Friday, May 16, 2008


One of my closest, dearest, oldest friends is celebrating her birthday today! Let me take a moment to wish her a Happy Birthday J!!!!!!!! In celebration of her 26th birthday, of course, I baked her a birthday cake. I am so enamored by Dorie Greenspans, "Baking: From My Home To Yours" (I mention this book in most of my posts) that I decided to make Dorie's "perfect party cake". This is a recipe I've been wanting to try for quite some time and I know J will love it. It's, er, um, perfect. I have yet to make a cake like this one.
Whenever I think of birthday cake a yellow cake with loads and loads of vanilla and/or chocolate frosting (from the can) with some sort of sprinkles comes to mind. Don't get me wrong, birthday cake like that is absolutely delicious and makes me feel like a kid again but this "perfect party cake" is in another league. This "perfect party cake" takes the cake, no pun intended. It is a more sophisticated classy kind of birthday cake suitable for the elderly; and by elderly, I mean 21+(or something).  Anyway, this cake has very interesting twists to it. The actual cake is very light and fluffy with various intimations of lemon while the filling consists of the silkiest, smoothest lemon buttercream atop red raspberry preserves.  The entire cake is then doused in buttercream and topped off with sweetened coconut. Seriously, this was awesome and so divergent. It was a pretty big project to take on  but it was well worth it. 
Sorry J, but I had to cut a slice so that I could take a picture and post! OK, OK, maybe I had other incentive to cut it at 11:30pm last night (think: taste test). HAPPY BIRTHDAY XOXO

The Perfect Party Cake
from Dorie Greenspan

For the Cake:
2 ½ cups cake flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 ¼ cups buttermilk
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 fig preserves
About 1 ½ cups crushed walnuts

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. 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.

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