Saturday, March 29, 2008

Daring Baker's Party Cake without A Party

When I started Daring Bakers, I had people I could relie on to eat the baked goods, i.e. friends, coworkers, and a boyfriend. Now single and away, I find myself without these mouths that I greatly looked to, to eat my food. Cookies, brownies, and cupcakes lay untouched on the counter the past week with me missing the quickness of there disappearances. With my love to bake what am I to do?
Well, I haven't solved that question but I'm sure I will find someone who will eat half a cake, right?
With the fast paced events this month, moving, breaking up, moving again, some say that I am strong for what I have done. However, I had to move on, I had to pick up the pieces. That meant not skipping out on the Daring Baker's challenges. I had done that before and sorely missed the friendship I had made in this online club.
So the day before the post date, I set out to make the cake. I seperated eggs, I mixed things together. There were no problems. None.
We all know me. Something goes wrong every challenge-Lemon Meringue Casserole, shattered pyrex pan full of cinnamon rolls, and unproffed bagels. But this time there was nothing. The batter came together, it rose. I hesistantly made the buttercream, worried that I was doing that wrong. But no that too, was done correctly. In my new state of calmness, had I finally come to my baking zen?
No, icing the cake ended up to be difficult. I've never been good at it. I don't like icing the sides. Of course everytime I ever do it, I don't have a cake plate. Maybe that's the problem. I improvised and made it work. It is not up to a bakery standard, but hey I'll still eat it. So maybe I don't have complete zen, but still no major issues this month. Now I'm scared what will happen next month.

Perfect Party Cake
(Dorie Greenspan's: Baking from my house to yours)

For the Cake

2 1/4 cups cake flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 ¼ cups whole milk or buttermilk
4 large egg whites
1 ½ cups sugar
2 teaspoons grated 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 lemon juice (from 2 large lemons)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

For Finishing
2/3 cup seedless raspberry preserves stirred vigorously or warmed gently until spreadable
About 1 ½ cups sweetened shredded coconut

Getting Ready
Centre 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.

The cake is ready to serve as soon as it is assembled, but I think 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.

Playing Around
Since lemon is such a friendly flavour, feel free to make changes in the preserves: other red preserves – cherry or strawberry – look especially nice, but you can even use plum or blueberry jam.

Fresh Berry Cake
If you will be serving the cake the day it is made, cover each layer of buttercream with fresh berries – use whole raspberries, sliced or halved strawberries or whole blackberries, and match the preserves to the fruit. You can replace the coconut on top of the cake with a crown of berries, or use both coconut and berries. You can also replace the buttercream between the layers with fairly firmly whipped sweetened cream and then either frost the cake with buttercream (the contrast between the lighter whipped cream and the firmer buttercream is nice) or finish it with more whipped cream. If you use whipped cream, you’ll have to store the cake the in the refrigerator – let it sit for about 20 minutes at room temperature before serving.


Passionate baker...& beyond said...

Hey Jerry...great read. Am glad the cake was a 'cakewalk'; wish you had posted some pictures. Eerie isn't it, when nothing 'wrong' happens? I lived this on the last French Loaf challenge...& could hardly get myself to break the blessed bread!!

Nemmie said...

Well - the pic included leads me to believe it was a very pretty cake, and from the sound of things you had a perfect result as well. So - great job!

I'm sure you'll have no problems finding someone to eat it for you! :)

Anonymous said...

Hey Jerry,
It looks fine! I find that cooking and baking are great therapy. I too have less mouths around. My kids are grown and some have moved away, but I still cook for a big crowd.Hang in there, sister! ;)Stay strong.

Deborah said...

I always have a hard time icing cakes, too, but yours looks great!!

Carla said...

Sorry to hear about all the craziness this month but I applaud you for finishing the challenge. Bravo! (And I always find the fire department as a good place to pass off extra baked goods.)

Kelly-Jane said...

Well done for keeping going, and turning out a perfect party cake :) If you are not too keen on icing the sides, just buy a short pallette knife and once you find the right angle it'll be easy. Take cake sweetie :)

CB said...

