Sunday, March 30, 2008

The Perfect Party Cake

I just completed my first month's challenge as a member of the Daring Bakers group. At the beginning of each month, the appointed host assigns a new baking challenge. We have the month to think about it and make it. At the end of the month, we post about our experience with the challenge. This month's host was Morven, and she chose Dorie Greenspan's Perfect Party Cake.

I'm not much of a decorator but I had a good time making this cake. The layers didn't rise very well. I think it may be because of the flour I used. I ended up using regular all-purpose flour in place of the cake flour but I forgot to subtract 2 Tbs. per cup before adding it to my batter. I still cut the two layers in half and had four very small layers. I tried to add a lot of filling to make my cake look bigger. I used strawberry preserves and whipped cream for my filling. I was dissapointed with the taste of the preserves. They were much too sweet and I would have much rather had a slightly tart homemade strawberry or raspberry jam as a filling. I think it would have complimented the sweet whipping cream and cake flavors a lot more. I also whipped cream with a little powdered sugar and vanilla to frost the cake. It was yummy. In the cake batter, I did stick with the original recipe including the lemon extract. I really liked having a little taste of lemon as part of the cake. It definitely didn't turn out perfect but it was fun to try. I would love to try making it again and change some things up to make it even better!

If you feel a hankering to do some fun baking, here is the recipe for you...

The Perfect Party Cake

For the Cake
2 1/4 cups cake flour (updated 25 March)
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 ¼ cups whole milk or buttermilk (I prefer buttermilk with the lemon)
4 large egg whites
1 ½ cups sugar
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
1 stick (8 tablespoons or 4 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
½ teaspoon pure lemon extract
For the Buttercream
1 cup sugar
4 large egg whites
3 sticks (12 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
¼ cup fresh lemon juice (from 2 large lemons)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
For Finishing
2/3 cup seedless raspberry preserves stirred vigorously or warmed gently until spreadable
About 1 ½ cups sweetened shredded coconut
Getting Ready
Centre a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter two 9 x 2 inch round cake pans and line the bottom of each pan with a round of buttered parchment or wax paper. Put the pans on a baking sheet.
To Make the Cake
Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Whisk together the milk and egg whites in a medium bowl.Put the sugar and lemon zest in a mixer bowl or another large bowl and rub them together with your fingers until the sugar is moist and fragrant. Add the butter and working with the paddle or whisk attachment, or with a hand mixer, beat at medium speed for a full 3 minutes, until the butter and sugar are very light.Beat in the extract, then add one third of the flour mixture, still beating on medium speed. Beat in half of the milk-egg mixture, then beat in half of the remaining dry ingredients until incorporated. Add the rest of the milk and eggs beating until the batter is homogeneous, then add the last of the dry ingredients. Finally, give the batter a good 2- minute beating to ensure that it is thoroughly mixed and well aerated. Divide the batter between the two pans and smooth the tops with a rubber spatula.Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until the cakes are well risen and springy to the touch – a thin knife inserted into the centers should come out clean. Transfer the cakes to cooling racks and cool for about 5 minutes, then run a knife around the sides of the cakes, unfold them and peel off the paper liners. Invert and cool to room temperature, right side up (the cooled cake layers can be wrapped airtight and stored at room temperature overnight or frozen for up to two months).
To Make the Buttercream
Put the sugar and egg whites in a mixer bowl or another large heatproof bowl, fit the bowl over a plan of simmering water and whisk constantly, keeping the mixture over the heat, until it feels hot to the touch, about 3 minutes. The sugar should be dissolved, and the mixture will look like shiny marshmallow cream.Remove the bowl from the heat.Working with the whisk attachment or with a hand mixer, beat the meringue on medium speed until it is cool, about 5 minutes.Switch to the paddle attachment if you have one, and add the butter a stick at a time, beating until smooth.Once all the butter is in, beat in the buttercream on medium-high speed until it is thick and very smooth, 6-10 minutes.During this time the buttercream may curdle or separate – just keep beating and it will come together again.On medium speed, gradually beat in the lemon juice, waiting until each addition is absorbed before adding more, and then the vanilla. You should have a shiny smooth, velvety, pristine white buttercream. Press a piece of plastic against the surface of the buttercream and set aside briefly.
To Assemble the Cake
Using a sharp serrated knife and a gentle sawing motion, slice each layer horizontally in half. Put one layer cut side up on a cardboard cake round or a cake plate protected by strips of wax or parchment paper.Spread it with one third of the preserves.Cover the jam evenly with about one quarter of the buttercream.Top with another layer, spread with preserves and buttercream and then do the same with a third layer (you’ll have used all the jam and have buttercream leftover).Place the last layer cut side down on top of the cake and use the remaining buttercream to frost the sides and top. Press the coconut into the frosting, patting it gently all over the sides and top.
The cake is ready to serve as soon as it is assembled, but I think it’s best to let it sit and set for a couple of hours in a cool room – not the refrigerator. Whether you wait or slice and enjoy it immediately, the cake should be served at room temperature; it loses all its subtlety when it’s cold. Depending on your audience you can serve the cake with just about anything from milk to sweet or bubbly wine.
The cake is best the day it is made, but you can refrigerate it, well covered, for up to two days. Bring it to room temperature before serving. If you want to freeze the cake, slide it into the freezer to set, then wrap it really well – it will keep for up to 2 months in the freezer; defrost it, still wrapped overnight in the refrigerator.
To see other Daring Baker's Blogs Perfect Party Cakes, click here...


