A decadent Strawberry Cream Puff (Choux) Cake combines layers of puff pastry and a creamy strawberry compote finished with vanilla bean whipped cream on the outside. Perfect for that special occasion!
One of the things I love best about baking is the inherent challenge. Baking is not as open to experimentation as cooking as it does rely on more exact proportions to achieve desired results. Add that to my living at 6200′ and the challenge is heightened even more, literally! So when I joined a new monthly baking group called Baking on the 15th, I was excited to be challenged but also anticipated that it would be fun to collaborate with other bakers through this process.
A friend of mine, Kelly Wright, who had previously participated in The Daring Bakers group for years, thought this would be a fun way for old members and new to continue with a monthly baking adventure. She started the group and is also hosting the first challenge providing us with a recipe for Strawberry Choux (Creme Puff) Cake from The Professional Pastry Chef by Bo Friberg. This Strawberry Choux Cake is two layers of pâte à choux filled with a strawberry compote cream that is then iced with Chantilly cream and topped with toasted choux. Powdered sugar and fresh strawberries complete the finished product.
The original recipe called for 2 separate cakes; each two layers of the choux pastry filled with the strawberry layer before being iced and garnished. I revised my version fairly significantly as we had a birthday on the block and I’ve gotten in the habit of making a birthday cake and hosting a short celebration whenever that happens. I decided to combine more layers into one cake to accomplish that and just for fun, I made some small cream puffs for decoration. Trust me there was PLENTY of choux dough and I’ll be honest…if making this again, I would cut the recipe in half. I had enough leftover of all ingredients to make a berry trifle as well.
The original recipe calls for ammonium carbonate as a leavening agent. Because I live so high up in the air, I decided to forego it completely; I doubted cream puff pastry would need additional leavening and I’m glad I didn’t spend time on that search. If you can easily locate it and you’re not at altitude, you should give it a try as it is supposed to add an extra bit of crispness to the final product.
The only thing not evident on my cake are the toasted choux leftovers suggested for the top. I had so many ingredients leftover that I opted instead to use it for a trifle I concocted with them and the toasted choux went on top of that. I figured that topping mine with little whipped cream filled cream puffs was enough. The kids who came over with their parents LOVED those little things and they quickly disappeared!
I had a couple of friends take on this challenge too; take a peek at www.barbarabakes.com for another variation as well as some great photos of the process and a video Barbara made on how to make choux pastry. I had great intentions but I’m telling you that spring yardwork is winning at everything!
This cake is not hard but it takes some time; for me I found it worked best to split up the process; I baked the pastry one day and finished it with the strawberry filling and assembly the next. I’m anxious to try it again with different fruits and maybe, just maybe I’ll take that leap of faith and go four layers! It was a day though to luxuriate in the kitchen; to just enjoy the challenge and have fun with it. We had a late spring storm in Denver when I made it so it was perfect; music blaring and stuck inside with choux…pretty perfect in my book!
Strawberry Cream Puff (Choux) Cake
3 hrs 45 mins
- 8 oz cake flour
- 11 oz bread flour
- 1 qt water
- 12 oz unsalted butter
- 1- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 qt eggs (16-18 large eggs)
- Strawberry Compote Cream (Prepare the cream while the choux is baking but do not finish it (Step 2-4) until you are ready to assemble the cakes or the gelatin will set and you will not be able to fill the cakes)
- 14 oz strawberries
- 4 oz granulated sugar
- Juice of 1 lime
- 4 tsp unflavored gelatin powder
- 1/3 cup water
- 3 c heavy cream
- 1 vanilla bean
- 1/4 cup powdered sugar
- 2 c heavy cream
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
Pate a Choux (You'll need 2/3 of this recipe for two cakes; I made it all and used the extra for a trifle)
Strawberry Compote Cream
Make the Pate a Choux:
- Preheat over to 375
- Mix flours on a piece of parchment and set aside.
- Heat water, butter and salt to a boil and butter is incorporated into the liquid. Gather the ends of the parchment to form a funnel. Pour the flour into the liquid, using a wooden spoon to mix as you pour. Pour as fast as it can be absorbed in the liquid. Do not pour it all at once or it will be a lumpy paste.
- Cook the mixture and stir constantly. If there are lumps, press the against the side of the pan with the back of the spoon. When the entire mixture is in one mass, about 2-3 minutes, remove from heat.
- Turn the paste into a mixing bowl and allow to cool briefly. You want to avoid cooking the eggs as you add them!
- With the paddle attachment on medium low, add the eggs 2 at a time.
- Continue to add as many eggs as the pate can absorb, but still hold its shape. (Imagine piping it. Will it hold that shape?)
- Draw two circles using a springform pan on two pieces of parchment for a total of 4 circles. Use a dab of choux paste to hold down the parchment and divide the pate into 4 equal quantities. (I ended up only doing three circles because I was also going to make the separate small cream puffs for decoration. Truth is there was enough dough for both!)
- Spread the paste into three circles about 1/2” thick on three circles and use a pastry bag and large round tip to pipe the pastry into one circle (for top).
- Bake at 375° about 40 minutes or until the pate a choux is completely baked. Turn off oven; prick the dough and leave in oven for three to five additional minutes to insure dough is dry.
- Cool thoroughly.
- While the choux is baking, complete steps 1-2 below. Then begin preparing the strawberry compote cream.
Make the Strawberry Compote Cream:
- Stem and cut the strawberries into chunks. In a medium saucepan, add the berries, sugar and lime juice and stirring constantly, bring to a boil. Remove from heat and pour into a bowl. Chill.
- To soften the gelatin, sprinkle it over the water and allow it to sit. Then heat it to dissolve it.
- Warm ½ c (120 ml) of the heavy cream, but make sure it isn’t hot. Pour the remaining heavy cream into the bowl of a mixer and begin whipping the cream. Combine the warm cream with the gelatin mixture. Then, slowly add the gelatin cream mixture and continue to whip to soft peaks.
- Fold in the chilled berry compote and immediately assemble the cake layers.
To Assemble the Cake:
- Place one thoroughly cooled choux circle inside the bottom of a springform pan, right side facing up, that is resting on a plate or cake circle.
- Spread a thick layer of strawberry compote cream between the cake rings, alternating the cake with the compote and ending with a ring on top. (You might have some leftover compote)
- Chill overnight.
Make the Chantilly Cream:
- Slice the vanilla bean along its length and using a spoon, scrape all the seeds into the granulated sugar. Mix thoroughly. Save the seed pods for another use.
- Pour the cream into a chilled mixing bowl and with a chilled whip, beat at high speed. Add the sugar vanilla bean mixture.
- Continue whipping until stiff peaks form.
Finish assembling the cake:
- Once the cake filling is thoroughly set, remove from the refrigerator.
- Run a knife around the inside perimeter to loosen, then remove them.
- Ice the sides of the cake with the Chantilly cream and press the scraps into the Chantilly cream if using.
- Dust with powdered sugar on top.
- Finish with a decoration of halved strawberries around the bottom and some with stems on top.
- Serve as soon as possible.
I suggest making the choux pastry pieces the day before and finishing the next day with the filling, the Chantilly cream and the decorations. This is a fun project but takes some time and splitting it into two days worked well for me.
Cover the baked choux if keeping it overnight.
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