30 March 2008

Daring Bakers: Perfect Party Cake

Everytime I idly leaf through Dorie Greenspan's Baking: from my home to yours, I stop at page 251 and sigh. It's one of those lovely compositions--slices of white cake, sandwiched between garnet layers of rasperry jam and white buttercream frosting, encased in a snowfall of shredded coconut.

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.



cheers!
jasmine


Related Post: Redux: DB: Dorie's Perfect Party Cake


AddThis Social Bookmark Button

42 comments:

Dianne said...

Your cake looks great. I think you ideas that you incorporated are good ones!

MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

I think when I do this again I'll use an 8 inch pan for the rounds!
I made this twice this time and did whip the whites separately like you did but my second baking I did in a slice mold so I can't tell it it rose any differently from the first.
You did get a beautiful cake Jasmine!

creampuff said...

I must say you do foofy cake very well! I too had trouble with the cakes but the end result was still delicious! Your cake is so pretty...

breadchick said...

Jasmine, I think the best part of this cake is the thick layer of extra buttercream in the middle!

And um... I snuck in and used the oven ;-) because my layers didn't rise either.

I'm going to try your modifications because I love the idea of this cake so much I hate the idea that it is just one of those meh recipes.

sunita said...

Jasmine, you did very well for someone who doesn't like spruced up cakes :-)

Claire said...

Cake looks great! I think sometimes changes are okay and necessary.

Gretchen Noelle said...

Great job with this cake! Too bad they didn't rise quite enough but wonderful modifications to face the challenge. Migraines, huh? No fun, no fun at all!

kellypea said...

Everytime I see this cake, I drool. I really enjoyed it and it looks as if you did, too! I enjoyed reading your tips, because I never know when something will come in handy in the future...

cookworm said...

My cakes didn't rise much, either, but I couldn't be bothered to try twice. I like your changes, and will remember them next time. Difficulties or no, your cake looks lovely!

Lesley said...

Foofy cakes, that made me laugh. Well your foofy cake looks divine to me!!

glamah16 said...

Very nice cake. With this one I was glad we could change the rules a bit.

Barbara Bakes said...

I wish I had enough time to bake this cake twice. Good for you! Looks delicious!

Heather said...

Looks delish! I only had two layers too, I tried to level the layers, but my cake leveler wouldn't go through the crust and there was no way I am level enough with a knife (I tried though).

Deborah said...

I'm not sure why some people had a hard time with the cakes rising and some did not. your cake looks lovely, though!!

Michelle said...

Your cake looks awesome! Great job on this month's challenge.

itssf said...

ha, i can totally relate about the fancy pants cakes, but it worked out well! if you're so into cardamom you might try arabic coffee if you haven't yet...

pixie said...

i was thinking of whipping the whites as well but i wanted to do it by the book first. Maybe with mine the problem was also that i used frozen egg whites for my cake. May have affected my outcome. Would have loved to use 8 inch pans as well if I had any! COngratulations! Your cake looks great!

Meeta said...

J, this still looks lovely. I too am not a big fan of such fancy cakes but this was divine!

Gigi said...

Well done! I think I am going to use your tip about the pans next time around I bake this cake.

Anne said...

The cake is simply lovely...looks so soft and light :)

Baking Soda said...

Foofy cake! Love it!
You did remarkably well for a non-foofer, I love that you tried the other approach, I was lying awake (!?) thinking I should have separately whisked the egg whites, glad to see that didn't help either hehe.
Great cake Jasmine!

Jenny said...

Hehe lovely cake Jasmine.
I didn't find my cake rose as much as I would have liked either, but I attributed it to the not very accurate measuring cups at my mothers house. However putting the filling between the layers gave it lots of height.
Btw, if you have a hard time with cutting the layers, try cutting a notch in one side of the cake that you line up after you have cut the layers. That way, no matter how uneven the layers are, they don't look uneven after the cake has been frosted.

linda said...

Your cake looks wonderful despite it only having the two layers ;)

Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) said...

To me this looks absolutely lovely -- and if I lived closer to you, I'd definitely be a taster for your leftovers!

Andrea said...

Like you, I'm more of an easy cake type of person, maybe a little quick glaze poured over the top, definitely ice cream on the side. My dear husband is much more likely to tackle a cake requiring pastry bags and buttercream!

For all the challenges you had, Beelzebub and the migraine, you made a lovely foofy cake! :-)

Jennifer said...

Good call on the 8" rounds... thanks for the tips on how to make our cakes better next time! Beautiful cake! :)

chou said...

Jasmine, great write-up! Sorry to hear about the migraines, but cheers to you for working around the pain. I TOTALLY agree with your "give me a slab of cake and leave me be" philosophy. Frosting smoshting. :)

Lis said...

Love the thick layer of cream in the middle! YUM! I'm glad you got better results the 2nd time. You did a beautiful job with the coconut too.. such a pretty cake!

xoxo

Canadian Baker said...

Jasmine - Your cake looks very yummy and I made a two-layer cake as well. I also got skinny cakes and should have used an 8 inch pan as you did.

Tartelette said...

Wonderful cake! It's funny, I never made cakes like this until I moved to the US. Believe it or not, I hate decorating with buttercream but I had to learn for work. If you knew how many times I actually go around that cake!! You did a beautiful job!

bombshellwithin said...

It's wonderful how you decided to take matters into your own hands in trying to find a solution. I only did mine once and let it be. Perhaps in the future I might retry and make some substitutions to suit more my liking. Wonderful job, though.

The Baker & The Curry Maker said...

I've seen a few 2 layers, they look good. Yours looks gorgeous!

Snug said...

i think your cake looks lovely :). haha, i'm glad i wasnt the only one who noticed the lack of salt ;)

Joy said...

Beautiful work. Your coconut looks so pretty - it's angelic!

Jenny said...

I learned a lot from your modifications - and you have an impressive filling layer!

Big Boys Oven said...

this is nice, lovely!

Mary Ann said...

Okay- I typed cardamom in a google search and your blog was the 5th site listed! I had to check it out because I recently have fallen in love with cardamom and was searching for some recipes. Come to find out you are a Daring Baker too! Your cake looks lovely and I bet it tasted even better!

Morven said...

Thanks for your tips about the cake - I'll try it next time (it'll be my 3rd baking of this cake). Glad you overcame your foofy-phobia!

Lunch Buckets said...

I am so totally going to replace a layer of cake with a layer of buttercream the next time I make a cake!

Molly Loves Paris said...

Quelle chance. You got to make the cake you dreamed of making. I love looking a Dorie's book. I'm so sorry to hear about you head ache.

I had wanted to do the egg whites separately, so I was glad to read your account of doing that. I like a simple cake also, one I can hold in my hand.

jasmine said...

Hello all

It was quite the cake wasn't it?

Sure...a thick layer of butterfrosting sounds good (and it was), bit it was also very sproingy sweet...

j

Kate / Kajal said...

i still cant tired of looking at this gorgeous cake. it would be a crime not to try it out.