I have this old cookbook, from way back when I was a teenager, and in it was a picture of a strawberry charlotte that I've always wanted to make but never did. I think the right berries just didn't come along.
Until last week, that is, when, A and M took us to Kokol Hills, just 1/2 hour from KK city, to look at a strawberry patch that their friend V (gosh, all these mysterious people!) is experimenting with, with the help of a horticulturist from Japan.
The first time I went to Kokol Hills was when Ming was a toddler, so that was about 22 years ago. The first thing that struck me was how beautiful the place was, with blue mountains and green hill slopes, and how cool the weather was, especially in the afternoon when the hills were covered with rain clouds. Just imagine how amazing it is to be in 20 C weather in the afternoon, just 1/2 hour away from the city where the temperature is a melting 34 C. Kokol Hills are a part of the Crocker Range which is where you find the fifth highest mountain in South East Asia, Mt Kinabalu. In school, we were taught that Mt Kinabalu was the highest in SEA but that was before they found out about the other mountains.
I was told not to blog about the strawberry patch because the production of strawberries is too low for commercial supply, but I can't help telling you because it's so exciting to have strawberries grown right here in KK. And the most wonderful thing is, the strawberries from Kokol are sweet, juicy and flavorful! These small Japanese strawberries just put to shame all those strawberries from the US and Australia that we get in the supermarkets, especially the Driscoll brand strawberries which are big, distortedly huge, double-butted, pale and sour without much flavor, and also all those strawberries we picked in Canada or Australia.
If you ever come across the smaller Korean or Japanese strawberries, make a strawberry charlotte! The cake was so pretty we didn't cut it until the next day. I layered the cake, starting with a layer of genoise, then strawberry mousse made with strawberries and some strawberry jam because I needed to keep quite a lot of strawberries for decoration, and repeated the layers. I didn't have enough strawberry puree or I would've soaked the genoise more and piled the strawberries higher on the cake. But now that I've tasted strawberry charlotte, it is my favorite strawberry cake because it's so intense with flavor. Bliss.
The strawberries are grown above ground so that nutrients and pests can be controlled. They are picked only when fully ripe, so they don't last long and have to be handled tenderly.
A beautiful patio where the city can be seen in the background.
I am rushed for time. This cake is easy to make. I am bad at making genoise because they always turn out a bit too coarse but genoise are the right cake for making charlottes because they hold up better with the strawberry puree.
1. Make a 6 or 7 " round genoise. You can leave it whole or cut into layers. I prefer layers because that way you can have a bit of cake and a bit of mousse with every bite.
2. Puree the strawberries. You can use frozen strawberries or fresh. I used fresh, about 200 g and topped it up to one cup (230 g I think) with strawberry preserves--Dalfour's--because I wanted to decorate the cake with lots of strawberries but if you want to decorate the traditional way, with halved berries on the side of the cake instead of sponge fingers, you don't need so many strawberries.
3. Make the mousee with 10 g gelatine, dissolved in 2 T water, and melted over low heat. Add 2 T castor sugar if like. I did. When mousse is cool, whip 1 1/2 cups of heavy cream with 1 T castor sugar and mix into the gelatine.
4. Put one cake layer into a springform pan or ring, then pour half the mousse in, then another layer of cake and then the remaining mousse. Cover and chill at least 3 to 4 hours. Put a ring of sponge fingers around the cake, tie with a satin ribbon and you can wow the whole party with this simple but beautiful and yummy cake!
The design for this cake was inspired by those in Miette, an awesome bakery in San Francisco.