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Sunday, March 30, 2008

It's Partytime with the Daring Bakers!

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I've often said that I'm always "late to the party". This month's Daring Bakers Challenge is no exception. With the Easter Season and tax season and Spring Break, it has been an action-packed month here at chez SGCC. Every time I would set aside a day to bake my cake, one thing or another would come up, requiring my attention, and diverting me from my goal.
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I also tend to be a little passive-aggressive about these challenges. I plan every detail of what I am going to do and how I am going to do it, but then my "inner insecure child" takes over and I get nervous about cracking that first egg. With all of the talented and creative DBers out there, how will I "measure up"? You see, I'm pretty new to this baking thing and still not totally comfortable with it. That's one of the reasons I joined this wonderful group - to make me reach out of my comfort zone and attempt things in my oven that I never had the guts to try before.

That's how it came to be that I was pouring cake batter and whipping egg whites at 2:00 this morning! I don't know why I was so worried. Everything about this challenge came off without a hitch and left me wishing that I really had a party to go to so that I could show off my beautiful, fancy cake!
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Morven of Food, Art and Random Thoughts was our hostess for this month's challenge. She chose Dorie Greenspan's Perfect Party Cake from her "cult status" cookbook, Baking: From My Home to Yours. This recipe whips up into a gorgeous, fluffy white cloud of cake perfection that would make any event more festive. Though we had to stick with the basic recipe, we were given carte blanche to flavor and decorate our cakes however we liked. I happen to really like lemon, raspberry and coconut, so I chose to leave my cake as is. Lucky thing too, since at two in the morning my creative juices were beginning to ebb!
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I had read about the issues that a lot of the other DBers had with the cake not rising properly. To counteract that, I doubled the cake recipe and baked it in three 9-inch cake pans. Since each pan held a little extra batter, my layers baked up higher and were perfect for cutting the layers for this cake. I froze the leftover cake to use another time. (I think I see a trifle in my future!)
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After the Yule Log Challenge, I was a little apprehensive about making a Swiss butter cream again. I even thought about cheating and making a cream cheese frosting. Who would know, right? But in the end, ethics and fair play won out and I sucked it up and did it. I doubled the recipe for this too, because God forbid I should run out of buttercream! I really do love that buttercream!
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The only thing I changed about the filling in my cake was to also add some lemon curd in between the layers. I really wanted a little tartness to offset the sweetness of the raspberry jam. It was a good call. I loved the way the three fillings worked together. As a matter of fact, I just loved this cake, period. It was moist and light, and the fillings were the perfect creamy balance of sweet and tart. I would definitely make this one again. It truly is the "perfect party cake". The only problem is, who am I going to get to make this for me when my birthday comes around in May!?!?
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Many thanks to Morven for hosting this round, as well as to Ivonne and Lis for creating this terrific group that is the Daring Bakers! Please take some time to check out all of the other Perfect Party Cakes on the Daring Bakers Blogroll. You'll be glad you did!
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Dorie's Perfect Party Cake
Adapted from Dorie Greenspan

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 fresh lemon zest (I used Meyer lemons)
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
1 cup lemon curd
About 1 ½ cups sweetened shredded coconut

Getting Ready

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
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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.
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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).
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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.
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Spread one third of the lemon curd on another layer and lay it on top of the first layer of cake, curd side down. Spread with preserves, buttercream and lemon curd and then do the same with a third layer (you’ll have used all the jam and have buttercream leftover).
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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.

Serving

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.

Enjoy!

51 comments:

Proud Italian Cook said...

Your cake turned out amazing, from the top, to the perfectly placed coconut. Well done!

Bellini Valli said...

I am a timid baker myself Susan and cakes usually come out of a box for me. But we rose to the challenge and your cake looks amazing...I'm sure it was enjoyed by all:D

Cakespy said...

It looks just PERFECT! Oh my goodness, the last one looks like one of those "classic" cake photos you'll see in old cookbooks--like one of the icons! Fantastic work. It looks like sky-high pleasure!

Megan said...

Your cake looks wonderful. Expecially that last picture. I love the cake plate and the garnish!

Jessy and her dog Winnie said...

Beautiful cake!

Obsessive Foodie or Food Addict....You Decide said...

