I look at it and think "My, that's pretty...I really should make that some day," and then go off to a different recipe.
When I've charged myself with baking a birthday cake, I flip through this marvellous tome and think "My, that's pretty...I really should make that some day," and then go off to a different cake.
So when our fabulous Daring Bakers host, Morven of Food Art and Random Thoughts revealed this month challenge as Dorie's Perfect Party Cake, I knew my days of wistfully dreaming of whipping up so lovely a creation would be a memory as now this celebratory crumb will have come from my kitchen...or a version of it.
The Perfect Party Cake is not hard to make as Dorie's wonderful prose easily walks you through the steps: two divided slabs, some seedless jam, a mound of Swiss meringue buttercream frosting, all patted down with coconut flakes. Everything about this cake is delicious--the crumb has nice, light flavour and a soft texture. The frosting is sweet but neutral and plays nicely with the lemon, raspberry and coconut.
But the thing is...I'm not a foofy cake person.
And by this I mean any cake that you need to primp and fuss over. I have an ingrained and genetic aversion to crumbcoats and piping bags, which extends to layer cakes.
Just give me a single, naked slab and a fork and I'm more than happy--you don't even have to give me a fork, but mummy taught me that cake is not finger food. If I'm feeling fancy, a plop of ice cream is perfect accompaniment. If I'm bothered to ice a cake, I prefer something that takes relatively little effort--plop and smoosh, plop and smoosh. Easy peasy, pudding and pie.
So here I am, dared to make a slightly foofy, definitely layered cake. It's more than layered--its two baked slabs, split to make four layers. And here I am, even and level-cake slicing challenged. Really...most of my attempts at such beasts have produces wobbly-cut layers whose serrated tops (or bottoms) resemble the bloop-bloop heart monitor machine display screens. At best they are only cut on a diagonal. I don't even pretend the layers will be the same thickness.
But like a true DBer, I put all the above aside and tackled the cake.
I baked twice for this challenge--and by doing so, broke my personal DB rule: one shot, good or bad. My first attempt was during my migraine weekend, during a small relatively pain-free windo. As soon as I took them out of the oven, I set them on the rack to cool and then the searing aches returned and I slunk off to a dark room. Two days later, the slabs were still there...cool but stale. I looked at them--they didn't rise...at all. I blamed Beelzebub and decided to try again later.
Between attempts I'd read various DB accounts, many complaining that the slabs didn't rise. What? Were they all coming into my kitchen when I wasn't around and using the kitchen squatter? Given I just got my power bill, I can (thankfully) say no. A few people thought their leveners were at fault. That could have been my issue, but I use my BP regularly and haven't had any problems with lift before. I read and re-read the recipe in my book and as far as I can tell, I followed everything to the letter.
This, of course, lead me to break a real DB rule...I decided to not follow the recipe to the letter. I used the same ingredients, in the same quantities, but just a little differently. Plus, I decided to switch pan sizes, using my more standard 20cm (8") tins instead of the 23cm (9") ones called for.
So...what did I do differently?
- I whipped the egg whites separately from the buttermilk, with a bit of sugar so I had lovely billowy, soft-peaked marshmallowy clouds.
- Instead of sifting all the baking powder with the flour, I held back about a teaspoon's worth.
- Just before pouring the buttermilk into the batter, I stirred in the reserved bp, to activate the leavening properties
- When adding the wet to the dry, my first addition was half the buttermilk the second was the remaning and the third was folding in the egg whites.
- VERY QUICKLY put the tins into the oven.
Well...the cakes were higher (some of which is attibutable to the volume issue by switching to the smaller tins, but I think my procedural changes helped a bit), but not high enough for me to feel comfortable about bisecting them adequately. I think if I were using a better oven, I would have had better height.
Because I switched it to a two-layer cake, I wound up with a lot more frosting than I needed, so I...umm...made a very thick layer of frosting in between the cakes. Not so thick as it would have replaced a proper third (or fourth) layer, but thicker than I'd normally do.
Of course, after I completed it, we got a note from Dorie suggesting that people use plain flour (just take away two tablespoons of flour from the mix) or a particular brand of flour. Since that note, I noticed the number of triumphant DBers increased. Ah well...it was still a good birthday cake for the exbf.
I do want to try this one again with that flour brand, the ap subsitute and my regular brand. I'm just not sure what do do with all that cake...
To read what the other DBs did with this challenge, take a meander through our blogroll.
Related Post: Redux: DB: Dorie's Perfect Party Cake