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Thursday, February 4, 2010

Perfect Party Cake

A friend asked me to bake a cake for a baby shower she was hosting last week. The mother-to-be is having a little girl so we decided on a simple pink trimmed cake. We didn't want to go to overboard with a theme since it was an office shower. When she asked for a cake, the first thing that came to mind was Dorie's Perfect Party Cake. The picture in her cookbook is just beautiful and I've been looking for an excuse to try the recipe. I wasn't at the shower so I don't have a picture of the inside of the cake but I did get a text message saying "The cake was loved by all. One woman said it was like crack, she could have eaten the whole thing." I'm so happy that the cake went over well and that the mom-to-be was happy!

Perfect Party Cake
Recipe from Dorie Greenspan's Baking: From My Home To Yours

2 1/4 cups cake flour
1 T baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/4 cups buttermilk
4 egg whites, room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 tsp grated lemon zest
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 tsp lemon extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray 2 8" round pans with baking spray (Dorie's recipe says 9" pans but I had 8" so I used them and it worked just fine). Cut parchment paper circles to fit into pans and spray with baking spray.

Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl. In a 2 cup measuring cup, combine buttermilk and egg whites and whisk until well combined. Add sugar to bowl of a stand mixer. Add lemon zest and rub together with sugar until sugar is moist and fragrant. Add the butter and beat with paddle attachment on medium speed for 3 minutes until light and fluffy. Add lemon extract. Add flour mixture in 3 parts, alternating with buttermilk mixture in 2 additions so you start and end with dry ingredients. Beat on medium speed after each addition until well incorporated. After all additions, beat an additional 2 minutes.

Divide the batter between pans and smooth tops with a spatula. Bake for 30-35 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool approximately 5 minutes and run a knife around the edge of the pan. Flip over on a wire rack to remove from pan and peel off parchment paper rounds. Flip right side up and cool completely on wire racks.

1 cup sugar
4 egg whites
1 1/2 cups unsalted butter, room temperature
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1 tsp vanilla extract

In a large heatproof bowl (I used the metal bowl for my stand mixer), combine egg whites and 1 cup sugar. Set the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water and whisk constantly until the mixture is hot to the touch. It should take about 3 minutes and the sugar should be fully dissolved. Remove bowl from heat and using the whisk attachment of the mixer, beat on medium speed for about 5 minutes. Switch to the paddle attachment and add butter one stick at a time. Beat after each addition until the mixture is smooth. Once all the butter is added, beat an additional 6-10 minutes. The mixture will appear to curdle but just keep mixing. Finally add the lemon juice very slowly while the mixer is running, making sure it is all absorbed before adding more. Add vanilla and continue beating.

2/3 cup raspberry preserves, room temperature
1 tsp lemon juice

Mix lemon juice and raspberry preserves together for filling and set aside until ready to assemble.

To assemble the cake:
Slice each layer in half and trim off any domed tops so the layers are flat. Put a small dollop of icing on cake plate and put down first layer, cut side down. Brush off any crumbs. Brush with simple syrup if desired. Divide icing into 2 parts. I colored half the icing pink for the filling and to trim the cake since it was for a baby shower. Spread 1/3 of the half the icing over the cake and smooth with an offset spatula. Spoon on 1/3 of the preserves and smooth out, stopping about 1/4" from the edge all the way around. Top with next layer of cake, cut side down. Repeat layering process for the next 2 layers. Spread remaining icing over the top and sides of the cake and decorate as desired. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Note: I had issues with the icing because I refrigerated it. Even though I let it come to room temperature, it curdled when I added the gel food coloring for the filling. I mixed in powdered sugar until the icing came together again (about 3 cups in total) plus a tablespoon or so of milk. However, after talking to several other people, I think the icing would have been fine if I had used it immediately and then refrigerated the whole cake.

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