Recipe: Chambord – Balsamic Glazed Strawberry Cake with Chambord Meringue topping
When I learned that October is National Dessert Month I immediately reached for my favorite decadent dessert ingredient, Chambord. The makers of this famous elixir just gave the bottle a make-over. The new design is modern and sleek and so I set out to create an equally appealing dessert.
To make things easy, start with a boxed white cake mix and prepare it in a 9" x 13" pan. From there cut the cake to individual serving sizes or work with the whole sheet. The pastry cream is easily made on the stove top and comes together in a jiffy. Best of all you can make it ahead and let it chill in the refrigerator until you are ready to assemble the cake. If you don't feel like tackling pastry cream, substitute a store-bought frosting or fresh whipped cream, but you do need to put a layer of something between the strawberries and the cake to prevent the glaze from soaking into the cake. The Chambord meringue takes this dessert over the top! While you may end up with more meringue than you need (depending on how decorative and creative you are with it), any extra can be piped onto a parchment lined baking sheet and baked at 200° F for about 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Just be sure to leave the meringues in the oven until both the oven and meringues are completely cooled. Then store in an airtight container.
1 9" x 13" white cake (from a box mix), cooled
2 to 3 cups fresh strawberries (I recommend Driscoll's Organic brand, especially when strawberries are out of season), washed, dried, stems removed and sliced
For the pastry cream
2 cups whole milk
6 egg yolks (reserve at least 2 egg whites for meringue)
3/4 cup sugar
4 tablespoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon bourbon (optional)
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
1 tablespoon butter, softened
For the Chambord-balsamic glaze
1 cup Chambord liqueur
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup brown sugar
For the Chambord meringue
Generous 3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup Chambord liqueur
2 egg whites
Trim the white sheet cake to desired size; level the top of the cake.
Prepare the pastry cream. Place the milk in a medium to large sauce pan and set over medium heat. Heat gently about 3 minutes, until small bubbles begin to appear at the pans edges. Set aside.
In a large mixing bowl vigorously whisk the egg yolks, sugar, cornstarch, bourbon (if using) and vanilla bean paste until combined and the sugar is beginning to melt into the mixture. Whisking constantly, slowly add the warmed milk. When most of the milk is added and the mixture is smooth, pour the egg yolk and milk mixture back into the pan with the remaining warm milk and whisk to combine. Place the pan back on to medium heat and whisk until the mixture boils and becomes thick and shiny, about 3 minutes. Transfer the thick mixture to the bowl of a stand mix fitted with the paddle attachment. Add the butter and mix on medium speed until the butter is incorporated and the mixture is smooth, about 1 minute. (Optional step, but useful if your milk was too hot and some of the egg yolks began to cook: Place a fine mesh sieve over a bowl and pass the cream through the sieve with a spatula.) Transfer the cream to a pastry bag or a zip top disposable plastic bag. Refrigerate the pastry cream until ready to use. (Sealed in an airtight bag and refrigerated the pastry cream keeps up to 3 days). Thoroughly clean the bowl of the stand mixer for the meringue.
Prepare the Chambord-balsamic glaze. In a small saucepan, combine the Chambord, balsamic vinegar, and brown sugar. Place over medium heat and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer until the mixture is reduced by about half and is thick and syrup like. Set aside. If the mixture thickens up before using thin it by placing the mixture back on the heat and whisking in 1 tablespoon of warm water.
Prepare the Chambord meringue. Place the Chambord and sugar into a small heavy saucepan and heat on medium-high until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture is boiling. Boil until the mixture registers 230 F on a candy thermometer.* Remove from heat and set aside.
Place the egg whites into the clean bowl of the stand mixer; change the fitting to the whisk. Whisk on medium-high until firm glossy peaks form. Turn the speed down to medium and slowly add the Chambord mixture into the egg whites; continue whisking until the meringue is thick and cool, about 3 minutes. Fill a pastry bag with the meringue and set aside while assembling the cake.
Assemble the cake. Place the cake on a decorative plate or platter. Pipe (or spread) the pastry cream in a thin layer over the top of the cake. Arrange the strawberry slices so that they slightly overlap each other on top of the pastry cream. Using a pastry brush, generously brush the syrup over the strawberries; repeat with a second coat of the syrup.
Pipe the Chambord meringue along the edge of the cake, or in a decorative pattern. Place the cake in the refrigerator to set the meringue, about 10 minutes. Serve the cake chilled or just at room temperature.
*If you do not have a candy thermometer (or do not wish to use one) you can test for the temperature (known as "soft-ball stage") by drizzling a bit of the syrup off a spatula or spoon into a glass of cold water (no ice). If it hardens immediately and sinks to the bottom, the temperature is too high. Remove from the heat and whisk to dissipate the heat. If the syrup forms a ribbon trailing through the water you about at the right temperature.