This classic French Fraisier cake is ideal to start celebrating strawberry season with! Made with light genoise sponge, filled with silky-smooth crème mousseline and fresh strawberries, and topped with sweet marzipan. Elegant and utterly delicious bake, which is also great for any occasion.
It is lovely and light in texture, full of that sweet and summery flavour of fresh strawberries and vanilla, and I guarantee it will impress all of your guests! With a bit of preparation and thinking ahead, you will be surprised how achievable this bake is!
What is a fraisier cake?
Fraisier is a traditional French bake made with fresh strawberries. The name simply comes from the French word 'fraises', which means strawberries. This stunning bake is made by splitting the genoise sponge and filling it with kirsch-infused mousseline cream (crème mousseline), layer of fresh strawberries and topping of sweet marzipan.
For anyone not familiar with crème mousseline, it is a luxurious version crème pâtissière. Also known as pastry cream, but in this instance, it is enriched with butter instead of whipped cream. There's also a small amount of kirsch (cherry brandy) added to it.
With few different ingredients and components of this cake, it may seem to be a bit intimidating. But it is actually not as complicated as it may look. If you follow my step-by-step instructions and tips, I guarantee this will become a regular centerpiece at your table for all sorts of gatherings and occasions.
Before making this recipe, check out the below list for the equipment you will need and some suggestions for substitutes. Some of the items are totally optional, but will make it much easier to guarantee the success with this bake.
Springform cake tin - this recipe works best with 23 cm round springform cake tin. You can also use loose-bottom, deep round cake tin instead. If your cake pan is different in size, you will need to adjust baking times. But due to a nature and design of this cake, springform or loose-bottom tin is a must.
Wire cake slicer - this tool is optional, but very handy when it comes to making sure your bake is sliced straight horizontally. Use large serrated knife as an alternative, to slice your genoise sponge in half.
Small sieve - optional, but good to have on hand. As the milk gets heated up, it may form some skin on its surface, so having a small sieve to pour it through will stop any skin getting into the mousseline.
Acetate strip - often used in pattiserie, or in creating cake collars and holding the filling in desserts. Most of the shops with baking equipment sells them, and they are also widely available to purchase online. You will need a strip long enough to fit inside of the baking tin. Alternatively, use the clingfilm or baking paper (although, the end result will not look as neat).
Piping bag and large round nozzle - for piping crème mousseline. Large (about 2 cm), plain round nozzle will work best, but you can use any type. If you don't have piping bag, you can use a large zip-lock type of bag, just cut off one of the bottom corners of it.
Cake lifter - this one is totally optional too, but really helpful for transferring the cake from the tin to the plate or cake stand.
Key ingredients and substitutes
The list of ingredients may look long, but they all are mostly simple and basic pantry staples. See below for the key ingredients and few substitutions suggestions.
Eggs - this recipe is heavily relying on eggs, and you will need 10 eggs in total. Use medium or large eggs.
Caster sugar - it's finer texture makes it very easy to incorporate with the rest of the ingredients, but you can also use granulated sugar.
Butter - unsalted butter is my preference, but feel free to use salted instead. You will need only a small amount for the sponge, but more of it goes into the filling.
Self-raising flour - just like in my Gin and Tonic Cupcakes, you can substitute self-raising flour with a mixture of plain flour and baking powder. Use the same amount of flour (125 grams), but add 1 heaped tsp of baking powder to it. Mix them both well, before adding to the rest of the ingredients. Cake flour can be another option (in the same amount).
Milk - I recommend using full-fat milk, but any type of milk will work.
Vanilla - good quality vanilla pod will work best. Don't skimp on it! It produces the most intense and delicious flavour, and I just love the appearance of these tiny black seeds in the filling. Vanilla bean paste can also be used as an alternative.
Kirsch - only small amount goes into flavouring the crème mousseline. If you don't have kirsch, you could use any fruit brandy instead. Addition of alcohol is only optional, so if you would rather not have it, simply don't use any.
Cornflour - we are using it to thicken the filling. Use cornstarch or arrowroot powder instead, if cornflour is not available.
Strawberries - this is fresh strawberry cake, so only fresh strawberries will do! Try to pick about 10-12 strawberries that are of the very similar height. The rest of them will be sliced and chopped, so the size of them doesn't matter so much.
Timings and planning ahead
It is much easier to split this recipe into three different areas. The sponge cake, the filling and the topping. Each one of them can be prepared ahead of time, making the assembly of this Fraisier cake much quicker on the day.
Sponge cake - it takes about 40 minutes start to finish to make genoise sponge. You can bake it a day before, wrap it tightly in some clingfilm and store at room temperature. It can also be frozen for up to a week.
Crème mousseline - takes roughly 15 minutes to make, but it is important to allow it to cool completely before using it in the filling. This filling needs to be really cold and set firm, so allow it to chill in the fridge for at least an hour, but ideally longer. Make it up to a day ahead, then keep it covered with clingfilm or a disc of dampened baking paper on top, to prevent the skin forming. Alternatively, you could fill the piping bags with it and leave overnight to chill.
