Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Personal Party Cake

A few years ago the Daring Bakers made Dorie Greenspan's Perfect Party Cake, a wonderful lemon flavored confection with raspberry jam and lemon buttercream. A few days ago I was wondering what kind of cake to make for my birthday. Since I love to bake and have few occasions when I can bake cakes these days, naturally I wanted to make my own cake for the occasion.

My usual cake obsession is with chocolate cake but this year for some reason I was drawn to lemon as a flavor. I thought I'd make a repeat of that Perfect Party Cake, but instead I took another Dorie recipe called Dressy Chocolate Loaf Cake and turned it into the lemon cake of my dreams. In true Dorie fashion I rubbed the lemon zest from a whole lemon into the sugar before adding it to the creamed butter. To increase the lemon factor without using lemon extract, I also added the juice of that same lemon to the sour cream before adding it to the batter. Since I took out the cocoa powder that would have made it chocolate, I replaced it with all-purpose flour and added a couple extra tablespoons to offset the additional liquid of the lemon juice.

As you can see this became another cake altogether, a personal party cake. I did split it into three layers and raspberry jam, slightly thinned and then warmed, was spread on the two cut layers. Instead of ganache or chocolate buttercream, I used whipped cream to frost the loaf and placed row upon row of fresh, enormous raspberries on the top. Sorry I forgot to take a photo of the candle (at my age one candle is plenty to represent all the other years) but I can tell you that it was a wonderful cake. The cake itself was firm with a nice tight texture, just as a pound cake type cake should be. The lemon flavor had just the right amount of assertiveness. The whipped cream was a nice textural contrast with the cake because it was creamy and soft. A bite which had some cake, some whipped cream and one of those glorious red, fully flavored raspberries was a bite of heaven! Happy Birthday to me.

A key tip for making this cake is to be sure to be patient and beat the ingredients for a long time if the recipe calls for it...no short cuts or you'll be sorry. Everything should be at room temperature. I did end up tenting the cake with foil for the last 15 minutes, so do check it at that point. Make sure your berries are dry and that you whip the cream enough for it to hold its shape, but not so long it turns to butter. Just keep a close watch on it as it whips and you'll be fine.

Lemon and Raspberry Personal Party Cake
inspired by a cake in Dorie Greenspan's Baking, From My Home to Yours

2 cups + 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 sticks (8 oz.) unsalted butter at room temperature
1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
Zest of 1 lemon, colored part only
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup sour cream at room temperature
juice of 1 lemon
1/2 cup best-quality raspberry am
1 teaspoon water
8 oz. heavy whipping cream, chilled
1 teaspoon sugar
6 oz. fresh raspberries, washed and dried gently

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F, with a rack in the center of the oven space.
Butter a 9 1/2 x 5-inch loaf pan, dust with flour, and tap out the extra flour. Set aside.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

Using a stand mixer, beat the butter in a large bowl. While the butter is creaming, rub the lemon zest into the sugar in another bowl. Add the sugar to the butter and continue beating at medium speed for 3 minutes, until very light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition for about a minute. Reduce mixer speed to low and add the sour cream and the lemon juice. Mix for a minute to fully combine. With the mixer still on low speed, add the dry ingredients and continue mixing only until most of the dry ingredients have been incorporated into the batter. Use a spatula to scrape down the sides and beater and to finish blending any remaining dry ingredients into the batter. Use the spatula to put the batter into the prepared pan and spread it evenly.

Bake for about 60 minutes, checking at 45 minutes to see if the top is getting too brown. If it is, tent with foil loosely. When cake is done a knife inserted into the center will come out clean. Remove from the oven and let cool on a rack for 5 minutes, then turn out of the pan onto the rack. Cool to room temperature.

Heat the jam and water over low heat or in the microwave just until boiling, stirring to combine. Let cool.

Slice the cake into three layers. Place the bottom layer on a rectangular cake or board and spread half the jam mixture over the layer (1/4 cup). Top with the next layer and repeat with the rest of the jam. Top with the final layer. Chill in the 'fridge while whipping the cream.

Whip the cream at high speed in a chilled bowl with chilled beaters, adding the sugar after the cream has started to thicken (I drape a tea towel over the mixer at the beginning to stop spattering, then remove it when the cream starts to thicken). When the cream is thick enough to hold its shape use an offset spatula to frost the sides and then the top of the cake, swirling if you like. Take the prepared raspberries and decorate the top of the cake. Chill finished cake for at least an hour to firm everything up.

To serve, cut with serrated knife. Makes 12 servings.


  1. Oooh. Layered cakes.
    Our kitchen here doesn't have a lot of counter space, so doing things that require double batches of batter or lots of layout are kind of a problem - but this might be worth bodging over a whole bunch of things and sitting on the floor with a mixing bowl!!! Yum. Raspberries! I cannot wait 'til we get good berries again.

  2. Happy Birthday to you, Elle! I know I haven't been by in a very long time, but am glad to be here now. What a lovely cake -- I love the flavor combination and appreciate your explanation of how you made the changes. Lemon cake can be interesting! I made one for my niece's wedding last year and had to do a lot of experimentation. Wish I'd had this then!

  3. Happy Birthday!! It looks wonderful and about as far away from chocolate cake as you could get. Great choice for lemon and raspberries.
    Hope you had a wonderful day

  4. Tanita, this one is really compact and would be good with any kind of jam and berries or fruit that goes well with lemon flavor.

    Kellypea, not sure this would have worked for a wedding cake, although it is nice and firm.

    Katie, Lemon is great this time of year...and chocolate is great all the time.