I sucked at frosting cakes my first few times but I think it definitely helps having a turntable. Lovely picture of the top of your cake. Post more! :)
Clara @ I♥food4thought

Tiffany said...

I hear you on having baked goods laying around. I had friends over when I made the cake and they didn't want any...I brought the lemon meringue pies to a get together as well, and noboy wanted any!! So I just give everything to my husband's co-workers now. Congrats on yet another DB Challenge!!

RecipeGirl said...

Icing my cake was a challenge too. By the time I got to the outside, I went with whipped cream!

Sounds like you did a great job!

Bake your cake and eat it too said...

When everything seems to be negative, one thing you can always trust, turn to, and nurture is baking and cooking. Never disappoints & hey, it tastes amazing!

MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

I think you've earned a few moments of baking zen here Jerry! Glad you enjoyed the cake. I know sometimes even with lots of friends it's hard to find enough folks to give a big cake to.

Meryl said...

What a beautiful picture! It looks like that strawberry is lying in the snow!

linda said...

From the little square of cake that I can see it looks perfect!
Icing cakes isn't my favorite hobby either.

Baking Soda said...

Great going Jerry, hang in there! Love the sneak peak of the snowy white cake...can we see more?

Megan said...

Coconut covered alot of my frosting mistakes. I'll have to remember that! Sorry about the break-up.

Anonymous said...

Such a beautiful photo! And congrats on the smooth ride to bake it, which ironically off-sets your up & down month. Take solice, things change so fast, I'm sure you'll be finding folks to share your delicious kitchen creations with soon!

Joy said...

I struggled with the icing too - but I soon forgot my botched job when I started eating it!

Gabi said...

Take the easy where you can find it I say! I'm glad things went well for you and take it as a sign of things to come in your life. If there is a better way to make new friends than sharing homebaked brownies I don't know what it would be. :)
Best wishes!

kellypea said...

Zen-like indeed. I was thinking the same thing, because you're so right. It's always something, isn't it? But not this time. Yummy cake. Enjoy your new state of what sounds like well-deserved bliss!

Allergy Mom said...

I've never, ever had any kind of interest in cake decorating. Now I'm busy making Elmo birthday cakes, Shrek cupcakes, etc., because we can't buy from the bakery. So I feel for you on the frosting front! Go ahead and put up the rest of the party cake. I promise you it can't be any worse than the mauve Elmo cake I made! Libby

Bridget said...

I wasn't sure who I'd get to eat my cake either. Fortunately, it was so good I didn't mind eating almost the whole thing myself.

I definitely think the challenging part of this recipe was actually decorating the cake. But hey, that's why we do this - to practice and improve!

Ann said...

Good on you for powering through the challenge in spite of some challenges!

Karen said...

I thought this cake came together easily too. Well said, great read.

Tartelette said...

Jerry, I wish I lived closer because I am out of cake and I'd like some more...right now! :)
Looks wonderful... and you know, there is nothing like a few hundreds crazy bakers to make you feel in the loop. *Hugs*. Welcome back and don't you dare go anywhere, 'kay?!!

ruthEbabes said...

Congrats on your cake success.... have you found someone to take half?

I have problems with icing too... it's just not my talent!

The Irreverent Cook said...

Hi! Haha, I find that offering food to other people is a great way to make friends! Why not share it with your new neighbours, co-workers, boss, etc? =) On a more practical front, half the recipe! Haha, that was what I did, because I was not at all confident about the recipe and I knew it wasn't to my family's taste =P I brought half to school and made everyone take a bite, and it was gone in no time =D Rock on, dear Jerry!

Brilynn said...

I'm recently single as well and miss having someone that is guaranteed to eat my baking. Glad you decided to make the cake anyways!

Carrie said...

