Lil Champagne & Strawberry Cakes

Wednesday, June 5, 2013



It's been strange, the last couple of weeks. I returned from Atlanta to find a lot of our friends had already left or were in the process of leaving. Joe's classmates all graduated this year (he took a year off). The week before we left for Atlanta was also a blur because of my large orders and all the parents in town. Then, while we were gone, our kitchen tiles had been replaced and some friends had been using our apartment. We returned to a rather huge and disorienting mess (coupled with the harsh reality of just having left my niece and nephew, sigh).

And so, the following week was spent cleaning and helping my friend Cate move out. She was the last to leave--she was our neighbor and our friend, and she's gone, too.
At least we did give her a grand send off by which I mean we traversed the Central West End for hours, eating and drinking to our hearts' content in the warm summer air. It was fantastic.

Now, we have a clean apartment, a new kitchen floor, and half our circle of friends is gone, starting new adventures in cities scattered all over the country. I miss them, more than they know.

What's been nice is having Joe at home for a couple of weeks before he starts his next rotation. I thought we'd drive each other crazy (and sparks have flown, don't get me wrong) but it's great having him around and we've bonded more, which I didn't even know was possible. 

I've had plenty of orders to keep myself busy, but also more free time than I expected. So, I'm spending a bit more time at the gym, trying out new recipes, reading more books, and just trying to appreciate everything around me. I'm trying to be more aware and in the moment, ya know?

Oh, and this has been my playlist the entire day and for the writing of this post (which caused me to break out in tune more than once). If you want a blast from the past, this one's for you!

Reading and cheese-eatin' on the back porch

I finally stopped by the St Louis Central Library, which is gorgeous. I could get lost in there for hours. 

Rows and rows of books in gorgeous architecture
Joe and I have been cooking together more frequently. We recently improvised a lamb risotto with braised radishes and shallots which was possibly our best homemade meal of all time


And this cake.


I love the olive oil cake created by Bouchon Bakery‘s Thomas Keller. It’s spongy and perfectly designed to soak up simple syrup or liquor. Also, the olive oil flavor isn’t overpowering. It only adds a hint of something special. 


I’ve been in love with champagne frosting ever since I tried a cupcake featuring it at La Patisserie Chouquette, a French style bakery in St Louis. 
I tried to search for ways to incorporate champagne into my recipes, but I didn't really like the idea of baking it in, since I felt like the flavor would be lost. Then, I discovered champagne extract.
Unfortunately, Amazon's shipping costs more than the extract itself, so that was out of the question.
Lucky for me, there's an amazing cake supply store in St Louis that happened to carry it.

Just be sure to add the extract in small increments, tasting as you go. It can get strong pretty quickly. 

I baked the sponge cake in a large sheet pan and used a cookie cutter to stamp out little rounds. I added a teaspoonful of Chambord to each slice before layering it with frosting (Although I’d be interested in experimenting with a simple basil syrup or any other flavor component). 


When presented with this, you can choose to hurriedly nosh on the strawberry first, or reserve it for last (or perhaps you're one of those who takes balanced bites of it with the cake?). The strawberry will be cold and juicy, with a crackly chocolate coating that will immediately melt on your tongue
Then, the cake comes into play--light, spongy, but really just a vehicle for the real creamy, buttery stuff. 
The frosting, smooth and velvety, will be the next burst of flavor. Champagne is one of those "je ne sais quoi" flavors--distinctive, attractive--you can't place it, but you just know you want more.


This is definitely one to be savored, possibly at your next dinner party?


