Sunday, March 30, 2008

Perfectly Delicious

At some point in your life you, too, will want to have the Perfect Party Cake. Dorie Greenspan’s book Baking: from my home to yours has the recipe and you can also find it on many Daring Baker’s sites this month and on our hostess, Morven’s blog Food Art and Random Thoughts here. She certainly made a great choice for the challenge! The recipe is also at the bottom of this post

Go to the Daring Baker’s blogroll HERE to browse through the many, many versions of this lovely cake.

From Dorie Greenspan’s Baking from My Home to Yours (pages 250-252)

Words from Dorie
Stick a bright-coloured Post-it to this page, so you’ll always know where to turn for a just-right cake for any celebration. The original recipe was given to me by my great dear friend Nick Malgieri, of baking fame, and since getting it, I’ve found endless opportunities to make it – you will too. The cake is snow white, with an elegant tight crumb and an easygoing nature: it always bakes up perfectly; it is delicate on the tongue but sturdy in the kitchen – no fussing when it comes to slicing the layers in half or cutting tall, beautiful wedges for serving; and, it tastes just as you’d want a party cake to taste – special. The base recipe is for a cake flavoured with lemon, layered with a little raspberry jam and filled and frosted with a classic (and so simple) pure white lemony hot-meringue buttercream but, because the elements are so fundamental, they lend themselves to variation (see Playing Around), making the cake not just perfect, but also versatile.

For the Cake
2 ¼ 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.
Whisk together 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 more 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.

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 Party 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.


  1. Now I have "a very unhappy birthday to you" going through my head. :)
    A lovely cake you have made.

  2. Tee hee. This so cute. A lovely post. This is exactly the cake that would be served at a mad hatter's tea party.

  3. A perfect, gorgeous party cake, well done Elle!

  4. Adorable. Love the spotty candles on top. Glad you joined the party.

  5. Bring this cake and you'll never be late to any party. This is the cake that will start the partyl
    You do the coolest things with your stories and the DB challenges!

  6. A very beautiful cake! :)

  7. You have a very beautiful Perfect Party Cake! Happy unbirthday! :-)

  8. Anonymous6:34 AM

    This cake would be perfect for Alice's tea party! Gorgeous and I love your story to go along with it! :)

  9. Gorgeous cake. I love the picture of the one slice. And again another awesome story you tell around it.

  10. A perfect Un-Birthday cake! I always love reading your DB write ups - so creative! Beautiful cake!

  11. Anonymous9:21 AM

    Oh please tell me we are going to get a published book of all the Daring Baker Tales in the land of St. Honore!!

    As usual not only is your cake lovely but I love the story.

  12. I always so look forward to your DB posts and their wonderful story! You did not disappoint!

  13. Peabody, It's 'a very merry unbirthday to you...and you', in the Disney version. Hope that doesn't go round in your head too long :)

  14. The Cheshire cat would be smiling from ear to ear with your unbirthday cake Elle:D

  15. What an adorable post! And gorgeous looking party cake!

  16. What a big, lovely, fluffy cake you made, Elle! I was also in a funny bunny mood when I made it and posted about it ;)

  17. Lovely cake Elle! Love the Alice in Wonderland reference!

  18. Elle, I enjoy your DB entries so much. They are so charming! This one is no exception. And, your cake truly does look "perfectly delicious"!

  19. Anonymous11:43 AM

    Your cake looks perfect!

  20. Your cake looks wonderful, so tall and elegant. Great post too.

  21. Gorgeous! I love the snowy white look of your cake!

  22. I love the story...Alice in Wonderland is great! The cake is just wonderful...a "very Merry Un-Birthday to you!"

  23. Anonymous6:49 PM

    i didn't do the coconut on the outside of my cake; it looks so fun and fluffy and festive! love the head-on shot of the single slice.

  24. What a gorgeous cake, Elle and the post is just too precious!

  25. Oh my, this looks just like the one in Dorie's book. Great write up.

  26. Anonymous6:01 PM

    Elle, your cake looks lovely. Just like a busby caught in a snow storm!
    I love your St. Honore stories.

    (hoping your family members are OK.)

  27. This is a gret cake for a birthday and an unbirthday too.

  28. I think I hurt myself staring at the screen! Sorry I am so late making the rounds...The cake turned out perfect indeed! Ma'velous my dear!