Or how to make the mother-in-law’s day!
Yesterday was her birthday and I had been racking my brain to think of a cake I hadn’t made before. I was quite excited because it’s been a while since I’ve actually baked a cake. What with the traveling and recent hectic pace of work and life, cakes seem to have been resigned to the back burner. And they definitely don’t belong there!
For Amma, chocolate is always a pre-requisite. The next filter was strawberries, thanks to her very broad hints about not getting a slice of this Strawberry Pie.
My recent acquisition of white cooking chocolate did the rest and so the idea for this Brown Sugar Cake with White Chocolate Ganache and Strawberries was born.
Here’s what I used for a 10″ tube pan:
1-1/2 cup brown sugar (you can use white but I wanted a slightly deeper flavour to offset the white chocolate ganache)
1 cup softened butter
(1/4 tsp salt if using unsalted butter)
1-1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
2-1/2 cups flour
2 tsp vanilla extract
For the Ganache:
200 grams white chocolate
1/2 cup cream
For the Filling & Topping:
750 gms strawberries
1/4 cup maple syrup (you can use honey/ seedless strawberry or raspberry jam)
Here’s how I made it:
Pre-heated the oven to 180 C and prepared the tin by brushing it with melted butter and dusting with flour. I took special care to ensure that the corners and base of the tube/ tunnel got good coverage.
Measured out the flour and whisked it with the baking powder and baking soda to mix well. Add salt at this stage, if using.
In a large mixing bowl, I measured out the sugar and butter.
I beat these on high speed with the vanilla extract till light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes.
Reducing the speed to medium, I added the eggs one by one, beating between each addition to incorporate fully.
Next, I added the flour and milk alternately – beginning and ending with the flour. i.e. flour – milk – flour – milk – flour! I beat these on very low speed, only until each addition was incorporated.
I incorporated the last addition of flour with a wooden spoon and retired the beater, scraping down the sides and ensuring that everything was well combined.
Spooning the dropping-consistency batter into the prepared pan, I gently tapped the pan on the counter to level the top of the cake.
I popped this in the oven for 25 minutes, after which I reduced the heat to 150 C and baked for a further 15 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the middle of the edge and tunnel came out clean.
While the cake was baking, I set about preparing the ganache. At this point, I must say that it is fast becoming one of my favourite frostings. I find buttercream a little too rich & sweet for my taste. Ganache, on the other hand, brings with it the silky smoothness of good chocolate and just the right amount of sweetness without adding extra sugar. Personally, I prefer dark and intense chocolate to white, or even milk chocolate, but AK has had his eyes on the white chocolate packet for weeks and I just had to give in! Plus, I have to admit that whenever I go out for fro-yo, fresh strawberries + touch of white chocolate chips (in addition to crunchy granola) is my favourite topping. I figured that this combination would work well on cake too.
So white chocolate ganache it was!
Firstly, I weighed and chopped up the chocolate. It is easiest when the chocolate is at room temperature.
Ideally, it should be chopped into as small pieces as you can manage and as evenly sized as possible. This helps in the quick and easy melting of the chocolate.
Keeping the chocolate aside, I measured out the cream into a heavy bottomed saucepan and placed it on medium heat until warmed through and bubbles began to appear along the edges.
Turning off the heat, I added the chopped chocolate to the cream.
I stirred the cream and chocolate vigourously, until all the pieces melted and were well incorporated with the cream. Allowing it to cool to room temperature, I whisked it at regular intervals. I could have placed it on an ice bath and sped up the process but I read recently that the ganache can become lumpy if forced to cool down too quickly. I had time, so I took it easy!
Keeping this aside I prepped the filling and topping. I washed the strawberries well.
Reserving about 15 for the topping, I cut the rest in half and placed them in the food processor to chop finely. Ideally, I should have chopped them finely by hand but was feeling too lazy.
Pulsing them to salsa consistency, I added the maple syrup and gave them one last whiz to incorporate.
As you can see, putting them in the processor made them release a lot of juice. I’m not sure that it was a good thing. Anyhow, I sliced the balance strawberries into 4-5 slices each and placed both – the filling and topping – in the fridge until required.
Once the cake was done, I allowed it to cool in the pan for about 15 minutes. Running a rubber spatula between the tin and the cake, I inverted it on to my cooling rack and let it cool completely – about 25-30 minutes.
When I was ready for it, I flipped it back upright on to a cake board (you can use a plate) and sliced it in half horizontally, using a large serrated bread knife. Sliding a cake lifter (again, you can use a plate) between the layers, I lifted the top one and kept it aside. (I could have sliced the top off the cake to make it even and flat, but I like the risen top.)
Spooning the strawberry filling all over the first layer, I spread it as evenly as I could and placed the top layer back, pressing it gently back into place.
Next, I spooned the ganache over the cake and spread it evenly using a large flat knife (my offset spatulas are still MIA by the way!). I spread the ganache over the top first before getting to the sides and the centre hollow.
Lastly, I arranged the sliced strawberries over the top! I swear I began with a delicate wreath pattern, but I had so many slices left that I kept adding them on haphazardly…
As you can see, I couldn’t prevent some of the filling from mixing in with the ganache on the sides. Ah well. I guess frosting still isn’t my strongest point. Thank god I have an indulgent family that forgives all these imperfections!
Here’s a last look at the finished cake…
All I can say about the cake is that we had one happy mother on our hands after the lunch+cake!
- Try to use good quality strawberries, ideally a little on the over-ripe side. Mine weren’t, as I discovered, and they had a slight “raw” taste & texture to them. If I hadn’t been so distracted and realised it before I filled the cake, I would have cooked the filling on medium heat for about 5-7 minutes, just enough to take the rawness away. That was a tiny black mark in my otherwise happy concoction!
- You can even replace the fresh filling with strawberry jam or preserves.
- The topping strawberries should not have any sugar etc added to it or they will release their juices and make the ganache runny.
- The filling should ideally be consumed the same day. Specially if its being used raw, like mine.