When Lis reminded me that it was my turn to host and therefore choose the recipe for March's Daring Bakers Challenge I didn't have to think at all about what source the recipe would come from; the only question was what to choose. If course I am talking about Dorie Greenspan and her wonderful book Baking from my home to yours. My first choice would have been Dorie's Most Extra Ordinary French Lemon Cream Tart but we had recently had lemon meringue pie as a challenge. Instead I chose a recipe that had some room for personalisation; Dorie's Perfect Party Cake on page 250. Dorie's original has seedless raspberry preserves and lemon buttercream between the layers and the cake is finished off with more buttercream and coconut. For my version I stuck with the lemon flavourings and used lemon curd as the filling. Ideally it would have been a great use for all those leftover egg yolks but that was in the too hard basket for me this time around so I opted for store bought stuff which in this recipe actually worked really well.
A few Daring Bakers had some problems with the recipe on account of my poor proof-reading skills - it really does help when you have all the ingredients listed and the correct amounts of the aforementioned ingredients don't you?
Often with our Daring Baker's challenges the biggest part of the challenge is to follow the recipe EXACTLY as written; exceptions to this being unavailability of products or allergies. This month though I decided to let the Daring Bakers loose and allowed them freedom with shape, size, colour and filling/flavouring. The results I've seen so far have been very imaginative and some of the bakers really had fun with decorations and alternative ingredients. Two outstanding efforts were the baker who made a cake in the shape of a lamb and one very daring baker who thought bacon might be an exciting addition. Bacon? In cake? You be the judge. You can read about it on Leah's blog I Came to Eat. Check out the other Daring Bakers on the Daring Bakers'Blogroll.
So how did I get on making my cake?
Mis en place - who doesn't!
Getting ready - note my shiny new Kenwood mixer and my colour co-ordinated utensils. I'd like to say it's on purpose but apart from my measuring spoons the lime green (my favourite colour) accent on my Tupperware is a happy coincidence
Getting ready to bake
Ready for the oven
The baked cakes - do you like my lime green froggy mitt? It's silly but surprisingly useful
Making the Swiss meringue buttercream
Health and Safety lesson - do not bake without shoes. The boiling water on the bottom of my simmering meringue dripped on top of my foot as I was transferring the meringue to my Kenwood bowl and left me with a small but minor burn
The cooked meringue goes into the Kenwood bowl ready for the buttah.
The buttercream starts to come together. I really do love my new Kenwood mixer - I don't know how I got on without it
The first cake layer
Layering the lemon curd
A side view of the cake layers
I suppose you want the recipe? Well you really should do yourself a big favour and go and buy Dorie's book. If you don't already own it, you NEED it.
OK so this is already a mile long but it seems that lots of Daring Bakers are linking back to my post for the recipe so I'd better put it on here. Hope you don't mind Dorie; did we tell you we love you??
PERFECT PARTY CAKE
From Dorie Greenspan’s Baking from My Home to Yours (pages 250-252)
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 ¼ 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
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.
To Make the Cake
Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt.
Whisk together the milk and egg whites in a medium bowl.
Whisk together 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 more 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.
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 Party 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.