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So simple to love – sweet strawberry slices enveloped in an ivory-hued creamy filling and sandwiched between soft, delicate Génoise layers. The best Japanese strawberry shortcake I’ve ever had was from Flor Pâtisserie, a Japanese cake gallery. So, re-creating this particular cake for Mother’s Day was, honestly, quite a pain.

After visits to numerous baking supply stores, I finally got down to baking. Just because there are so few ingredients involved, every single one had to be the best I could get. The perfectionist in me just wouldn’t let this first attempt be an easy one. Frosting the cake was also a challenge in the sweltering heat. Thankfully, it came out well – everybody loved it! My sister was crazy about the silky vanilla bean Crème Chantilly, preying on the bowl and stealing spoonfuls of it from the fridge.

Génoise Layers (loosely adapted from Alice Medrich’s Chocolat)
2 large eggs (60g each, in shell)
2 Tb unsalted french butter, melted
60g organic unrefined sugar
55g unbleached cake flour, sifted twice
2 T whole milk
1 t pure vanilla

Separate the eggs. With the mixer on medium, beat the egg whites and sugar until stiff and glossy. Whisk in the egg yolks, vanilla and a tiny pinch of salt. Fold in the flour and finally, the warm melted butter. Pour into a 7 inch baking pan and bake for 18min, or until the middle springs back upon touch.
Note: Do not overbake the genoise, ever! It will become dry, hard and horrible, somewhat resembling a frisbee. Been there, done that.

Vanilla Bean Crème Chantilly
Just a fancy name for whipped cream, but oh-so-good.
400ml heavy cream (I used 38% french heavy cream)
1/3 cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted
half a vanilla bean
1 t gelatin powder, bloomed in 1 T water

Whip the cream, sugar and seeds from the vanilla bean until soft-peak stage. Melt the gelatin mixture in the microwave, 15sec. Add the cooled gelatin and continue beating until stiff peaks form.
Note: You can really taste the smooth richness of fresh cream, so use the best you can get. It should have a light silky mouthfeel without any hint of greasiness.

Rum-kirsch Syrup
Boil 4 T sugar with 120ml water, until it turns clear and forms a thin syrup consistency. Add a shot of rum and kirsch. Cool and set aside.

To Assemble
A punnet of strawberries, sliced. Slice the Génoise into half and brush each side with the Rum-kirsch syrup. Spread a later of cream over the cake and arrange the strawberry slices over. Smooth another layer of cream over. Place the last cake layer, smooth side up, over the filling. Press gently. At this point, I like to place the entire cake in the freezer for 15 min to set. Frost the cake with the remaining cream. Garnish with more berries, chill thoroughly before serving.