heavy cream. It took me awhile to make the cream because I first had to puree strawberries and strain them. Then, I found that it took quite a while for the strawberry base of the cream to thicken. I began to panic a bit so started to add more ice cubes to the bowl of ice water that the cream was sitting in. This backfired on me as all of a sudden, the strawberry cream thickened too much. I proceeded with the recipe and whipped some heavy cream, which I then folded into the strawberry base. But my sense from the recipe, and also from other bloggers, is that the Bavarian cream should have been a bit more “pourable”, whereas mine was like a frosting.

No worries, though. It still tasted good. I placed one cake disk in the bottom of a 10-inch springform pan and covered it with half of the Bavarian cream, making sure to fill in all the gaps in the pan. I topped with a second cake disk and spread the remaining cream over and around the cake disk. I then popped my creation into the refrigerator to sit overnight and set.

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The next morning, I had some errands to run so I actually asked my mom to help me out by preparing the strawberry juice for the mirror part of the cake. What are moms for, after all?!

Essentially the strawberry juice involved cooking a heck of a lot of strawberries with water and sugar and then straining the end result. What you end up with is a lovely red juice that smells strongly of … what else … strawberries!

Making the mirror is actually quite easy as you combine the strawberry juice with unflavoured gelatin and place the mixture in a bowl of ice water to cool. Once it attains the thickness of syrup, you pour the mixture over the top of your set cake.

I actually found the mirror-making to be my favourite part of this cake. It was pretty cool to pour it over and then put it back in the refrigerator to set up. And it did look like a mirror!

After a few hours, it was time for the moment of truth and the unmolding of the cake. I followed the instructions very carefully and wrapped a hot towel around the pan for a few minutes. I also used a small knife with a hot blade (I kept running it under hot water) to carefully separate the mirror edge from the edges of the springform pan. When I felt confident, I released the springform and removed the ring. Surprisingly, it was quite easy.

I lifted the cake off the springform bottom (the recipe instructs you to wrap a cardboard round the same size as the pan bottom in foil and then put that on top of the pan bottom to make cake removal easier) and placed it on a cake plate. I didn’t want to overdue the decoration of the cake so I added a border of strawberries and mint and placed a flower in the middle.

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So far, the cake looked pretty good.

But now came the taste test. Using a knife with a hot blade (kept running it under hot water), I cut a nice wedge from the cake. Once I cut into it and removed the edge, I must admit that appearance-wise it looked impressive.

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So how did it taste?

Meh. It was okay. My cake layers looked pretty, but they were a bit on the dry side. I don’t think I wet them enough with the syrup. The Bavarian cream looked pretty as well, but to be honest, with all the strawberries we had to use, I thought there would have been a stronger berry flavour. I also don’t think it was sweet enough.

For me, the best part of the cake was the mirror. It looked pretty and eating it was certainly a different experience. It had a cool, gel-like texture and it was fun to see your reflection in the top of the cake!

Overall, the cake was enjoyed by all who tried it but not enthusiastically so. In many ways, I found this cake to be like Martha’s crepe cake, an awful lot of work and expense for a so-so result.

Still, though, it was nice to try something different. Thanks so much to Peabody for challenging us this month! Stay tuned to see what untravelled territories the Daring Bakers venture to next month …

Ciao!

For the recipe, you can see it listed on Peabody’s site.

To see what the other Daring Bakers did with this challenge, please visit our official blogroll!

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