Another Cake Story: Chiffon Cake with Balsamic Strawberry Mousse

It would appear that I've been neglecting this blog for a little bit... although to be honest in the past week(s) I've been feeling a bit unmotivated and a bit bummed out but I think the source of that may be because of what happened last weekend which pretty much pushed it over the edge. The tone at the start of the weekend was terrible and as a result carried its way through. Fortunately things started to somewhat turn around as the week progressed and then something very awesome happened yesterday so things are looking much brighter (more on that later). While being bum is a totally acceptable human thing to feel, its not smart to live there too long. 

Last weekend was Mother's Day weekend. Hope everyone did at least one nice thing for their mothers whether it be something small or something huge, I think all thoughts and gestures are welcomed no matter what. My family isn't big on any type of celebrations but regardless, I always try to do something and that something is usually food related. Our family didn't have much while I was growing up, so many times, a nice meal is really all we can call a celebration and so that's become our tradition. People make huge deals about birthdays, Christmas, other types of celebrations with parties, gifts/presents, fancy dinners, etc, but having grown up with none of those options, I'm quite content with the small things. Of course who doesn't like presents!? Let's not kid ourselves here, BUT at the end of the day, I'm most happy with gifts that come from the heart, it doesn't have to be fancy or expensive, just something to show thought went into it. 

Anyways, so Mother's Day weekend, on Saturday I thought I'd wake up early and make another visit to 85 degrees bakery in San Jose, I know I've mentioned not wanting to go back there but my mom seems to like the breads I bought home last time which is a pretty rare thing so I decided to make another trip to get her some more breads. The bakery opened at 7am so I woke up at 6am to beat the cowards...well I sort of did. There are still a good number of people but I didn't have to wait as long, I was out in 15 minutes rather than 30. Even though I had stopped by the bakery the day before, I wanted to make something from scratch, so I decided on a chiffon cake because it was one of the cakes I make that my mom really enjoys.

I've made this cake before except unlike last time, my mousse came out perfect! Its amazing how far a little bit more experience will get you. The small victories. The chiffon cake and the mousse paired wonderfully together both light and fluffy and not too sweet.

Chiffon Cake with Balsamic Strawberry Mousse
adapted from Better Homes and Garden Cookbook (cake) and Sweet Cream and Sugar Cones (base for mousse)

For cake:
  • 7 eggs
  • 2 1/4 cup cake flour (all purpose will work as well, cake flour tends to yield cakes that are less dense)
  • 1 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup cold water
  • 1/2 cup cooking oil (I used canola)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp cream of tartar
  • 2 tsp finely shredded orange peel (optional, I omitted this for this particular combo)
  • 1 tsp finely shredded lemon peel (optional, I omitted this for this particular combo)
For mousse:
  • 1 1/2 pints of strawberries or 3 cups, halved or quartered
  •  2 1/2 tbsp sugar
  • 2 tsp balsamic vinegar
  • 3 1/2 tsp unflavored gelatin 
  • 2 cups of whipping cream
  • 1/4 cup of sugar
For cake:
  1. Separate eggs. Allow to sit at room temperature for 30 minutes. In a large mixing bowl stir together flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Make a well in the center of the flour mix. Add in egg yolk, cold water, oil, (orange peel, lemon peel) and vanilla.
  2. Beat at low speed until well combined and then beat at high speed for 5 minutes until mixture becomes satin smooth.
  3. In an extra large mixing bowl beat egg whiles and cream of tartar until stiff peaks form. Pour batter in a thin stream over beaten egg whites, fold in gently.
  4. Bake 325 F degrees for 20-30 minutes if in a shallow pan OR if using a bundt pan, bake for approx 65-70 minutes. Cake it is done with the top springs back when lightly touched.
For Mousse:
  1. Combine berries, sugar, and vinegar in a nonreactive skillet. While stirring, cook over medium heat until strawberries are soft and the liquid they released is reduced (approx 6-8 minutes)
  2. Transfer berries and their juices to a blender/food processor and puree.
  3. Transfer back to pot and stir in gelatin (over low heat if necessary) until completely dissolved. Set aside to cool, stirring occasionally to avoid gelatin to set completely.
  4. Whip the cream and sugar together until stiff peaks form, then slowly whip in the puree. Mousse is not ready to be used as cake filling or can be transferred to a mold and enjoyed later once its set in the refrigerator. Allow 1-2 hours to set.  
Now for a side tangent: that awesome thing that happened yesterday is probably not all that awesome to most people but I was rather happy about it. On the way home from work I decided to stop by the Eddie Bauer outlet store to see if they had any good hiking/outdoor backpacks because I've been hunting for one for a while and totally forgot Eddie Bauer has some really good bags. I almost didn't go but decided I'll make a quick round just to see and then go home. I went in, headed straight towards the backpacks so I wouldn't be distracted by anything else. I was just about to head out when I decided to take one last glance to make sure I didn't miss anything and that's when I saw them, all the way on the bottom were the perfect hiking/outdoor backpack I've been looking for, looked at the price tag $59.99 ... made a face, looked around for additional promotions and saw that there was only a $10 off deal, thought about it and decided to get it anyways even though Memorial Day weekend was coming up and there might be a better deal, like 40% off. When I got to the register to pay, I asked the cashier if she knew what the deals were going to be and she didn't but she informed me that if the deals were better I could bring it back in for a price adjustment. I was pretty content with that answer, making a mental note to check back in a week. Then she rings the backpack up and we both went "what!?" Probably for different reasons but it turns out the backpack was 50% off! She chuckled and said "Well I guess you won't have to come back, what a steal." What a steal indeed... and with that I thought "hmm not a bad start for this weekend."