mimi said...

your cake looks so delish with the fresh strawberries!

CJ said...

I wanted to stop by and say thank you for visiting my blog~ It's still odd to me that anyone can find it! It seems like there are so few out there that discuss epilepsy and it's effects on a child and their family.

I'm so sorry that your struggling to find a therapy that will work to help control your son's seizures. Even though we are very new to Epilepsy I understand that finding a treatment that works is often a long process. Please know that if you ever need a sympathetic ear I'm always willing to listen. Thanks for placing the awareness clipart on your beautiful blog. My daughter and I really appreciate it.

Deborah said...

This is definitely a cake that is fun to play around with!! Your cake looks wonderful!

Lesley said...

Your cake is nice, I love the strawberries.
I absolutely adore the picture on the top of your blog, it's fantastic.

Megan & Shawn said...

That looks great!! I love the idea of a daring bakers group. How fun it must to be challenged to try new things. I"m always looking for something new to cook, so keep posting the recipes!

Miss Ifi said...

Congratulations on your first challenge!!! Your cake looks really great... the decoration with the strawberries is just awesome. Welcome to the group, I hope you have lots of fun with us!

Lunch Buckets said...

Welcome to the group! The cake looks beautiful, I like the strawberry slices on the side.

Jennifer said...

Great minds think alike! I used strawberries too. It made for a YUMMY cake, didn't it! :) Welcome to the DBers! :)

Mike and Adrianne said...

The cake looks delicious Steff! Good job, send it my way...

Brian and Elizabeth Shelley said...

looks great! I will be a taste tester next month!

The Woodwards said...

Great cake Steff, looks yummy! So Matt's reading 'The Infinate Atonement,' eh? Great book. The author is Sara's brother's mission president. Kinda cool.
See you soon :)

Angie Penrose said...

that looks SO yummy! i think i will be trying that recipe for sure. you're such a daring baker!! :)

Shane & Michelle said...

I'm the "author" that deleted the comment on the other post. After I posted about your cake I realized I was commenting on the wrong post. Your cake looks delicious! I'm going to have to try this one. I've made lots of sheet cakes but never a real fancy cake like this!

wendster said...

I'm ready for a slice!

You know, I took a cake baking class and I know how hard it is to get it that perfect height all the way around. Good job! Looks like a masterpiece.

Wendy @

Sheltie Girl said...

Fabulous job on your cake!

Natalie @ Gluten A Go Go