Sunday, March 30, 2008

Daring Bakers: Perfect Party Cake

It's kind of odd that I would post two cakes in a row (seeing how I don't often post about cakes) but my last entry was a cake too. But it's cake time in my family with so many birthdays right now and the Daring Bakers challenge demands it! I was extremely happy with the Daring Bakers' challenge for March - a Dorie Greenspan recipe. It's a 4 layer lemon cake, with lemon buttercream icing, layers of strawberry jam (which no one would suspect is just regular jam), and covered with shredded coconut on the outside.

I made the cake for my boyfriend's birthday and everyone really liked it. The flavours and textures went really well together (loved the coconut on the outside). The cake itself was perfectly soft and a bit spongey - kind of like an angel food cake mixed with a light cake. In other words, very awesome.

I will definitely make the cake part again, and want to try out different frostings. And actually for this challenge, people were free to change up the flavours being used so I can't wait to check out other people's cakes and get inspired! I used to think I hated buttercreams, but this is the second Daring Bakers challenge that has made me love it. I realize now that there are different kinds of buttercream, and some of them are just beating together butter and icing sugar pretty much. But the one used in this recipe is Swiss buttercream which is oh so tasty.

The only bad thing about this cake making experience was that I used a spatula for the icing that had the taste of burnt plastic. So the icing to me had this faint burnt plastic taste. And as you can see, my layers are not very even so I need to work on learning how to slice a cake into 2 layers.

Thanks Morven for choosing this most delicious recipe. Check out the other Daring Bakers and see how beautiful their cakes are! (I really need to develop some cake decorating skills.)

Perfect Party Cake
Baking: From My Home to Yours

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 (I prefer buttermilk with the lemon)
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, 1 1/2 cups) 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 1/2 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
1. Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt.
2. Whisk together the milk and egg whites in a medium bowl.
3. 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.
4. Finally, give the batter a good 2- minute beating to ensure that it is thoroughly mixed and well aerated.
5. Divide the batter between the two pans and smooth the tops with a rubber spatula.
6. 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
7. 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.
8. 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
1. 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.
2. Working with the whisk attachment or with a hand mixer, beat the meringue on medium speed until it is cool, about 5 minutes.
3. Switch to the paddle attachment if you have one, and add the butter a stick at a time, beating until smooth.
4. 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.
5. 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
1. Using a sharp serrated knife and a gentle sawing motion, slice each layer horizontally in half.
2. Put one layer cut side up on a cardboard cake round or a cake plate protected by strips of wax or parchment paper.
3. Spread it with one third of the preserves.
4. Cover the jam evenly with about one quarter of the buttercream.
5. 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).
6. Place the last layer cut side down on top of the cake and use the remaining buttercream to frost the sides and top.
7. 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.

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.


CB said...

Beautiful cake. So glad you enjoyed it. I want to make your caramel cake soon. I lurve caramel! It sounds yummy!
Clara @ I♥food4thought

Gretchen Noelle said...

What a lovely cake! It looks great!

Sarah said...

Your cake looks great! I really enjoyed this cake and need to work on my cake decorating skills as well! :)

Courtney said...

your cake looks great and I am glad you got to use it for your boyfriends birthday

Claire said...

So pretty! Your cake looks thicker than mine....I wonder what the difference is.

javagirlkt's cookin' said...

looks awesome!!

i made a cake once and my spatula actually started shredding into the batter!! darn spatulas!!!

Deborah said...

Your cake looks gorgeous!! Wonderful job!

Kevin said...

That cake looks good!

Cakespy said...

Pleasuretown, population whoever was in your house whenever this baby was frosted and presented. Oh man, nice entry!!!!

giz said...

The pictures are totally amazing - that cake is jumping off the page and it looks fabulous.

kimberleyblue said...

I need cake decorating skills too (but yours looks pretty good as is)!

Your cake is really pretty - great job! Happy you liked it.

Lesley said...

Your cake looks like it came together just perfectly! Nice job!

Mansi Desai said...

wow, such perfect layers in that cake! you did a great job with replicating the recipe!:) nicely done!!

Antonio Tahhan said...

the side view of the cake pre-frosting is a great shot! your layers look light and delicious.

Gigi said...

I love all the photos! You did an awesome job!

Kevin said...

Your cake looks really good! I had the same thoughts about the buttercream.

A. Grace said...

mmm...burnt spatula, one of my favorite flavors. :)

i am absolutely infatuated with your thick, thick layers of buttercream. the entire cake looks like it would just melt in your mouth.

how delightful--good job!

Hannah said...

With a cake as lovely as this, I'm sure that even a faint plastic-y taste could be forgiven. It looks great!

Dolores said...

I don't think there's anything wrong with your cake decorating skills; the pale fluffy coconut sets the mood beautifully (and I'm betting it provides the perfect texture contrast to the smooth butter cream). Congratulations on another successful challenge.

Mary said...

2 cakes in a row?? what a great week! your DB Dorie cake is beautiful!

Erin said...

Your cake is so beautiful! Your layers rose so perfectly and the frosting looks so nice and fluffy!

Mevrouw Cupcake said...

Moutherwatering! This is a great looking cake!

sarahmarie said...

How did you get it to raise so much? It is beautiful. Nice job!

winedeb said...

Very inviting! Looks like spring!

VeggieGirl said...

ashley, you're a pro!! look at how BREATHTAKINGLY gorgeous that cake is!! I always spread frosting with a knife, rather than a spatula - I find it to be easier :0)

Miss Ifi said...

Your cake looks sooo yummy!!! Congratulations on your challenge!! *gives you a brand new spatula*

Anonymous said...

only the best from you as always!

Fabulous looking cake, the coconut looks yummy!

Gloria said...

So beautiful cake!!! mmmmmlooks delicious! xxGloria

Helene said...

Can you share a piece? Gorgeous cake.

kitten said...

your cake looks so light and fluffy....just beautiful. you're lucky boyfriend !

eatme_delicious said...

Thanks everyone for all the wonderful comments. :) As for how I got my cake to rise like that, I just followed the recipe. Maybe it was the cake flour I used (Swan's Down)?

deb said...

great job!

Holler said...

That is a mountain of a cake Ashley! You put it altogether beautifully! I really want a slice. I can almost taste it!

cinderelly said...

coconut, one of my very favorites! this cake looks wonderful!

Tartelette said...

Looks awesome! Congrats on your second challenge!

eatme_delicious said...

deb: Thanks!

Holler: Thanks. :) Wish I could give you a slice!

cinderelly: Mmm me too I love coconut.

Tartelette: Thanks!

Dhruv said...

your cakes look amazing ...Is cake flour different from self-raising flour ???

lovey said...

your cakes look reallly amzaing..i wanna try these ones..Is cake flour different from self-raising flour ???

eatme_delicious said...

Dhruv & lovey: No it's not the same. Here's a definition I found:
"Cake flour is a low gluten flour that has also been chemically altered slightly for better use in cake baking.

Self raising flour is generally all purpose flour that has had baking powder mixed in, and do not require any additional baking powder to be added when making biscuits, pancakes or muffins." (

lovey said...

thank u soo much for ur reply. It was very helpful.