Let Them Eat Cake ***

From BraveTart (for the frosting), Food and Wine (for the white chocolate mousse), Alton Brown (for the sponge) found at Food NetworkFood.com (for the Grand Marnier syrup)

Today felt like a cake day.  And not just any cake.  But a cake from Konditormeister.  My family's favorite is their Strawberry Grand Marnier.  It is a not-too-sweet light as air sponge with a white chocolate mousse and fresh strawberry filling.  The cake is frosted with a light creamy not-too-sweet butter cream and topped with chocolate dipped strawberries.  It is just fabulous!

Unfortunately, I didn't feel up to the drive to Braintree because of the never-ending snow fall outside.  So I decided to try my hand at making one.  I tried different sponge cake recipes (Magnolia Bakery's Vanilla cake, Genoise sponge, Chiffon cake) with various butter cream recipes (Italian butter cream, Swiss butter cream, German butter cream).  Finally I combined a chiffon cake (Alton Brown's chiffon cupcake recipe) with a German butter cream (BraveTart) and a white chocolate mousse filling (Food and Wine).  So simple that I wondered why I didn't try this combination first.  From the first bite, my family and I agreed this was closest to the cake we love from Konditormeister :)

I found it best to make the white chocolate mousse and the custard for the frosting first.  Refrigerate the mousse and set the custard aside to cool while you make the cake.  While the cake is cooling, make the Grand Marnier syrup you will use to brush the cake layers.  Once you've cut the cake into layers and brushed each layer with the Grand Marnier syrup, whip up your frosting and wash and slice your strawberries.  Assemble the cake, slice and serve :).

Note 1:  The cake holds together better if you refrigerate it for a few hours before slicing.
Note 2:  The Grand Marnier syrup I used was from Food.com

For the White Chocolate Mousse
1/2 teaspoon unflavored gelatin
1/2 tablespoon water
1/2 cup chilled heavy cream
2 tablespoons orange liqueur
2 large egg yolks
2 tablespoons sugar
Pinch of salt
4 ounces white chocolate, melted and cooled

1.  In a small bowl, sprinkle the gelatin over the water and let stand until softened.

2.  Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, using a handheld electric mixer, beat the cream until softly whipped. Refrigerate until chilled, about 10 minutes.

3.  In a small, microwave-safe bowl, heat the orange liqueur at high power until hot, about 45 seconds. Stir in the softened gelatin until dissolved.

4.  In another medium bowl, beat the egg yolks with the sugar and salt at high speed until pale and thickened, about 5 minutes. While beating the yolks, beat in the orange-gelatin liquid; scrape the side and bottom of the bowl. Beat in the melted chocolate. Using a rubber spatula, fold in the whipped cream in 2 additions. Scrape the mousse into a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, at least 4 hours or overnight.

For the German Buttercream
16 ounces whole milk
2 vanilla bean pods, split and scraped, seeds reserved for another project
10 ounces sugar 
1½ ounces cornstarch
2 eggs
2 egg yolks
32 ounces unsalted butter, room temperature
¼ teaspoon kosher salt, or more to taste

1.  In a medium pot, bring the milk to a simmer along with the vanilla bean pods. Turn off the heat and set aside to steep for at least one hour, or as long as time allows.

2.  After steeping, remove the vanilla bean pods and use a rubber spatula to extract the thick vanilla goo from inside each. Return the milk to a simmer. Meanwhile, whisk together the sugar, cornstarch, eggs and yolks in a medium bowl.

3.  Whisk about a half cup of the hot milk into the egg mixture—it will be thick at first but will loosen as the milk incorporates. Continue whisking in hot milk until the egg mixture is fluid and warm. Now, return the tempered egg/milk mixture back into the pot of hot milk, whisking all the while. Turn the heat to medium and whisk until the mixture begins to thicken and bubble sluggishly. From that point, continue whisking and cooking for a full minute more; use a timer or you run the risk of not fully cooking out the cornstarch. When the minute is up, pour the custard into a large mixing bowl.

4.  The custard may be cooled quickly by mixing it continuously in a stand mixer. If time isn’t an issue, you can press a layer of plastic wrap against its surface and refrigerate until cool. You can wait even so long as overnight or a few days.

5.  Either way, once the custard has cooled completely, use a hand or stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment to beat it on medium to medium high speed until creamy. (If you did not refrigerate the custard, please do take caution to make sure you’re not rushing things; if the custard has not been mixed long enough to cool to perfect room temperature, the butter will melt in the next step and you’ll have a very soupy mess on your hands.)

6.  Once the cooled custard has been whipped until creamy, begin adding in the butter, one tablespoon at a time. Add the salt and continue to whip until the mixture is creamy and homogenous.

7.  If you’d like to flavor the buttercream with any extracts, melted chocolate or other flavorings, now is the time. The flavor variations listed at the end of my Swiss meringue buttercream recipe will all work with this recipe too, so click through for specific instructions on making different flavors not mentioned here.

8.  Use immediately or refrigerate until needed. When ready to use, whip until creamy before proceeding.

For the Cake
5 1/4 ounces cake flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
5 large eggs, separated
6 ounces sugar, divided
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
5/8 teaspoon cream of tartar

1.  Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

2.  Grease and flour 2 8-inch cake pans.  Place parchment paper in the bottom of the 2 pans.  Set aside.

3.  In a medium mixing bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

4.  Place the egg yolks and 5 ounces of the sugar into the bowl of a stand mixer and whisk on high for 2 minutes or until the mixture becomes pale yellow and 'ribbons' when lifted. Add the water, vegetable oil and vanilla and whisk to combine. Add the dry ingredients and whisk just to combine. Transfer the batter to a mixing bowl while you whisk the egg whites.

5.  Place the egg whites and cream of tartar into a clean bowl and whisk on high using the whisk attachment, until it becomes foamy. Decrease the speed to low and gradually add the remaining ounce of sugar. Increase speed to high and continue whisking until stiff peaks form, approximately 2 minutes.

6.  Transfer 1/3 of the egg whites to the batter and whisk until well combined. Add the remaining egg whites and fold in gently. Transfer batter evenly into the 2 cake pans. Bake for 30 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean or the cakes reach an internal temperature of 205 to 210 degrees F. Remove from the oven to a cooling rack and allow to cool completely before frosting.  

7.  I find that it helps to place the cakes into the freezer and deal with them frozen for the cake assembly.

For the Grand Marnier Syrup
1⁄2 cup sugar
1⁄3 cup water
1⁄4 cup Grand Marnier

Stir together sugar and water. Bring to boil. Set aside. Cool. Add Grand Marnier.

To Assemble the Cakes
2 8-inch Chiffon Sponges
White Chocolate Mousse
German Buttercream
Grand Marnier Syrup
Fresh strawberries, washed and sliced

1.  Slice each Chiffon Sponge in half horizontally.  We will need 3 layers for the cake.  You can reserve one layer for later use.  

2.  Place 1 layer top side down on a cake plate or cardboard cake board.  (It helps to put a dollop of frosting in the middle to hold the cake in place.)  Using a pastry brush, brush the cake with the Grand Marnier Syrup.  Spread 1/2 of the White Chocolate Mousse over the cake, pushing out gently from the middle to form an even layer of mousse.  Place some of the strawberry slices over the mousse and gently press them down.  Place the 2nd layer over the first layer and repeat.  Top with the third layer.  (I find it helps to refrigerate the cake at this point so everything sets up a bit before you start frosting it.)

3.  Whip the German Buttercream so it is nice and fluffy.  Frost the cake and decorate it however you'd like.  I did some simple piping and decorated it with fresh strawberries.


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