Sunday, March 30, 2008

Perfect Party Cake - A Daring Bakers Challenge

This was my very first Daring Bakers Challenge. I am happy to report that it was a success! But, before I discuss the challenge, let me tell you a little bit about how I came to join this group of talented bakers.

I am relatively new to the world of food blogging. As I began pouring over other food blogs, I kept seeing the logo for Daring Bakers. After reading many other's posts about their participation, I knew I had to join. The idea is simple. Each month a new challenge is presented to the members. We have the entire month to bake the challenge, but we all have to post on the same day. Today is the day. Today is the day of my first challenge.

So, I give you the Perfect Party Cake. First of all, it was chosen by Morven from Food Art and Random Thoughts. I was very excited to bake this cake. I proudly own this cookbook, so I was very excited to have a reason to bake it. Not only does the cake look wonderful in the cookbook, but it tastes yummy as well. And, the mere fact that the cake was a Dorie Greenspan concoction made it that more exciting. The cake itself was so moist. The texture was light and airy, and very delicate. The butter cream frosting added the perfect sweetness. My only deviation came in the form of the layers. The recipe has you bake 2 9-inch rounds and cut them in half to make four layers. Based on the batter, I ended up with 3 layers. I basically only cut one of the layers in half.

If you have a special occasion coming up, you should give this cake a try. I promise you won't regret it. It is a real winner!!

Perfect Party Cake
Courtesy of Dorie Greenspan’s Baking from My Home to Yours

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 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.

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.


Anonymous said...

Welcome to the DB foray and the foodie blogging community. I followed the little DB logos before my first challenge too. So nice to see that your cake was a success.

Sarah said...

Welcome to DB's. Your cake came out beautiful and looks delicous. Great job!
I felt the same way about the DB's after I kept seeing the logo everywhere! What fun!

Jenny said...

Welcome to the Daring Bakers! Your cake looks marvelous.

Erika said...

Your cake looks great! I came across your site on the Daring Bakers Blogroll and noticed it right away because of the name. My very good friend is named Renee and we call her Nay Nay! Love it!

creampuff said...

Congratulations on your first DB challenge! We're proud of you!

Morven said...

oooh - so fluffy looking and on such a cute plate too. Glad you enjoyed the challenge.

SweetDesigns said...

Wonderful cake!! And congrats on the Challenge!!

Big Boys Oven said...

this is so beautifully done, a perfect piece of a party cake!

Hilary said...

I am indulging in a slice of your perfect party cake right this second.

Renee said...

A big Thank You for commenting on my blog.

bombshellwithin (I love that name), thank you for the warm welcome.

sarah, jenny, erika, creampuff, morven, sweetdesigns, and big boys oven - thank you for your kind words of welome.

hilary - thank you for being my guinea pig each week!!!

Lunch Buckets said...

Congratulations, your cake looks great! Welcome to the group :)

Gretchen Noelle said...

What a great job you did on your first DB challenge! Welcome!