The Perfect Party Cake

Daring Bakers Challenge March 2008 - Perfectly Dorie

 Perfect Party Cake (10) by MeetaK


No voodoo dances this month, as I did last month! This month our lovely hostess Morven of Food, Art and Random Thoughts chose something that made me jump and do a dance of joy. Morven said she wanted to pick something that had potential for putting our own personal stamp on it. I love that. It's easy creating something from from a cookbook, but adding one's own personal touch, a little something that says "I made it!" is special.

Morven's choice fell on Dorie Greenspan's The Perfect Party Cake from her simply awesome book Baking: From My Home To Yours. For those who do not have this book, and I believe there might only be a few handful out there, please do. Dorie's recipes are easy, fun and simply delectable. There has not been one recipe in this book that I did not like.

Another thing I loved about the challenge is that Morven left us plenty of room to be creative. The idea was to stay true to the basic cake recipe and the basic buttercream recipe (for those using buttercream) and see what combinations we came up with.

The truth is, I normally do not make these kind of cakes. So, when I read the recipe and saw the picture in the book I thought I would stay true to the entire recipe, and in Dorie's section "Playing Around" she suggested using fresh raspberries in between the layers. I loved the idea. The only change I made was in the size. I had just received some stainless steel cooking rings and was dying to use them. And that is exactly what I did.

I followed the recipe exactly then simply cut the cake using the rings and layered the fruit, jam and buttercream in the rings. I also did not cover the entire mini-cakes with the frosting. I liked the way the layers looked so I smothered the last layer with a bit of buttercream and the coconut. I still need a bit of practice using the rings, but I think my first attempt was quite good.

I made the cake the same week it was announced as I knew I would have a tight schedule this month. I am in Dubai now and my parents were drooling over this last night when I was working on the pictures. I think they want me to make this for them now!!!

As I said earlier, Dorie's recipes are easy to follow and I have not experienced any difficulties with here recipes. Even with this cake - it looks spectacular and the steps are so easy to follow, the cake is fantastic to handle - robust even after all the handling I did and the buttercream was a breeze to make. Somehow when I am in the kitchen with Dorie I feel so confident, I know I cannot falter.

The Perfect Party Cake
(adapted from Dorie Greenspan's Baking: From My Home To Yours)

Printable version of recipe here.


Perfect Party Cake (07) by MeetaK

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

For Finishing
2/3 cup seedless raspberry preserves stirred vigorously or warmed gently until spreadable
About 1 ½ cups sweetened shredded coconut

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.

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.

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.

My Notes: The instructions here are for the larger cake. If you would like to make the mini-cakes you can use the cooking rings or a small saucer. Cut the cake to the desired size and layer as instructed above.


Perfect Party Cake (06) by MeetaK

I loved the lemony aroma of the cake with the fruity raspberry flavor. The fresh raspberries adds a crispness and brings a fantastic texture to the cake. Making min-cakes is so perfect because it does not frighten the guest of getting a huge piece. I was able to cut the mini-cakes in half and serve it to my guest, who we invited for a relaxing Sunday afternoon.

Would I make this again?
I liked the cake. It was easy to put together and we were rewarded with a perfect cake. Full of tangy and fruity flavor. The only thing I might change next time would be either adding a little less buttercream or using whipped cream to make it lighter.

What did I learn from this challenge?
That making layer cakes like this do not have to be tedious. Dorie shows how easy it is and how robust a light, fluffy cake can be. I will be using the recipe for the cake often because I liked the way I was able to handle it without it crumbling and it tasted fantastic.

You'll have a lot of leftovers - the egg yolks and if you make the min-cakes you'll have some cake left over too. Well if you stick around here for the next few weeks, I'll be showing you a few ideas of how you can use the leftovers to make ecstatically delectable desserts. So, please come back!

