I don’t consider myself a ‘baker’, that said to hone my baking skills I have been religiously practicing by creating sweet dishes every Friday, ranging from home-made burger buns to decadent layered cakes. This Sunday happened to be my son’s birthday. The year 2012 has been quite an adventure in the baking arena. For my daughter’s birthday I made a 7 layer rainbow-colored cake, my husband I teased with an X-rated cake. Needless to say, I had to up the ante when my son’s birthday celebrations came along. Especially since I seem to find myself picking the most complicated or time-consuming recipes to bake. With Chef Keller’s philosophy – ‘Today I will do better than yesterday’ resonating in my mind, I chose to create a 12 layer white chocolate and strawberry cake. Now I have made this cake before, following the original recipe. This time around my son asked me to create this cake substituting the chocolate with fruit. Argh!! After careful deliberation, I asked him to allow me to create this cake using at least white chocolate. So here’s the spin-off this cake which I created improvising while I baked the cake.
12 layers, white chocolate, and strawberry are relatively common ingredients. What’s unique about this cake is the perfect harmony of flavors and interplay of textures with each bite. Let me break down the layers:
- White Cake: Thin layer of light Sponge cake
- Buttercream: White Chocolate and Lemon
- Meringue: Hazelnut and crushed Pink Peppercorn
- Buttercream: Fresh Strawberry Buttercream
- Soufflé: White Chocolate
- Buttercream: Fresh Strawberry
A light spongecake layer soaked in Cointreau syrup, paired with crisp and spicy meringue, rich white chocolate soufflé intensified with the flavors of delicate white chocolate & lemon buttercream and fresh strawberries creates a decadent and silky white chocolate delight leaving you craving for more. Here’s another fine example of how spice can enhance and elevate your dining experience. Crushed pink peppercorns add a touch of spice and wonderful floral aroma that balances the sweetness of this ultra rich cake.
12 Layered White Chocolate & Strawberry Cake
It is arduous to make, but is well worth it especially for a special occasion. With the textural variety in play, each layer brings an element of surprise. With the thin cake layers and literally no butter in the cake, regardless of it’s appearance; it is super light on your palate.
For cake layers:
- 4 large egg yolks at room temperature 30 minutes
- 2 tablespoons whole milk
- 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 3/4 cup sugar, divided
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 2 large egg whites at room temperature 30 minutes
- 6 ounces fine-quality white chocolate, finely chopped
- 1/4 cup water
- 5 large eggs, separated, at room temperature 30 minutes
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup sugar, divided
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
For meringue layers:
- 2/3 cup hazelnuts or pine nuts
- 1 tablespoon pink peppercorns, crushed
- 3 large egg whites at room temperature 30 minutes
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/3 cup water
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1 teaspoon cointreau
- 2 cups sugar, divided
- 3/4 cup water
- 6 large egg whites at room temperature 30 minutes
- 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 tsp lemon extract
- 21/2 tsp lemon zest
- 11/2 cups fresh strawberries, pureed and strained
- 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 6 sticks (1 1/2 pounds) unsalted butter, cut into tablespoon pieces and softened
- 6 ounces fine-quality white chocolate, melted and cooled to lukewarm
Equipment: 3 (15-by 10-inch) 4-sided sheet pans, candy thermometer
- Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle. Butter and line a sheet pan with parchment paper.
- Beat whites until they hold soft peaks. Beat in remaining 1/4 cup sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, and beat until whites hold stiff peaks.
- Whisk together yolks, milk, vanilla, and 1/2 cup sugar until combined well, then whisk in flour and salt until smooth.
- Fold one third of whites into batter to lighten, then fold in remainder gently but thoroughly.
- Spread batter evenly in pan and rap against counter to release any air bubbles. Bake until cake is dry to the touch and pale golden, 10 to 11 minutes. Cool completely in pan on a rack.
- Line second sheet pan with parchment paper.
- Melt chocolate and water.
- Beat yolks, salt, and 1/4 cup sugar in a large bowl at high speed until thick and pale, about 5 minutes with a stand mixer or 8 minutes with a handheld. Fold in melted chocolate.
- Beat whites with cleaned beaters until they hold soft peaks. Beat in remaining 1/4 cup sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, and beat until whites just hold stiff peaks, about 5 minutes.
- Fold one third of whites into chocolate mixture to lighten, then fold in remainder gently but thoroughly. Spread batter evenly in lined sheet pan.
Bake until puffed and a wooden pick inserted into center comes out with a few crumbs adhering, 25 to 30 minutes. Transfer pan to a rack, then cover top of soufflé with 2 layers of damp paper towels. Let stand 5 minutes. Remove towels and cool soufflé completely in pan (soufflé will deflate as it cools). Sift cornstarch over soufflé, then loosen edges with a sharp knife.
- Toast hazelnuts or pine nuts and rub off any loose skins.
- Reduce oven to 250°F.
- Finely chop nuts and lightly crush the pink peppercorns.
- Beat whites with salt and cream of tartar until they just hold soft peaks. Beat in sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, and beat until meringue is stiff but still glossy.
- Line bottom of third sheet pan with parchment.
- Fold nuts and peppercorns into meringue and spread evenly in pan. Bake until set and pale golden, 25 to 30 minutes.
- Halve meringue crosswise, cutting through parchment, to form 2 (10-by 7 1/2-inch) layers. Return to oven and bake until crisp, 45 minutes to 1 hour more. Cool in pan, then peel off parchment.
Bring water and sugar to a boil, stirring until sugar has dissolved. Add cointreau and cool.
- Bring 1 3/4 cups sugar and water to a boil in a 3-quart heavy saucepan over medium heat, stirring until sugar has dissolved. Boil, without stirring, until it registers 220 to 225°F. At this point start working on the eggs.
- Beat whites with vanilla, cream of tartar, and salt in mixer at medium speed until they just hold soft peaks. Add remaining 1/4 cup sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, beating, and beat until whites just hold stiff peaks.
- When syrup reaches soft-ball stage (238 to 242°F), immediately pour syrup in a slow stream down side of bowl into whites, while beating at high speed. Beat until completely cool, 25 minutes. With mixer at medium speed, add butter 1 tablespoon at a time, beating well after each addition and until buttercream is smooth. (Mixture may look curdled before all butter is added but will come together at end.)
- Transfer 3 cups buttercream to a small bowl and stir in white chocolate, lemon extract, and lemon zest.
- Add strawberry puree to rest of the buttercream and mix on low speed with paddle attachment until smooth.
Assemble the cake:
- Cut cake and souffle layers into two to form 2 (10-by 7 1/2-inch) layers.
- Invert 1 cake layer onto a flat platter and peel parchment from cake and brush with some of syrup.
- Spread with 1 1/4 cups white chocolate buttercream.
- Top with 1 meringue layer and spread with 1 1/4 cups strawberry buttercream.
- Invert 1 soufflé layer onto buttercream and peel off parchment. Lightly spread with 1 1/4 cups strawberry buttercream.
- Repeat layering, ending with white chocolate buttercream.
- Chill 2 hours and then wrap in plastic wrap. Leave overnight in refrigerator.
- Trim all around cake with a serrated knife to neaten edges. Bring to room temperature (about 1 hour) before serving.
- Decorate with fresh sliced strawberries and slivers of white chocolate to serve.
Recipe adapted from Epicurious.