Sunday, January 17, 2010

Dorie Greenspan's Perfect Party Cake

I have been DYING to make this cake, and I was so happy that I finally got a chance to! This recipe is from the book Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan and I've spotted it on numerous blogs from those who participate in Tuesdays with Dorie or Daring Bakers. It looked so good, since I'm a fan of both lemon and raspberry. Since I was so eager to try it, I went ahead and made it even though it's less than two weeks until my dad's birthday, which I will be making another cake. So to make sure the cake got eaten up and that we didn't get burnt out on cake, I made just one layer instead of two.

My cake isn't very beautiful, so I apologize for that. It's why I opted for an up-close view of the cake when I took a picture. I'm novice to the extreme when it comes to cake decorating and I don't have a very good piping bag, so I'm going to look into getting a good one so I can start practicing! After I baked the cake, I realized it hadn't risen very much. It wasn't until the cake was cooling that I found these tips on making the Perfect Party Cake from Ms. Greenspan. D'oh! But that's okay, because the cake was still very good. One thing that I was super afraid of was that I wouldn't like the raspberry jam in the middle. I am an extremely picky eater and even if I like things individually, when they get put together, sometimes they don't sit quite right with me. And when I took a first bite, I was afraid that that fear had come true. Something about the butteriness of the frosting and
jam combination was weird to me. But the more I ate of the cake, the more delicious it became! Phew! Disaster avoided! The flavors compliment each other very well, but then I always think lemon compliments berry fruit well. I have quite a few notes about the recipe since I halved it and did a couple things differently, so make sure you read carefully! Also, if Ms. Greenspan herself happens to come across my post and does not wish this recipe to be posted, I will be happy to take it down.

Perfect Party Cake
Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan) (I made half of the recipe, just one 9-inch cake layer. The original measurements will be in red, my notes will be in green.)

For the cake:

  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons cake flour (2 1/4 cups) (I just used an easy substitute for cake flour: put two tablespoons of cornstarch into a 1 cup measuring cup and fill the rest of the way with all-purpose flour. Do this for every 1 cup of cake flour.)
  • 1/2 tablespoon baking powder (1 tablespoon)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt (1/2 teaspoon)
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons whole milk or buttermilk (1 1/4 cups) (I used sour milk, a substitute for buttermilk. Put 1 tablespoon of vinegar or lemon juice in a 1 cup measuring cup and fill the rest of the way up with milk. Let sit for 5-10 minutes. Do this for every 1 cup of buttermilk. I also accidentally put in 3/4 cup, which would equal 1 1/2 cups in the original. Whoops! But I actually think in the end it helped my cake be more moist and less crumbly, so it wasn't necessarily a bad mistake!)
  • 2 large egg whites (4 large)
  • 3/4 cup sugar (1 1/2 cup sugar)
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest (2 teaspoons) (I actually used more zest - note below)
  • 1/2 stick (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter, room temperature (1 stick [8 tablespoons])
  • 1/4 teaspoon pure lemon extract (1/2 teaspoon) (I didn't have any of this and I pretty much never use lemon extract so it wouldn't be worth buying it. I compensated by putting in more lemon zest.)

For the buttercream:

  • 3/4 cup sugar (1 cup)
  • 3 large egg whites (4 large)
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 1/2 sticks (12 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature (3 sticks)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (1/4 cup)
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract (1 teaspoon)

*** I read quite a few blogs who had made this recipe and the consensus was that there was only enough frosting to frost a thin coat on the cake. If I had actually followed
the halved recipe, I would have used 1/2 cup sugar, 2 egg whites, etc., but I wanted a nice layer of frosting, so I bumped it up. This is a swiss meringue buttercream recipe, and I follow the standards of 1/4 cup of sugar and 1/4 cup (4 tablespoons/half stick) of butter per one egg white (Ms. Greenspan's original recipe uses more butter). If you wish to make the full recipe and want to bump up the frosting as well, I'd advise you to follow the recipe: 1 1/4 cup sugar, 5 egg whites, 2 1/2 sticks butter, and the rest stays the same.

For finishing:

  • 1/3 cup seedless raspberry preserves, stirred vigorously or warmed gently until spreadable (2/3 cup) (I actually didn't even measure. I just spread on enough to make a thin coat.)
  • About 3/4 cup sweetened shredded coconut (1 1/2 cups) (I'm not a coconut fan, so I omitted.)

Getting started:

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. B
utter two (I, of course, used one) 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 an
d 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 (this is something that I would normally advise against, but I think Ms. Greenspan knows what she's talking about, so I went ahead and did it). Divide the batter between the two pans (one pan if using my halved recipe) 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 pan 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 (it actually shouldn't look like this yet, so don't be alarmed if yours doesn't). 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 (just feel the mixing bowl to judge; if it doesn't feel warm, it's good to go).

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 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 (it also may appear to be super soupy...again, just keep beating and it will thicken up!). 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 1/3 of the preserves. Cover the jam evenly with about 1/4 of the buttercream. Top with another layer, spread with preserves and buttercream and then do the sam
e 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.

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