Sunday, March 30, 2008

Perfectly Daring Cake

Hip Hip Hooray, it is once again my favorite time of the month. I get to finally reveal the Daring Bakers monthly challenge. This month Morvin over at Food Art and Rambling Thoughts picked the perfect challenge because I have been craving cake for quite a while now. Morven was very lenient with the rules this time around. All that he really required is that you made the cake. You could make it a different shape, turn it into a different flavor or even decorate it with a different frosting. Even though the door was open for doing something bold and daring I decided to stick pretty close to the original recipe. I did use strawberry preserves instead of raspberry.


I will admit that at first I was a little intimidated by the recipe, the last time I made a layer cake it cracked while I was putting it together and it ended up being a big mess. I was pretty confident that Dorie's recipe for Perfect Party cake would not let me down.



In the end I thought that this cake was wonderful. It did have a bit more of a lemon flavor than what I prefer. I think next time I will reduce all the lemon ingredients by half and possibly even omit the lemon juice from the buttercream. Speaking of the buttercream, I was pleasantly surprised at how light and fluffy it was.


If you have some extra time please go and check out the Daring Bakers Blogroll to see every one else's Perfect Party Cakes. I am sure they won't disappoint.

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

For the Cake
2 1/4 cups cake flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups whole milk or buttermilk
4 large egg whites
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
1 stick (8 tablespoons or 4 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon pure lemon extract

For the Buttercream
1 cup sugar
4 large egg whites
3 sticks (12 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/4 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 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 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. (As per advice from my friend Jessica, I scored the cake, halfway up and all the way around, with a knife. Then I took a piece of clean fishing line and set it into the score marks and slowly pulled the line through the cake making a nice even slice.)
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. (I found that it was much easier to spread the buttercream first and then the preserves on top of it)
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.

78 comments:

Erin said...

Your cake looks so pretty! It was fun to make a good layer cake- I enjoyed this month's recipes too. I love the strawberry filling. I might try that next time I make this.

Carrie said...

It looks wonderful!!!! I am going to need to be making lots of layer cakes in the coming months, I will make sure to try this one!

Kayte said...

wow amber! your cake looks absolutely amazing! wonderful job.

Bake your cake and eat it too said...

That's gorgeous! Good job on this months challenge. I love how brightly the red from the strawberry filling stands out. Very nice!

Bridget said...

Strawberry preserves is a great idea. I love raspberry, but I thought the raspberry flavor was a little overpowering. I think strawberry would compliment the lemon nicely.

Jeanine said...

Wow, Amber, your cake is absolutey beautiful! Picture perfect. Wish I could taste it from here. :)
I am anxiously awaiting next month's challenge, as I have just signed up. Can't wait! love your blog, btw! :)

madebymel said...

Your cake looks beautiful! Very nice job!

annieseats said...

Great job, Amber! I was looking through Dorie's cookbook last night at B&N and thought this recipe looked fab. Yours is one of the prettiest I've seen so far - awesome work!

White On Rice Couple said...

This white buttercream frosted cake looks so beautiful on your black background!

Jigginjessica said...

Yay Amber!!! It turned out so awesome! Congrats on another successful challenge.

briannalee said...

You did a beautiful job on your cake, Congrats!

smellslikehome said...

what a perfect looking cake Amber!! Dorie would be proud! :)

smellslikehome said...

what a perfect looking cake Amber! Dorie would be so proud! :)

Joy said...

Delicious - your piping is fantastic! Your sponge looks so pure and white - perfect!

CB said...

Love the strawberry garnish on top! Great job!
Clara @ I♥food4thought

L Vanel said...

Definitely! The cake does look absolutely perfect. Great job!

Marie said...

Ohh, I love your cake Amber!! It's picture perfect! Well done! I think this cake will be my standard celebration cake from now on!

Bellini Valli said...

I love the piping around the bottom edges for that extra bit of flair Amber:D Congrats on a job well doen:D

bombshellwithin said...

Oh wow! Your cake looks just like the picture! I'm so envious, well done!

Jenny said...

Really Beautiful! It's been so fun looking at all the nice cakes!

chelley325 said...

Looks absolutely beautiful! Your slice looks just like the book! Great job! :)

Kate said...

The frosting looks soooo perfect!

April said...

Great job on the cake! It looks wonderful!

Claire said...

Your cake looks JUST LIKE the one in Dorie's book...perfect! I'm impressed!

Peabody said...

It turned out fabulous. Job well done.

Beth G. said...

You did a beautiful job Amber!! It looks delicious!

robin (caviar and codfish) said...

I *love* your strawberry on top!

katskitchen said...

I love your scalloped cake board idea. Did you cut that yourself or buy them like that, your cake looks great too!

