Awhile ago while searching through food blogs, I kept comming across the Daring Baker's logo and wondered what it was. So, I clicked on the link and found a community of food bloggers looking for a challenge. Every month the group is given a recipe that is chosen by a predetermined host. The whole group is to make the recipe as listed only making changes as allowed by the host. Then the group all posts their results on the same day. I had been looking for some way to turn my love of cooking and baking into more of a challenge. I knew that this was the group for me. I quickly e-mailed the group organizers and here I am with my first Daring Baker's challenge.
This months challenge was a "Perfect Party Cake" by Dorie Greenspan. And may I say that it really was a perfect party cake. The cake was light and sweet and the swiss meringue buttercream was smooth and silky. I brought it over to our Easter dinner wondering how it would go over. I knew that there would be one of those death-by-chocolate cakes there and was worried that people would go for the classic. I couldn't have been prouder, my cake was gone in a flash with rave reviews while the chocolate cake sat there with few slices gone. This definately was a delicious challenge. I have even received requests to make this cake again. Thanks Morven for picking this wonderful recipe.
We were allowed to fill our cakes with our choice of filling so I decided to make a bavarian cream using coconut milk and whipping cream. I really wanted to use some fresh berries in the filling but I had to make the cake the night before and was worried that it would make the cake soggy. I skipped the lemon extract in the cake and substituted almond and vanilla extracts since that is what I had on hand. I topped the cake with shavings of bittersweet chocolate and a few fanned strawberries. It looked as good as it tasted.
I can't wait to make this cake again with some other variations. The frosting is a keeper and goes on smooth and light. The cake is sweet and spongy and would lend itself to any flavor willing to be joined with it. It truly is the perfect party cake and will now become a staple in my house.
Here are a few pictures of the process.
by Dorie Greenspan
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
2/3 cup seedless raspberry preserves stirred vigorously or warmed gently until spreadable
About 1 ½ cups sweetened shredded coconut
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.
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.
Coconut Bavarian Cream
1 can coconut milk
less than 1/4 cup whipping cream, enough to equal 2 cups when added to the coconut milk
1/2 tsp coconut extract
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
6 egg yolks
2/3 cup sugar
1 pkg. unflavored gelatin (about 1 Tbs.)
3 Tbs. water
1. Put the coconut milk, whipping cream and extracts into a saucepan and bring to a boil. Meanwhile, beat the egg yolks and sugar on medium speed until it thickens and forms a ribbon. Still beating, slowly add the hot milk mixture into the yolk mixture. Do not add it too quickly or you will scramble the eggs.
2. Pour the water into a bowl and sprinkle with the gelatin. Allow the gelatin to "bloom" until needed.
3. Pour the mixture back into the saucepan and heat over low to medium-low heat stirring constantly with a wooden spoon until mixture thickens and leaves a trail on the back of the spoon. Do not let the mixture boil. Turn off the heat and add the gelatin mixture whisking to combine until smooth.
4. Move the pan to a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking process and to cool. Pour slightly cooled mixture into a bowl and cover with platic wrap, pressing it onto the surface of the cream. Refrigerate until chilled and thickened.
*to give it a lighter texture, once cooled you can fold in some fresh whipped cream.