The season of strawberries is almost over so to make the best of the coming of end of the season I decided to make my well-loved by many Strawberry Shortcake. But also because I was secretly craving for some light, fluffy and delicate asian sponge cake. Having my Hong Kong flour specially flown over from home all the way to Paris (courtesy of Mother Eng) I decided to finally put it to use. What exactly is the difference between Hong Kong flour and all others? You have the lighter type of flours like cake flour, and top flour that’s good for making Asian sponges cause it has less gluten than regular flour but Hong Kong flour not only has that property but it is a lot more fine and that to me is perfect for making any Asian confectionary ranging from buns, to soft, light and airy sponges, swiss rolls… you name it. Oh how we like them soft and delicate.
I first started baking this in the house of Antoinette back in Singapore. To me this was the most technical and challenging layered cake to make because everything had to be to the absolute T, and without the aid of any moulds. Everything was done with merely a knife, and an angled palette knife. It’s all in the hands of the chef making this. The sponge is the hero of this cake and you really have to nail it and get it all fluffy and soft instead of sticky and dense. I’ve witnessed a fair bit of dense and sticky sponges back when I was working and really, I’d throw them all out. It’s just unacceptable!!
I’ve made this cake probably a hundred times already and every time I make it, I’d give it to someone and almost all the time, everyone loves it. I’ve had people asking me for the recipe many times and I’ve never had a heart big enough to give this one away until today. Oh how time changes people… It’s hard when you have to do it in production and make slabs of 40×60 strawberry shortcakes each weighing more than 12kg when you’re done but when it comes to home-baking, I’ve simplified it and made it a lot more manageable for home-bakers out there. Perfect for summer, perfect for consumption at any time of day (because it’s so incredibly light on your stomach), what are you guys waiting for, give it a shot!
hong kong flour – 173g
eggs – 255g
caster sugar – 195g
glucose – 23g
unsalted butter – 45g
whole milk – 68g
vanilla essence – 1 1/2 tsp
cream UHT 35% – 700g
caster Sugar – 56g
mascarpone – 50g
sugar syrup – 100g
water – 480g
strawberries – 5-6 punnets depending on the size of the strawberries. The bigger the better.
To make the Genoise:
Heat the eggs, sugar and glucose over a bain marie till it reaches 45-50degree celsius. The glucose helps to keep the sponge moist. Transfer into a mixing bowl and mix on high speed till it’s pale and fluffy. Reduce the speed to low and keep whisking for an additional 7minutes. This allows the air bubbles to be even and small hence making it more stable so you will not knock so much air out when you fold in the flour.
In a saucepan, heat the milk, butter and vanilla essence till all the butter has melted and the mixture is warm. You want a little bit of warmth when you add it to the egg mixture later on as it will prevent lumps in the batter.
Sift your flour and once the egg mixture is pale and fluffy and at a ribbon stage, fold in the flour very delicately in two parts. Once it is well incorporated, add 1/4 of the batter into the butter mixture and whisk till the butter mixture is almost the same consistency as the egg mixture. Pour the butter mixture back into the egg batter and fold it in until it is well incorporated. Do not over mix. The batter should still be fluffy and almost as if it’s heaving.
Pour the batter into a lined 30×40 baking tray and bake in a 190-200 degree celsius oven for about 10 minutes or until golden brown on top and the cake springs back to touch. Rotate the tray halfway to ensure even baking.
Let cool on a wire rack while you prepare the strawberries and cream.
For the strawberries:
Cut the heads off the strawberries and lay them cut side down and lengthwise. Trim off 1/4 of the strawberry and reserve the other 3/4 of the strawberry. Essentially you want all the strawberries of the same height so trim off accordingly. Set aside in the refrigerator.
For the Chantilly:
Combine all the ingredients in a chilled mixing bowl and whisk on high speed till soft-medium peaks.
Assembling the cake:
Trim off the skin of both sides of the sponge cake using a serrated knife and then divide them equally into half.
Lay one half on a big enough chopping board and brush generously with the soaking syrup until it is moistened. In a separate bowl, take 1/4 of the whipped cream and whisk until stiff peaks are formed. You want it stiff enough to hold the weight of the strawberries and the rest of the cake. Using an angled palette knife, spread the cream evenly over the moistened sponge.
Lay the strawberries over the cream starting from the borders with the first cut side facing out. Cover the entire layer with the strawberries filling in any gaps if there is any. Take 1/3 of the remaining cream and whisk it till it’s medium peaks. You want the cream to hold it’s shape but still be soft enough to flow in between the strawberries. Spread the cream well and evenly, pressing gently as you spread to get the cream in between the strawberries. The amount of cream for the second layer should be about three-quarters of a centimetre above the strawberries.
Lay the 2nd half of the sponge on top and align it properly with the bottom half of the cake. Using a flat surfaced try, press the sponge gently just to get it even and slightly compact. Brush generously with the soaking syrup again.
Whisk 1/4 of the remaining cream to medium-stiff peaks and spread it evenly. As this is the final layer, you want to spread it evenly but as fast as possible so you do not work the cream so much. The more you work the cream, the rougher it looks and the stiffer it gets. You want the top layer of the cream to be smooth. Once it is leveled and almost free of spatula-created creases, take a long and even flat knife (or just use the back of a long serrated knife), run it in hot water and in one leveled sweep, run it gently over the surface of the cream to created a completely smooth, crease free and glossy surface.
Leave to set for at least 4 hours but preferably overnight.
The next day, using a serrated knife, trim off the edges of the cake and you can cut it into two rectangular cake or two squares. With the reserved chantilly, whisk it till it’s stiff and pipe balls or any design on what on the top of the cake and garnish with strawberries. You can even glaze it with nappage but I had none on hand. Feel free to decide on how you want the end product of your cake to look like!
Bon Appetit! X