Thank you Morven for choosing a great Dorie recipe and thank you for allowing us to be as creative as we liked to be. I look forward to seeing what my fellow Daring Bakers have come up with. If you would like to check the other cakes out too just head on over to the Daring Bakers' Blogroll and work your way down the wonderful list of creative bakers.

Other cakes you might enjoy:

Orange Cake 08 framed Orange Cake
CherryCake03 Sour Cream & Cherry Cake
Chocolate Crepe Cake01 Chocolate Crepe Cake

All photographs and written content on What's For Lunch, Honey? © 2006-2008 Meeta Khurana unless otherwise indicated. | All rights reserved | Please Ask First

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  1. love the way you made use of you rings and the unfrosted sides of the mini cakes...lovely presentation!

  2. Minis are always a great idea in my book Meeta and yours are really lovely. Perfect that you got to use the new rings! I'm right with you on the buttercream - a little lighter next time would be just right!

  3. I love these! They're so inviting. Well done!

  4. Looks great Meeta. Good job! :)

  5. I love the mini cakes and the nakedness of the cakes on the side. Looks just perfect!

  6. You did a lovely job on your little cakes.

    Natalie @ Gluten A Go Go

  7. that looks divine, i think this month's DB challenge is more exciting cuz of the customization each of you would have done! just wonderful :)

  8. That looks perfect indeed - great job!

  9. This looks fantastic, I love the way you used the fresh raspberries on one layer!!! Delicious!

  10. I loved the mini idea Meeta. Very nice indeed. I'm so envious of your stainless steel rings! I read you were going to be in Dubai...amidst the 1000 queries that Morven got on the post. Have a great sure your parents are spoiling you silly!! Ciao

  11. Meeta, those cakes look so cute..and btw, I made mine smaller too..well not exactly mini, but smaller...and yes, I too made use of those leftover yolks :-))

  12. Thanks everyone for your comments. I enjoyed making this cake and I am enjoying seeing everyone's great combination.

    Ben, if I had known we could have had a secret sneak preview last night LOL!

    Deeba, I am in Dubai and enjoying every minute here. I will be making this cake for my parents tomorrow again to treat them.

  13. I love the mini cakes, and the layer of berries looks absolutely stunning!!

  14. Loved that you made little cakes, they are always more special than a big huge cake!

  15. Those are the cutest little cakes!

  16. I love these too, they are just so lush and just be to be eaten! Well done.

  17. Love your little layered cakes! So pretty! I too thought they were a bit rich with the buttercream.

  18. Oh the perfect little round Tea Cakes! It was fun to just play for once on a challenge. And I'm glad you didn't have to do the "voodoo dance" this month ;-)

  19. so adorable... if only they could be packed up to give as gifts...

  20. Lovely cakes Meeta! I love the presentation. Great job.

  21. I love your minis, they look wonderful and perfect!

    I was dancing too, when I saw that we are allowed to play around. But perhaps I shouldn't have. ;-)

  22. Your picture shows just what I had in mind to do. But it didn't work for me. Lovely outcome for you and it gives me hope that I may try again! Great job!

  23. Mini's are a great option for this cake, just a bite of indulgence! I'm with you on the buttercream, too heavy for the cake.

  24. I love the little cakes! So cute. I really need to venture out some with my presentation but that takes time and I don't have much of that right now. Great job! Enjoy Dubai.

  25. your little perfect party cakes look wonderful. cute! love it! *m

  26. I really like that you left the sides unfrosted. Beautiful with the fresh raspberries!

  27. Beautiful as usual Meeta! The minis are so enticing. Perfect job- and I always love your summation of the challenges too.

  28. Very nice Meeta, also its interesting that you did these why didn't I think of that?! :D

  29. Meeta,
    I have never been to your site before and it is absolutely beautiful!
    Plus your cake is adorable! I like the idea of using the cake rings.

  30. What a great presentation--that would have been a better idea for my purposes...the person who sliced the cake too generous and we couldn't finish our slices. These little, portioned towers would have been perfect!


