Sunday, March 30, 2008

Party Perfect Cake - Daring Baker's March Challenge

I was glad to hear that this month's recipe challenge was going to be a layer cake from Dorie Greenspan's cookbook Baking from My Home to Yours. I have been admiring a group of bakers on a blog called Tuesday with Dorie and wondered what all the fuss was about. Thankfully to Daring Baker Morven for this month's pick and for letting me find out what a wonderful recipe this was to make.

I always want to make layer cakes when I spot one in a cookbook but never really have a reason to actually do it. Also since layer cakes produce a lot of cake I never have enough people around to eat it all. With Easter being this month and we had some family visiting it was perfect timing.

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

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.

Review: Overall this cake was a delight to make and eat in every way. The only ingredient that I "replaced" was I used regular flour instead of cake flour...everything else I kept the same. I liked the idea of lemon and raspberry together and wanted to see how it all tasted.

Since I had a lot of cleaning/cooking to do for our guest I decided to make the cake part the night before I was going to serve the cake for dessert. I didn't have any problems with making the cake and thought that it was an easy cake to make. I was worried that I might have a problem with the cake not rising but I didn't so I was happy. I wrapped the cake in parchment paper and put it in a Ziploc bag until I was ready to put it all together. I was going to just wrap it in plastic wrap but it just looked to me like it would have gotten all stuck to the plastic and I just wanted to avoid that from happening.

I wasn't afraid of making the buttercream after making it for the December challenge. I think it knew I was ready for it and in turn didn't give me any of the trouble I had the first time with it.

I was excited to break out my cake and dome set that I got from my bridal shower (going on 7 years now) which I never used before. Everything was going according to plan when I hit a little bit of trouble with the spreading of the buttercream onto of the preserves. I don't know what it was but it started to pick up some of the preserves when I was spreading the buttercream and mixed together. No big deal just some of it was pink buttercream instead of the nice white still tasted great!

All my guest were super impressed with everything about this cake...the decoration, the cake, the buttercream and the overall taste of it. I even got one comment that it reminded them of a wedding cake!

The only thing that I thought was weird was that the cake developed a darkness where the cake and preserves met. I think it might have been because I put it together in the morning and didn't serve it until much much later in the said to keep it at room temperature so I didn't think that would have been a problem. I think the preserve must have just soaked into the cake a little bit. It still tasted great and even tasted great a few days later out of the frig!

All in all I would make it again and next time I might even experiment with the flavors...chocolate cake with Nutella instead of a preserve...just an idea. The only thing I wouldn't do again is put the coconut on the outside because I felt like it didn't really add anything to the cake.


SaraLynn said...

Your cake looks great! i love the decorations. I was so fed up with the buttercream, I gave up on decorating...hehehe...that is what I get for making it close to midnight!
Have a great day!

Claire said...

Good job! I think the darkness probably just comes from the cake soaking up the preserves. Glad everyone liked it and you got to use your cake dome! I want one of those...maybe I'll have to just wait until I get married some day! :0)

jasmine said...

Very nice. I like your piping work on the top :)


Anonymous said...

I felt the cake was kinda spongey and it absorbed the preserves pretty nicely. What a wonderful job. I was thinking of the nutella idea should I ever decide to retry the cake recipe

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

Your cake looks beautiful! Great job here!



L Vanel said...

Very nice looking cake! The layers look gorgeous with your preserves.

Deborah said...

Great job on this challenge - I'm glad you had the chance to make a layer cake!

Jenny said...

I love that the swiss buttercream went better this time! Woot! Lovely job on the cake, and I'd help you eat it when you make it with Nutella. Yum.

Joey Biscotti said...

Yours looks delish - I love the easter egg treatment in the decorations, what an inspired way to present such a yummy cake. Congrats!

Lunch Buckets said...

That coloration is a bit odd - but what a perfectly perfect Easter cake!

Big Boys Oven said...

simple and nice!

Jenny said...

Nice Easter touch on the decorations. And nutella with chocolate sounds good to me too!


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