30 March 2008

Perfect Party Cake


Nemmie's Tip #148: if you make a cake with berries on it, just for sous chef Mahni's delight, be sure that it is set faaaar away from her on the dinner table.


I thought Easter would be the perfect time to serve this DB challenge, since I'd be able to push the leftovers on family. Mahni would be there, and Hubs and I bought her a rockin' little apron to help her Aunt Nemmie in the kitchen. So I also thought I'd make our baking time that much sweeter by using Mahni's favorite: fresh berries.

I made the cakes the night before heading to my parents' house, and then Sunday afternoon Mahni and I got to work with frosting-making and assembling. That would be better defined as: Nemmie made frosting, cut the cakes, sliced strawberries, and assembled. Mahni helped throw a few strawberry slices between layers, whenever she wasn't busy sneaking berries into her mouth while serenading me with her version of Low (what was that you say? Oh!, no. Nemmie would never teach her darling niece such a song. Let along a special dance to go along with it, no sir. Well, okay yeah maybe it was me. But such catchy lyrics, I couldn't help myself).

Anyhoo. Cake assembly was finished. Easter baskets were found, candy was scarfed down, a few glasses of wine were had by us adult-type people while we chatted. Later we all tucked into a traditional Easter meal of ham et al., and finally (finally!) it was time for that cake. Out it came, a white fluffy dream of a cake with luscious fresh berries on top, sitting pretty on Muzzy's delicate little cake stand. I took the honor of cutting and serving the cake, Mahni was served first and gobbled up anything resembling a berry. Crazy kid. Everyone else was served, and we all lifted our forks to blissfully cut into our slices of cake.



And I see this flash in my field of vision, from where Mahni was sitting. "STAAAHHWW BEEEESSS!" was her battle cry, as she lunged across the dining room table headed right for that cake.

Before we could react, that cake was tipped on the cake stand and it started spinning, and then somehow our beloved cake and berries are flying (flying!) all over the table. Mahni, meanwhile, cowered into her chair while the cake stand wreaked havoc. Now, it really wasn't much of a mess, we plopped that cake right back on the cake stand (no worse for the wear) and picked up the strewn about berries. Maybe a minute had passed in reality, and all was well again.
But poor dear Mahni, let's just say she was a bit horrifed at her own behavior, and might not look at berries quite the same way again. It took her several minutes just to make eye-contact with me, let alone accept my offering of more berries (generally Mahni takes .05 seconds to grab a berry out of your hand).


Although for some reason I still have hope for her and berries - especially after her mother told me Mahni demolished all the berries in the leftover cake they took home, generously leaving the cake and frosting for the rest of her family.

While I could talk about my sous chef's adventures all day, I should probably say a few words about the actual cake and challenge: I traded out the lemon flavoring for almond extract (and switched out some flour for ground almonds). I also decided to go with fresh berries, obviously, instead of preserves. And it was so very good! The cake was velvety soft, the frosting so light it almost seemed like a whipped cream, and a perfect compliment (if you ask me) to the fresh berries. All in all a great cake for any special day, and one I'll make a few more times in my lifetime, I'd imagine. :)



Many thanks to Morven for hosting this wonderful challenge! And don't forget: you can check out my fellow Daring Bakers' cakes by heading to the Daring Bakers Blogroll.

Dorie's Perfect Party Cake
(from Dorie Greenspan's Baking: From My Home To Yours, 2006)



Ingredients:
For the Cake
2 1/4 c. cake flour
1 Tbsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
1 ¼ c. whole milk or buttermilk (I prefer buttermilk with the lemon)
4 large egg whites
1 ½ c. sugar
2 tsp. grated lemon zest
1 stick (8 Tbsp.) unsalted butter, at room temperature
½ tsp. pure lemon extract

For the Buttercream
1 c. sugar
4 large egg whites
3 sticks (24 Tbsp.) unsalted butter, at room temperature
¼ c. fresh lemon juice (from 2 large lemons)
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract

For Finishing
2/3 c. seedless raspberry preserves warmed or stirred so a thinner consistency
About 1 ½ c. sweetened shredded coconut

Getting Ready
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.

To Make the Cake
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 (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. 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. 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.

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.


46 comments:

magpie said...

Those berries are making my mouth water!

Morven said...

I played Low on you tube while I read your post - very catchy! Sounds like you had a fun, if somewhat eventful baking session. Glad you enjoyed the challenge.

Hannah said...

Haha, what a cute story! I can easily imagine myself in Mahni's place when I was a kid... I always went for the decorations on top, and berries are definitely the best. It certainly looked lovely before she tore into it at least. :)

Ann said...

