Thursday, April 24, 2014

Black Star Pastry Strawberry and Watermelon Cake - A Showstopper

On my most recent trip to Sydney, I finally got to taste the Black Star Pastry strawberry and watermelon cake. I was lucky to even get a taste as they didn't have any left by the time I got there. But then the chefs were cutting up cakes for orders and there were a few small slices left so I pounced and got one. The cake is an extremely beautiful cake and it is very tasty. The hype around it was warranted as I really enjoyed the cake in it's simplicity, especially with that refreshing slice of watermelon in the middle. As the cake is quite fragile, I know that it would be hard to carry from Sydney even (although one awesome Instagrammers did offer to carry me some from Sydney) and I wouldn't get to eat it often. But, thanks to another Instagrammer, I found out that the recipe for this cake is online. I Googled it and found the Gourmet Traveller recipe. At it's core, this cake isn't that hard to make in terms of the individual elements. It's more about doing lots of little things and getting each element spot on. Below was my attempt at this cake.

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 so I've added that to the recipe.
* 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. After adding the rosewater, the watermelons are very wet so I added a step to dry them.
* The strawberries are macerated but again, if you can find ripe strawberries, it will enhance the flavour of the cake. The quantity specified wasn't enough to really fill a cake so I've increased that.
* I found the 300ml of cream was a way too little to get the same look as in the article and also the right ratio of cream to fruit to dacquoise taste wise. I ended up with very thin layers of cream and I made the dacquoise to the exact size as in the recipe. I have increased the cream amount in the recipe.
* 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 quantity specified is too little so I've increase that as well.
* 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
Adapted from the Black Star Pastry recipe


250g seedless watermelon, thinly sliced (about 0.75cm - 1cm)
60ml rosewater
4 tbsp caster sugar
80 g almond meal
750 g strawberries (about 2 punnets), halved
10 seedless red grapes, halved
1 tbsp slivered pistachios (see note)
1 tbsp dried rose petals (see note)

Almond dacquoise
150g almond meal
150g pure icing sugar, sieved
5 egg whites
135g caster sugar

Rose-scented cream
900ml thickened cream
30g caster sugar
2 tbsp rosewater


Almond Dacquoise
1) For almond dacquoise, preheat oven to 200C. Combine almond meal in a bowl with icing sugar.
2) Whisk egg whites 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).
3) Gently fold through almond mixture, spread on a 25cm x 40cm oven tray lined with baking paper and bake until golden (10-15 minutes).
4) Set aside to cool on tray, then cut in half lengthways.

5) Arrange watermelon slices in a single layer on a wire rack.
6) Sprinkle with 20ml rosewater, then scatter with 2 tbsp sugar.
7) Stand to macerate (at least 30 minutes), then pat dry with absorbent paper.

Rose Cream
8) Whisk cream and sugar in an electric mixer until soft peaks form, gradually adding rosewater and whisk until stiff peaks form (do not over-whisk).

Macerated Strawberries
9) Combine strawberries, remaining rosewater (40ml) and remaining sugar (2 tbsp) in a bowl, toss to combine and set aside to macerate (at least 15 minutes).

Assembly of Cake
10) Spread one-third of the rose cream evenly over one half of dacquoise, scatter with half the almond meal to act as a barrier for the watermelon.
11) Top with watermelon, trimming to fill any gaps.
12) Scatter over remaining almond meal, spreading over half remaining cream.
13) Top with remaining dacquoise, spread over remaining cream and refrigerate until firm (1-2 hours).
14) Carefully arrange strawberries on top of cake, gently pushing into cream.
15) Trim edges of cake, scatter over grapes, pistachios and petals, and serve.


  1. I've not tried the original but your cake looks so good, I think I'm going to have to give this recipe a go!

  2. That looks so pretty and professional! Great work! :)

  3. This is awesome, Thanh!! I am so glad that you've tried the original, attempted to replicate it and then share all your handy tips for baking noobs like me. Love this post!

  4. It's just so pretty! please make again soon for my tasting :)

  5. Wow, I'm so impressed that you replicated it! I love the Black Star original - I would loooove to make it at home myself.

  6. Okay I need to try this cake or attempt to make it. I like your idea with the lychees.

  7. Very nice! I tried to make this cake with the same recipe from gourmet traveller. It turned out very nice (Not as pretty as your's though). I would have to agree with there being not enough cream.

    1. Good work James. This recipe definitely a lot more cream to make it better.