Based solely on appearance, Tresor Vanille-Fraises des Bois was quite possibly the oddest looking cake we’d made all term. I now really regret that I didn’t take a photo but the practical ran way over time and I was in a rush to catch the TGV. Truthfully, the finished cake looked like some sort of clown hat, with a decorative almond dacquoise base topped with a conical mound of wild strawberry mousse and finished with caramelized vanilla chiboust cream.
The dacquoise base was made by piping out into mounds around the edge of a vacherin mold. This created the scalloped edge of the cake when baked (or effectively the rippled brim of the clown hat!). The name of Tresor did not pop to mind when I looked at the finished result…I could only think of Bozo the Clown and this did not inspire images of luxury. I am guessing that the name of the cake was derived from the ‘treasure’ of fresh wild strawberries which were hidden in the center of the mousse cone.
I had great results with the dacquoise and the strawberry mousse. I achieved an even and smooth cone shape, which earned praise from Chef Deguignet. I discovered the technique to this smoothness was to hold the metal spatula in place against the surface of the mousse and spin the cake. The other students were doing the inverse, which was holding the cake still and trying to smooth the surface by moving the spatula around the surface.
It was our first experience in creating a crème chiboust. Crème Chiboust (named after its inventor, Chef Chiboust) is most often used in a traditional St. Honore. This is basically a crème patissiere that is mixed whilst hot with meringue to create a lighter, somewhat spongy textured mixture. The hot crème patissiere slightly cooks the meringue and helps it to trap the airiness. The heat also helps to sterilize the meringue.
As we were using a French meringue, the Crème Chiboust was less stable and despite the caramelized surface it had nearly disintegrated by the time I’d gotten back to Geneva. In addition to the disheveled appearance after a couple hours, it was also a very strange cake to cut and serve…having this huge pink mound of mousse at the tapered end of each slice. But the taste of the wild strawberry mousse was a real treat. With a bit of reshaping, this would be well worth making again.