Sunday, March 30, 2008

Perfect Party Cake!

It's that time of the month again. Daring Baker Challenge time! Hoooray! This month's Daring Baker Challenge was Dorie Greenspan's Perfect Party Cake and was picked out by Morven at Food Art and Random Thoughts. When I first saw the recipe I thought, well this isn't very challenging. I can make a cake. I'm actually pretty good at buttercream frosting. And I can deal with the amount of fruit in jam. But then I noticed that I would have to cut the cakes in half. So AHA! It was going to be a challenge after all.
I remembered a photo from an old Betty Crocker cookbook of my mother's that had toothpicks along the outside of the cake and they used the toothpicks as a guide to cutting the cake. I was pretty impressed. That worked out pretty good. Well it worked pretty good for about 1 1/2 cakes. The last half cake wasn't so hot. I also realized it was a challenge to spread frosting on top of jam. I will have to experiment more to get this just right. But overall this wasn't too difficult.

So what did it taste like? Well I was expecting a pretty boring cake to be perfectly honest. But this is no ordinary boring cake. This was a light fluffy super lemony cake! We gobbled it up after Easter dinner. Even the leftovers were fantastic. This was indeed a perfect party cake.

Make sure you check out the other Daring Bakers here.

For the Cake:
2 1/4 cups cake flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 ¼ cups buttermilk
4 large egg whites
1 ½ cups sugar
grated lemon zest from 1 whole lemon
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

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 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).

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.


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.


Kristen said...

I love your cake. the frosting is so smooth and perfect and the design on top is amazing!

Annemarie said...

The jam-and-buttercream spreading was indeed *messy*. But, yours doesn't show the effects of it at all - I love the little jeweled window panes on top. And so smooth! So Smooth!

CB said...

Lovely cake, Mary! The petals filled with jam on the top is beautiful. Great job!
Clara @ I♥food4thought

breadchick said...

Lovely frosted and cake this month! How ever did you manage it with all that is going on in your life right now??!!

Jerry said...

Wow! Great piping!

Tartelette said...

Mary you did a awesome job! I love your decorations and the cake looks fluffy and moist a plenty! Yum!

Deborah said...

I'm gonna have to give that toothpick trick a try - what a great idea! Your cake looks beautiful!

Gretchen Noelle said...

Great to hear that you were challenged in some way by this, that what it is all about. You made a beautiful cake, very impressive. And I am glad to hear that it wasn't "boring!"

Bellini Valli said...

I am sure that your cake was the perfect ending for your Easter dinner Mary.I love the way you have decorated your creation as well...very impressive:D

Anonymous said...

I made a cooked meringue buttercream frosting yesterday for Child's birthday cake (the first in a series this weekend). I DID NOT allow myself to be intimidated, and it worked perfectly. Thanks to the KitchenAid! I thought of you while making it, saying, Mary would be so proud!

slush said...

Its gorgeous Mary! Looks like a professional bakery cake, perfect for a baptism! Beautiful job!

Lunch Buckets said...

Very pretty! Good job :)

glamah16 said...

Mary this is so beautiful. You got skillz! Yes I had the same impresion at first. But I find its os adaptable and hardly boring.

Cynthia said...

Your cake is indeed perfection! I love the decorating.

Jenny said...

I agree - this cake had a much better flavor and texture than I dreamed it could have. Nice job on this one!

Cakelaw said...

Mary, your cake looks so pretty! Too good to eat. Even though I found the cake was a nightmare to handle, I agree that it tasted lemony good.

Emiline said...

Your cake looks fabulous!
I'm always afraid to split cakes. In fact, I don't think I've ever done it before.

Pixie said...

Beautiful cake Mary! You're such a pro! :)

Lesley said...

Very pretty, I really like the jam on top.

Elle said...

Gorgeous cake! The thinish layers were a bit difficult to split, but I love your description of the taste when captured the essence.

Jennifer said...

Great looking cake! It is well... perfect! :)

Sheltie Girl said...

Great job! I love your decorating.

Natalie @ Gluten A Go Go

Andrea said...

How did you get the frosting so smooth on top? It looks beautiful!