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Daring Bakers: Perfect Party Cake

My second Daring Baker’s challenge is now complete! Well, I actually did it last weekend and served it for Easter dessert, but we were not allowed to post it until today. Yay! Finally, I can share with you this yummy cake recipe!

As I have browsed many other foodie’s blogs, I noticed a few that I frequent participate in ‘Tuesdays with Dorie’ where they bake a Dorie Greenspan recipe every week. I’ve thought many times how I wish I didn’t come home from work exhausted every weeknight, so I could also have the motivation to do Tuesdays with Dorie. Imagine my ecstatic response when I saw that this month’s Daring Bakers challenge was a Dorie Greenspan recipe! Wahooo! Now I can say that I’ve broken into the Dorie world, and check that off my list of “to do’s”.

The timing for this cake was perfect since it is a springy cake (both in texture and in season). We were allowed to make variations in flavor and decoration, but the only part I changed was leaving off the coconut (not a big fan).

The cake didn’t rise as much as it should have, so it was a little hard to cut the layers. I think it’s because instead of cake flour, I used all-purpose flour. One cup of all-purpose flour minus two tablespoons equals one cup of cake flour.

To protect the cake plate during frosting and layering, make sure you line it with sections of wax paper. Try to keep the paper on the edges and not too far under the cake so it will easily remove after frosting.

As you can see from the photo below, I placed the wax paper a little too tightly under the cake, so when I pulled it out the cake kind of tilted and the frosting started to come off with it.
But, it turned out beautiful in the end! Thanks, Morven, for hosting this month and choosing such a lovely recipe! Check out other Daring Bakers’ results on the blogroll.

Perfect Party Cake (Courtesy of Dorie Greenspan’s Baking from My Home to Yours)

Words from Dorie
Stick a bright-coloured Post-it to this page, so you’ll always know where to turn for a just-right cake for any celebration. The original recipe was given to me by my great dear friend Nick Malgieri, of baking fame, and since getting it, I’ve found endless opportunities to make it – you will too. The cake is snow white, with an elegant tight crumb and an easygoing nature: it always bakes up perfectly; it is delicate on the tongue but sturdy in the kitchen – no fussing when it comes to slicing the layers in half or cutting tall, beautiful wedges for serving; and, it tastes just as you’d want a party cake to taste – special. The base recipe is for a cake flavoured with lemon, layered with a little raspberry jam and filled and frosted with a classic (and so simple) pure white lemony hot-meringue buttercream but, because the elements are so fundamental, they lend themselves to variation (see Playing Around), making the cake not just perfect, but also versatile.

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.

Serving
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.

Storing
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.

Playing Around
Since lemon is such a friendly flavour, feel free to make changes in the preserves: other red preserves – cherry or strawberry – look especially nice, but you can even use plum or blueberry jam.

Fresh Berry Cake
If you will be serving the cake the day it is made, cover each layer of buttercream with fresh berries – use whole raspberries, sliced or halved strawberries or whole blackberries, and match the preserves to the fruit. You can replace the coconut on top of the cake with a crown of berries, or use both coconut and berries. You can also replace the buttercream between the layers with fairly firmly whipped sweetened cream and then either frost the cake with buttercream (the contrast between the lighter whipped cream and the firmer buttercream is nice) or finish it with more whipped cream. If you use whipped cream, you’ll have to store the cake the in the refrigerator – let it sit for about 20 minutes at room temperature before serving.

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Comments

  1. My cakes didn’t rise much either, but the cake still seemed nice and tall after the fillings were added.

    This was my first Dorie recipe too!

  2. I find it so strange that people’s cakes didn’t rise. Hmmm.
    I too left out the coconut…but because I forgot about it. :)
    Looks great.

  3. Gretchen Noelle says:

    Lovely cake even though the cakes may not have risen quite enough. Great job!

  4. Beautiful cake! Mine did not rise as high as I would have liked but it rose decently. At least you put the top on correctly (cut side down) I just flopped mine on cut side up, oops. :)

  5. This was my first Dorie recipe too, but she can call me a disciple now. :)

  6. Lunch Buckets says:

    It’s a wonderful recipe isn’t it! I thought my layers were too flat until I got everything stacked together, then I thought they were fine!

  7. Sheltie Girl says:

    You did a fabulous job on your cake!

    Natalie @ Gluten A Go Go

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