The food part of this blog has moved to I'll see all you foodies over there!

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Daring Bakers - March Challenge - Dorie's Perfect Party Cake

Oh, I have waited so long for March 30th to roll around. I had made my cake a few weeks ago and was itching to post it. This month's challenge: Dorie's Perfect Party Cake, hosted by Morven at Food Art and Random Thoughts. Making a cake from scratch was something I haven't done before. When you can buy a cake mix for a buck, and the ease of baking a cake by adding only a few ingredients, it has been appealing enough to keep doing it that way. Although every time I eat a cake made from a mix, there is that slight disappointment that it wasn't as good as a good cake should taste. So I was really excited about this month's challenge. But I wanted to keep it plain, white cake with white frosting, so I omitted the extra flavorings. Oh, and I added some strawberries.

Here's the recipe:

For the Cake

2 1/4 cups cake flour

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 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

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 CakeSift 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 cleanTransfer 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.


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.StoringThe 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.

I'm not sure if the cake didn't rise as much as it was supposed to, but cutting that in half would of ended in really thin layers of cake, so I stuck with two layers instead of four. I cut up fresh strawberries for the center, sandwiched by the buttercream. The buttercream had a really nice texture, nice and thick, not runny at all. Next time I would add some sort of flavoring, I had omitted the lemon juice and subbed vanilla, but the flavor was very bland and it was like eating shortening. But I was pleased that it wasn't overly sweet. And maybe instead of buttercream in the middle, a custard cream would be good. All in all, a very pleasant experience. Thanks Morven!


mimi said...

your cake came out looking beautiful! love the strawberry slices in the middle!

Anne said...

The cake is simply beautiful :)

Lunch Buckets said...

Nice job! I like the little berry pillows...pillows of buttercream...niiiiiice :)

Miss Ifi said...

Your cake looks so nice with those big strawberries on top and the middle layer of decadent strawberries. Congratulations on your challenge!!!

JMom said...

I'm going to be baking this cake again with strawberries as soon as we can get them good and ripe in our area. Your cake looks delicious!

Erika said...

Ooh, I like the idea of strawberries and custard! Yum, makes me want to eat some cake!

Colette said...

I like the strawberries and custard idea! Your cake looks really pretty, even if the taste wasn't you favorite. Eye candy! I love the way you placed the strawberries

Sheltie Girl said...

You did a wonderful job on your cake. Good Luck with your first printing job.

Natalie @ Gluten A Go go