Olive Oil Cakes with Champagne Frosting
Adapted from Bouchon Bakery
Makes 6 to 8 mini layer cakes (depending on the number of layers and size of cutter)

Nonstick oil (if using parchment paper)
1 cup plus 1 tsp. (145g.) all-purpose flour
½ tsp. plus 1/8 tsp. (3g.) baking powder
½ tsp. plus 1/8 tsp. (2g.) Kosher salt
3 Tbsp. (50g.) eggs*
¾ cup plus 2 tsp. (158g.) sugar
¼ cup plus 3 Tbsp. (113g.) whole milk
¼ cup plus 2 Tbsp. (79g.) extra-virgin olive oil

*Beat an egg in a bowl and then measure out by weight or spoon--it's approx a little more than one large egg (make scrambled eggs with the rest!)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Line an 18-by-13-inch sheet pan with parchment paper or a Silpat mat. 
Spray with nonstick oil if using parchment paper.
Sift the flour, baking powder and salt together.
Beat the eggs and sugar in a stand mixer for about 1 minute. 
Increase to medium speed, and whip for 5 minutes, until the mix looks thick and pale yellow. 
Scrape the batter down the bowl and beat on high for another 5 minutes.
Add the wet ingredients, and beat until combined.
Slowly add in the flour mixture, and beat on low until combined.
Pour the batter into the sheet pan, and use a spatula to spread in an even layer, making sure to reach the corners.
Bake for about 15 minutes, until the cake is golden on top and springs back when lightly touched. Let cool completely.
Invert the pan onto parchment, peel back layer of parchment paper if necessary.
Freeze the cake before using a cutter to stamp out round shapes, or any shape you prefer.
Wrap the cake in plastic wrap and store at room temperature for up to 4 hours. 
Refrigerate for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 2 weeks.

Champagne Frosting

5 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
1 cup whole milk
¼ tsp. champagne extract, or more to taste
2 sticks butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar

Mix the flour and milk in a saucepan. Once stirred, put over medium-low heat. Keep stirring until it resembles mashed potatoes. It should look like a goopy, cohesive batter.
Let the mixture cool, and then store in the refrigerator until completely cooled.
Beat the extract, butter and sugar in a mixer on high until fluffy.
Slowly add the flour mixture to the butter mixture and beat on low until light and fluffy.
Layer two cake rounds with frosting and top with a third cake round. 
Repeat with the remaining cake rounds to make 6 to 8 layered cakes, in total.

Assembly

6 to 8 tsp. Chambord (or any flavored liquor of your choice)
Handful whole strawberries
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Pour 1 teaspoon of Chambord over each layer cake.
Top with an even layer of frosting and stack as high as you prefer.

Melt the chocolate chips in a microwave for 10-second intervals, stirring between each interval, until the chocolate has melted.
Dip the whole strawberries into the chocolate and place one strawberry on top of each frosted cake, just before serving.

Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and store in the fridge if not eating the same day.

Note: You may have frosting left over that you can freeze for later use or use as a dip for fresh fruit.


8 comments:

Lizzy said...

that lamb risotto looks crazy good. also, i still need to visit the st louis central library!

shannon weber said...

These little cakes are so beautiful! and i've made a note of the cake supply place: always nice to find a new resource for things un-findable. :)
(sigh) that library...seriously...i could live there.

Amrita Rawat said...

Thanks, guys! The library is awesome.

Anonymous said...

Hi! I love your blog, you have really unique recipes. I was wondering if you could recommend another extract to use for the cream filling. I dont know where to get champagne extract on short notice and was hoping to make this dessert soon. I'd like to try something other than just vanilla, to make the flavor a little more interesting.

Amrita Rawat said...

@anonymous
Hi!
Other options I can think of... maybe adding lime or lemon zest, using vanilla butternut and/or adding chopped nuts in between...
You could also try a mint extract (but go very light because it can overpower very easily), basil, or lavender... or even just make the frosting chocolate.
Anything that you think goes with strawberry will work!
If not strawberry, any berry or fruit should work, too.

And if you do ever see champagne extract, definitely try some :)

Anonymous said...

Thanks!! I love the lavender idea, I will give that a try :)

natalie @ wee eats said...

These are so gorgeous and elegant, I could see making them for a party. And I love the flair of the chocolate covered strawberry on top (strawberries and champagne, HELLO!)

Amrita Rawat said...

Thanks, Natalie! :)

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