Sunday, March 30, 2008

Dorie's Perfect Party Cake

It's that time of the month again! Time to showoff, uh I mean reveal, the Daring Baker's challenge. I must admit, I was giddy when I found out what this months challenge was. With last months savory French Bread challenge I was really hoping for something sweet. I also was really excited to make a cake. This challenge was also a little different in that our host, Morven, left a lot of room for personalization. I choose to stick with the recipe as written, but I could have changed anything from the filling flavor to cake flavor.

Another great thing about this months challenge is that my sister was in town. It was so much fun being able to share this challenge with her. She helped me out by zesting the lemons and starting the meringue for the buttercream. It was a fun day in the kitchen for us. Surprisingly it actually went off with out a hitch. Some DBer's had trouble with their cakes not rising. I didn't have this issue. I checked the cakes at 30 minutes and my toothpick came out clean and the cakes were springy so I took them out. I was also so impressed with how easily the buttercream came together. I'm not sure why I was expecting it to be so challenging. The recipe mentions a point where it looks like it is falling apart, and I definitely reached that point but with in seconds it came back together.

I think when I make this cake again I will try using a whipped cream icing. I liked the butter cream but, for me, it was almost a little heavy for the light delicate cake. If you'd like to see what the other DBer's have been up to check out the blogroll here. Thanks again to Morven for a WONDERFUL challenge!

Dorie's Perfect Party Cake
(Source: Baking: From My Home to Your's, Dorie Greenspan)

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.

**Recipe Tip - To get nice clean cut layers this is what I did; First I scored the cake halfway up all the way around. Then I took a nice clean piece of fishing wire and set it in the score. Then I just pulled it across. It works wonders.


  1. Great tip for getting nice layers. I saw your first picture and was wondering how you were able to make them so nice and even. Your cake looks divine!

  2. This looks just gorgeous, Jessica! Nice job!!

  3. How stinking beautiful is that cake!! It's amazingly perfect. Great job.

  4. Lovely cake! Glad everything worked out well for you! Great layer cutting tip! Now to find fishing wire...

  5. I love how nice and neat your cake turned out, really beautiful!

  6. Your cake looks perfect, just like the pictures in the book! Great job! :)

  7. Wow, the frosting is sooooo smooth! I am quite impressed. Mine was not getting that smooth.
    That is one beautiful cake!

  8. Lovely cake! Great simplicity!

  9. This looks beautiful! Your layers and frosting look great and I love the raspberries!

  10. Your cake looks perfect! I'm so jealous!

  11. What fun to do this with your sister! You certainly put forth a wonderfully beautiful cake. I'm like you, I liked the buttercream but it's almost to much for this terrific fluffy cake. A different icing might be even better - oh I think we have a quest here!

  12. Your cake is just lovely. Thanks for sharing the fishing wire tip! Libby

  13. Your cake looks ever so perfect and beautiful! You did a great job here! Wow!



  14. got what you hoped for! (And triple that) What a gorgeous layers you made, so nice and even, bakery perfect. Well done!

  15. your cake looks perfect. what a great job.

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  17. Your cake turned out beautiful! That's awesome that you got to make it with your sister :)

  18. Your cake looks perfect! I didn't have trouble with my cake rising either... *KNOCK ON WOOD*

  19. Your cake turned out picture perfect. Good job!

  20. A perfect cake! Wonderful job!

  21. The raspberries make it all the more stunning, can't wait until they're in season here!

    PS That is a great tip about the wire, I'll definitely have to try it next time.

  22. Wow. I think that this is the most perfect looking cake. Period. Great job!

  23. You did a lovely job on your cake. Perfectly yummy looking!

    Natalie @ Gluten A Go Go

  24. Your cake looks wonderful, very tall and elegant.

  25. Your cake looks divine!! Congratulations on your challenge and I am glad that you had fun with your sister!

  26. Glad your cake worked out for you. It's SO white and your cut edges are SO clean. How did you do it? I'm impressed.

  27. Simply beautiful, Jessica. Great job! I love your perfect layers and the elegant raspberries for garnish. I also agree with you that the buttercream can be a tad heavy for a cake that's so wonderfully light ;)

  28. Wow..Its not only a cake also a symbol of beauty .

  29. WOW! your cake looks absolutely PERFECT! the frosting is so smooth and the layers so even! i'm jealous! great job!


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