Sunday, March 30, 2008

Daring Bakers Make Dorie's Cake

Wow! My first Daring Bakers challenge completed! I am proud to be a part of the group, now over 1,000 strong, started by Lis and Ivonne. Reading other blogs posting about these Daring Bakers got me interested in finding out more. So I signed up for the group and thought- what the heck- might as well start blogging instead of having someone else doing the work of posting about my exploits in the group. Which lead me to thinking that maybe blogging was a good idea also in the fact that I would have a record of what and when I made something to refer back to.
The challenge for March - picked by the host of the month, Morven - was Dorie Greenspan's Perfect Party Cake. It's a very pretty lemon cake layered with hot meringue buttercream frosting and raspberry jam. It is a visually beautiful cake. For some reason in the past, I have shied away from recipes that called for egg whites or yolks. Maybe its lack of time, for separating eggs is easy, but sometimes the recipes that call to do that step are a little more involved. But the cake itself was a cinch to make and is light and lightly lemony in flavor. The frosting is very rich and buttery. I took the cake to work, where our office of 6 left just a quarter of the cake to bring home.When I told Mark of the cake I was baking, he claimed that because he didn't like jelly donuts, he wouldn't like the raspberry part. (Hmm- took me 26 years to find that out!) The raspberry layer does make the cake a very appealing sight, with the contrast of the red against the white cake. But to make him happy, I used lemon curd in place of the raspberry, and the cake was very yummy with an extra lemon kick.I would use the cake recipe again in a heartbeat, but personally the frosting was not to my liking. Maybe it was the thought of the 3 sticks of butter in it, but I would have liked a lighter frosting. I may be in the minority, cuz at work they liked the play of the rich frosting and the lighter cake. I would like to try the hot meringue idea without all the butter.

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

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 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

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.

You can view all the Daring Bakers' Party Cakes here.


Anonymous said...

Congratulations on your first DB challenge which seems to have been a success. And also welcome to the blogging world! I do hope you have fun with it. It really does help with sharing recipes. I like it when I can say "Of course you may have the recipe, it's just right on my blog."

Joy said...

Congratulations on a beautiful first challenge. Welcome to the daring bakers!

Claire said...

I love the look of the buttercream but agree with you on the taste...a bit too heavy for me. Good job on your first challenge!!!

Fran Z said...

Thanks, Bombshell. You are right about the sharing!

Joy, Glad to be part of this group!

Claire, Thanks, I don't know if it was because I made it myself and saw what went into it, but I swear that frosting went right to my hips!

kimberleyblue said...

Yum, lemon curd must taste fantastic in there!

This challenge was my first as well - welcome to the group!

Fran Z said...

KimberleyBlue, this was lemon divine! Welcome to DB!

Amy J. said...

Lemon, lemon, and lemon! I bet that tasted divine....

Ben said...

Welcome to DB! What a great start you had with this delicious looking cake. I am looking forward to seeing more of your creations in months to come :D


Gato Azul | Chat Bleu said...

What a lovely idea to have some lemon curd with this cake. It must be scrumptious! Congrats on your first challenge (mine too :P)

Cakelaw said...

Congratulations on completing your first DB's challenge. Your cake looks great.

L Vanel said...

Congratulations - the cake looks moist and delicious!

Ann said...

Welcome to Daring Bakers! Great cake!

coco said...

congrats on your first challenge! Your cake looks beautiful

Jenny said...

I love it just with the lemon and white - what a perfect cake for spring.

Fran Z said...

Amy J., Thanks, everyone enjoyed the cake!

Ben, Thanks for the kind welcome!

Gato Azul, Thanks, welcome to you also!

Cakelaw, Thank you!

L. Vanel, Thanks, it WAS yummy!

Ann, Thank you! So fun to be part of this group!

Coco, Thanks, it was fun!

Jenny, Thanks, It is a great cake to celebrate spring (or anything)!

Miss Ifi said...

Congratulations on your first Daring Bakers challenge!!! your cake looks great and I am glad to hear that co-workers out there were made happy! Welcome to the Daring Bakers I hope that you enjoy being part of the group!

Astra Libris said...

Congrats on your first DB post! Hooray! Your cake is absolutely beautiful!

Fran Z said...

miss ifi, Thanks! Glad to be part of the group!

astra libris, Thanks! I look forward to more challenges!

Lunch Buckets said...

Great job on your first challenge, it looks great!

mimi said...

welcome to the db! your party cake looks great, i love all the coconut piled up on your slice! and lemon curd instead of the raspberry sounds so delish. have you seen the photo of the lemon curd cake in martha's book that you just bought? i absolutely SO want to make that!! :)

Big Boys Oven said...

very very nice, wow, sure a real party cake!

Fran Z said...

Lunch Bucket, Thanks. I appreciate the thought!

mimi, I've got LOTS of recipes marked in Martha's book, so I am looking forward to your challenge! Thanks!

Big Boys Oven, This was a very fun party cake. Thanks for stopping by!

Bake your cake and eat it too said...

lol...I wonder if it's a men thing, not liking jelly doughnuts so they think they don't like jelly in their cake? My husband doesn't like any baked goods with jelly in it. They are too funny. Lovely cake! and congrats on joining the group!

marye said...

great job on your first challenge..the cake looks wonderful

Faery said...

Wow with the lemon curd it also looks beautiful besides I love lemon,I bet it was delicious

Fran Z said...

Valerie, Thanks! Glad to be here.

Marye, Thanks! I had fun making it.

Faery, Thanks, It was a good tasting recipe.

Mary said...

I don't like fruit and I liked the preserves in it. But I bet the lemon curd was probably even better! Lovely cake!