Looks superb as usual.....you are starting to bore me with your purrrrfect dishes *evil laugh*....show me a phuck up....puhleaze woman!!!! I ADORE coconut. I have always wanted to try that coconut cake that Paula Deen makes and puts a syrup on then you let it sit in your fridge for a few days but I am afraid that I would not be able to let it sit. I get impatient where food is concerned. I can't let the brownies cool off before take a bite.

creampuff said...

Just beautiful! And I love how you twisted the zest as a decoration!!!

RecipeGirl said...

That ok... we're always the last ones to LEAVE the party!!

Your party cake is absolutely PERFECT!!

Manggy said...

Susan, you certainly knocked it out of the park, even as a beginning baker. I would love to be the recipient of a cake like this! Check out that height!

cookworm said...

It looks picture-perfect! I love the little knots of candied zest :)

Isabelle said...

vraiment parfait...C'est super beau ! :)

Peter M said...

This cake has "class" written all over it. Well done...and surely "sticky"!

Lunch Buckets said...

SO pretty! I love the knots :)

Flanboyant Eats said...

Looks bello! Great job. Hats off to you and all the other bakers who know how to do it so well...

StickyGooeyCreamyChewy said...

Marie- Thanks! I'm glad you liked it!

Val- I've sure tossed back a few boxed cakes in my day! But now, I'm starting to get hooked on the "from scratch" kind. I must be evolving, ;)

Cakespy- Wow! You're making me blush! Thanks so much! I'm glad you liked it. :)

Thanks, Megan. I love that cake plate too. I also have its baby brother in green. ;)

Jessy- Thanks! :)

Creampuff- Thank you! That zest was a real pain to do.

RecipeGirl- Well, then you probably have a lot more fun than I do! ;)

Glad you liked the cake!

Manggy- Thanks, Mark! I am secretly a little impressed with myself. It's the first time I tried a tall cake that didn't fall down on me!

Cookworm- Thanks! I'm so glad you like it!

Isabelle- Merci beaucoup. Je suis très heureux que vous ayez aimé mon gâteau.

Peter- Thank you. That's very sweet!

Lunch Buckets- I'm glad you like them! They're not hard to do...just tedious.

Flanboyant- Thanks very much! You should join us!

Kristen said...

I don't know why you are a self concious baker, you are one of those talented DBers too! The cake is lovely and I love how you doubled the recipe to make the cakes higher, what a great idea. The cake looks so delicious!

Jenny said...

I think this is one of the first challenges I haven't procrastinated on, so I understand the 2 AM baking thing completely! I'm glad you pulled it off, because it looks beautiful.

Gretchen Noelle said...

This sounds all just delicious together! I would like to do another round with lemon curd. 2am is impressive, I just cannot think at that hour, let alone cook or bake!

Cakelaw said...

Gorgeous cake Susan - I love that it is so tall. The end result looks very worth staying up to the wee small hours to achieve - congrats!

Pixie said...

Your cake looks sublime and smart thinking on doubling the recipe!

Morven said...

You take fantastic photographs. The little citrus twists really make the cake.

HoneyB said...

Beautiful cake!

Ann said...

Love the way your finished your cake-- it's just perfect-looking!

familiabencomo said...

This is amazingly pretty! I am shocked that you worry - you are talented, girlfriend. I love that pink cake stand too. Kudos all around!

xoxox Amy

Kevin said...

Nice cake! I like the twists on top and the lemon curd in the layers.

Julie said...

Your cake looks beautiful. I love that you decorated the top with the little knots--great touch!

StickyGooeyCreamyChewy said...

Kristen- Thank you! Very nice of you to say that.

Jenny- It's funny how you think you have all the time in the world, then you're scrambling! ;) Glad you liked the cake.

Gretchen- The lemon curd really popped in this. You should try it next time.

Cakelaw- Thanks! I couldn't believe that it didn't topple over. That's usually what happens to me. ;)

Pixie- Awww! Thank you. :)

Morven- Thank you! I tried tp make bows, but thet was pushing it!

HoneyB- Thanks!

Ann- I'm glad you liked it. I was thrilled with the way it turned out! :)

Amy- Thank you! You're sweet! The cake stand is from Williams -Sonoma and it comes in 3 sizes and 4 colors!

Thanks, Kevin. I thought your cake was lovely too.

Julie- I'm so glad you like it! I saw little knows like that at WS for $14.00 for a little jar. I wasn't about to pay that! So, I tried to make my own.

