Sunday, March 30, 2008

March Challenge -- Dorie's Perfect Party Cake

I'm two for food blog events that is! I'm pleased to report that I've successfully completed my first Daring Bakers challenge, and I couldn't be happier that it was cake. Thanks to Morven for selecting Dorie's Perfect Party Cake!

Having followed the challenges for the last few months, I was a little nervous about what would be my first. I've never made anything that called for meringue. And bread, well, between the rising, punching and waiting, I'm almost certain that would have been a big ol' flour-y bust.
But if you know me, you know I'm all about cake. So much so, I was tempted to cover this baby with fondant and adorn it with pretty flowers. I thought better of that, this cake is simple and pretty enough enough without any extras.
Now, having made many-a-cake from doctored mixes and only a few from scratch, I had my doubts. Because my cakes didn't rise very much (about 1.5 inches or so), I was sure I did something wrong. My layers were pretty thin, but after torting, it all came together very nicely. This was a very quick and easy cake to make.
**Update: I only learned after I finished my cake that it was recommended to substitute the cake flour with all-purpose flour for better rising cake.**
I wasn't sure the entire time I was making it, whether my meringue buttercream would turn out like it was supposed to, especially when adding the THREE sticks of butter (hello? Is Paula Deen in the house?). And then I was worried I wouldn't have enough buttercream to fill AND cover the cake, but I actually had about 1/3 of a cup left over when I was done. Maybe I shorted a layer or two, who knows.

As pretty as it was, I hoped it tasted as good as it looked. Funnily, as much as I enjoy making and decorating cakes, dh and I don't eat cake very often, so I sought co-worker feedback. And of course, I had a bite or two (or three, but who's counting).
The cake was very light, especially the buttercream. This was a nice change from the normal, heavier buttercreams I tend to make. The subtle hints of lemon in both the cake and the icing was also very refreshing and contrasted nicely with the blackberry preserves. I didn't think the coconut added to the flavor, but it made it pillowy-pretty.
I'd certainly make this cake again!
Woot!! I'm a Daring Baker!!

Perfect Party Cake
Courtesy of Dorie Greenspan's 'Baking from My Home to Yours' (page 250)

For the Cake
2 1/2 cups cake flour
1 Tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/4 cups whole milk or buttermilk
4 large egg whites
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 stick (8 Tbsps) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon pure lemon extract

For the Buttercream
1 cup sugar
4 large egg whites
3 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/4 fresh lemon juice (from two large lemons)
1 tsp pure vanilla extract

For Finishing
2/3 cup seedless raspberry preserves stirred vigorously or warmed gently until spreadable
About 1 1/2 cups sweetened, shredded coconut

Getting Ready
Center 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 sugar and lemon zest in amixer 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 unil the batter is homogeneous, then add the last of the dry ingredients.

Finally, give the batter a good t-minute beating to ensure that it is thoroughly mixed and well aerated.

Divide the batter between the two pans and smooth the tops witha rubber spatula.

Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until the ckaes 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 alyers can be wrapped airtight and stored at room temperature overnight or frozed 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 oveer a pan 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 merigue on medium spped until it is cool, about 5 minutes.

Using the paddle attachment and in a separate bowl, beat the butter, adding one stick at a time, 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 add the vanilla.

You should have a shinny, smooth, velvety, and 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 fo 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 it 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 two 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 eh cake the day it is made, cover each layer of buttercream with fresh berries -- using 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 firm 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 in the refrigerator -- let it sit for about 20 minutes at room temperature before serving.


amanda. said...

Yay for completing your first challenge! Your cake looks great! And it's good to hear that you enjoyed it. :)

CB said...

Beautiful. I love the layers. Great job!
Clara @ I♥food4thought

Anonymous said...

You did great, Bella! And "funnily" is a wonderful word ;)

Joy said...

What a pretty cake. I must admit that I was a bit worried about all the butter in the icing - but I think I burned off enough calories stressing about slicing the cakes to counterbalance it!

Mindy said...

Yay for cakes!
I covet your four layers...

Good Job!

marias23 said...

Congrats on your first DB challenge! Heehee, three sticks of butter sure is Paula Deen style indeed :) But hey, your cake looks delicious!

Jerry said...

Congrats on your first challenge! I agree that it is somewhat Paula Deen, but that is buttercream!

Lunch Buckets said...

Beautiful! congratulations :)

Jenny said...

Welcome to the Daring Bakers! Your cake would make any rainy day into a happier place.

Mother Bliss said...

First challenges are so exciting aren't they? It's so fun wondering about what the next challenge is going to be. Welcome to the club, and congrats on your beautiful cake. Great job!

Gabi said...

Congrats on completing your first challenge and welcome to the DBs!
Your cake is gorg-e-o-so!

Deborah said...

Great job on your first challenge - welcome to the Daring Bakers!!

Sheltie Girl said...

You did a wonderful job on your cake! Congratulations and welcome to the Daring Bakers!

Gretchen Noelle said...

Wonderful job on your first DB challenge! Welcome!