Bread and Baking Desserts and Pastries — By Ben on 30 March 2008
Every Party Needs a Party Cake

It is that time of the month again when 900+ bloggers known as the Daring Bakers post their results for the month’s challenge. After making French bread last month and a Yule Log in December, I completed my third challenge this month. And what a fun challenge this was. Morven, this month’s hostess, chose a cake from Dorie Greenspan’s cookbook, Baking from My Home to Yours. When I read her introduction for this challenge I almost cried from happiness:

I wanted to pick something that had potential for putting your personal stamp on. Although this is essentially a white cake I know there are some lemon haters among us so feel free to use your imagination. If you inner chef tells you that you need to make a chocolate layer cake then by all means do so. See Dorie’s words on playing around below for some flavour combination ideas.

A cake that I can play around with, add flavors and colors and… oh, so many possibilities!

I followed the basic recipe to make the cake and the buttercream, what I changed were the flavors and the color. I halved the recipe and made a banana cake and a chocolate cake. I also halved the buttercream and added cocoa to one half and let the other one white. I then cut each cake in half, so I had 4 layers, and spread some strawberry jelly and some of the white buttercream alternatively.

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I inherited a lot of my mom’s strengths in the kitchen, but also a lot of her weaknesses. We both love to bake, we go crazy if the kitchen is messy and we both are terrible at decorating cakes. I take that back, she took a couple of courses and now she creates beautiful cakes. Last time I visited she was making a HUGE tres leches cake for 300 people with flowers, letters and a pretty colors. I envy her so much.

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But in spite of my terrible decoration skills, I don’t think I did such a terrible job this time. What do you think?

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What I learned from this challenge:

If a recipe calls for butter, don’t substitute with spread, it just won’t work.
The buttercream will seem to curl and break when beating, but, as I learned in a previous challenge. It will come back together after a couple of minutes.

I had tons of fun making this cake and though the cake was a little bit dry to my taste, I will be making it again with more crazy combinations. Thank you Morven for another great challenge and thank you Dorie for the recipe.

Here is the recipe Morven provided:

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.

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.

Storing
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.

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About Author

grew up around food. His family owned a restaurant in Mexico City and he spent a big deal of his childhood helping and learning after school the art of creating delicious dishes from simple ingredients. He created this blog to share his kitchen adventures with the world.

(50) Readers Comments

  1. That’s a very pretty cake Ben, like all the pics!:)

  2. Ben’s site is back and with a bang!

    A different cake from the others so yes, you’re unique and this one is memorable. Now, please cut me a large wedge, thank you!

  3. IF I ever get married again (you’d have to shoot me first), you’re making my wedding cake. I love the pic of the strawberry – a fabulous picture.

  4. Such a wonderful post! The cake is simply stunning and you captured it beautifully :)

  5. How creative of you to combine the chocolate and the plain one! That first strawberry shot is absolute talent!

  6. Ben, that looks incredible! I especially like that you turned it into a banana cake with a chocolate layer. Did you just add in the smashed bananas and cocoa? I can’t wait to experiment with this recipe.

  7. How decadently lovely… chocolate and banana! True innovation and it looks beautiful!

  8. Ben ~ your cake is gorgeous… in fact, everything on your blog is gorgeous!

  9. Your cake looks wonderful! I love that version… Very well done!

    Cheers,

    Rosa

  10. Hi Ben..your cake looks lovely. Am amazed that there are the ‘Male’ species also at our Daring Bakers. Your pics are cute…luved the one with the three strawberries lined one after the other…that one looked out of the world. Vist my blog when you free…and am sure you will say…hah ‘Mine looks better’ Had the pleasure of seeing your other ‘cooking’ too and must say you ar Gr8.

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