HoneyB said...

Looks great! The layers are gorgeous!

Namratha said...

WOW that looks gorgeous...well done!!

Lesley said...

Your icing job is great. I like the idea of strawberries too, very nice!

culinography said...

Your cake looks wonderful! Such a beautiful job decorating, Amber!

Amy J. said...

Elegant! That is one pretty cake.

Deborah said...

Gorgeous cake!!

~Amber~ said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
~Amber~ said...

Thank you everyone for such great comments. This was such a fun challenge.

katskitchen
I actually bought the scalloped cake circles at Hobby Lobby. I did not even see regular ones so I just bought these. :)

Ally said...

Looks awesome! I can't wait to update mine, but unfortunately it will be a day late. : ( Your layers are perfect!

Miss Ifi said...

Wow that cake looks so pretty!! and you decorated it so well!! Congratulations!!!

Big Boys Oven said...

oh so gorgeous!

Baking Soda said...

Pretty cake Amber!

Big Boys Oven said...

just so irresistable!

Big Boys Oven said...

just so irresistable!

Morven said...

You did a spectacular job of decorating your cake. Glad you enjoyed the challenge.

Kelly-Jane said...

A pretty, perfect cake, it looks just like Dorie's! Well done.

Candace said...

Wow! Fabulous! Your layers are perfect. :)

Katie said...

Looks FABULOUS Amber. And see now you can finally eat the cake you've wanted! :)

ruthEbabes said...

Such a gorgeous cake! Great decoration! I'm sure it tasted even better than it looks too!

Dhanggit said...

this is what i call a perfect party cake!! would love to have a slice..:-)

chou said...

I really like your little flowers along the bottom. Lovely!

Shannon said...

amber your cake looks beautiful.

KN said...

OOh, I love the strawberry on top! So lovely!

Jenny said...

Your cake looks magnificent!

Texana said...

Next time I make this, I'm doing strawberry! Your cake looks fabulous. Great job!

Cookie baker Lynn said...

Your cake turned out perfectly! I love the strawberry fan on top.

Liliana said...

Your cake looks gorgeous! I am sure it tasted wonderful!

Brilynn said...

Looks wonderfully fluffy and light! I'm a fan of lemon so I actually added extra!

Butta Buns said...

I used strawberries too and loved how the fresh berry and lemon flavors were a perfect compliment to each other. It looks beautiful, especially with the artfully splayed berry on top.

Carrie said...

How pretty!

Robin said...

Wow, this looks gorgeous! Great job :-)

The Food Librarian said...

Beautiful! I love the addition of the fresh strawberries!

Passionate baker...& beyond said...

Oh Amber...it'd declectable, it's pretty, it's light & it's BEAUTIFUL!! I love the way it looks & the trimming at the bottom too! Absolutely the perfect cake!

kellypea said...

Cute, cute, cute! I'm loving those little flowery decorations around the bottom. Very nice work. I'll bet that strawberry was a nice compliment to the lemon even if the lemon was stronger than you wanted...:)

Gigi said...

You did an amazing job decorating your cake! I especially the flower border on the bottom.

Kim said...

A gorgeous cake, love the strawberry which is my favorite hands down. Master presentation.

said...

Oh my goodness! Your cake looks absolutely delectable! Your layers cake out really nice and evenly too. Mine were quite the mess! The red looks so fantastic peeking out between all that gorgeous white.

Nemmie said...

Beautiful cake! Love the strawberries :)

Rosie said...

What a stunning cake amber! well done :)

Tartelette said...

Gorgeous cake! Bravo for another challenge well done! The cake looks indeed per-fect!

Katie said...

Wow your cake looks stunning. The layers are so wonderfully white and I love the little flowers you piped around the edge.

Jenny said...

Beautiful work, your cake looks wonderful. I like the extra touch of the yellow in the flowers on the border.

Big Boys Oven said...

Hahahahaha! Defintely a PERFECT party cake!

Andrea said...

Your cake looks so pretty, like a spring garden. Love the little flowers around the bottom.

creampuff said...

Amber,

That is such a pretty cake! Seriously. I love the way you made the strawberry look almost like a rose!

CupcakeLady said...

This cake look absolutely gorgeous!!!!

Molly Loves Paris said...

You cake is beautiful, and I love the flower garland, but for the life of me I can't figure out what made the center of the flowers.

hornedfroggy said...

Amber - your cake is GORGEOUS!! :)

Cassi said...

Looks like REAL flowers. And once again you forgot about your FAVORITE sister!

WOW! 76 comments.
Maybe you should start a restaraunt or... publish a book!

Jaime said...

wow, look how PERFECT your layers look! i'm so jealous! great job! i love the flowers at the bottom :)