I am extremely happy with my attempt at the cake. Besides not being able to cut the edges of the cake neatly, not finding any dried rose petals and cutting the watermelon a bit too thick, it does look really nice and tastes excellent. I think the flavour profile is very close to the original. I didn't really have any issues with the cake, with the dacquoise being my biggest worry. However, I made sure I measured everything accurately and even market out how big I wanted the dacquoise. The chewiness of the dacquoise combined with the crunch of the watermelon and the soft cream makes for such a great contrast. The rosewater on this cake is very strong and it is a sweet cake. If you don't like either of these two things, I would suggest you not make it. Otherwise, this is an excellent cake to make just to eat, but also for celebrations. Look how stunning it is. Rectangular layer cakes always seem to have a level of sophistication as only bakeries and high end restaurants do them that way and this cake has that same feel. A definite showstopper at any gathering I'd say.
Finally, some tips for a good bake and some suggestions
* Rather than ground my own almonds for the dacquoise, I just used store bought almond meal. That worked just as well.
* Use a strong natural rosewater that you can buy from a Middle Eastern grocery shop rather than the awful synthetic tasting ones from the supermarkets.
* Use ripe watermelons as it will really enhance the flavour of the cake rather than being a tasteless lump in the middle.
* The strawberries are macerated but again, if you can find ripe strawberries, it will enhance the flavour of the cake.
* I found the 300ml of cream was a bit too little to get the same look as in the article. I ended up with very thin layers of cream and I made the dacquoise to the exact size as in the recipe. I would use a bit more cream in future.
* Make sure you spread the spare almond meal evenly as it helps to absorb the moisture from the watermelon and stop the watermelon from making the whole cake soggy.
* The grapes work quite nicely but I think next time I might try lychees to get the classic Pierre Herme flavour combination of rosewater and lychee. I think that would make it even nicer.
* Slivered pistachios are a pain in the backside to chop up but they do add a nice visual effect and the taste is felt within the cake so make them.
Black Star Pastry Strawberry and Watermelon Cake
250g seedless watermelon, thinly sliced
4 tbsp caster sugar
40 g almond meal
500 g strawberries (about 2 punnets), halved
10 seedless red grapes, halved
1 tbsp slivered pistachios (see note)
1 tbsp dried rose petals (see note)
150g almonds, coarsely chopped
150g pure icing sugar, sieved
135g caster sugar
300ml thickened cream
30g caster sugar
2 tbsp rosewater
For almond dacquoise, preheat oven to 200C. Process almonds in a food processor until finely ground, then combine in a bowl with icing sugar. Whisk eggwhites in an electric mixer until soft peaks form (3-4 minutes), then gradually add caster sugar and whisk until stiff peaks form (1-2 minutes). Gently fold through almond mixture, spread on a 30cm x 40cm oven tray lined with baking paper and bake until golden (10-15 minutes). Set aside to cool on tray, then cut in half lengthways.
Arrange watermelon slices in a single layer on a wire rack. Sprinkle with 20ml rosewater, then scatter with 2 tbsp sugar. Stand to macerate (30 minutes), then pat dry with absorbent paper.
Meanwhile, for rose-scented cream, whisk cream and sugar in an electric mixer until soft peaks form, gradually add rosewater and whisk until stiff peaks form (do not over-whisk).
Spread one-third of rose cream evenly over one half of dacquoise, scatter with half the almond meal, then top with watermelon, trimming to fill any gaps. Scatter over remaining almond meal, spread over half remaining cream. Top with remaining dacquoise, spread over remaining cream and refrigerate until firm (1-2 hours).
Combine strawberries, remaining rosewater (40ml) and remaining sugar (2 tbsp) in a bowl, toss to combine and set aside to macerate (15 minutes). Carefully arrange on top of cake, gently pushing into cream. Trim edges of cake, scatter over grapes, pistachios and petals, and serve.