Monday, March 31, 2008

Perfect Party Cake with the Daring Bakers

I'm late posting today. Should have posted yesterday. But for some reason, I'm so tired I'm wondering what's wrong with me these days. And D. is leaving in a week. So I'm not much of a poster. But I made the cake, and it really is a great cake. Thank you Morven for the great recipe! The recipe was really easy to follow and must be totally foolproof since I managed to follow it that day. You see, when I saw that this months challenge was a cake I thought GREAT! This will be my birthday cake! And so I decided to make it for my birthday, which was on the 16th of March. That being a Sunday, D.'s parents decided to come visiting on the Saturday (they get to do some driving to get here). On Friday night we went out for dinner with some friends, and ended up at a friends appartment having a few drinks and talking for some part of the night. And on Saturday morning I was going to make cake, which I was hoping to finish before guests arriving at lunchtime. I started out maybe at around 10, and by noon the cake was baked (in spite of my not having two equal sized spring forms so I actually halved the recipe and made it twice) the buttercream was made and some raspberry mixed with sugar and pureed was taken out of the freezer. This must mean that the recipe is almost perfect, since the only thing I can do in such situations is to follow the recipe to the letter (which has lead to disasters before..). And well, my cake wasn't that pretty (it was put together with three people waiting eagerly for it), but my, it did taste great. And the day after, on my birthday, when my mother was visiting it even led her to enjoy something containing buttercream for probably the first time in her life. I followed the recipe also when it came to flavoring, with coconut on the sides of the cake, lemon in the buttercream and raspberry for the second kind of filling. I didn't have any seedless raspberry preserves though (haven't ever seen it), but used some raspberry coulis D. made at some earlier point to go with a chocolate mousse, and from which he had frozen leftovers. The one thing that I did change though was that though I made buttercream for the layers I did put whipped cream on top. That way it looks a lot more like a traditional birthday cake to me, and less frightening to buttercream sceptics like me (and a few others I wanted to serve it too).
I did have some problems with the layers crumbling (and, as you can see, I didn't do a very good job at doing even sizes), but I liked the taste of everything a lot. Lemon really made buttercream a whole lot better.
It feels a bit extravagant to be using 8 egg whites, but that means that this cake will be a perfect way to use up the leftover whites I usually acumulate. This recipe is a keeper!

Again, thank you Morven, and thank you all other Daring Bakers that make every monthly challenge such a good experience!


Courtesy of Dorie Greenspan’s Baking from My Home to Yours (page 250).
Posting date Sunday 30 March.

(sorry I'm still a bit of a blogger "dummy" so don't know how to highlight in red). For those of you who don't read all the comments or don't have Dorie's book, there were a couple of omissions which some diligent Daring Bakers picked up. If these contributed to a "floppity flops" - my sincere apologies. Please note the changes in bold below - one is the reference to a 1/4 cup of lemon juice and the second is in relation to whisking together the egg whites and milk in the 2nd line of making the cake. I've also expanded on the Update on Playing Around.

Introduction from Morven
I wanted to pick something that had potential for putting your personal stamp on. Although this is essentially a white cake I know there are some lemon haters among us so feel free to use your imagination. If you inner chef tells you that you need to make a chocolate layer cake then by all means do so. See Dorie’s words on playing around below for some flavour combination ideas.

Update on playing around. Yes you can do what ever you want with this cake as long as you promise to use the basic cake recipe and the basic buttercream recipe (if you are doing the buttercream that is) . The filling/frosting flavours are completely up to you. If you don't feel like using Dorie's buttercream recipe (flavoured as you wish) she says whipped cream will do for the filling and finishing and I say... go for it. If you want to use fondant or something else - it's your cake. Bake a square one, a heart shaped one or any other shape you like but please make it a layer cake.

I can't wait to see what combinations people come up with. You can leave out the lemon, put different flavours of preserves in the middle, leave off the coconut - have some fun with it.

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 (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.

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.

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.

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.

1 comment:

leafy bombshell said...

I'm always a bit touchy when it comes to buttercream too. But, the cake still looks good and seems everyone enjoyed it. So all is good in the world of DB cake, no?