Sunday, March 30, 2008

Perfect Party Cake.

Perfect Party Cake

Perfect Party Cake

I recently joined The Daring Bakers, a group of bloggers who agree to bake a chosen recipe each month. This month, the challenge was Dorie Greenspan's Perfect Party Cake from Baking From my Home to Yours. Since i'd made the cake before, I decided to challenge myself with a flavor variation.

This cake lends itself to experimentation; the buttercream recipe is extremely forgiving and the cake layers are sturdy enough to slice and move easily. I flavored my cake layers with almond extract and orange zest and substituted the lemon juice in the buttercream for orange juice. I toasted some sliced almonds for the topping to keep with the orange/almond theme.

The complicated part of this cake was the filling. Instead of the listed buttercream/jam filling, I decided to substitute Sherry Yard's Creme Chiboust recipe from The Secrets of Baking. Creme Chiboust is a pastry cream that's usually lightened with whipped cream or beaten egg whites and gelatin.

I flavored my pastry cream with vanilla beans and orange zest. After incorporating the egg whites I built the cake in a setting ring lined with cake ribbon/transfer sheets. The unchilled filling is too loose to use without a ring. The filling made my cake unbelievably tall- it took the entire buttercream recipe just to frost the top and sides.

When I unmolded the cake to frost it, I was convinced it would fall apart or have big chunks of gelatin in it. I shouldn't have worried so much- it set perfectly and made frosting the outside easy. I think I this was the fastest, neatest frosting job i've ever done! I the cake for a small party and people enjoyed it. It tasted like a light, fluffy burnt almond torte.

Perfect Party Cake
adapted from 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.

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.


Sarah said...

Gorgeous! And your flavor combinations sound so yummy! Great job!!

Aran said...

Hi Lisa- I love what you did here. This was my first challenge so I wanted to really stick to the recipe but next month I'm going all out!
You always impress me seriously. Well done!

Gretchen Noelle said...

What a gorgeous, wonderful looking cake. You always make them look like I am seeing a pastry shop window. Great job!

Vibi said...

Wow! Lisa... what perfection.
I'm amazed! Every line, every detail is flawless; I heard musicians are often, either complete messes or complete neat freaks... you surely must be the latter.
Great job!

Jerry said...

The cake looks lovely! All the layers look even!

Morven said...

Your cake looks gorgeous and I love what you chose for your flavour combo.


Your cake seriously puts mine to shame. It's a work of art!

Tarah said...

Your cake looks drop dead gorgeous! And I love the almond idea!

Karen said...

Beautiful! Your decorating skills are impressive. I love the almond idea. Well done!

Anonymous said...

Absolutely beautiful!

Merav said...

Beautifully done and lovely choice of flavours and fillings!

skrockodile (sabra) said...

This is really elegant. I love the white on white of the filling and cake.

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

A perfect cake! Very pretty and not over-decorated! Very well done!



Lunch Buckets said...

You make it look effortless! Beautiful elegant cake :)

Amy said...

Your cake looks so elegant. I love your decorations.

epsilon said...

Your cake is so beautiful! And so accurate!

Jennifer said...

Oh My! Your cake looks absolutely PERFECT! Great job, and the flavor sounds awesome! :)

Erin said...

Clicking on that link to the Daring Bakers caused me to spend about an hour looking at cakes, when I should have been researching. I propose that, in lieu of final papers, I give my professors homemade cakes. Because, really, which would *you* rather have?

Joey Biscotti said...

your cake is gorgeous! i think we need to trust ourselves and let our creativity run amok on these challenges... we seem to stick right to the challenge recipe... Well done!!!

Sheltie Girl said...

Your cake is simply beautiful.

Great job and welcome to the Daring Bakers!

Natalie @ Gluten a Go Go

Melinda said...

Lisa your cake looks beautiful. I like the sound of the pastry cream. I have Sherry's book so will have a closer look at that recipe. I have a special birthday cake I have been asked to make and wonder if that is a filling to consider for it.
I haven't looked at your blog for a while so I will enjoy browsing through the back posts. You are doing some amazing baking, girl! Very impressive indeed.