Cocoa Berry Crunch

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Whenever my dad made this particular cake, I’ve always seen it as the devilish twin of strawberry shortcake – no sponge, all crunch, and so much chocolate with every layer that each and every part of the cake becomes an indulgence. The only bit that stays true to its other half is its strawberry layers that have been doused with a healthy portion of grand marnier.

At the office for the past 8 months or so, we’ve had Eddie work as a contractor in our team. During this time, he always enjoyed indulgent treats and made sure to share them around: chocolates, cookies, donuts, you name it. It was a familiar sight, seeing him walk back into the office in the afternoon with a small box in hand and grin on his face while saying “donut?”.

So it’s only fitting that before Eddie finishes his contract that he gets a cake as equally indulgent as the treats he constantly brings in.

COCA BERRY CRUNCH

Serves 12-14

Part 1: Chocolate Meringue

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This can be prepared a couple days ahead of time, and warmed up in the oven to take any moisture out the day of assembling your cake.

260 mL        egg whites
200 g           caster sugar
170 g           caster sugar
125 g            ground almond
25g              cocoa powder
45 g             corn starch
30 g             coarsely chopped pecans

  1. Set the oven at 120⁰C/250⁰F.
  2. Trace a 10” tin on parchment paper with pencil. Flip parchment paper over, pencil mark down, and place on a flat baking tray. Repeat on 3 other parchment paper sheets and set aside.
  3. Place egg whites and first portion of caster sugar into a mixing bowl, using a hand mixer, whip until hard peaks are formed.
  4. In a separate bowl, mix remaining dry ingredients until well incorporated – no lumps!.
  5. Slowly fold in dry mixture into egg white mixture in thirds. Careful to not over mix, otherwise the egg whites will lose their stiffness.
  6. Spoon mixture into a piping bag with circular, medium sized nozzle.
  7. Pipe the outline that you previously traced.
  8. Spoon mixture into the middle of the circle. Using a palette knife, spread the mixture evenly within the outline, ensure that the top is as even as possible. You will want it to be no more than ¾ inch thick. To reduce any air bubbles, use the tip of the palate knife to tap various areas of within the circle, and use your palate knife to smooth it back out.
  9. Repeat steps 7-8 until you have 4 meringue bases piped.
  10. For any remaining mixture, spoon onto any space you can find within the baking sheet, making small dollops.
  11. Place trays in the middle of the oven, bake for 2 hours. Make sure you turn the trays 1 hour into baking – I typically swap the levels around and give the trays a turn for a more even baking.
  12. To check if the meringues are ready, lightly touch the middle of the meringue, it needs to feel dry and solid.
  13. Set aside and cool.

 

Part 2:  Assembly

3         pints fresh strawberries, washed, leaves removed, and cut into chunks 
2         caps grand marnier liqueur
250g  dark chocolate
1L       whipping cream (or 600mL double cream and 400mL whipping cream)

  1. In a medium sized bowl, mix the cut strawberries with 2 caps of grand marnier, cover with saran wrap/cling film and place in the fridge until use. You can make this a day or two ahead and keep in the fridge (a must if you want your strawberries to really soak up the grand marnier!).
  2. Melt the dark chocolate in a small bowl over a bain-marie.Once melted, use a brush to paint the tops of all 4 meringue layers. Set aside for it to dry, or in the fridge if you’ve got the space.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, use an electric hand mixer to whisk the whipping cream until softly whipped.
  4. Mix a spoonful of the whipping cream into the remaining melted chocolate to temper it – it will turn into a ganache-like texture at this point.
  5. Carefully fold the ganache into the whipping cream until well incorporated.
  6. Take the first layer of meringue and spread 0.5cm even layer of chocolate cream on the base.
  7. Evenly distribute a handful of the grand-marnier soaked strawberries across the surface.
  8. Spoon a dollop of chocolate cream on top of the strawberries and spread evenly until they are just about covered.
  9. Repeat steps 6-8 until you are left with the last layer of chocolate meringue on top.
  10. Evenly spread a 0.75cm layer of chocolate cream on top and cover the sides.
  11. Finish decorating the cake as you wish!

 

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