Berry Basil Fraisier

berry basil fraisier

To me, the unofficial start of summer is the arrival of fresh strawberries. To be honest, I’m not much of a summer person — I don’t like hot weather and the mosquitoes that come with it. But I love summer produce, and our family definitely looks forward to berry picking every year.

freshly picked strawberries

For the past several years, I’ve made a fraisier to celebrate fresh strawberries. A fraisier is a traditional French strawberries and cream cake, and to me it’s the best way to enjoy candy-sweet, ripe strawberries (after eating them straight off the plant).

hannah eating strawberry

With these fraisiers I tend to be a bit casual — I usually make them a little differently every time. Sometimes I use a Japanese genoise as the cake; I’ve also made a matcha sponge version that was delicious. Sometimes I make a gelee layer for the top. I’ve also learned a few things over the years — like the need for gelatin to set the cream, and to keep the cake layers on the thin side to let the strawberries really shine through.

For my 2019 fraisier, I used some fresh basil from our garden to infuse the cream. And because the spring here was quite cool and strawberries didn’t show up until practically July, I added in a few blueberries to make this a fourth of July appropriate cake. (You could definitely just use all strawberries too, though.) The sponge is a lemon-scented chiffon, which is light and fluffy and pretty simple to whip up. The result: summer in every bite.

A few notes:
  • For easiest assembly, I recommend a 6×3 cake ring and acetate strips. You could also use a springform pan and plastic wrap, but you’ll get the cleanest results from the ring and acetate. (I use these same tools to make Momofuku-style cakes.)
  • You can make the basil pastry cream base up to 5 days in advance, but wait to add the gelatin and whipped cream until you are ready to assemble the cake.
  • For the cake, I used a half recipe of this lime chiffon cake and baked it in a 6×3 cake pan (total baking time was about 35 minutes). Don’t use a shorter pan; it will overflow. You could probably also bake this in a quarter sheet pan and cut out two 6″ rounds, but you would need to adjust the baking time.
berry basil fraisier top down

Berry Basil Fraisier

Makes one 6-inch cake

Ingredients:

  • Half a recipe of this chiffon cake, baked in a 6×3 cake pan (I subbed lemon zest and juice for lime)
  • 1 recipe basil cream diplomat (recipe below)
  • Simple syrup
  • ~1 c chopped strawberries, mixed with a spoonful of strawberry puree or jam; plus about 10-12 strawberries, halved (try to choose ones that are the same height, or trim to match) and 10-12 blueberries
  • More berries and basil leaves, to decorate
For the basil cream diplomat:
  • 1 c whole milk
  • 50g sugar (1/4 c), divided
  • 20g cornstarch or custard powder
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • Pinch of salt
  • 3-4 sprigs of fresh basil
  • 14g (1 Tbsp) unsalted butter
  • 1/2 – 3/4 tsp gelatin*
  • 1/2 tbsp cold
  • 1/2 – 1 c heavy whipping cream*

*Use 1/2 c for a thicker filling and up to 1 c for a lighter filling (I usually use 1/2-3/4 c). If you use more than 1/2 heavy cream, use 3/4 tsp gelatin. 

Method:

  1. To make the basil cream diplomat: Bring the milk and basil sprigs to a simmer in a medium saucepan over medium low heat. Simmer for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, then remove from heat and cover. Allow basil to steep for about 45 minutes.
  2. Strain the milk (add more to reach 1 cup if necessary) and return to the saucepan along with 40g sugar and a pinch of salt. Place a strainer over a heat-safe jug or container.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the remaining 10 g sugar and the cornstarch. Pour in a tablespoon or so of the milk mixture and whisk until smooth. Add the egg yolks and whisk until smooth.
  4. Heat the milk over medium heat until steaming. Remove from heat. Pour the milk in a slow, steady stream into the egg yolk mixture, whisking constantly. Scrape the custard mixture back into the saucepan and return to medium heat. Cook, whisking constantly, until the mixture thickens and large bubbles appear on the surface. Once the bubbles appear, continue whisking on the heat for two minutes.
  5. Strain the pastry cream into the prepared jug or container. Whisk in the butter until combined. Place a piece of plastic wrap over the top and allow to cool to room temperature, then refrigerate until cold (at least 2 hours).
  6. When you are ready to assemble the cake, finish preparing the cream diplomat. In a small bowl, sprinkle the gelatin evenly over the cold water and allow to sit for about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, put two inches of water into a small sauce pan and bring to a simmer over a medium heat. Measure 1/4 cup (60g) of the chilled pastry cream into a small stainless steel bowl that will sit across the saucepan with the simmering water, without touching the water.
  7. Heat the cream until it is 120F. Add the gelatin and whisk until smooth. Remove from the water bath, and whisk the remaining cold pastry cream in to incorporate in two batches.
  8. Whip the heavy cream until it holds medium-stiff peaks. Immediately fold the whipped cream into the pastry cream with a rubber spatula. Transfer to a piping bag and refrigerate while you continue assembling the cake.
  9. To assemble the berry basil fraisier: Line a 6×3 cake ring (or same-sized springform pan) with acetate (or plastic wrap) and place on a cake board or plate. Trim the cake into layers ~3/4 inch thick (you should get three; you’ll need two for the cake. The rest is a baker’s treat!).
  10. Place one layer of the cake in the bottom of the ring and brush generously with simple syrup. Place the halved strawberries, cut side out and pointed end up, around the edge of the pan. Add blueberries between the strawberries if desired. Pipe the cream diplomat between the fruits and a layer across the top of the cake. Use a offset palette knife to smooth. Fill the center with the chopped berries + jam, then cover with another layer of cream. Place the second layer of cake on top and press down to level. Soak with simple syrup, then spread a thin layer of cream across the top. Refrigerate until set, about 4 hours or up to three days.
  11. Just before serving remove the cake ring and acetate. Arrange the cut fruit and basil on top as desired. (If you are doing this beforehand, brush a little warmed and thinned apricot jam on the fruit to preserve their color.) Enjoy!

