Ok, it is time to stop being so damn tardy. No more last minute bakeoffs. No more late posts.
I'll admit that I was initially disappointed when I found March's DB Challenge to be a party cake. Hmm ... I was craving savoury. *grumble* *grumble*. And then the baker kicked in :) Yay! A party cake! And tomorrow is Monte's b'day. Perfect. Wait ... more than perfect! That even gives me an excuse for this delayed post!
Morven picked Dorie Greenspan's Perfect Party Cake from her insanely droolworthy book Baking: From My Home To Yours. If you haven't checked out this book, now is the time to get it. Dorie's recipes are really well written out and she had a fabulous collection in this book.
The really neat thing about Morven's pick was that it gave us a lot of liberty in playing with the flavour and filling of the cake. Sweet! All I needed to do was channel my zen to inflate my cake and then I could totally party with it! Dorie suggested a raspberry filling, but I had this stash of wild boreal blueberries sitting in my fridge, so I decided to use that instead. Also, I went in for a mini-cake - I didn't have tiny "cakelet" pans, so I baked a regular layer cake and used a wide cup for cutting out the mini cakes. Worked pretty well!
I decided to take the plunge and veer away from the buttercream and coconut toppings. Instead, for the filling, I went with a lightly sweetened and buttered bluberry filling. And for the topping, I went in for a "fake" bitter chocolate ganache. Ok, no cringing allowed here - I made a ganache with chocolate and silken tofu and chilled it before slathering it all over the cakes. It turned out surprisingly good, the 72% dark totally rocked here. And I have no qualms indulging in this "tofanache" if I feel like going light!
This recipe was insanely easier than expected. Then again, with Dorie behind it, I shouldn't have been surprised! Thanks Morven, for the fine pick :)
(adapted from Dorie Greenspan's Baking: From My Home To Yours)
For the Cake
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.
If you want to bake mini-cakes, either use smaller cake pans or bake a regular 9" layer cake and cut out smaller cakes from it using cake rings or a sharp-rimmed cup.
The cake rose perfectly. I can only credit that to my sis (the real baker) who insisted that I pound the cake pan a zillion times till all the air bubbles are released, which I did, to Vodka's utter consternation! Slicing the cake to make layers was ... a piece of cake! The lemon flavours (I skipped the extract and went with lemon juice and zest) were outstanding. The boreal berries were divine, like always - they're much smaller than regular blueberries, not as sweet, but have a fabulous earthy flavour that makes for a fine topping on most desserts. And the "tofanache" made me quite happy. It isn't meant for everything - there are times when nothing but the real ganache would suffice, but in this case, it did a pretty good job.
Is this going to be a repeat?
I would totally bake this cake again - maybe I'll even use some buttercream next time around! Besides, I have a ton of leftovers from the cake that I can't wait to work with - that's often the fun part, isn't it?
Thanks Morven, for this insanely fun pick and even more for letting us exercise our creative license. Picking and choosing fillings and toppings was a party in itself!
And now I'm off to finally spend some time checking out all the other fabulous Daring Bakers' creations!