Happy Birthday, Julia Child!

I made a cake for Julia Child -- well, you know, not really for her, but something like that. I knew her would-be 97th birthday was coming up (today!), so it seemed like the perfect time to make a cake from Mastering The Art of French Cooking.

I chose the biscuit au beurre (butter spongecake) and layered it with chantilly aux fraises (strawberry cream). (These are two separate recipes in the cookbook.)

I love the fancy individual cakes you can find at restaurants and bakeries that have layers of cake and filling. They always look so elegant. But sometimes I find that the spongecake in these actually has the texture of a thin, dry sponge. It's a disappointing result from a promising-looking cake. I really hoped that mine would not turn out like that.

I started by making the strawberry cream so it would have time to chill while the cake baked.

strawberry chantilly cream
Then I prepared the cake batter. While in the midst of making it, I realized I didn't have any vanilla. I must have forgotten to put it on the shopping list after using the last drops in a previous recipe. Fortunately, I had just won some vanilla beans and vanilla bean paste from Jamie at My Baking Addiction, so I had the paste for this recipe! It was the perfect stand-in for vanilla extract -- although I figured it was more concentrated than extract and used less than the recipe called for.

Instead of using a traditional cake pan, I poured the prepared spongecake batter into a sheet pan lined with buttered and floured parchment. I wanted a very thin sheet of cake that I could then cut into small circles (using a cookie cutter) for the cake layers. All of this would be much easier if I had small cake pans or cake rings, but as my bakeware collection is not that extensive yet, I improvised.

I assembled the cakes in small ramekins lined with plastic wrap. I hoped the sides of the ramekins would keep the cream from oozing out from between the cake layers, and it did, for the most part. I stuck the cakes in the freezer to keep them fresh and for more precaution against oozing filling.

I left some like that and then coated some with chocolate ganache.

They don't look as pretty as I hoped they would. I'll get better at it (and eventually get the right equipment). But believe me when I tell you they were absolutely delicious. The cake was super moist, not dry and sponge-like at all. The cream tasted like sweet, ripe strawberries, and the chocolate ganache tied the whole thing together for me.

The un-ganached versions were made for the boyfriend. Given the choice between a chocolate and non-chocolate dessert, nine times out of ten, I'll opt for chocolate!