Syrup - only takes 5 minutes to make, and you can also prepare it a day before and keep it in the fridge until needed.
Assembling the cake - this process will take about 10 minutes. Once you have all of the above ready, it's really quick and easy to put this bake together. All what is left is to slice some fresh strawberries and roll out the marzipan.
Chilling - once you have assembled the cake, it will need some time to chill. I recommend keeping it in the fridge for at least 2 hours.
How to make this cake
Start by preparing the sponge. Place the eggs, sugar and lemon zest in a heatproof bowl set over the saucepan of simmering water. Whisk until the mixture have more than doubled in volume and is almost a mousse-like.
You know it is ready, when the mixture that falls off the beaters leaves the characteristic, ribbon-like trial.
Sift ⅔ of the flour on top of the egg mixture and very gently fold it, using metal spoon. Make sure to incorporate the flour well, but be gentle, you want to keep as much air in this mixture as possible. Add the remaining flour and melted butter, and once again, very gently fold it in. Transfer to the baking tin and bake until pale golden-brown.
Genoise sponge is very delicate, so take an extra care when handling it. Allow it to cool completely, before slicing it in half.
Next, prepare the mousseline filling. Place the milk and split vanilla pod in a wide saucepan over a medium heat and bring it just to the boil. Remove from the heat and allow it to cool a little bit, about 10 minutes.
In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs, egg yolks, sugar, kirsch (if using) and cornflour. You want it to become thick and creamy. Pour the milk and vanilla into this egg mixture, whisk to combine and return back into the pan set over low heat. It is crucial to keep stirring and whisking this mixture all the time. Otherwise, there is a high chance it will become lumpy.
Bring it to boil, then add the butter and give it a final stir, before removing it from the heat. Transfer it to a shallow dish or piping bags (once it cooled slightly), and chill for at least an hour.
Prepare the syrup by combining the cold water, sugar and lemon juice. Bring it to boil and cook for about 2 minutes. Set it aside until needed. Roll out the marzipan, cut it into disc and keep it chilled until needed.
Assembling the cake
The last part is to assemble the whole thing together. Line the base of the baking tin with baking paper and place strip of acetate plastic around the tin. Alternatively, you can line the base and sides of the tin with clingfilm or baking paper.
Start with strawberries. Pick 10-12 strawberries of the same (or as similar as possible) height, then slice them in half. Reserve 3-5 strawberries for decoration, then cut the rest into quarters, or smaller pieces.
Place one of the sponge discs inside of the prepared tin, cut side up. Use pastry brush or a spoon to brush the sponge with syrup. Use the back of the spoon to gently press the edges of the cake down so that they are pushed directly against the sides of the tin. Place the cut sides of strawberries against the acetate on the inside of the tin. They should fit snugly beside each other.
Pipe the filling on top of the sponge and between the strawberries, to fill in any gaps. Add quartered strawberries on top of the filling, then pipe another ring of the filling and smooth it out with spatula or palette knife.
Finally, add the second sponge disc on top, cut side up. Brush or spoon out the remaining syrup on top, then gently press the cake down, so the sides and the filling push against the acetate, to create smooth and defined sides of fraisier cake.
Top it with marzipan disk and refrigerate the finished cake for at least 2 hours. Decorate the cake with reserved strawberries and any other decorations you desire.
Fraisier cake is best eaten fresh, on the same day. Any leftovers can be placed in the airtight container and stored in the fridge for up to two days. If you use sliced strawberries on top to decorate your cake, please be aware that they will start to release their juices and will 'bleed' into marzipan. This will cause a slight discoloration on the marzipan disc.
This cake is not suitable for freezing, once assembled.
Top tips and things to avoid
As this cake is just a little bit more challenging to make, it is important to read the recipe in full before you start. It may seem very obvious, but it really helps you to plan ahead and see exactly what is needed.
Bring all of the ingredients to room temperature at least an hour before starting the recipe. Make sure to use digital kitchen scales for the most accurate measurements of the ingredients.
Consider starting the recipe a day ahead. Refer to 'timings and planning ahead' section of this blog post.
Try not to use too much syrup on top of the first sponge disc (the bottom of the cake). I found that brushing it liberally with the syrup will make the bottom sponge really soggy, delicate and difficult to lift, once sliced. Brush the syrup all over the sponge surface, but don't overdo it.
When making the filling, don't be tempted to stop whisking it! It requires to be stirred constantly, to prevent it from becoming lumpy and to stop it sticking to the bottom of the pan.
If your filling splits, or becomes lumpy, you may be able to still use it. Try pushing the mixture through a fine sieve or strainer.
You could also use classic pastry cream or crème diplomate instead of mousseline cream.
When cutting the marzipan disk, it is easier to use the bottom of the baking tin and a guide. Simply place it on top of rolled marzipan and cut cut around it to get the circle right in size.
