19 March 2017

Ombre Strawberry Shortcake - Sunday Times feature

WOOHOO! I've been featured on The Sunday Times Life Section =D Really excited and blessed to be given this opportunity :)

I have been baking genoise sponge layer cakes for 3 years now and created colour variations such as rainbow and ombre as well as different flavours like vanilla, lychee, mango and rose, in varied number of layers and sizes. More pics can be found in Meg's Pastry Studio.

So far I've not shared the recipe as my method is slightly tedious and somewhat difficult to explain in words and steps (I only shared my roll cake recipe which uses the same sponge recently). Ok, I'm just being lazy and always procrastinating. There are just too many recipes to work on and share.

Anyways, this opportunity to finally write the recipe comes about when Kenneth Goh, Food Writer from The Straits Times emailed me and asked if I would like to feature any of my bakes in the weekly column of The Sunday Times Life Section. Actually there's a back story behind this. He emailed me back in Jan to feature my Bake Cheese Tart recipe, but I totally missed that email! I only replied some 2 weeks later but by then he has already approached another baker. Oh well. However, he was really nice and asked if I would like to share another bake. After some discussion, we settled on this Ombre Strawberry Shortcake since Korean strawberry's in season and the cake looks all pretty and pink :)

I shared before that my passion for rainbow and ombre cakes first started when my kiddo was 3 years old and he requested for a rainbow cake for his birthday. Back then I didn't bake layer cakes so I searched online and used a white-cake base recipe (basically 1 single batter, divide into portions, add colouring and bake). Although the cake looked pleasant aesthetically, I didn't like the taste and texture which was too sweet and dense.

Personally I love Japanese-style Strawberry Shortcake (I'm a big Japan fan) so I began exploring ways of improving my cake through many trial and error. Chanced upon a roll cake that used Japanese genoise sponge and decided to adapt it for my rainbow and ombre cakes.

This ombre (meaning gradual shares of colour) strawberry shortcake is thus a marriage of rainbow cake concept with Japanese-style Strawberry Shortcake.

The genoise sponge uses just 5 basic ingredients, flour, sugar, butter, eggs and milk without the use of any chemicals or additives. It's amazing how through the technique itself, these simple ingredients can create a cake with moist and tender texture.

For the filling and frosting, I use chantilly cream, which is whipping cream with mascarpone cheese and icing sugar (which can be adjusted for sweetness level). The cream is once again very light and slightly creamy and when paired with genoise sponge, makes the cake really delectable.

The cake received positive feedback from friends and family members who commented that it's tender, moist and not too sweet. Even young kids, elderly and folks who don't eat cream cakes enjoyed it :)


Baking this cake is not difficult, just tedious. Because each layer is prepared and baked individually i.e. prep ingredients for 1 layer, send into oven and bake, then the next layer and the next, depending on the number of colour layers desired. Basically, it's tedious because of the colour. If just a single colour, I can prepare 1 batter, divide into portions and bake or bake in a single big sheet and use cutter to stamp the desired size.

So now, the question many would ask, why must the different colour layers be baked individually? Why not divide 1 batter into portions and colour the portions? Because this is a genoise sponge which is very delicate, if I do that, I risk the batter deflating by the time I divide the portions and mix the colour and the cake would turn out dense and not as soft as it should be. 

Troublesome? Yes. Stupid? Maybe. But since this works for me so far, why not? Until I have time to trial and error again to improve the method further.

Recipe is right below, sorry no step-by-step photos because I need to work fast for this cake (otherwise affect the texture); I work alone so no extra hands or time to take work-in-progress photos.

Ombre Strawberry Shortcake
(6” round, 3 layers of pastel yellow, orange and pink, serves 6-8 slices)
    A. Genoise Sponge Cake (for each layer i.e. 3 layers, prepare 3 times)
    • 10g unsalted butter, melted
    • 28g cake/top flour (I use Japanese Nissen Violet flour), sifted twice
    • 30g caster sugar (I use Japanese Jyohakuto sugar)
    • 1 ½ tsp fresh milk
    • 56g eggs without shell (1 large egg 64-65g with shell)
    • Few drops of vanilla extract (I use Nielsen Massey)
    • Gel paste, orange and pink (I use Wilton gel paste)
    B. Chantilly Cream filling, frosting and decoration (enough to fill and frost the cake, with a little extra)
    • 50g water + 1 tbsp sugar to make syrup
    • 500g dairy whipping cream
    • 150g mascarpone cheese
    • 20g icing sugar *adjusted to taste
    • ¼ tsp vanilla extract
    • 10-12 strawberries, sliced thinly (for filling)
    • 12-15 strawberries, some whole and some halved (for decor)
    • Mirror gel, for glazing
    • Mint leaves and blueberries, for décor
    A. Genoise Sponge Cake

