By Christian Gillet

Pastry-baker trainer – French Baker Champion
BakeLabRC consulting

In the world of French pastry, there are iconic desserts that capture the essence of French gastronomy, and this strawberry cake is one of them! “Fraisier” is a cake that dates back several centuries in the history of French pastry-making. Its origins are not precisely documented, but amateurs believe it appeared in 17th or 18th century France. This exquisite cake is an ode to freshness and delicacy. Composed of layers of fluffy sponge cake, light mousseline cream and juicy strawberries, “fraisier” is an explosion of flavors in the mouth. Whether you’re celebrating a special occasion like Mother’s Day, or simply indulging yourself, a “fraisier” is always an irresistible option.

Recipe for an 18 cm (7 in) diameter cake.

Génoise biscuit

  • 2 eggs 
  • 62 g sugar
  • 62 g Gruau T45 flour

In the bowl of a mixer, mix together whole eggs and sugar, then heat over a “bain-marie”, stirring with a whisk.
When the mixture has reached 45° C (113° F), whisk until̀ cool.
Then gently fold in (without crushing the eggs) the sifted flour with a spatula.
Pour the batter into two buttered 18 cm (7 in) circles (or molds) and bake for 15/20 min at 180° C (355° F). Keep an eye on baking.
Let both sponge cakes cool down.

Crème mousseline

  • 350 g milk
  • 90 g sugar
  • 1 vanilla pod
  • 1 egg
  • 30 g cream powder (or Maïzena)
  • 30 g butter (hot)
  • 120 g butter (cold)

Same procedure as for the pastry cream.
Blanch the egg with half the sugar, then add the cream powder (or Maïzena).
Boil the milk vanilla pod and with the other half of sugar.
When the milk is at̀ boiling point, remove the vanilla pod, and pour a little hot milk over the blanched egg and whisk.
Then put this mixture back into the milk, and cook the preparation while stirring for 1 min when it is boiling
Once the cream is cooked, add the butter (hot butter in ingredients) in chunks to the hot cream, stirring gently with a whisk. The butter will melt and become one with the cream.
Immediately transfer the cream into a dish for rapid cooling.
Cream the butter (cold butter in ingredients) and whisk until stiff.
Gradually whisk the cold custard into the butter “pommade” (note: cream must not “slice” or “trancher”  in french –  see scientific explanation below).
At the end, you can add 50 g of whipping cream to lighten the custard.
Use the cream immediately.
Tip: cream can be flavored with pistachio paste.

*Butter “pommade” is butter that has been let come to room temperature (20 to 30° C / 68 to 86° F) so that it is quite soft, like a cream.

Soaking syrup

(For the sponge cake)

  • 100 g sugar
  • 100 g water

Boil and use cold. Flavor with pulp or strawberry flavoring.

Strawberry topping

  • 250 g fresh strawberries

Cut strawberries to garnish inside and around the cake according to the chosen design:
– version 1: with strawberries exposed. Cut in half, they are placed around the cake, cut side outwards,
– version 2: assembled as an “entremet” with the strawberries cut into pieces inside and covered with marzipan or sugar paste.

Fraisier assembling

  1. Place a pastry ring on a serving dish and place a strip of Rhodoïd on the interior surface of the ring to facilitate demolding.
  2. Place a sponge cake circle in the bottom.
  3. Using a brush, soak the sponge with half the syrup. Be careful to soak the edges, which are generally drier.
  4. During this time, the cream has cooled (it should not be too cold). Beat the cream a little to relax if necessary.
  5. Mounting for version 1: apply cream between strawberries (be careful not to leave empty space). Then apply a layer on the sponge cake, and completely cover the strawberries on the edges of muslin cream.
  6. Cut remaining strawberries into small pieces and place on cream.
  7. Soak the 2nd circle of sponge cake with the syrup and place on the cream.
  8. Press down on the sponge cake to bring the cream up a little on the edges.
  9. Using a spatula, cover with cream and smooth as much as possible.
  10. Chill for a minimum of 4 h.
  11. After decorating, carefully unmold the Fraisier.

Several decorations are possible according to your desires, for example:
– For a “classic” effect:
Make an 18 cm (7 in) circle with marzipan or sugar paste and place the circle on top of the cake.
Decorate with strawberries or flowers/leaves also made with marzipan or sugar paste.

– For a “full” strawberry effect:
Quarter the strawberries and arrange in a circle on top of the cake.
If you have any crème mousseline left over, use a piping bag to decorate around the edge of the strawberries.

Scientific complement
By Rachel Blanchon
When making mousseline cream, it’s not unusual to get a cream that’s all “grainy”, or “sliced”. But what’s going on? Butter is made up of 82% butterfat (milk fat): triglycerides. When you whip up your butter cold “pommade”, everything is fine, the texture is “creamy”. But the more you add cold cream, the more the butter solidifies and turns into tiny grains that are unpleasant to the eye and palate. The trick is to heat the beater bowl a tiny bit each time with a blowtorch or heat gun. But be careful̀ not to overheat either, as otherwise the butter goes from creamy to liquid.