  31. Meeta,

    Those adorable little cakes are charming, sweet and fetching just like you!

  32. I've been wanting to use rings because I love the small sizes and the dessert is soooooo cute! Very nice, Meeta.

  33. these mini cakes look so pretty! i would love to serve something so cute after a dinner party, how perfect!

  34. Wow Meeta! I love the way you made your little cakes. I'm having a high tea in the future, and they would be perfect! They look so delicate.

  35. Love the mini cakes! What a great idea to use the little rings. So creative and looks beautiful!

  36. Delightful idea to make them small. Well done.

  37. I would love some fresh raspberries right about now, your cake looks beautiful!

  38. I love minis too. You decorated them so very beautiful.


  39. Your little cakes are ADORABLE and so pretty too!

  40. I love the mini cake version you made! So adorable!

  41. How appealing with the fresh fruit and exposed layers! Enjoy your visit! Libby

  42. Meeta, your website is great! I've bookmarked it : )
    I also choose to go down the mini cake route, but did so with chocolate layers instead.
    I agree with you on the buttercream being a bit heavy on the heavy side.

  43. I just ate the left over cake pieces. :)
    They turned out so cute. I could see why your family would be sad that they missed out on these. I think you should make them again for them.

  44. Minis are always a great option...and your look particularly lovely! I wouldn't have thought it was your first time with the cake rings!

  45. Darling mini cakes Meeta! So clever of you to use the rings. Having the layers show is also just perfect :D Thanks for your calming comment, too.

  46. The minis look fantastic!

  47. Perfectly perfect and cute! I love it! I bet your parents won't let you go back unless you make them that cake!!

  48. Lovely little cakes Meeta! These look like something out of a restaurant menu. Fab job as usual!! :)

  49. Your mini cakes are so cute! I love how it means you get to eat a whole cake yourself.

  50. what can i say meeta!! your one very talented lady!!! you never cease to impress me with your creations!! this is definitely a perfect party cake!!

  51. One word.... DROOL! Your mini cakes look fabulous. Glad you enjoyed the challenge.

  52. Mini is always cuter ;) Love that you kept the layers visible.

  53. Hey Meeta!!!

    What a great idea to make mini cakes! They look adorable!

    Congrats on another DB success

  54. thank you everyone, i really appreciaate all your feedback on this. i too love little minis rather than larger cakes. they would really make perfect gifts too!

  55. They look beautiful, and actually much more appetizing than completely slathered with buttercream.
    I will happily trade you a piece of mine for a piece of yours!
    (oh and I have to do something with those egg yolks, you're reminding me now).

  56. What a great idea, making mini cakes! A great way to take an elegant cake and dress it up a bit more. Beautiful, as always, Meeta.

  57. I love the little round towers but it makes me want to use the same treatment on pancakes - jam, coconut, buttercream.... it could happen!

  58. Gorgeous! I used a whipped cream icing with my cake and it was perfect...I recommend you try that next time. Great job!

  59. I can't wait to see what your suggestions are with the leftover yolks and cake.

    Such beautiful mini's. The way you present your desserts are like art.

  60. wow Meeta! that's another masterpiece! and I agree, Dorie has really explained the recipe so well that making a layered cake seems easy!

    great photos! I love the last one with a tinge of pink hue on the napkin:) how do you do these things girl??!!:)

  61. Your little cakes simple BEAUTIFUL!!! Congratulations on such a good job!!! yuuum!!!

  62. Your cakes look extremely pretty and cute! Very well done!



  63. Such beautiful mini cakes! I love the fresh raspberries.

  64. Wow sooo pretty! Yours look wonderful!

  65. I love your idea for getting mini cakes. And what did you do with the leftover bits of cake? If I do this cake again I want to make a curd with the egg yolks to use as the filling. Lime curd maybe.

  66. Ohh my that what I missed??? it looks absolutely yummy and

  67. This are so inviting. These are like mini cakes.


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