One of my favorite memories of my trip to Sydney, Australia, three years ago is enjoying a slice of a strawberry-watermelon cake from Black Star Pastry on a sunny day, after days of rain.
I don’t know if it was the breeze on a sunny day or just the fact that I was on vacation, but every bite of the perfumed cake with the unique layer of fresh watermelon seemed so amazing and perfect.
When I returned home, I was determined to recreate this cake. But I’m not an expert baker so it’s not like I can go around experimenting and guessing at the ingredients. Then a year ago, I found on the internet that Gourmet Traveller posted the recipe from Black Star’s pastry chef and owner Christopher Thé. (If you click on the link there’s a video of Thé making the cake, which is considered the most photographed cake in the world because of its beauty and unique features.)
The recipe is a bit intimidating because of all the steps and the fact that it takes a long time because you have to wait for things to settle for hours before moving to the next step. So mentally I avoided tackling trying to make it here, until Sunday when I decided this would be the moment.
I translated the recipe to U.S. measurements as best I could and then got the necessary ingredients. The only thing I couldn’t find after searching every where was the dried rose petals. Anyone know who sells them? I think wholesalers for tea makers could be one possibility, but I couldn’t find it as I prepared to bake the cake. Still, the rose petals are mostly decorative because you get a lot of the rose flavor from the rose water added to the cream and fruits. I think it’s the rose water that really makes this cake feel so refined and elegant.
It’s almost the same like making a tiramisu with the layering and the cream, but the challenge is really cutting into the watermelon while keeping everything together. (I found that as the cake sat in my refrigerator for more than a day, it allowed all the ingredients to meld more together, and the watermelon seemed to break off more easily.)
The end result wasn’t perfect (I really need a sharper knife for those perfect edges), but the flavor and taste brought back memories of that Australian afternoon three years ago.
Here’s the recipe as published in Gourmet Traveller but with the measurements converted according to my math. This is the perfect dessert for a summer party because it feels like and refreshing to eat, and you’ll be a star when you put this stunner on the table.
Strawberry-Watermelon Cake Recipe
For the almond dacquoise:
5 oz. almonds, coarsely chopped
5 oz. pure icing sugar, sieved (same as powdered sugar)
5 egg whites
3/4 cup caster sugar (or baker’s superfine sugar)
For the rose-scented cream:
10 oz. thickened cream (or heavy whipping cream)
2.5 T caster sugar
2 tbsp rosewater
1/2 lb. seedless watermelon, thinly sliced
1/4 cup rosewater
4 tbsp caster sugar
less than 1/2 cup almond meal
1 lb. strawberries, halved
10 seedless red grapes, halved
1 tbsp slivered pistachios
1 tbsp dried rose petals (if you can find them!)
- To make the almond dacquoise, preheat oven to 400 degrees. Pulse almonds in a food processor until finely ground, then combine in a bowl with icing sugar.
- In another clean mixing bowl, whisk egg whites with an electric mixer until soft peaks form, about 3 to 4 min. Next, gradually add caster sugar and continue whisking until stiff peaks form, for 1 to 2 min. Gently fold the almond-icing sugar mixture into the egg whites.
- Line an 11 x 15 3/4″ tray with baking paper, and spread the almond dacquoise mixture evenly. Bake for 10-15 min until golden. Set aside to cool on the tray, then cut in half lengthwise. Leave it to rest for at least 4 hours, or overnight.
- Arrange watermelon slices in a single layer on a wire rack. Sprinkle with 20ml rosewater, then sprinkle with 2 tbsp sugar. Let it soak for 30 min, then pat dry with kitchen towels.
- For the rose-scented cream, whisk cream and sugar in an electric mixer until soft peaks forum. Gradually add rosewater and whisk until you have stiff peaks. Do not over-whisk.
- Spread 1/3 of rose-scented cream evenly over half the dacquoise. Sprinkle with half the almond meal, and layer watermelon over the dacquoise, You might need to trim some of the watermelon slices to fill the gaps.
- Sprinkle the remaining almond meal over the watermelon. Spread half of the remaining rose cream. Layer with the rest of the dacquoise and rose cream. Refrigerate until firm, about 1-2 hours.
- Combine strawberries with the remaining 20ml rosewater and 2 tbsp sugar in a bowl. Toss to combine and set aside for 15 min. Carefully arrange the strawberries onto the cake, gently pushing into the cream. Trim the edges of the cake, scatter it with grapes, pistachios and rose petals. Serve.
TIP: Wipe mixing bowls with a dash of vinegar and salt to remove impurities before whipping egg whites. If the bowl is dirty, the egg whites might not be able to form stiff peaks.
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