Sunday, March 30, 2008

Daring Baker's Challenge: Dorie's Perfect Party Cake











Dorie Greenspan is one of those people who is so lucky to have found her true calling in life. From what I gather about her, she is a former writer who found her love for pastry and became a pastry chef. Put these two talents together and what do you get? One heck of a great cookbook writer, whether it be her own books or writing those of others (Pierre Hermé comes to mind). But I had never actually made one of her personal recipes until this month, thanks to Morven at the Daring Bakers.

This month's challenge? Dorie Greenspan's Perfect Party Cake. I looooove to bake cakes, I'm not much of a decorator but I can make a good cake, so I was very excited to try a new one. Plus, this was a white cake which I've never made before. The first thing I did was to go to the bookstore to see what the cake should look like in the end (and I decided that this is a book I must buy, it's huge and has a zillion great recipes in it). The photos of the cake were gorgeous, all white and fluffy with some beautiful pink filling inside. To me, the cake screamed Easter, so I decided it would be our Easter dessert.

Making the cake was really quite simple. One thing I've learned about Dorie Greenspan's recipe writing, you don't mess with it. What she says goes, and if you follow it precisely you will have excellent results. So I just followed her recipe to the "t" and it all came together great. Many DBs had trouble with the cake not rising, but mine rose just fine so I'm not quite sure what the problem was. The buttercream whipped up so smoothly and easily and it spread like a dream. I heated my raspberry jam so it would be a bit more liquid, and then brushed it on the cake rounds, which worked nicely and kept it from being too gloppy. I was very careful in spreading the buttercream over the jam, trying not to mix them, I just rocked my wrist back and forth over the buttercream until it came to the edges of the cake. For the most part that did the trick.

As for the decorating, I wanted the cake to say "Easter" but not be too crazy. I toyed with making pink and green macarons for the outside, but ran out of time. So I found these really nice pastel colored mints at the Fresh Market and applied them to the sides of the cake. They looked really Spring-like and pretty. Plus, they are delicious.


The cake was "refreshing" everyone said. It had an excellent. tight crumb and the lemon flavor was light and made the cake really fresh for Springtime. The buttercream, while good, was a bit heavy and I would probably use a white chocolate whipped cream next time, but it was still very yummy. Would I make this again? Certainly, especially for a birthday, Easter or a shower. This is a keeper.
To see other beautiful Daring Baker cakes, check them out here.

For the Cake
2 1/4 cups cake flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt1
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
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 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.ServingThe 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 CakeIf 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.

61 comments:

Bryan Casteel said...

Lesley - what a beautiful cake. You say that you are not much for decorating but I think you have done a fantastic job with this one. What a wonderful looking cake. Great work - now I am hungry for some cake!

Aran said...

Lesley! Thank you for stopping ny my blog today and leaving such a nice comment. This was a very good challenge. Your cake looks beautiful and fun. I'd be a happy girl if someone baked that for me! Well done!
Your blog is very interesting. I must explore more!

Karen said...

Such a beautiful cake! Very clever to add those mint pastels, love that look! Nice job!
http://www.dobetter.wordpress.com

Carla said...

You say you're not much of a decorator. Ha! You're cake is wonderful! I love the polka dots. And I agree about the icing, it was a tad heavy and I think white chocolate whipped cream would be just perfect for summer.

Deborah said...

A very spring-like cake! I love it - great job!

Erin said...

Your cake looks delicious! You did a great job decorating it. I thought it was the perfect Easter dessert too :)

Carrie said...

What a beautiful Easter cake!
I love the way you decorated it!
Carrie
http://bakersbakery.wordpress.com

CB said...

Lovely cake. The multi-color mints are perfect for a spring cake. Love all the process pictures too. Great job!
Clara @ I♥food4thought

javagirlkt's cookin' said...

your cake is so fun and festive! :)

cookworm said...

I love your cute presentation with the mints! They're like giant polka dots. I bet it tasted as delicious as it looks!

Tiffany said...

Refreshing, YES! That's the word.The parts of cake I could get away from the jellybeans was definitely refreshing! The jelly bean parts, not so much!! Ha!!

jasmine said...

What a great-looking cake. Wonderful colours :)

j

Brilynn said...

You really do need this book!
Everything in it is a winner.

dailydelicious said...

Your cake is lovely, I love the color of the decoration.

Gato Azul | Chat Bleu said...

Lesley... I had forgotten about those beautiful mints... what a flashback! It looks lovely! Thanks for your visit.

Columbus Foodie said...

So, so pretty with the pastel mints on it. It looks festive and Easter-y. I wish mine had come out looking that pretty.

Julius said...

Thanks for stopping by my blog.

Your cake is fantastic, I love it! :)

Julius from Occasional Baker

Gigi said...

