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March 30, 2008

March 2008 Daring Bakers Challenge: Dorie's Perfect Party Cake

Daring Bakers Challenge March 2008: Dorie's Perfect Party Cake: The Inside

It's that time again...Time for the Daring Bakers monthly reveal! This month's recipe was chosen by Morven of Food Art and Random Thoughts and when I saw this month's Daring Bakers Challenge was Dorie Greenspan's Perfect Party Cake I was excited! Alexis had been flipping through Baking From My Home Yours and when she saw the cake she told me "I want that for my Tinkerbell birthday party!" So this was the perfect opportunity to try this cake before the big day to see if it would work for what we had in mind. Sadly I'd have to say no on that, but we'll get to that in the minute.

The overall issue many of the Daring Bakers had with this cake was that it did not rise as they had expected. I had the exact opposite problem...It rose too much! In fact it rose so much that the batter spilled over the sides of my cake pans! Luckily I had placed the cake pans on a baking sheet, so it didn't make a mess on the bottom of the oven. But needless to say I didn't have a rising issue, I had a bit too much rise!

I actually made this cake twice. The cake turned out very tender, which is not necessarily a bad thing, but when I removed the cakes from the pan the first go around the second one crumbled as it came out. Not good! I ranted a bit in my head and then decided to put off the next try for a couple of days.

The second try was the one that spilled out over the tops of the pans. This time however they came out of the pans quite easily. The edges had to be trimmed in order to decorate the cake, but that was no big deal. The splitting of each cake into two layers however was not a good adventure. I ended up having to paste some of the pieces back together with icing and that is never a good thing.

Despite the issues I had the cake itself, once decorated and such, looked amazing and it tasted amazing when all put together. I had never made buttercream with the method in this recipe before so that was fun to try, though as I mentioned with my Saint Patrick's Day cupcakes I'm not a fan of butter in icing because I think it's overpowering to the overall flavor, but this was ok for the most part. I wouldn't make it for myself again, but my sister likes buttercream icing with the butter so I might employ it on a cake for her in the future.

Another issue that popped up was that I thought the icing could have been a bit sweeter. The butterflavor was also a bit overwhelming as I mentioned above. This may have been because I ran out of lemon juice as well so I was not able to add that element to the icing and perhaps that would have made a difference. I ended up making two batches of icing because one was not enough to cover and decorate the cake.

Another issue that turned out to be not that big of a deal was that I was not able to find lemon flavoring so I just used lemon juice and I have to say that substitution turned out great! I chose to use blueberry jam in the middle of the layers and as always the lemon and blueberry flavors melded so well together! We had a little leeway to do what we wanted to with this cake and this is the path I chose.

Overall I'd give this cake a B -. I happen to like my standard yellow or white cake recipes much more than this, but it was ok. I could see making it for a fru fru baby or wedding shower or maybe a tea, but for me I think I'll just stick to my tried and true cakes that always get raves and are a bit sturdier in terms of decorating.

Thanks to Morven for hosting this month's challenge. I most definitely learned some new tricks and that is what these challenges are is all about! I can't wait to see what next month's recipe holds!

Update: I forgot to mention that on the first round I used cake flour and buttermilk and while the cakes rose ok, they were too tender and as I mentioned they fell apart. On the second go around I used all purpose flour and whole milk and they ended up over rising. Oh well.

Check out the other Daring Bakers and see their many wonderful creations!

Daring Bakers Challenge March 2008: Dorie's Perfect Party Cake

What You'll Need for the Cake:
2 1/4 cups cake flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 ¼ cups whole milk or buttermilk (Note: I used whole milk. I had some left over from one of the Tuesdays with Dorie recipes and since I drink skin or soy milk this was a good way to use some of that up.)
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 (Note: As I mentioned above I used lemon juice because I couldn't find lemon extract.)

What You'll Need 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) (Note: I ran out of lemon juice so I omitted this.)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

What You'll Need for Finishing:
2/3 cup seedless raspberry preserves stirred vigorously or warmed gently until spreadable (Note: I used blueberry jam instead. I'm not a fan of raspberries, though I keep trying them, but I haven't liked them yet. I let the jam come to room temperature and it spread fine.)
About 1 ½ cups sweetened shredded coconut (Note: I didn't think the coconut was a good combination with the blueberries and lemon so I just decorated the cake with icing instead.)

Getting Ready:

Center 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.

Daring Bakers Challenge March 2008: Dorie's Perfect Party Cake: Layer

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. (Note: I just mixed the sugar and lemon zest with my mixer and it worked perfectly.)

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. (Note: I think they needed to cool more than 5 minutes in the pan. I think this is why they were so fragile overall.) 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).

Daring Bakers Challenge March 2008: Dorie's Perfect Party Cake: TheTop

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.

Daring Bakers Challenge March 2008: Dorie's Perfect Party Cake: Slice

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. (Note: I actually thought the cake was better then next day and beyond. The flavors seemed to deepen and meld more completely as the cake sat.)

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 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.

Daring Bakers Challenge March 2008: Dorie's Perfect Party Cake: Cut

Posted by Dianne at March 30, 2008 7:04 AM

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WOW! Perfect Party Cake indeed, its gorgeous!

