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
2/3 cup seedless raspberry preserves stirred vigorously or warmed gently until spreadable
About 1 ½ cups sweetened shredded coconut
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.
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.
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.