Strawberry-ambrosia cake

I love pairing corn with strawberries. I also love pairing strawberries with lemon. And strawberry and ginger. And ginger and lemon. And ginger and corn. Basically, you get where this is going. I put all four of these flavors together into a single package. The idea behind the dessert was to make something cute and feminine for one of my co-workers, Kim, for her birthday. Kim, not to be confused with my sister who has the same name, is a kind, motherly spirit, so I wanted to make something that really captured and honors her good-natured personality.

For the different layers, we have brown sugar-corn cake, strawberry-lemon curd, lemon-ginger cream cheese, ginger-corn crumble, and lemon-ginger gelees with fresh strawberries. I wanted to layer it like an ambrosia salad, something that is super homey, but I wanted to take it away from being a marshmallow-mayonnaise-y fruit and jello salad and make it more of a elegant, pretty cake you’d see in a tea party on a Sunday morning. So no marshmallows, instead of jello, we have gelee, and the only traces of mayonnaise are in the cake, just to add in that moisture.

For the corn cake:
3/4 cups Japanese corn powder
3/4 cups semolina flour
3 egg whites; whipped stiff
2/3 cups brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 cup buttermilk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
a pinch of salt

Combine ingredients. Pour onto a lined shallow sheet tray and bake at 350 degrees F for 20-25 minutes. Cool completely before removing.

For the strawberry lemon curd:
3 egg yolks
1 cup strawberry puree
juice and zest from 2 lemons
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
a pinch of salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon cornstarch

Reduce lemon juice with puree. Combine eggs, salt, cornstarch. Temper the two together and whisk over medium heat until thickened to the consistency of pudding. Add in the butter and vanilla and continue whisking off heat until the butter is melted in. Pass through a sieve. Transfer to a bowl, press with cling wrap, and refrigerate.

For the ginger-corn crumble:
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/3 cup Japanese corn powder
1/3 cup semolina flour
a pinch of salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ginger powder
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon granulated sugar

Combine ingredients together. Spread onto a sheet tray and bake at 350 degrees F for 15 minutes. Cool completely before breaking apart into small, fingernail-sized pieces.

For the ginger-lemon gelee:
Juice and zest from 2 lemons
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
1/4 cup granulated sugar
a pinch of salt
1 cup water
2 tablespoons agar powder

Bring everything but the agar to a simmer for 5 minutes. Strain and add in the agar. Continue to reduce until about 1/4th of the liquid is evaporated then strain again and set in the refrigerator until firm.

For the ginger-lemon cream cheese:
8 oz cream cheese
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 teaspoons lemon zest
2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/4 cup water
a pinch of salt

Bring water, lemon juice, zest, ginger, sugar, and salt to a simmer. Pass through a strainer and pour into the cream cheese and whip until smooth. Transfer 1/3rd to a piping bag. The rest, keep at room temperature for assembly.

For the simple syrup:
Strawberry leaves
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon lemon zest
2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
1/4 cup water
a pinch of salt

Bake the leaves at 350 degrees F for 10 minutes. Then bring everything to a simmer for 5 minutes. Strain and cool completely before using.

For garnish:
About 6-10 fresh strawberries, sliced

For assembly:
Cut out two 6 inch rings of the cake. Line a 6 inch ring mold with parchment or acetate. Toss the berries in the simple syrup. Reserve the rest. Soak the first layer of cake with half the remaining syrup. Then add in all of the cream cheese that is not in the piping bag, then 1/4th of your sliced and glazed berries, all of your crumble, and 3/4ths of the curd. Place on the second layer and repeat with the syrup and remaining curd. Pipe some of the cream cheese into the curd, then layer on the gelee. Garnish with the remaining cream cheese, piped in little dollops, as well as the remaining berries that were glazed in the simple syrup.

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