Well, Valentine's Day has come and gone, and I took none of my own advice. Instead, Rachel and I pretty much slept all day. And that, my friends, was glorious. I did manage, however, to make a chocolate fraisier, which I am translating as a strawberry-studded chocolate mousse cake, to commemorate the day of love. In fact, I only ate strawberry-studded chocolate mousse cake on Valentine's Day.... Thinking back on that now, that might have been a poor life choice. It was delicious, though, and I would like to share it with you.
I don't know why strawberries are considered a Valentine's Day thing. They are not in season, they are
rarely heart-shaped, and you don't look sexy when you eat them. I have this image in my head of a woman with long hair blowing gently in the breeze seductively biting into a strawberry while making bedroom eyes at me, like Angelina is doing in this photo here, but I don't think this is an event that happens in the real world.
My experience is that you bite into the strawberry a little awkwardly as you try to avoid ingesting any strawberry leaves. Juice starts to seep out, so you start slurping to avoid dribbling strawberry all over your face. Then you nibble the edges of the fruit around the green part like a goddamn bunny rabbit because strawberries are expensive and you don't want to waste any. Finally, you are left with the wee leaves between your fingers, and you look around anxiously for a trash can hoping that you won't have to walk around with strawberry leaves in your hand for the next 10 minutes. Not sexy. And if you cover the strawberry with hard chocolate you have a whole other problem when the chocolate snaps and falls off the berry and you try to catch it in your hand before chocolate shards get all over you.
The point is - I don't have all the answers. I do know one thing, though. The sexiest way to eat strawberries all year long is to stick them in a chocolate mousse cake.
A fraisier is a classic cake made with three key parts:
2.) Sponge cake 3.) Mousseline cream
Ok, mousseline cream is not actually mousse. I lied to you a little bit. Both use milk, egg yolk and sugar, but mousseline cream has the glorious addition of butter. The traditional fraisier does not use chocolate - it matches the strawberries with a vanilla mousseline cream. But we're Queer Martha so we are going to queer the cake with chocolate!
One weird tool you need for this cake is a mousse mold - or any baking tool that doesn't have a bottom. You need to be able to slide the mold off the cake (instead of popping the cake out of the mold). I used a chessboard cake pan, and it worked well.
To make the chocolate mousseline cream:
1.) Grab 2 sticks and 2 tablespoons of butter and let come to room temperature.
2.) Bring 1.5 cups of milk to a boil. As it heats, mix in cocoa powder to make hot chocolate. The amount of cocoa powder is up to your discretion. Make it as chocolatey as you dare.
3.) While the milk coming to a boil, whisk 4 egg yolks in a medium bowl with 1/4 cup of sugar. When the sugar and yolks are mixed, add 2 tablespoons of sifted flour and 2 tablespoons of sifted cornstarch to the mixture.
4.) Pour the boiling hot chocolate over the egg-sugar-flour mixture in one continuous stream while whisking together. Mix well, then return to the saucepan and stir continuously over medium-low heat until the mixture thickens. Do not stop stirring the pot or your cream will make mini omelets.
5.) Once the cream thickens to the texture you would find inside a donut, you have made pastry cream! Yes!!! Now transfer the cream back to the medium bowl and add 1 stick of room temperature butter in chunks. Stir to allow the butter to melt. Once the butter has melted into the cream, cover with plastic wrap (let the plastic wrap touch the top of the cream) and place it in the fridge.
6.) As the cream cools in the fridge, cream the rest of the butter with an electric mixer (just beat it until it looks creamy). When the cream in the fridge is about 60 degrees, take it out and add it progressively to the creamed butter. Beat with the electric mixer until the whole thing is smooth and creamy.
7.) Finally, add a tablespoon of chocolate liqueur to the cream and mix. I was a little heavy-handed with the liqueur, but it didn't seem to matter. Put the cream in the fridge.
Alright! Now let's get to work on the sponge cake.
The sponge cake in this case is actually a "genoise." I might end up dedicating an entire Baking & Beer to making genoise because I'm not very good at it.
First, preheat the oven to 350 and gather your ingredients:
3/4 cup flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup cocoa powder
2.) Sift your flour and cocoa powder together. Do not mix up the bowl you put the flour in with the bowl you put the sugar in or you will end up with a mess that looks a lot like this:
It's ok, we can recover.
3.) In a bain marie (or a saucepan sitting inside of a pan of boiling water), whisk the eggs and sugar together until the mixture reaches 120 degrees. Like before, do not stop whisking or your mixture will develop mini-omelets inside of it. After the eggs and sugar have reached 120 degrees, pour the mixture into the bowl of an electric mixer and beat continuously until the mixture cools to room temperature.
4.) Once the mixture is cool, delicately add the sifted flour-cocoa to the eggs and sugar in 3 parts. Do not let the mixture fall! You can prevent the mixture from falling by folding the flour in very gently.
5.) Now spread the batter over parchment paper on a baking sheet (or over a silicone baking sheet) and smooth it out with a spatula. The batter should be about 1/4 inch thick. Pop it in the oven for 10 - 15 minutes!
You know it is done when the edges rise slightly from the baking sheet. Do not over bake! You do not want chewy genoise.
6.) This is where it gets fun! You get to make shapes. Cut out the genoise into the shape of your mousse mold. As I mentioned, I used my chessboard cake mold, which allowed me to make 9 small cakes. You need two pieces of genoise to fit into your mold. For me, that meant 18 little pieces. I ran out of genoise, though, so I wound up with 16. No matter! We're already queering this cake.
7.) Make a simple syrup by dissolving 1 cup of sugar in 3/4 cups of water and 1/4 cup of chocolate liqueur. Everything should incorporate chocolate liqueur.
8.) When the sugar dissolves in the liquid, brush it over your genoise pieces and let them soak it in.
9.) Now for the greatest part of all! Putting it all together!
First, put a layer of genoise at the bottom of your mold. Next, cut your strawberries in half and line the border of your mold with the cut side of the strawberries. Place the rest of the strawberries throughout the cake.
Now put the mousseline cream you have sitting in the fridge in a pastry bag and fill in the mold. Start by filling in the gaps between the strawberries. Pay particular attention to those gaps to you don't have weird holes when you unmold your cake.
After you finish filling the mold, place the other piece of genoise over the cream. Stick the cake in the fridge for a little bit to set the cream.
10.) Unmold the cake carefully and say, "Woah! That looks awesome!"
11.) Decorate the cake however you want - I added more mousseline cream on top, made some white chocolate domes, and popped some whole strawberries on top to make it look like Seussical the Musical.
Now you have a strawberry -studded chocolate mousse cake! You could make this around Valentine's Day, or you could wait for strawberries to actually be in season. Up to you.
It will be delicious no matter when you make it, though. I mean... it's a cake made of chocolate mousse. It's going to be great no matter what.