Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Dorie's Perfect Party Cake

The actual act of preparing and baking a cake is very easy. There isn’t too much more involved in making a cake from scratch than there is from making a cake from a box. But, in my experience… I’m finding a huge difference in the texture and taste of a homemade cake vs. a box cake. And folks… I’m not going to lie… the box…. Well, it’s kicking the homemade cake’s ass.

For my own sake because my memory is god-awful terrible, I’m going to review some of my past cake making experiences…

The Bad:
Butter Cake with Chocolate Buttercream : This is the cake I made for my brother's birthday. (Again, I'm sorry, Mike). This was possibly my worst cake attempt ever. Seriously… the cake was dry with no flavor and the frosting was crunchy and bland.

Caramel Cake with Caramel Cream Cheese Frosting: This cake, I think I overcooked. The crumb turned out dry and kind of tasteless. But, the frosting…. Ohhhh the frosting… The frosting belongs in the Top Shelf Category for sure.

The Good:
Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting and Butterfingers: Good, but not as good as expected. I mean, with chocolate, peanut butter, cream cheese, and butterfingers, you'd think you hit the motherload of all cakes, right? But, it didn't live up to the awesomeness of all it's ingredients. Tasty, but not mindblowingly good. Next time, I would add more peanut butter to the actual cake.

Amy Sedaris's Vanilla Cupcakes with Vanilla Frosting: This cake was good. A good vanilla cake recipe. The frosting…. Not my favorite, though.

Especially Dark Chocolate Cake: A very good, moist, rich chocolate cake.

Italian Cream Cake: A good cake. Again, I may have overcooked the layers, but this isn’t your moist light cake. The frosting is amazing and I plan on making this cake again and see if I can’t get it to come out a little moister (is that a word? More moist?).

Top Shelf, The Creme De La Creme or whatever:

Bill's Big Carrot Cake: Holy Moses, this cake is delicious! And I didn't even think I really liked carrot cake that much! The perfect carrot cake recipe.

Chocolate Guinness Cake with Chocolate Guinness Cream Cheese Frosting: Ummm... Is there anything else that needs to be said here? This will be my go-to chocolate cake recipe. I can't wait to make this in a huge layer cake.

So, in review… I have an excellent chocolate cake and carrot cake recipe. But… not everyone likes chocolate or carrot cake. I need a go-to delicious white/vanilla cake. And, I’ve found it. Thanks to Dorie Greenspan.

I made cupcakes out of her Perfect Party Cake Recipe this weekend and it was delicious. Light and tender and moist. It would have been perfect as a cake with the suggested fruit filling. But, since I was making cupcakes and wanted to get a taste of the actual cake… I kept things basic and simple. No fruit filling. Just cake and frosting.

Speaking of the frosting… this was the first time I’d ever had a meringue buttercream, let alone make one! And while I thought my arm would fall off while cooking the meringue on the stove, the recipe was fairly simple and it turned out delicious! I’m definitely going to try out some more meringue buttercream frostings in the future.

So, if you’re making this recipe… I suggest adding something to it. Fruit filling or flavored frosting… because as a vanilla cake with vanilla frosting, it’s a bit boring. Delicious, but boring.

I halved the recipe for the cake and made cupcakes and cut the frosting recipe into thirds. I didn’t have any buttermilk, so I used light sour cream instead in the cake and I didn't use the lemon extract, but used Vanilla Extract instead.

Dorie Greenspan's Perfect Party Cake
From: 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 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

For Finishing: (Which I didn't do this time, but recommend)
2/3 cup seedless raspberry preserves stirred vigorously or warmed gently until spreadable
About 1 ½ cups sweetened shredded coconut

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter 2 9-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.

Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt.

Whisk together the buttermilk 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 buttermilk-egg mixture, then beat in half of the remaining dry ingredients until incorporated. Add the rest of the buttermilk 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 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. 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.


Gina said...

Very pretty cupcakes!

Was looking at your "favourite recipes" and I'm a bit confused...can't tell which chocolate chip cookie is your very favourite. Is it a tie...between David Leibovitz's version and the recipe from Gourmet magazine? Or is there a clear winner?!

MsC said...

BEAUTIFUL cupcakes!

Pamela said...

The cupcakes looks darn tasty and cute. But the Chocolate Guinness Cake has my full attention. I am going to have to try that one out!

Steph said...

I loved your review of those cakes and totally agree with you. It is so difficult to bake a homemade cake that has the texture of a boxed mix. It kills me when people prefer mix over homemade, especially after how hard I work on it. Isn't it weird that chocolate and carrot cakes always turn out so moist.. and they use all purpose flour??

I think I might have to give the perfect party cake a try!