Culinary Cowgirl said...

Now that is lovely...I can almost taste it!

Judy @ No Fear Entertaining said...

Oh your cake looks incredible!!! I don;t know how I missed seeing it yesterday! Great job!

Patricia Scarpin said...

That is one of the most beautiful cakes I have ever seen, Susan.

Cookie baker Lynn said...

Wow, your cake is a showstopper! It looks perfect and with the lemon curd filling I'm sure it was perfectly delicious.

Lesley said...

You got such excellent height on that cake!
I loooove the twists on top, such a creative touch.

Deborah said...

What a gorgeous cake!! It looks absolutely perfect!

Gabi said...

Perfect! So beautiful- I'm glad I came back to see it today!
xoxo
Gabi

Mrs. W said...

Of all the DB posts I'm seeing around the blogosphere, yours is the only one that's called to me to comment upon.

Because those zest knots are so darned cute. Love it.

Elle said...

Extra layers and extra buttercream...sound like you know just how to do the challenge...also love the addition of the lemon curd. Your cake looks gorgeous! Are those lemon peel bows?? So pretty and party perfect.

Princess of the kitchen said...

beautiful cake. Lovely and high;. well done

DocChuck said...

That is one EXQUISITE cake!

I will instruct my wife wo make one for me when she gets off her nursing home shift.

StickyGooeyCreamyChewy said...

Culinary Cowgirl- Thank you! I wish you could taste it!

Judy- Thanks! I posted kind of late yesterday. I'm the great procrastinator, sometimes! ;)

Patricia- Awww! I'm blushing! Thank you. :)

Lynn- Thanks so much! I loved the extra lemony flavor! It was really good!

Lesley- Hey, if you're gonna make cake, make a TALL cake, no? The knots were cute, but a bit of a pain to make!

Deborah- Thanks! I'm glad you liked it, but it was far from perfect.

Gabi- Thanks! I' glad you came back too!

Mrs. W- You are too sweet! Thank you! The knots are cute, but a pain to make! ;)

Elle- Thanks so much. I'm glad you liked it. They are little knots. Bows would have been waaaay to hard to do!

Princess- Thank you!

kimberleyblue said...

That cake looks perfect! Wow - awesome job!

Jen Yu said...

Oh honey, now why on earth would you ever doubt your abilities as a cook and baker? You're FABULOUS and this cake proves it. It's simply gorgeous, you know, and it's folks like you that make the daring bakers such a terrific group. Now repeat after me, "I am worthy!" You're not only worthy, you're precious and I love ya. xxoo

Claire said...

What a beautifully tall cake! I just love your lemon knots...so creative.

Ally said...

Your cake is absolutely beautiful! I love the bows, and what a lovely height!

Tartelette said...

I love the lemon rind knots on top! What a perfect cake indeed! Makes me crave some all over again!

Sheltie Girl said...

You did a wonderful job on your cake. Great job on the pictures too.

Natalie @ Gluten A Go Go

StickyGooeyCreamyChewy said...

Kimberley- Thanks! I'm so glad you like it!

Jen- I love you too! Getting to know you has been one of the brightest spots of blogging for me. Without your encouragement, I wouldn't have worked so hard to improve my photography skills. Now, I'm hooked on getting the "perfect shot". I still have a long way to go, but I'm improving.

I'm so glad you liked my cake. I have to admit, I'm pretty proud of it!

Claire- Thank you! I enjoyed making the cake. The knots - kind of a pain! ;)

Ally- I'm so glad you liked it! It was quite a stretch for me!

Tartelette- Thanks! Praise from you is worth its weight in gold to me. I still have some cake in the fridge, so grab a fork! ;)

Natalie- Thank you very much! I'm so glad you liked the cake and especially, the pictures! :)

Chris said...

Wow! This cake is beautiful. But, the layers? Seriously? Perfect!

Andrea said...

Your cake looks wonderful, so tall and I love the fillings.

Rosie said...

One very stunning cake! Sorry I'm a little late in getting round.

Rosie x

StickyGooeyCreamyChewy said...

Chris- Thank you! You're very kind!

Andrea- Thanks! I'm glad you liked it. :)

Rosie- You're welcome anytime! Glad you liked it.

Susan from Food Blogga said...

I would have been sad to cut this perfect cake. Of course, eating it would have made me feel better. :)