I’m not sure if you’ve heard of something called the Daring Baker’s challenge but in a nutshell, a bunch of crazy bakers do one recipe each month and try to make it their own. This month it was Dorie Greenspan’s “Perfect Party Cake.”
Admittedly, i am a lazy baker. When you tell me a certain cake calls for 7 (or in this case 15!) minute frosting, my gut says ‘make it buttercream.’ When half of the directions tell me how to slice, frost, and layer, i think, “ugh. Do I have to?” Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind doing things from scratch, it’s kind of what i do, but i put this off til the last possible moment out of sheer terror.
The cake is called perfect party cake. There were a few different flavors that we could mess with: lemon, coconut, raspberry, but we were told that no matter what, it HAD to be a layer cake. So made cupcakes. And layered them.
The cake turned out wonderfully moist, spongy, and quite delicious. Other bakers were posting on the blog with concerns of the cake not rising, but mine did awesome. The meringue frosting was a pain the arse, but turned out smashing! I’m going to post the recipe here with my notations and additions as needed. I’ll throw in another picture at the end.
For the Cake
2 ½ cups cake flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt I omitted the salt since the only butter I could use was salted.
1 ¼ cups whole milk or buttermilk (I prefer buttermilk with the lemon) I used powdered because buying ‘real’ buttermilk is a waste for me.
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 again, I used salted butter
½ teaspoon pure lemon extract I used coconut extract because I had a feeling these were going to be too lemony for my liking- and they almost were
For the Buttercream
1 cup sugar I used ¾ cup, because I only had two sticks of butter
4 large egg whites I used 3 egg whites
3 sticks (12 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature I used two sticks
¼ cup fresh lemon juice (from 2 large lemons) I only juiced one lemon
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2/3 cup seedless raspberry preserves stirred vigorously or warmed gently until spreadable
About 1 ½ cups sweetened shredded coconut
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. I used my silicon baking cups. I sprayed them with no-stick and placed them on a pan.
To Make the Cake
Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Whisk together the milk and egg whites in a medium bowl. For some reason, I didn’t see this step while making my treats. 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. a fork did the job just as nicely. 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. Because I missed that previous line, I ended up alternating flour, milk, then eggs. Didn’t seem to make a difference. 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. I didn’t do this part either. I get super paranoid about over-mixing stuff. I don’t like my cakes tough and tasteless. Divide the batter between the two pans and smooth the tops with a rubber spatula. Again, I poured the batter into my silicon baking cups that were sprayed with no-stick. 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. I baked my cupcakes for 19 minutes.
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. This took me closer to 6 minutes but I wasn’t stopping til it looked like marshmallow.
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. I wanted to stop right here, because it tasted just like marshmallow fluff. I was in heaven! I think I know what I’m going to do for my s’mores cupcakes! 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 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. Mine never did curdle. I guess I got lucky. On medium speed, gradually beat in the lemon juice, waiting until each addition is absorbed before adding more, and then the vanilla. Well, I put the vanilla in first. I guess I’m not that good at following directions. My bad. 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. At this point, I simply cut each cupcake in half, spread some buttercream, blobbed on the raspberry jam, replaced the top and spread more buttercream there. Then I took a pinch of coconut and placed it on top. I pushed down so that I could kind of smoosh my little sammies to hold them in place. Worked like a charm! However, after doing half the recipe this way, and becoming extremely bored, I busted out my melon baller, scooped the centers out, and dropped some raspberry jam inside. Then I frosted with the buttercream, turned my cuppie over and pressed into a bowl of coconut flake I had sitting on the counter.
I gotta tell ya, my husband liked the ones with the raspberry surprise a bit better. (They were easier to make, too.) Now, i know this isn’t called Bill’s challenge, so his opinion does not matter at all. I mean this is the guy who told me that ‘cookies would be a nice change of pace.’ How dare you, sir.