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Daring Bakers: Dorie's Perfect Party Cake

March 30, 2008

Yes, my friends, it’s that time again, Daring Baker time! This month our hostess is Morven and she chose one of Dorie’s recipes from Baking: My Home to Yours! Another Dorie recipe? Yep. Can’t get enough!
I completed this challenge early in the month for my grandmother’s birthday party. :-) The cake recieved rave reviews from my whole family. Even the non-lemon-lovers liked it. I added 7-8 drops of yellow food coloring to the frosting to make it grandma’s favorite color and decorated the top with daisies. I think the yellow frosting looks lovely in contrast to the white coconut and daisies, very spingy. I presented the cake on a platter that I thought complimented its delicate appearance.
Be prepared dear reader, although this cake looks and even tastes delicate, it is not. It has a lot of butter and several egg whites in it! Tasty but perhaps not so good for the waistline… this is baking after all, not dieting. Be Daring, give it a try!
As usual, I will post the recipe as given to me (on the secret DB website) and post my comments in purple.

Words from Dorie
Stick a bright-coloured Post-it to this page, so you’ll always know where to turn for a just-right cake for any celebration. The original recipe was given to me by my great dear friend Nick Malgieri, of baking fame, and since getting it, I’ve found endless opportunities to make it – you will too. The cake is snow white, with an elegant tight crumb and an easygoing nature: it always bakes up perfectly; it is delicate on the tongue but sturdy in the kitchen – no fussing when it comes to slicing the layers in half or cutting tall, beautiful wedges for serving; and, it tastes just as you’d want a party cake to taste – special. The base recipe is for a cake flavoured with lemon, layered with a little raspberry jam and filled and frosted with a classic (and so simple) pure white lemony hot-meringue buttercream but, because the elements are so fundamental, they lend themselves to variation (see Playing Around), making the cake not just perfect, but also versatile.

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
7-8 drops yellow food coloring

For Finishing
2/3 cup seedless raspberry preserves stirred vigorously or warmed gently until spreadable (I used a blueberry, blackberry, raspberry fruit spread).
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 (mine are actually 8 x 2 inch, not a problem) and line the bottom of each pan with a round of buttered parchment or wax paper. B was sweet enough to cut out round shapes in parchment paper for me. 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). I baked my cakes on a Saturday and let them cool on the counter overnight. I made the remaining components and assembled the cake on Sunday, the day of the party.

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 and food coloring.
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. I was terrified to cut the cakes in half! I used a long bread knife and worked slowly/surely. It turned out to be no problem at all.
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. Place decor, such as fresh daisies, on top. I also put some daisies around the cake and lightly sprinkled some coconut on the serving platter.

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. I assembled mine in the morning and we enjoyed it at the party in the afternoon. It was never refrigerated. 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. In my family the preferred drink is generally coffee, except for grandma (I believe she had a glass of ice water).

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. I used a tri-fruit conserve.

Love this photograph? It can be puchased here.

A lot of love went into this cake! Please stop by the other Daring Baker blogs to see their perfect party cakes. I’m sure they put a lot of love/time/energy into theirs as well!

26 Comments leave one →
  1. March 30, 2008 6:45 pm

    Pretty cake!

  2. March 30, 2008 7:35 pm

    You could SELL that cake! Very very nicely done!!

  3. March 30, 2008 8:29 pm

    Beautiful cake, The flowers are a nice touch. Congratulations on a job well done.

  4. March 30, 2008 8:36 pm

    A couple things to say really, 1. Love the name…you must be fabulous :)
    2. Your cake is beautiful…really great job!
    3. Love your blog, you seem like my kinda girl..I will be putting yours on my list of my favs on my blog tonight!
    4. Looking forward to seeing more!

    Glad to find you :)


  5. March 30, 2008 8:49 pm

    Wow, that’s one beautiful cake – I love how you decorated it!

  6. March 30, 2008 9:24 pm

    Your photography is beautiful! Can you give a beginner food-blogger some tips to creating great pictures of food?

  7. Anne permalink
    March 30, 2008 9:36 pm

    Such a stunning cake!

  8. March 30, 2008 10:31 pm

    The yellow frosting and the daisies are just beautiful! The visuals are stunning. Great job!

  9. Pixie permalink
    March 30, 2008 10:51 pm

    i love cakes with fresh flowers! Wonderful Cake you made!

  10. March 31, 2008 9:46 am

    Oh so pretty, can;t take my eyes off of it…very well done!

  11. March 31, 2008 9:52 am

    All right – wonderful job, and a beautiful cake!

  12. March 31, 2008 2:05 pm

    Your cake is beautiful!

  13. March 31, 2008 3:27 pm

    from another carrie to you (I agree with the above carrie… fabulous name dear!!) that is one gorgeous cake! You go girl!!

  14. March 31, 2008 9:10 pm

    Fabulous cake!! I had the joy of being able to have a slice of this cake. Excellent!! The lemon is just enough (I am not a lemon lover) to make this cake one of my favorites!!!

  15. March 31, 2008 9:11 pm

    Love the yellow under the coconut!
    So pretty, bet Grandma was pretty happy!

  16. April 1, 2008 12:21 am

    WOW – beautiful photos, your cake looks so yummy!

  17. April 1, 2008 12:46 am

    What a pretty cake!! Love the flowers.


  18. April 1, 2008 11:40 am

    Your cake looks fabulous! I love the flower, and the lovely yellow colour that is peeking out from the coconut! Well done!

  19. April 1, 2008 1:46 pm

    I love the presentation on this, and after seeing white cake after white cake, I just love the light yellow – it is so elegant.

  20. Iisha permalink
    April 2, 2008 12:21 pm

    WOW… you’re cake looks AMAZING.
    It truly looks great.. love the decorating style…. and yes, you can tell that a lot of love went into making that cake.

    Good job!

  21. April 2, 2008 2:10 pm

    The daisies are a fantastic compliment to the coconut and the yellow frosting. It’s really beautiful.

  22. April 3, 2008 7:45 pm

    That’s truly gorgeous. I mean that.

  23. April 14, 2008 4:22 pm

    absolutely beautiful! i wish you had gotten a picture of the layers inside…

  24. ravikumar permalink
    September 20, 2008 6:42 pm

    very good one i like cake and love food


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