It was bound to happen that one of these days the Daring Bakers would tackle a Dorie Greenspan recipe. Her last volume, Baking From My Home To Yours is filled with delightful, well written and fail proof desserts, pastries and treats. I had my share of baking from her book and I was delighted when Morven, our host for March announced that we would all be making her Perfect Party Cake. I have made it several times this year for different birthday parties and occasions and I have fallen in love with the textures and tastes of both the cake and the buttercream. I believe it has become the cake I use the most for building tiered cakes or "party cakes".
Since I always make it according to the person’s wishes when he/she orders, I rarely get the chance to play around with the decorations or flavors. Not this time! Boy, did I have a blast with this one! It’s been a while since I selfishly made a cake with all the ingredients that I like. I appreciate that we could take liberties from the original recipe and add our own touch with the fillings, shapes and decorations for this Perfect Party Cake.
There was no special occasion in sight when I made the cake at the beginning of the month, so I went for four 4 inches round ones rather than one large one. That became of a great advantage when my neighbor decided to host an impromptu birthday party for her twins' little friends, twins also this afternoon. All I had to do was thaw the filled cakes and the buttercream last night and decorate this morning. The two different cakes pictured in this post were made earlier this month but I kept the same decorating idea for the twin girls. Perfectly girly and yet different enough that they would each have their own. Worked like a charm!!
I love (small word) rhubarb and when I saw the perfect red stalks making an appearance on the market shelves earlier this month, I bought a whopping 10 pounds of them and made preserves to be used in different desserts throughout the year. The original recipe for the Perfect Party Cake uses raspberry as the filling in the cake layers but I could not resist using the fresh rhubarb jam I had just made. That was until B. got word of my plan and gave me the "I don’t like rhubarb" story all over again. Either he bit into a raw stalk one time or I just don’t get it….with plenty of sugar rhubarb is just heaven to me. Must be his aversion to shreds and strands, but I" go back to that later. I hesitated for a minute and then remembered the jar of Chocolate and Raspberry jam that Guillemette had sent me along with the pink praline and that I was saving for a special occasion. The Daring Bakers' monthly post is a special occasion so there you go! We had the perfect "His and Hers Perfect Party Cake"
The other little flavor playing around that I did was to replace the lemon zest in the cake batter and the lemon juice in the cake buttercream with Meyer lemon zest and Meyer lemon juice. It was a nice and subtle citrus addition, milder than regular lemon enhancing the rhubarb and chocolate-raspberry without being bitter or harsh. For the tops of the cake, I parted from Dorie’s recipe once more as she uses grated coconut to decorate the cake and I live with an anti coconut husband. It is not so much the flavor but once again it is the consistency "all those shreds!"…ah well, honey you are in for a rude life with me….but once I got started with the chocolate I made enough for two cakes, so no coconut for me either (that gives me the excuse to make the cake again!). The chocolate shavings are white chocolate and pink tinted white chocolate melted and swirled together on a slab, left to cool and then scraped to obtain shavings.
As you can see I love dots, polka dots, mini dots, big dots…more dots! I made a batch of small macarons, some pink, some red, some swirled for one cake and with the other I tinted the buttercream and used a large and a small plain tip to pipe dots. The macarons went on the rhubarb cake and the dots on the chocolate-raspberry one, happy happy!!! Now that I think about it I bet that a rose flavored buttercream would have been great with the rhubarb. Again, there is always next time!!
Thank you Lisa and Ivonne for the tremendous work you do each month to keep this group going! Thanks again Morven for a great time in the kitchen! Please check out all the other Daring Bakers' creations.
For the Cake:
2 1/4 cups cake flour (1 cup cake flour = 1 cup all purpose – 2 Tbs)
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 ¼ cups whole buttermilk
4 large egg whites
1 ½ cups sugar
2 teaspoons grated Meyer lemon zest
1 stick (8 tablespoons or 4 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
½ teaspoon pure lemon extract
For the Buttercream:
1 cup sugar
4 large egg whites
3 sticks (12 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
¼ cup fresh Meyer lemon juice
1/2 cup seedless chocolate – raspberry preserves stirred vigorously or warmed gently until spreadable (for 2 cakes)
1/2 rhubarb preserves (for the other 2 cakes)
About 1 ½ cups white chocolate shavings
Centre a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter 4 4-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 buttermilk 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 buttermilk-egg mixture, then beat in half of the remaining dry ingredients until incorporated. Add the rest of the buttermilk 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 four 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. 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 Cakes: (directions for one, repeat for the other 3)
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 a layer of buttercream. Top with another layer, spread with preserves and buttercream and then do the same with a third layer. 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 chocolate shavings into the frosting, patting it gently. Tint some remaining buttercream with your favorite colors and pipe large and small dots of different colors with plain decorating tips. You can also decorate with macarons (recipe here)
The cake is ready to serve as soon as it is assembled, but it’s best to let it sit and set for a couple of hours in a cool room – not the refrigerator. Whether you wait or slice and enjoy it immediately, the cake should be served at room temperature; it loses all its subtlety when it’s cold. Depending on your audience you can serve the cake with just about anything from milk to sweet or bubbly wine.
The cake is best the day it is made, but you can refrigerate it, well covered, for up to two days. Bring it to room temperature before serving. If you want to freeze the cake, slide it into the freezer to set, then wrap it really well – it will keep for up to 2 months in the freezer; defrost it, still wrapped overnight in the refrigerator.