Monday, October 12, 2009

Dorie Greenspan's perfect party cake...

I came across Dorie Greenspan and her book, Baking: from my home to yours a few weeks into surfing the baking blogsphere. I have never heard of her before, but after reading about how talented and gifted she is in turning complicated recipes into simpler ones, I can't help wanting to get hold of her book. She's a professional and home baker who trained in Parisian sweets and under masters such as Julia Child and Pierre Herme. My excitement bubbled after my friend helped me buy the book overseas.

The recipe that jumped out to me was her 'perfect party cake'. Looks, taste, budget and method-wise, this cake is truly perfect for birthday celebrations! The steps are not overly complicated and they're just enough to be a challenge for a novice baker like me :D This blog is still lacking in layered cakes and what better way to start than from the very basic.

The 4-tiered-cake is a lemon buttermilk cake filled with a more subtle lemon buttercream and raspberry preserves. Since lemon is very versatile with all fruits, the raspberry can be substituted with strawberry, blueberry, blackberry or whatever berry you have on hand!

After tasting the buttercream, I decided to double the lemon juice and add sugar+toast the coconut flakes. Surprisingly, the combination of these flavours worked and the cake was delicious! The cake flour made the buttermilk cake soft and there was no overly sweet after taste. Nothing disastrous also happened thanks to Dorie's clear and easy to understand instructions.

Given it's my first attempt to make a multi-layered cake, I'm quite satisfied with how it turned out. This recipe is definitely a keeper and I can't wait to try out her other ones!

Dorie Greenspan's Perfect Party Cake

adapted from Baking: from my home to yours.

For the Cake 
2 1/4 cups cake flour (click to see how to make it)
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/4 cups buttermilk
4 large egg whites
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 tsp grated lemon zest
1 stick/8 tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature 
(very important, see step 4)

1. Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt.
2. Whisk together the milk and egg whites in a medium bowl.
3. Put the sugar and lemon zest in another large bowl and rub them together with your fingers until the sugar is moist and fragrant.
4. Add the butter and beat at medium speed for a full 3 minutes, or until the butter and sugar are very light 
(if the butter isn't at room temperature, you may need to beat longer like I did. I had to beat for a full 15 mins, don't stick to the time if it hasn't been creamed properly, use your experience/feeling. You know it's ready from the pale colour and when you can still feel the sugar in the butter if you rub the mixture between your fingers. If it feels just like butter, it's over-beaten. This is to aerate the cake so that it will rise and not be rock-hard!).
5. Add in 1/3 of the flour mixture, still beating on medium speed.
6. Beat in half of the milk-egg mixture, then half of the remaining dry ingredients until incorporated.
7. Add the rest of the milk-egg mixture beating until the batter is homogeneous, then add the last of the dry ingredients.
8. Finally, beat for a good 2 minutes to ensure it's thoroughly mixed and well aerated. 
9. Divide between 2 buttered 20cm spring-form pans and bake for 30-35 minutes in a 180C oven (160 fan-forced). 
10 Once baked, cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then invert and cool to room temperature.

For the Buttercream
1 cup of sugar
4 large egg whites
3 sticks (12 oz) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1 tsp pure vanilla extract

1. Put sugar and egg whites in a large heatproof bowl, and fitting the bowl over a pan of simmering water, whisk constantly for about 3 minutes, until the bowl feels hot to the touch. The sugar should be dissolved and the mixture will look like shiny marshmallow cream. Remove bowl from heat.
2. Beat on medium speed until the mixture is cool, about 5 minutes.
3. Add the butter on stick a time, beating until smooth. 
4. Once butter is in, beat on medium-high speed until it is thick and very smooth, about 6-10 minutes. It's okay if it curdles or separates during this time, just keep beating and it will come together again.
5. Gradually beat in the lemon juice on medium speed until it is all absorbed, then beat in the vanilla.
6. You should have a shiny, smooth, velvety, pristine white buttercream.

For the finishing
2/3 cup blackberry jam
1 1/2 cups shredded coconut, sweetened and toasted

1. Cut each of the cake layer into half.
2. Spread the blackberry jam and topped it with the buttercream 
3. Put another layer and repeat the sequence. 
Layering cakes turned out to be quite difficult if you're after a perfectly tiered one! If the cake is uneven, cutting off the lopsided part helped a lot.
4. Use the leftover buttercream to frost the whole cake and then pressed the coconut into the frosting.

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