Yay for baking zen!
Isn't Dorie a genious?
I'm sure you'll find someone to eat half that cake!

ioyces said...

hey Jerry!! I understand what you mean by finding people to eat the goodies! It can be such a pain!! :) I actually tot of cutting this recipe down to 1/4 and baking them in little heart shaped tins....fortunately a lunch invitation came up n gave me an excuse for making it full-size!!
Good job-the snippet of the cake does look v pretty!

Anonymous said...

I've found a lot of comfort in my kitchen... even when I didn't have someone there to eat my creations, at least I felt better after a little kitchen therapy.

Looks like your results were lovely!

Anne said...

Glad you made the cake and it went well for you...even without the pictures I'm sure it turned out lovely :)

Lesley said...

It is HARD to love to bake but have nobody to eat. Even with 2 kids and a husband I find myself in that boat! Your ex boyfriend is MISSING OUT!!
Your story rings true to a lot of us!

Julius said...

Thanks for stopping by my blog.

I love what you've done with the cake. It looks scrumptious, party or not. :)

Julius from Occasional Baker

dailydelicious said...

I tell you the truth, I like to decorate but I don't like eating a lot of buttercream.

Gigi said...

I'm so glad the cake was a success! it looks stunning with a perfectly riped berry on top.

Cakelaw said...

Hi Jerry, congrats on pulling off this challenge without a hitch. I know what you mean about finding takers for the baked goods - most of mine find a home at work, but there are some things (eg puddings) which I can't take there, so my freezer is currently full of single serves of puddings and pies!

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

Your cake must have looked great! One doesn't need to throw a party in order to enjoy such a wonderful cake ;-P...



Morven said...

Glad you participated this month. If I lived closer I'd have helped you eat it!

PAT A BAKE said...

Hi Jerry..went down down down down to the last of your blog...hoping to see more pics.... nevertheless the pic you have put is too cute for sure the full cake must be pretty too. Hey and cheer up about the break-up...find someone better to take your cake and eat it too :)..howzaaat !

Andrea said...

Glad you tackled the cake...a little baking zen is good for the soul! Glad to hear life is settling back down for you.

(And I'm going to borrow Carla's idea for sharing with the local firehouse.)

Sheltie Girl said...

Thanks for sharing your story with us Jerry. It's tough to pack up and move away, but sometimes that opens up doors you never knew about and you can meet people who will be a wonderful addition to your life.

You did a lovely job on your cake. Strawberries and buttercream are yummy together.

Natalie @ Gluten A Go Go

Kristen said...

Sounds like you've had quite the month! I hope things start looking up for you! I am glad that you were still able to make the cake, the pic you have looks great! I love the coconut with the strawberry, yumm!

Kevin said...

I actually enjoyed frosting the cake, It was kind of fun.

kitten said...

glad you have reached your baking zen. hopefully it's a sign of good things to come! from what i could tell your cake looked adorable!

coco said...

I kept scrolling down to find some pics. No pics :( Don't fret over the bf just post more pics! :)

Cookie baker Lynn said...

Glad you were able to make the cake for the challenge. Finding people to pawn off baked goods on can be its own challenge, but perhaps it's just an opportunity to make new friends.

myriam said...

nice read. sure some nice man will come along to eat this wonderful cake, too.

Elle said...

FUn read! Glad you r zenis working...the cake is pretty with the strawberry accent. Next month will be fun...promise.

Princess of the kitchen said...

Great cake. Well done

marias23 said...

Ahhh, life. It's what happens when you're too busy making plans, yeah? Wonderful cake and I totally understand what you mean with suddenly having no one to gobble our baked goods together but hey, you can always bring it in to my lab, where there are starving grad students who eat anything. And I mean anything! Ciao!

Cakespy said...

That picture is like an expanse of coconut snow...and trust me, that is one snow day I'd welcome any day. ;-)

Claire said...

Sorry you've had such a change filled month but glad you were able to do the challenge. your cake is beautiful!

Gretchen Noelle said...

Great job that you got the cake done. Sorry there have been such crazy things going on in your life. Maybe this will be a way for you to meet some of your neighbors? Take some baked goods and you are sure to get rid of things!