Your cake looks wonderful... and those berries! Yum!

Gretchen Noelle said...

Lovely cake and lovely story! I like the idea of almond extract and almond meal. That actually came to mind once or twice. I am sure it was terrific!

familiabencomo said...

What a great Auntie you are!!! Your cake BEE-utiful!

xoxox Amy

said...

What an adorable story! I wish I had someone that cute to make cakes with! I opted out of the coconut, but now that I see yours, I'm sure the berries and coconut would have paired really nicely with the lightness of the cake. Mmmm.

Sarah said...

You cake looks great and I love the cupcake apron...so cute!

Oh, I sing Low all time time. It is really catchy! :)

Kristen said...

Gorgeous cake and amazing photos, it want to just eat it up!

slush said...

OMG she is soooo cute! I have all boys, and pictures of little girls like that make my ovaries ache.

Your cake look lovely and I am sure you had a total blast. Cooking with kids is the best!

Meryl said...

Too funny! Both the apron and its wearer are adorable!

Glad it all ended well.

Cathie said...

This cake looks so beautiful! You did a fantastic job with it!

Anne said...

Oh, you have the cutest sous chef :)

Jerry said...

Love the berries and your sous chef is adorable!

Passionate baker...& beyond said...

This is a helluva pretty cake...& a hilarious post. I could picturise precious little Mahni & the flying cake. You had a blast...well done. The cake is LUSCIOUSLY DIVINE looking.

L Vanel said...

Love the fresh fruit!

Dianne said...

Your berries look fabulous! What a wonderful addition to the cake. Beautiful!

Scuttle said...

Making this cake was a lot of fun and boy oh boy those berries look so good.

zorra said...

Your cake looks perfect and thank you for the great story.

Bake your cake and eat it too said...

Mahni is adorable! What more can you ask for? An adorable little girl enjoying a beautiful cake.

breadchick said...

I'd say you and your assistant had a lovely day in the kitchen. The berries on top are the perfect topping too! Well done.

culinography said...

Man, I'm dying for strawberry season to kick in around here!

Beautiful cake! And Mahni's a kid after my own heart. Berries are my fave!

~Amber~ said...

What a beautiful cake!

kellypea said...

Yes, I'm loving the berries. Especially the black ones. I saw them in the store, didn't get them, and when I went back, they were gone. *sigh* The ground almonds and extract are a pleasant sounding change from the original, and your cake turned out beautifully! I was feeling fairly sorry for your little girl with the cake mishap...

Claire said...

That is a beautiful cake! So funny that she didn't touch the cake but scarffed the berries! :-)

Tartelette said...

Your niece is adorable and you guys rock for finding that cool apron, love it! The cake looks wonderful outside/in! Great job!

Tartelette said...

Your niece is adorable and you guys rock for finding that cool apron, love it! The cake looks wonderful outside/in! Great job!

Karen said...

So glad you cake was saved! Looks lovely. Love all those berries!

Brilynn said...

Beautiful cake!
That little girl has good taste, who wouldn't want to devour fresh berries at every opportunity?!

Lesley said...

The berries are a great idea, looks so fresh and yummy.

Megan said...

Funny post, lovely cake!

Katy said...

beautiful! the berries are so gorgeous -- looks delicious!

Deborah said...

It sounds like it was an adventure! Beautiful job on the cake!

Merav said...

Beautiful cake and charming story! I can't say I blame your niece for tearing into the cake!

bombshellwithin said...

Your cake is just beautiful with all the berries. What an adventure!

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

Your cake looks wonderful! I love berries... Very well done!

Cheers,

Rosa

Katie B. said...

Beautiful job - I think your niece was the bold one, doing exactly what we all would have WANTED to do! :)

Catherine Wilkinson said...

What a beautiful spring party cake! And what an adorable little baker! That's all it all begins...with a favorite aunt in the kitchen...soon, she'll be rocking the wooden spoon!

Jenny said...

Hehe do the pick your own strawberry fields weigh her before and after, then charge accordingly?
Lovely cake, btw. The crown of berries looks amazing.

lovesweetlove said...

You cake is so pretty! I love the sroty with your niece also. :)

Princess of the kitchen said...

pretty cake. Love all the berries you added to it. Well done

Jenny said...

See, this is why I think Dorie includes coconut in the recipe, because it covers a multitude of things, including being ravaged by a strawberry enthusiast!

Ally said...

Cute story! And a beautiful cake too! : )

creampuff said...

What a gorgeous cake! And with that kind of help how could you possibly go wrong?!

Big Boys Oven said...

this is amazingly gorgeous!

the AIRY FAIRY said...

your cake looks great! i'm loving all that fresh fruit on top!