Saturday, October 9, 2010

Orange Creme Mousse-Filled Cake with Fresh Strawberry and Peach Garnish

Cake has always been associate with celebration. In our family, every birthday would be invariably accompanied by a two-layer cake-from-a-box sandwiched around a delightful ambrosia of canned fruit and cream, and smothered in more whipped cream, with icing accents. As we (mostly I) grew up and inherited the cake-making position, we started experimenting, adding more fruit, garnishes, piped roses and fondant figurines. Eventually the cakes grew so extravagant they started resembling sculptures or abstract art.

Nowadays we haven't got the time for such ambitious cakes, and with the sisters scattered we try to keep things simple(ish). Just yesterday it was our mother's birthday, and this is the cake that I made for her. This gorgeous monstrosity takes about 5 hours to assemble, but it's worth every minute.

Note: I used the Heart Tasty-Fill Pan from Wilton's for this recipe, but if you haven't got a tunnel cake pan, you can sandwich the mousse as a filling between two 8'' or 9'' rounds so long as you set it first, otherwise it will gooze everywhere. Also, it helps to make a little fence with whipped cream 'round the edge of the bottom cake round to keep the mousse in.

1 box yellow or other neutral flavour cake mix (in retrospect, white would have been better, because the orange creme kinda blended in with the yellow and was not visually AMAZING)
ingredients as called for on cake box
1 pint whipping cream/double cream
2 packets Dr. Oetker Whip-It Stabilizer for Whipping Cream (Optional, but hey, it's a birthday!)
2 pints fresh strawberries (so you can pick out the ugly ones; really, you probably only need 1 pint of perfect strawberries, but there you are.)
1 can peach slices in juice
2 boxes Dr. Oetker French Vanilla Mousse Mix
1 cup milk
1 cup orange juice

A mixer (preferably standing)
Measuring implements
Rubber spatulas
Mixing bowls (one of which should be large and metal)
Cooling rack (non-negotiable; YOU NEED ONE)
Room in the fridge for your cake
Glasslock or Pyrex containers for leftover bitses
A cutting board for preparing fruit garnishes
A paring knife for the same purpose
Several plates to hold the cake halves
Cake pans, as noted above
Piping tip #4B
Sealable plastic sandwich bag or piping bag
Tape, to hold the piping tip in place if you haven't got a huge coupler, which I haven't
A large thin and flat knife for spreading the cream (a.k.a. flat spatula, or angled spatula, neither of which I had and so I used a butter knife)
A cake holder to transport it and prevent it from absorbing funky odours from your fridge
and the like

1. Make the cake according to the box. While it is baking, clean up your cake mess as best you can. Also, throw the large metal mixing bowl and beaters into the fridge to chill -- it makes it easier/faster/better to whip the cream.

2. While the cake is cooling on the cooling rack, whip the cream with your electric (preferably standing) mixer to stiff peaks. It will take a long time. Don't forget to add the Whip-It, if using, and some sugar and vanilla to taste. You can also eschew both and use brown sugar, which lends a delightfully subtle caramel flavour.

3. Put the cream in the fridge to chill more, and wait for the cake to finish cooling.

4. When the cake is cooled Prepare the Mousse: dump the contents of both mousse mix packets into a medium bowl and add milk and orange juice. Beat with the mixer on low speed 'til thick-ish, then up the ante and whip for 5 minutes until smooth and fluffy-ish (it will still be gooze-y; that's just the way it is). Fold in like a half cup of the whipped and chilled cream to the mixture, being very gentle with the folding so that you don't ruin the texture.

5. Fill the cake and chill 'til the mousse sets (about 2 hours). In the meantime you can clean up your huge mousse mess and take a break. When it's almost done setting, wash and prep the fruit! Drain the peaches and drink the delicious peach nectar. Wash and drain the strawberries and cut off their leafy parts. Pick out the ugly ones and save them for parfaits. Slice several of them longitudinally into 1/4'' pieces, discarding the first and last (blobby not-triangle/strawberry-shaped) pieces. These will the the covering for the top of the cake. Discard any slices that have that naturally occurring cavity which makes the slices look kinda ripped. Slice the rests of the strawberries into halves; these will go 'round the bottom.

6. Now that the mousse is set, take the cake out of the fridge and assemble it. Flip the cake top onto the cake bottom. Spread whipped cream on the sides AND ONLY THE SIDES to cover the same. Make sure the cream goes all the way to the bottom and top. Arrange the strawberry and peach slices on top of the cake, using the picture below for reference:

7. Pipe the rest of the whipping cream along the upper edge of the cake as shown. Place the strawberry halves along the lower edge like so:

TADA! YOU'VE MADE CAKE!!! Now refrigerate the bugger until it's birthday-song time!