March 30, 2008

dorie's perfect party cake

i was so excited to find out that this month's challenge was a cake! finally! lol! thank you morven! cookies and cakes are by far my favouite things to put together, and even though i actually own dorie greenspan's from my home to yours, i had yet to make anything from it. i know there's a lot of dorie fans out there, but for me, martha's my baking idol. no worries, though, i was happy making any cake for the challenge! luckily, we have a march birthday in the family so i had an occasion to make this perfect party cake.
i am not really a novice baker, nor am i an expert, and this recipe was easy to follow, and tasted fantastic. with every new recipe i try, the first time i either undercook or burn whatever it is i'm baking. it's not me, it's my oven. i've said it before. usually i take about 1/3 off the cooking time and then check every couple minutes. dorie's instructions say to bake for 30-35 minutes, and my oven baked it in just over 22 minutes. to be honest, i probably should have taken it out when i first started to smell it 'cause it was a little darker (not burnt, YAY!) than i wanted it to be. ah well, next time it will be perfect!

i didn't really feel like messing with the recipe so i pretty much followed it word for word, except for the buttermilk... we didn't have any so i used whole milk. i used organic meyer lemons for the zest and juice, and an organic wild blackberry jam. yumm!

the cake itself was light and lemony, and the buttercream was nice and smooth, not too sweet. i love coconut so i used a sweetened flake, which as it turned out, was the hardest thing about this recipe! how does one get coconut flakes on the sides of the cake without getting buttercream all over your hands!?! i've tried putting "jimmies" on the sides of cakes before and i've always had problems with that. argh!

Courtesy of Dorie Greenspan’s Baking from My Home to Yours (page 250.)

For the Cake

2 ½ 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

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.

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 cleanTransfer 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).

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.

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.ServingThe 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.StoringThe 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.
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.


Lesley said...

Your cake turned out so pretty! I agree, it's hard to get the coconut on, so I just put it on top!! I think I need a turntable, that makes it a lot easier.

Amy J. said...

Good job! That is a beautiful cake!

coco said...

Your cake looks truly beautiful :)

Jenny said...

Regarding the buttercream mess when applying coconut - these are the times I miss working in a professional kitchen. When I was a cake decorator every cake was decorated on a piece of cardboard that was barely larger than the cake. To put things on the sides (nuts, coconut, sprinkles) all you had to do was hold it in one hand above the container with the coconut in it and throw handfuls on, allowing the stuff that didn't stick to fall back into the container. At home where the cake is on a much larger plate, this is much more difficult! Next time I may make my own cake circles to make it easier to work with.

Miss Ifi said...

Your cake looks great! the layers have the contrast of the jam and the cream.. yum yum yum!!!
Congratulations on a well done challenge!

Lunch Buckets said...

Very pretty! Blackberry is my favorite preserve, I bet it was wonderful with the lemon :)

Elle said...

Gorgeous cake Deb! Perfect for a special birthday :D
The trick with the coconut is that you cup some in your hand and move it toward the icing, but don't really press...just let the strands stick that stick once they come in contact with the buttercream. Then repeat until you are happy with the results. Lots of the coconut will fall down around the bottom of the cake, but if you put pieces of waxed paper just under the edges of the cake (I used 5 thin ones), you can pull them out once you are finished and it leaves the bottom of the cake area clean.

deb said...

thanks everyone!

the blackberry with the lemon was so tasty i'm going to make another!

and thanks for the tips, jenny and elle!

Big Boys Oven said...

a very cute achievement! cool! you rock!

HoneyB said...

A beautiful cake, looks so delish!

Shadow Cutting said...

MMmmm.. delicious photos! I want to eat it! haahaa! Have a nice day!