Whew. It’s the only appropriate noise I can think of right now. I can think of words, like ‘OMG’, ‘holy crap…’ and ‘shit, really?’ But I think ‘whew’ is the sound that best sums up this insane whirlwind of a year. This crazy busy year which I thought would be best topped off with an entirely handmade cache of christmas gifts and two completely different but time consuming christmas eve cakes. Because why do things the easy way when you could make it so much more exciting for yourself? Because I love good cake and I can never turn down a handmade treat is why.
So the year has been nuts, done tons of stuff, been home from our epic adventure for fourteen months (don’t worry, we are planning our next one) and now it that time between christmas and new years. The time when people are a little bit at work but not really. The time that kinda feels like limbo. The time when I try to come up with valid reasons for not attending new year’s parties (is NYE scrooge a thing?). Don’t worry, I have a few infallible excuses up my sleeve.
If you have not been so quick of wit, so unarguably genius as I, and have found yourself with an accepted invitation to a rockin’ NYE gig this year- well, don’t fret! I can’t guarantee you will have a good time, I can’t guarantee you won’t be wishing you stayed home and went to bed at 9.30, but I can definitely, one hundred percent guarantee you will be able to contribute a cake to the celebrations that everyone will go crazy for. I tested it out on christmas eve and was able to humbly accept the shovel loads of praise that were heaped upon me on presentation of this cake.
And guys? It’s super easy. Would I ever give you an assignment that wasn’t? (Maybe, but this isn’t it.) All you have to do is buy a lot of ripe strawbs, whip some cream, make a sponge and then use your mad skills to bring the elements together in a harmonious whole. And in return? The perfect cake for a NYE gathering to which you were asked to contribute some kind of edible. I promise everyone will like this cake. I don’t like cream and my mum doesn’t like sponge cake, but we both like this cake. And I’m not sure about anybody else’s weird diet preferences, but I have encountered only joy upon presenting this cake.
It is your basic strawberry-cream sponge cake, with the added deliciousness of white miso which I think makes everything smell like an Asian bakery and that can only be good. (It also adds a slight savoury tone to the sweetness of the whole situation.) AND it looks amazing thanks to your wicked-precise Japanese decorating skills. It’s just an awesome cake, really.
New year’s eve contribution? Sorted.
Japanese strawberry sponge- make this the day before you want to serve it.
Grease and flour a 30x40cm baking pan. Preheat the oven to 190-200c.
Heat the eggs and sugar in a bowl over a saucepan of just simmering water until they reach 45-50c. This won’t take long. Transfer the mixture to an electric mixer and beat on high speed until pale and fluffy (at least five minutes). Change to low speed and mix for an additional 7 minutes. The air you incorporate now by mixing is what will make the sponge rise, and mixing on low speed ensures the air bubbles are stable and will not collapse.
In a small saucepan over a low heat, combine the butter, milk, miso and vanilla and heat until the butter is melted. Keep the mixture warm- it will incorporate more smoothly into the egg and sugar mix if it is warm.
Once the egg mixture is pale and fluffy and ribbon like, sift half the flour into the mix. Fold in very gently, then repeat. Once the flour has been incorporated- very gently!- mix a quarter of this into the butter mix. You want the butter mix to be almost the same consistency as the egg/flour/sugar mix. When it is, fold the butter mix in carefully.
Pour the batter into the prepared tin and bake for about ten minutes. When it is done, the top will be golden brown and the sides will spring back when touched lightly.
To make the syrup, heat the water, sugar and miso over medium heat and cook for a few minutes until slightly thickened.
Prepare the cream by beating with the sugar in a cold bowl until it reaches medium peak stage. Refrigerate until needed.
Slice the strawberries in half- we are going for symmetricallity (?) here, so choose the similar ones.
Once the cake is done, remove from the oven and after a few minutes turn out onto a cooling rack.
When the cake is cold, slice in two even halves. Douse each half in a generous amount of the miso sponge.
Use a palette knife to smooth about a centimetre of cream over the base layer of the cake.
Starting from the edges moving in, lay the strawberries side by side until you have covered the entire surface. You want the nice symmetrical edges of the strawberries to be facing outwards on the edges.
Smooth another layer of cream on top, gently pressing into the strawberries. About a centimetre or two is enough here (depending on your love of cream).
Carefully lay the top layer of sponge upon the cream. Smooth an even layer of cream over top and then, using a large palette knife which has been heated under HOT water and dried, smooth the entire surface so it is beautiful and flat.
Refrigerate overnight (don’t worry about covering the cake, it will only make indentations in your beautiful smooth cream).
The next day, using a sharp serrated knife, very carefully slice away the edges of the cake- only a few mm each side- so you have a uniform, even cake.
Beat the remaining cream til it reaches stiff peak stage and then use a piping bag to pipe rounds on the cake surface. Place strawberries and any other decorations you feel are necessary over the cake.
Serve! And then count down and pucker up…
for the genoise
255g eggs (about 5 large- crack them,
whisk them together and then weigh
what you need)
195g castor sugar
45g unsalted butter
30g white miso
1 1/2 tbsp vanilla extract
173g cake flour, sifted
for the cream
about 1 litre thick cream
5-6 tbsp castor sugar
for the syrup
3/4 cup water
a scant 1/2 cup castor sugar
1 tbsp white miso
2 large punnets ripe strawberries