Wednesday, May 14, 2008

A Perfect Birthday Cake for Eddie

I recently came across a blog called Culinography, which featured Dorie Greenspan's "Perfect Party Cake," which I recreated for Eddie's birthday on Monday. I like cakes that can be made in stages, ahead of time, and this one fit the bill. The two cake layers were made, cooled and wrapped on Sunday; the creamy, white and lemony buttercream was made Monday in the afternoon. After briefly chilling the frosting in the fridge (it's starting to heat up here in the desert), the cakes were halved, then the layers spread with briefly warmed-up seedless raspberry preserves and buttercream, and the top and outside got the remaining frosting, which I smoothed with a warmed mini offset spatula. I took Culinography's suggestion and topped it off with raspberries. We had a big slice after dinner at Roy's of Hawaii in Rancho Mirage. I know it's gone corporate in recent years, but I love that place. The food is always superior, and the service is tops.

So here's Dorie's recipe as it appeared in Culinography. I'll be making this one again. I can see adding different flavors to the cake batter and buttercream. How 'bout Framboise in the cake with a chocolate buttercream? Hmmm? Sound good?

Dorie’s Perfect Party Cake

2 1/4 cups cake flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups buttermilk
4 large egg whites (I used extra-large eggs)
1 1/2 cups sugar (I used "vanilla" sugar)
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
1 stick (8 tablespoons or 4 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon pure lemon extract

1 cup sugar
4 large egg whites (I used extra-large eggs)
3 sticks (12 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

2/3 cup seedless raspberry preserves warmed gently until spreadable

Making the cake:
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.

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 (I wrapped the cooled cake layers in plastic wrap and stored at room temperature overnight. They can be frozen up to two months).

Making 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. (I have some carpal tunnel problems, so this was quite a chore. Next time I'll use a hand mixer!)

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. (I thought it needed a brief chilling to firm up a bit, as it was warm in our kitchen that day.)

Assembling the Cake:
Using a sharp, serrated knife and a gentle sawing motion, slice each layer horizontally in half. (The trick is to never let the knife go more than about a third of the way into the cake. Once there, keep turning the cake and sawing, and you'll come to the beginning point without making a wavy cut.)

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. (I used a regular offset spatula to spread and smooth out the buttercream, with the aid of a turning cake stand. Once smoothed out, I switched to a mini offset spatula, heated it in some hot water, dried it, and got a nice professional finish.)


Anonymous said...

Your cake came out beautifully! And framboise with chocolate buttercream? Absolutely!! :)

Rachelle said...

Thank you for visiting my Blog! We're just across from you guys in So Ca and am glad our highs are not like yours. Whew!

Your cake came out beautifully, I have my eye on this one as well as this summer brings 2 birthdays for this family.