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Daring Bakers March Challenge: Dorie Greenspan’s Perfect Party Cake

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This month’s Daring Bakers Challenge was hosted by Morven of Food Art and Random Thoughts. She chose Dorie Greenspan’s Perfect Party Cake from her fabulous book Baking: From My Home to Yours. I was pleased with this challenge because I knew that it would be good since it is a Dorie recipe. As a Tuesdays With Dorie member, I have gotten to be very familiar with her recipes and know that she writes them so well and makes it easy to follow. I found this challenge to be very easy. I have had a pretty good bit of experience making layer cakes, and this recipe went as I expected it to. For this challenge, we were allowed to play around with the fillings and frostings, but I chose to make it as it was written because the flavors already sounded perfect to me. This cake is actually very similar to the cake that David and I will have at our wedding in May. I loved the raspberry filling and it was great with the lemon flavor in the cake as well as the flavor of the buttercream frosting. I think the scary part about making this recipe was not the baking, but the fact that the entire cake had a pound of butter!🙂 I brought this cake to Easter dinner and everyone kept telling me how good it was. I would definitely make this again to serve for a nice occasion. Be sure to check out the Daring Bakers Blogroll to see how creative everyone got with the Perfect Party Cake!

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For the Cake

2 1/4 cups cake flour (updated 25 March)
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 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.

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 flavor, 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.

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31 Responses

  1. Heh…I had to pause at the pound of butter as well! Darn buttercream!

  2. yumm! looks fabulous Erin!

  3. I was floored by the buttercream as well – definitely think I’ll use a cream cheese frosting next time, just for the sake of my hips! It looks awesome though!

    • I just bought Dorie’s book last week and made this cake for my father’s 81st birthday. I substituted blueberry preserves for the raspberry and used cream cheese frosting and it was great! I just didn’t want to have to deal with four more orphan egg yolks if I had made the original buttercream recipe.

  4. Yours looks wonderful! Congrats on a very successful challenge.

  5. Wow wow! A delicious looking party cake!

  6. Looks fabulous!

  7. Beautiful layers! What a lovely memory of your wedding! Great job!
    Clara @ I♥food4thought

  8. Looks absolutely beautiful Erin! Great job!

  9. Looks wonderful! Great job🙂

  10. lord have mercy, that buttercream makes me swoon. and drool.🙂

  11. Oh wow, I’m bad…lol. I didn’t pause at the amount of butter at ALL. LOL. Your cake looks wonderful. Just looking at the photo reminds me of how it tasted and I wouldn’t mind a piece right now!

  12. Looks just perfect to me!

  13. WOW Erin…how perfect this is! I love the moist fluffy look that your cake has. It has also sliced so beautifully.

  14. Your cake looks wonderful!!

  15. Looks fabulous!

  16. Yumm looks good!

  17. Yours looks perfect – and I agree about the buttercream.

    But still. yumyumyum.

  18. Looks fabulous! It was such a fantastic cake!

  19. Yup that cake definitely looks delicious!!! *takes some* Congratulations on your challenge!!!

  20. Looks “perfect!” Nice job.

  21. […] for a Hazelnut Raspberry Layer Cake, but I decided to just use the buttercream recipe and use Dorie’s Perfect Party Cake as the base.  Dorie’s cake appealed to me more than the hazelnut cake, and I thought that […]

  22. […] Kitchen.  When I first heard the name of this cake, the first thing that popped in my mind was the Perfect Party Cake.  I thought they would be similar, but instead I saw that the Berry Surprise Cake was actually […]

  23. […] 26th birthday. I thought this would be a perfect opportunity to make the cake. I decided to make Dorie’s Perfect Party Cake as well. Everyone loved them and they sure didn’t last long! It was a very moist cake and the […]

  24. Very well..

    I am going to try this for my cosins 18th Birthday party.. wish me luck!

  25. […] Dorie’s Perfect Party Cake- not a particularly challenging recipe, but this was an amazing cake that I’ve made several times in the past year.  It’s so adaptable and perfect for any occasion! […]

  26. […] frosting for the cake, which was much easier to work with than last week.  For the cake I made Dorie’s Perfect Party Cake, because I figured a party cake would go great with […]

  27. […] stir chose Dorie’s Perfect Party Cake this week.  It truly is a perfect cake.  I first made it when it was chosen by the Daring Bakers in March 2008.  It was the perfect choice for an Easter […]

  28. […] El look at my Dorie Greenspan book. HOO-BOY, did she ever get a baking boner! We finally decided on Dorie’s Perfect Party Cake because El had a hankerin’ for some lemon and berries and I’m easy like Sunday […]

  29. Hi. Really nice information on Maqui Berry. I happened upon your good blog while exploring yahoo. For the last few days I have been trying to learn more. Specially anything to do with the diet talk. I’ve heard it all and my neighbor continues promoting her newfound weight loss craze on me. So I am grateful I discovered you. All the best!

  30. […] feel that Easter dessert warrants something a bit different.  Two years ago, I made Dorie’s Perfect Party Cake, and last year I made this Strawberry Mirror Cake.  This year we had a small Easter celebration […]

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