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DB Challenge #2 – Dorie’s Perfect Party Cake

I was so excited to see the challenge this month was a recipe from Dorie Greenspan.  Her cookbook, Baking from My Home to Yours has so many great recipes.  This was a double bonus for me because I could jazz it up with my newly honed Wilton decorating skills AND it would fulfill my aunt’s request for me to bring dessert to Easter dinner at her house.  I absolutely LOVED this cake.  The flavors (two favorites of mine, lemon and raspberry) were fresh and clean.  The cake had a great texture.  I loved the meringue butterceam and will definitely use it on more cakes.  I was a little disappointed that my cakes didn’t rise as much as I thought they would and I kind of missed the boat on the torting (my aunt said she liked the difference in the widths of the layers..) *I just realized as I was cutting and pasting the recipe from the DB site that this wasn’t my fault.  The measurements were incorrect on the original post, which is why my cake didnt’ rise and torting the layers was difficult… oh well, I guess I’ll just have to make it again… but all in all I think this was a sucessful cake.  Thanks to Movern for a “Perfect Party” challenge.  Be sure to check out the rest of the perfection on the Daring Baker’s Blogroll.

For the Cake
2 1/4 cups cake flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 ¼ cups whole milk or buttermilk (Iused 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 extractFor 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 (I omitted)

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.

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.

(ugly pic from hub’s crackberry)

DB Challenge #1 – French Bread


Well this month, I’m lucky to call myself a Daring Baker.  I was so excited to become a part of this group!  Then I got notice of my first challenge… Julia Child’s French Bread.  Well I would say this was a challenge indeed.  This was only my second time working with yeast.  I was extremely nervous!  And then I printed out the 14 page recipe and got a little more nervous.  (You can find there here). 

It went a lot better than I thought.  I knew it would all be ok when my little ball of dough came out of the mixer and was ready for its first rise.  It looked so smooth and perfect.

The first two rises went fine… took a little long, but were fine.  My friend, Nina hooked me up with some tips since my house was a little cold and the rises went off without a hitch.  When it came time to form the loaves, I got nervous again.  I didn’t have a canvas, but I used my Viking cooking class apron.  It worked out fine. 

Is that wine in the background?  Hmm, how did that get there?  Achem, anyway…they rose once again and were ready to be unmolded.  Yay for a pizza box hubs hadn’t brought out for recycling. 

One of these things is not like the other…can you tell which one I did first?  I can ;).  Into the oven those little puppies went.  I really wish I brushed them so they could be all goldilocks and whatnot, but I didn’t, so…they were albino, but still looking cute.

This is the part when I got really cocky and proud.  (and perhaps opened a bottle of wine…note the corkscrew and cork…hmm?)  My babies cooled before their photo shoot and then struck a mean pose:

So there you have it.  First challenge a success.  I learned I could do something I never thought I would do, and hey, that’s the whole point of Daring Bakers, right?  So thanks a bunch to Mary and Sara for pushing me to my baking limits!  I can’t wait to see what’s in store for March! 

Oh yeah, and check out all those other beautiful loaves on the Daring Baker’s Blogroll!

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