Posted by: laurie at March 30, 2008 9:57 AM

Well this cake looks pretty good. Well done!
I wonder why the cakes rose too much? Very curious.

Posted by: Melinda Pickworth at March 30, 2008 9:59 AM

Thanks Laurie! :o)

I kind of wondered that myself. Since everyone else was having rising issues I was stunned when it went too far! :o)

Posted by: Dianne at March 30, 2008 11:05 AM

That cake looks amazingly delicious. You dod a great job of decorating it too!

Posted by: Lucy V at March 30, 2008 12:07 PM

Blueberry, mmmm. I only *wish* I had your problem of over-rising cakes! You must have a magical fluffy-cake touch ;) I ran out of frosting as well, so next time I'll double it.

Beautiful cake!

Posted by: Nemmie at March 30, 2008 12:20 PM

Thanks Lucy! :o)

A magical fluffy cake touch...I love it! ;o)

Posted by: Dianne at March 30, 2008 12:51 PM

Lovely layers. Thats curious that yours rose so much. How much did you fill the pan?

Posted by: CB at March 30, 2008 12:52 PM

It's been a week or so since I made the cake, so I don't remember for sure, but I just divided to the batter between the two cake pans.

Posted by: Dianne at March 30, 2008 1:07 PM

The decorating is amazing! I love blueberry and lemon together too.

Posted by: Susan at March 30, 2008 1:16 PM

Thanks! I'm a big fan of lemon and blueberry myself! :o)

Posted by: Dianne at March 30, 2008 2:10 PM

Beautiful! I am so impressed with your cake decorating skills. Lovely inside and out.

Posted by: Karen at March 30, 2008 5:06 PM

good choice, going with the blueberry jam. blueberries trump raspberries any day. :)

Posted by: a. grace at March 30, 2008 5:11 PM

Yours looks great. Nice job on the decorating!

Posted by: RecipeGirl at March 30, 2008 5:19 PM

Wow! You're decorating skills are fantastic! Looks beautiful!

Posted by: KN at March 30, 2008 7:09 PM

Thanks everyone!

I chose the blueberries over raspberries because I don't really care for raspberries and I think lemons and blueberries go so well together.

Posted by: Dianne at March 30, 2008 8:02 PM

It must have taken you ages to do that decoration! So nice!

Posted by: Lesley at March 30, 2008 9:27 PM

Over-risen? Wow. I think I'd rather have that problem than the pancakes I had the first go 'round.

Really like the decoration...


Posted by: jasmine at March 30, 2008 10:23 PM

I love how you decorated. And the blueberry in between the layers look heavenly!

Posted by: MEGAN at March 30, 2008 11:01 PM

Hey, you at least made a cake and from what I can tell it looks fabulous! Am wondering what size pans you used, was it 9'? I'm amazed how yours rose so much while a lot of ours turned flat!

Posted by: Pixie at March 31, 2008 3:08 AM

Dianne, I think it looks lovely despite all issues. Beautiful decoration!

Posted by: Suzana at March 31, 2008 5:49 AM

I used 9-inch pans. My first attempt rose just fine, but they did fall apart. The second batch just wouldn't stop rising! After trimming them though I was able to decorate them, though they still were a bit tender. I think if I made this again I'd bake three layers instead of splitting the individual layers.

Posted by: Dianne at March 31, 2008 9:01 AM

I am blown away by your decoration---wow! It turned out amazing!

Posted by: KN at March 31, 2008 10:52 AM

Thanks! I thought about doing a basket weave, but in the end the dots won out because I was running short on time.

Posted by: Dianne at March 31, 2008 1:24 PM

Your icing looks the best! You've got so much patience.. the results are breath taking! :) wonderful job

Posted by: coco at March 31, 2008 2:11 PM

Thanks! I was pleased with how it looked in the end.

Posted by: Dianne at March 31, 2008 3:08 PM

Gorgeous cake! Especially all of those darling dots on top. Did you make extra buttercream? The bluberry jam with the lemon sounds delightful and looks decadent and delish!

Posted by: Elle at April 1, 2008 12:25 AM

Beautiful! I love the simplicity of the decorations.

Posted by: Sarah at April 1, 2008 8:44 AM

I did make an extra batch of icing. The first batch was just enough to do a crumb coat in my opinion. :o)

Thanks! I love dots! :o)

Posted by: Dianne at April 1, 2008 9:31 AM

What a beautiful cake! I love the little curly que decoration on top :)

Posted by: JMom at April 1, 2008 3:47 PM

Thanks! I was feeling the dots that day. :o)

Posted by: Dianne at April 1, 2008 3:49 PM

yuuuuum cake!!!! I love your cake..it looks wonderful!!! Congratulations on your challenge

Posted by: Miss Ifi at April 2, 2008 10:44 PM

Thanks! :o)

Posted by: Dianne at April 3, 2008 9:23 AM

Blueberry sounds wonderful. I love the decoration of your cake.

Posted by: Claire at April 3, 2008 9:24 PM

Interesting take on the cake ... the end result is very pretty!

Posted by: Ivonne at April 3, 2008 9:29 PM

The blueberry worked very well. I just love blueberry jam!

Posted by: Dianne at April 4, 2008 11:30 AM

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