Other strawberry recipes from the blog
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- 23 cm springform cake tin or loose-bottom, deep round cake tin
- baking paper
- small sieve
- acetate strip for the inside of the cake tin
- pastry brush (optional)
- Piping bag
- large plain nozzle
For the sponge:
- 4 medium eggs
- 125 g caster sugar or granulated
- 2 medium unwaxed lemons, zest only reserve juice from one lemon for the syrup
- 125 g self-raising flour see notes for the alternatives
- 50 g unsalted butter melted and cooled
For the crème mousseline:
- 600 ml milk
- 1 large vanilla pod split open
- 4 medium eggs plus 2 egg yolks
- 180 g caster sugar or granulated
- 1 Tbsp kirsch optional
- 100 g cornflour see notes for the alternatives
- 150 g unsalted butter, diced room temperature
For the syrup:
- 50 ml water
- 50 g caster sugar or granulated
- 1 medium lemon, juice only
- 600 g fresh strawberries medium in size will be best
- 200 g marzipan
To make the genoise sponge:
- Preheat the oven to 180C (160C fan). Grease the 23cm springclip cake tin (or loose-based, deep round cake tin), line the base of it with baking paper, then flour the inside of the tin, tapping off any excess flour.
- Place the eggs, sugar and lemon zest in the large, heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Using hand-held electric mixer, whisk them together until the mixture becomes very thick, pale and more than doubled in volume. This will take about 5-7 minutes. To check that your mixture is at the right stage, lift the beaters from the bowl- the mixture that falls off should leave a ribbon-like trail on the surface.
- Sift ⅔ of the flour onto the mixture, and gently fold it in with metal spoon. Add the remaining flour and again fold in gently, retaining as much air as possible, but making sure that all the flour is incorporated. Gently fold in the melted butter.
- Pour the mixture into prepared tin and bake it for 25-30 minutes until pale golden brown and the sides of the cake shrink away from the tin. Cool the sponge in the tin for about 5 minutes, then carefully turn it out onto a wire rack. Leave to cool, while you wash the tin.
To make créme mousseline:
- Place the milk and vanilla in a wide saucepan and bring just to the boil. Remove from the heat and set aside to infuse for 10 minutes. Remove the vanilla pod, scraping all of the seeds. In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, egg yolks, sugar, kirsch and cornflour until smooth. Pour the milk and vanilla mixture onto the egg mixture (make sure to discard any skin that formed over milk, if there is any), and whisk well.
- Pour the mixture back into the saucepan set over a medium heat and stir it constantly until the mixture boils and thickens (it will take anywhere between 4-8 minutes). Do not be tempted to stop stirring, as you will end up with a lumpy mixture. Keep stirring over the heat to make sure the mixture is thick enough to pipe, but take extra care that it doesn't catch on the bottom of the pan. Stir in the butter, combine and remove from the heat.
- Allow the mixture to cool slightly, then pour it into a shallow dish (will help to cool it quicker) or a bowl. Press some clingfilm or a disc of dampened baking paper onto the surface, to prevent a skin from forming, then chill for at least 1 hour until cold, firm and set.
To make syrup:
- Place the sugar, water and lemon juice into a small pan and heat gently until the sugar dissolved completely, then boil it for 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and cool.
- On a worksurface lightly dusted with some icing sugar, roll out the marzipan to make a thin disc, 23cm across. Keep chilled until needed.
To assemble the cake:
- When ready to assemble the cake, slice the cooled sponge in half horizontally to make 2 thin, even discs. Place the strip of acetate around the inside of the tin so it fit snugly between the side of the tin and the sponge. Alternatively, you can line the tin with clingfilm or parchment-lined foil. Set one sponge disc, cut side up in the tin and brush it with syrup. Using the back of the spoon, gently squash the edges of the cake down so that they are pushed directly against the sides of the tin.
- Choose 12 strawberries that are of the same height and cut them vertically in half. Arrange pointed end up on top of the sponge layer, cut side against the acetate, making sure they are fitting snugly next to each other.
- Spoon about ⅔ of créme mousseline into the piping bag, then pipe a spiral over the sponge base in the tin to cover completely. Pipe between the strawberries to fill all the gaps. Add more créme mousseline into the piping bag. Set about 3-5 strawberries aside for decoration, then cut the rest into quarters or smaller pieces. Spread these over the créme so it makes the filling. Pipe another spiral of créme on top of the berries and smooth level with the back of the spoon or palette knife.
- Set the other disc of sponge on top, cut side up, and brush with remaining syrup. Gently press the top sponge layer down onto the créme so the assembled cake is firmly pressed against the acetate all round. Lay the marzipan disc on top, then chill the cake for at least 2 hours or overnight.
- Top the chilled cake with fresh strawberries and any other decorations you may want to add. Slice and enjoy!
- This recipe is adapted from Mary Berry's Fraisier Cake recipe.
- Read the recipe and instructions is full before attempting to make it.
- If no self-raising flour is available, you can use the same amount of cake flour. You can also use a mix of plain flour (same amount) wit 1 heaped tsp of baking powder instead.
- Cornflour can be replaced with cornstarch or arrowroot powder.
- Use good quality vanilla. Vanilla pod will produce the best and most intense flavour, but you can also use vanilla bean paste.
- Make sure to keep stirring/ whisking the mousseline cream constantly, while cooking it. It is crucial, as otherwise it will become lumpy.