Lime Chiffon Cake with Mango Whipped Cream

lime chiffon cake with offset spatula

I’ve been dreaming of making this cake for some time now: soft, fluffy layers of chiffon sandwiched with citrus curd and mango frosting. I’ve tried once or twice in the past, but it was never as good as I wanted: cake layers were too dry, or the frosting was too heavy. But this time around it was just right! This is the perfect style of cake to serve to people who don’t like desserts that are too sweet, or as a light ending to a large meal.

A few notes:

  • If you’ve never made any type of sponge cake before, I recommend reading through the tips on my mom’s sponge cake recipe before starting. Same principles apply.
  • If you make your own lime curd for this recipe, I definitely recommend saving your lime rinds and making some fresh lime syrup to use as your cake soak. I followed the directions here (substituting limes for lemons) and just let the mixture sit overnight before draining.
  • The mango whipped cream frosting uses a game-changing food processor method by Stella Parks (which she learned from a Japanese bakery), and it’s the perfect accompaniment to chiffon — light but flavorful from the addition of freeze-dried fruit. I really don’t recommend using a butter-based frosting with this cake as it’s just too heavy.
  • I got my freeze dried mangoes from Trader Joe’s, but you can also source it online.
  • To decorate this cake, I dehydrated some lemon and lime slices by baking them at 200F for a few hours until dry (flipping them every hour or so). I also added a bit of chopped freeze-dried mango.
lime chiffon cake from above

Lime Chiffon Cake with Mango Whipped Cream

Makes one 6-inch cake

Ingredients:

For the lime chiffon cake:

  • 4 large egg yolks, at room temperature
  • 5 large egg whites, at room temperature
  • 150g cake flour
  • 175g caster sugar, divided
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • generous 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 60g (1/4 c or 60ml) lime juice
  • 60g (1/4 c or 60 ml) water
  • 76g (1/3 c or 80 ml) oil
  • Zest of two limes
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp cream of tartar

For the mango whipped cream:

  • 23g freeze-dried mango
  • 75g granulated sugar
  • 3 c heavy cream, chilled

To finish:

  • Simple syrup or fresh lime syrup
  • ~4 Tbsp lime curd (I use David Lebovitz’s recipe: it makes a lot more than you need for this cake, but you can use the rest on toast or freeze leftovers)
  • Dehydrated lemon and lime slices (optional, for garnish — see notes)
  • Chopped freeze-dried mango (optional, for garnish)

Method:

For the lime chiffon cake:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350F with a rack in the lower third. Line three 6-inch pans with parchment, but do not grease the sides of the pan.
  2. Sift together the cake flour, 150g caster sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl (you’ll eventually be mixing the whole batter in this bowl, so choose a nice wide one!). Whisk to combine. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients. Add the egg yolks, lime juice, lime zest, water, oil, and vanilla to the well, and whisk until smooth.
  3. Beat the egg whites on medium-low speed until foamy. Add the cream of tartar, increase the speed to medium, and whisk until soft peaks. With the mixer still on medium, slowly add the remaining 25 grams caster sugar. Increase the mixer speed to medium-high and beat until you have glossy firm peaks.
  4. Using a silicone spatula, carefully fold the egg whites into the egg yolk batter 1/3 at a time. Mix just until the batter is homogeneous and no white streaks remain.
  5. Divide the batter among the three prepared pans, about 250g each. Give each pan a couple raps on the counter to dislodge any big air bubbles.
  6. Bake until the cakes are puffed and firm and a tester comes out clean, about 25-30 minutes (do not open the oven door until at least 20 minutes have passed or the cakes might collapse!). Allow to cool a few minutes in the pan, then run an offset spatula around the edges (this helps minimize shrinkage). Cool another 10-15 minutes in the pan, then remove the cakes from the pans and allow to cool completely on a wire rack. Once cooled, Chill the cakes before frosting, at least 1/2 an hour.

For the mango whipped cream:

  1. In a food processor, grind the freeze dried mango and sugar into a fine powder. Stir with a fork to break up any clumps.
  2. Add the cream and pulse until very thick and creamy, about the consistency of Greek yogurt. Be careful not to over-process or the cream will turn to butter! If you spoon out some of the cream, it should hold its shape when the spoon is overturned. Use immediately, or refrigerate until needed (it should keep for about a week).

To assemble:

  1. Trim the tops of the cakes to level if needed and peel the parchment paper off each one. Place a dollop of cream on a cake board / plate / cake stand and place the first cake round on top.
  2. Brush the top of the cake generously with syrup. Spoon about 1/3 c of mango whipped cream on top of the first round and spread it on smoothly with an offset spatula. Drizzle a couple tablespoons of lime curd in the center, taking care not to go too close to the edge so the curd won’t leak out the sides.
  3. Repeat step 2 with the second layer. Finish by placing the last cake round top side down (soak it with simple syrup before placing it on top).
  4. Spread a thin, even layer of mango whipped cream over the sides and top of the cake to lock the crumbs in. Refrigerate for about 15-20 minutes until set.
  5. After the cake has chilled, spread a thick, even layer of cream on the top and sides. I used an offset spatula to create some texture. Decorate with dehydrated citrus slices and freeze-dried mango pieces, or as desired. Chill until ready to serve.
lime chiffon cake