3/30/08

The Perfect Party Cake

Well here it is, my first completed Daring Bakers challenge: Dorie Greenspan's Perfect Party Cake. As I'm sure all Daring Bakers challenges are, this cake was a whole lotta work, but fun to make and definitely a "challenge". I had never made my own buttercream frosting before, so that was a learning experience. I followed the instructions and it whipped up nicely, but after storing it in the fridge for a little while until I needed it, I learned that it kind of hardens and you have to whip it up again with your mixer before you can spread it on the cake. Also, when you start whipping it again, it looks like you've just ruined it for a few minutes. It melts into a buttery wimpy looking substance and then little by little, it starts to whip up into a white frosting again. It was magic.

This cake ended up being Mark's birthday cake and one of our Easter dinner desserts. Everyone was impressed by the look of the cake and they all agreed that it tasted great, too. The cake itself had an angel-food cake feel to it, however it was just a little on the dry side. With the preserves and the frosting, it was good, but the cake on its own could have used a little more moisture. I would increase the buttermilk a bit if you decide to make this.

So here's how it all went down...

Start by sifting together the flour, baking powder and salt.

Next, 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.

Next, 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.

Butter two 9 x 2 inch round cake pans and line the bottom of each pan with a round of buttered parchment paper.

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.

Now, as you can see here, I have baked four cakes instead of two. The recipe says to bake two, then cut those two in half to make four layers of cake. Yeah... take a look at those two on the left. Those suckers were NOT getting cut in half unless I wanted some cake carpaccio or something. Nope, I just went ahead and baked two more cakes to get my four layers and figured my cake would just be tall and majestic. As they say... "f" it.

As the cakes are cooling, let's make the frosting.

To make the frosting, first 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.

At this point, I was in a huge time-crunch and needed to get this cake done and get my butt to the Easter dinner at Mark's parents' house. Therefore, I stopped taking pictures. Sorry! But basically what I did next was just place the first cake round on the cake board, spread out 1/3 of the black raspberry preserves, then top that with another layer of cake. I repeated that until I had all the layers piled on top of each other, then I frosted it.

I finished the cake by pressing sweetened coconut all over it and decorated it with large, plump blackberries. It was served, of course, with wine. In this case, Amarone della Valpohicella, 1998. Let me just say, YYYUUUUUMMMM!!!!!



Mark blew out his candles...

...and we quickly sliced into the cake.

What a pretty and light-tasting cake. It had a lemon flavor, but not over-powering as lemon can sometimes be. It had a bit of coconut on it, but once the cake is sliced, you only get a bit of the frosting and coconut, so those flavors are balanced out nicely as well. All in all, I was pleased with how this cake turned out. Would I make it again? Possibly... it was alot of work, but Mark's worth it.



HAPPY BIRTHDAY MARK!






PERFECT PARTY CAKE
Courtesy of Dorie Greenspan’s Baking from My Home to Yours (page 250).

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 Buttercream1 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 Finishing2/3 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.

11 comments:

  1. What a lucky birthday boy he is! Your cake looks great, very high with beautiful blackberries. Great job!

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  2. wow
    i'm tempted
    i just need an occasion...

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  3. Your cake looks amazing. I like the blackberry theme. I had to make the cake recipe 2 times to get the 4 layers as well.

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  4. What a wonderful birthday cake! Lucky Mark ;)

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  5. Looks perfect!
    Is Amarone della Valpohicella a dessert wine?

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  6. GORGEOUS combination with the berries.

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  7. Amarone (della Valpolicella) is not typically considered a dessert wine. It is a rich, full-bodied, fruity red that plays well with many foods. It has a low acidity and a higher than normal alcohol content, so it tends to pair well with light sweets. I wouldn't drink it with just any dessert, but it worked well with the more-or-less intense dark berry note of this cake. We tend to drink reds at a ratio of 20:1 to whites. So, dessert pairing can sometimes be a challenge. However, this wine was spot on. It also helps that amarone is one of our favorites. :)

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  8. Thanks, everyone, for the compliments on this cake. I've missed cake decorating and it was nice to at least frost a big cake like this. Brought back fun memories. :-)

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  9. Welcome to the DBs congrats on your first challenge- Lovely cake the blackberries and decoration are perfect!
    xoxo
    Gabi
    PS
    I love Amarone- it has a raisiny depth that is very alluring!

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  10. What a lovely cake to celebrate a birthday with! Great job on your first DB challenge! Welcome!

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  11. Looks like you made a perfect cake! I love the blackberries on top...so inviting!

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