    1. Preheat oven at 180 degree celsius, top and bottom heat (conventional). Line a 6" baking pan with baking parchment. Set aside.
    2. Add sugar and eggs into a large mixing bowl, whisk lightly and place bowl in simmering water (bain marie). Whisk until sugar has melted and the mixture is hot to touch.
    3. Remove bowl from hot water, transfer to eletric mixer and beat the mixture at high speed for 10 seconds. Stop mixer, pick up a drop of gel paste using a toothpick and add to the mixture. Continue to beat the mixture at high speed. Stop to add more gel paste if necessary (use a new toothpick each time to avoid contaminating the gel paste). *skip this step for the original pastel yellow colour
    4. Beat the mixture until slightly thicker than ribbon stage (batter flows slowly and rest on top).
    5. Turn the speed to lowest and add milk to the batter, mix for 30 seconds.
    6. Add vanilla extract to the batter, mix for 30 seconds.
    7. Add the flour in 2 additions, each time mixing for 15 seconds.
    8. Take out a scoop of batter, add it to the bowl of melted butter, fold until blended. Pour this butter mixture into the batter bowl. FOLD the batter gently until just incorporated.
    9. Pour batter into the centre of lined baking pan. Knock the tray a few times on kitchen counter to remove any trapped air bubble.
    10. Bake for 11-12 mins at 180 degree celsius.
    11. Remove pan from oven and let it cool for 5 mins.
    12. Remove cake from pan, place it on wire rack. Place another wire rack on top of the cake, then turn the cake over to remove parchment paper. Turn the cake over again, cover with the paper and let it cool down completely before frosting.
    13. Remove steps 2 to 15 for each layer of cake.

    **This is specifically created for individual colour layers of cake. For just 1 single colour, refer to my roll cake recipe and use cake ring/cutter to stamp the layers, or use 3 times quantity and divide into 3 baking pans.

    B. Chantilly Cream filling, frosting and decoration
    1. Chill mixing bowl and whisk in fridge for at least 30 mins.
    2. Add whipping cream and mascarpone cheese into chilled mixing bowl, whisk on high speed, add icing sugar gradually, then vanilla extract, beat till stiff peak.
    3. Place one layer of cake onto a 9” cake board. Brush top of the cake with syrup.
    4. Spread 1 scoop of Chantilly cream onto the cake, spreading it evenly.
    5. Lay sliced strawberries onto the cream. Spread another scoop of Chantilly cream and spreading it evenly to cover the strawberry slices.
    6. Repeat steps 4 to 7 for the next layer of cake.
    7. Place the last layer of cake on top, brush with syrup.
    8. Spread the Chantilly cream onto the sponge cake covering the top and sides of the cake.
    9. Fill a piping bag fitted with cake icer tip with Chantilly cream. Frost the sides and top of the cake evenly.
    10. Use a bench scrapper and angled spatula to smoothen the sides and top of the cake.
    11. Arrange whole and halved strawberries on top of the cake. Glaze the strawberries with glazing gel and decorate with mint leaves.
    12. Store cake in cake box and chill overnight to set the cake.
    13. Cake is best served slightly chilled.

    And here's The Sunday Times article (click to enlarge). The recipe in the newspaper differs slightly as the Editor included more details (with my input) and full quantity (x 3 layers) for the genoise sponge (whereas the recipe above is for per layer). The online edition of this article can be found here.


    1. Hi, regarding the colouring, is it possible to use powder-based? Thanks.

    2. Hi HM,
      I've not tried powder-based colouring. I suppose you could try, make sure the powder can dissolve into the batter quickly and evenly without deflating the batter.

    3. Hi,
      I would like to bake this cake for my son's birthday. If I bake it one day in advance and keep it in the frigdge, will it still be good for the birthday party the next day? Thanks.

      1. Hi,
        In fact this cake is best baked one day in advance for the frosting to fully settle (as the cream is very light). It can be stored in the fridge for 3-4 days.