You have an eye for decorating! What a great looking Easter cake.

Cakelaw said...

Hi Lesley, your cake looks so pretty with the mints around the edge. It just smacks of Easter - love it!

Dharm said...

Lesley, this is a fantastic looking cake! Great Job! Super job on the decorating!

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

Your cake looks very pretty! Wonderful! Great job here!

Cheers,

Rosa

Kelly-Jane said...

Your cake is beautiful, I love the pastel circle decorations, so pretty!

Nina's Kitchen (Nina Timm) said...

Aahh, a polka dot cake, beautiful....

Ann said...

Wow! Love the look of your cake!
Ann at Redacted Recipes

Passionate baker...& beyond said...

Your cake is PRETTY PRETTY PRETTY all the way. It's got such a great look...fluffy & Springy. Love the coloured mints too...beauuuutiful cake!

coco said...

I like your step by step photos. Your cake looks fabulous

Dianne's Dishes said...

Your cake is gorgeous! I was a bit worried about the jam an buttercream mixing too, so I put the buttercream on first and then spread my blueberry jam over the top. It worked perfectly! :)

Familia Bencomo said...

I love it that you were able to not only follow the recipe EXACTLY, but also able to add your personal touch. Beautifully done!

xoxox Amy

SaraLynn said...

Your cake is so pretty! I wouldn''t have wanted to cut it!

Cinnamonda said...

Thanks for visiting my blog, Lesley! Your cake looks so cute, the pastel mints were a fun addition!

Greetings,
Tiina

KN said...

Ooh, it looks delicious! I love the colored decor---definitely looks like the "perfect party cake" with the decor.

Kevin said...

Your cake looks great!

chou said...

I really like the beautiful colored accents. So fun! You know, after I found your blog I spent the next week trying to decide if I was a gourmet or gourmande. Interesting approach.

Cookie baker Lynn said...

Your cake is so lovely! I adore the pastel mints that you used. It just pops with springtime!

Texana said...

Pretty Pretty! Looks like the perfect Easter cake. Congrats on a great result.

Megan said...

I love the polka dots! So fun and so Spring!

Liliana said...

Lesley, I love, love your cake! It looks so whimsical.

Félicitation!

myriam said...

loving the dots! just loving it!

StickyGooeyCreamyChewy said...

Your cake is soooo pretty! I love the way you decorated it. Very festive!

maybahay said...

so fabulously pretty.
well-done. this is, indeed, a party cake.

Yenping said...

Your cake really has a sense of humour about it - the kind people would go "wow!" at first sight, especially kids I would think. Macarons as decoration is such an excellent idea.

Your post has also been very educational. I don't know much about Dorie Greenspan, and am definitely intrigued that she was a writer-turned-cook and wrote books about Pierre Herme.

Yenping said...

The macaron-like buttons, I mean. An inspiration for me to use real macarons for decorating in the future!

mimi said...

i love the pastel mints you used! especially on top with the fluffy coconut, it's such a nice contrast, it's so pretty!

Kristen said...

Lesley, What a beautiful cake! I love the pastel mints on the sides! Gorgeous!

Princess of the kitchen said...

Beuatifully decorated cake. Well done

ioyces said...

hi Lesley!! Love how you've decorated the cake- so chic!!! And congrats on another successful DB challenge!!! :)

my food affair said...

you got such great height with your cake!! i should've stuck to dorie's recipe to the t, maybe then i would've had better results!! beautiful cake!!

Snug said...

Your cake is so pretty....i am loving the colours :)

Nemmie said...

Amazing - I love the mint decoration!

Katie said...

Your cake looks wonderful, very cheerful and perfect for Spring/Easter.

JMom said...

Love the pastel disks decoration! My daughter loves polka dots and she would have had a ball with this one :) ~ JMom

creampuff said...

Such a pretty cake!

Andrea said...

What a fun, festive cake! Great job!

Antonio Tahhan said...

fantastic cake! i love the decorative mints on the outside!

Jacque said...

That's PERFECT for Easter! Great job :)

Tracy said...

Love the colors! Great looking cake!!

eatme_delicious said...

Your cake looks great! Very Easter-y. Macarons on the side would've been great. Well macarons period would be great I think. :)

Gabi said...

Lovely cake the pastille dots make it so Springlike!Great job!
xoxo
Gabi

Claire said...

Those are "wedding mints" to me and are, oh so good! I love your cake...it's just so happy.

Jaime said...

you say you're not a big cake decorator, but i say otherwise - it's beautiful! i love the colors and the shapes on it :) great job!

Jessica Weeg said...

Hey Lesley- I didn't get your message until this morning, so I'm sorry that I didn't come meet you while you were subbing for Ms. Gallaspie. Your cake looks amazing; I'm a little shy to put up my picture now lol.