Monday, 31 March 2008

March Daring Baker's Challenge- Dorie's Perfect Party cake

This month Morven challenged us to create a PERFECT PARTY CAKE Courtesy of Dorie Greenspan’s Baking from My Home to Yours. I am sorry to say that I could not find any link to our host's own page, but you should all visit the daring bakers blog roll and check out everyone else's gorgeous cakes, becasue it is a great recipe. I decided to fill my cake with home made lemon curd, which I am so glad I did, because the lemon buttercream alone wouldn't have been lemony enough.
The cakes weren't as high as I would have imagined, but I think that that was in fact a good thing, as by the time the 4 layers were filled an iced, it became a rather large cake indeed. Any higher and it might have slanted like the Tower of Pisa.
Here are some photos documenting my journey of creating the cake and the recipe. Enjoy!

PERFECT PARTY CAKE Courtesy of Dorie Greenspan’s Baking from My Home to Yours (page 250).Posting date Sunday 30 March.IMPORTANT NOTICE - RECIPE EDITED MARCH 10TH (sorry I'm still a bit of a blogger "dummy" so don't know how to highlight in red). For those of you who don't read all the comments or don't have Dorie's book, there were a couple of omissions which some diligent Daring Bakers picked up. If these contributed to a "floppity flops" - my sincere apologies. Please note the changes in bold below - one is the reference to a 1/4 cup of lemon juice and the second is in relation to whisking together the egg whites and milk in the 2nd line of making the cake. I've also expanded on the Update on Playing Around. Introduction from MorvenI wanted to pick something that had potential for putting your personal stamp on. Although this is essentially a white cake I know there are some lemon haters among us so feel free to use your imagination. If you inner chef tells you that you need to make a chocolate layer cake then by all means do so. See Dorie’s words on playing around below for some flavour combination ideas.Update on playing around. Yes you can do what ever you want with this cake as long as you promise to use the basic cake recipe and the basic buttercream recipe (if you are doing the buttercream that is) . The filling/frosting flavours are completely up to you. If you don't feel like using Dorie's buttercream recipe (flavoured as you wish) she says whipped cream will do for the filling and finishing and I say... go for it. If you want to use fondant or something else - it's your cake. Bake a square one, a heart shaped one or any other shape you like but please make it a layer cake.I can't wait to see what combinations people come up with. You can leave out the lemon, put different flavours of preserves in the middle, leave off the coconut - have some fun with it.Words from DorieStick a bright-coloured Post-it to this page, so you’ll always know where to turn for a just-right cake for any celebration. The original recipe was given to me by my great dear friend Nick Malgieri, of baking fame, and since getting it, I’ve found endless opportunities to make it – you will too. The cake is snow white, with an elegant tight crumb and an easygoing nature: it always bakes up perfectly; it is delicate on the tongue but sturdy in the kitchen – no fussing when it comes to slicing the layers in half or cutting tall, beautiful wedges for serving; and, it tastes just as you’d want a party cake to taste – special. The base recipe is for a cake flavoured with lemon, layered with a little raspberry jam and filled and frosted with a classic (and so simple) pure white lemony hot-meringue buttercream but, because the elements are so fundamental, they lend themselves to variation (see Playing Around), making the cake not just perfect, but also versatile.For the Cake2 1/4 cups cake flour (updated 25 March)1 tablespoon baking powder½ teaspoon salt1 ¼ cups whole milk or buttermilk (I prefer buttermilk with the lemon)4 large egg whites1 ½ cups sugar2 teaspoons grated lemon zest1 stick (8 tablespoons or 4 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature½ teaspoon pure lemon extractFor the Buttercream1 cup sugar4 large egg whites3 sticks (12 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature¼ cup fresh lemon juice (from 2 large lemons)1 teaspoon pure vanilla extractFor Finishing2/3 cup seedless raspberry preserves stirred vigorously or warmed gently until spreadableAbout 1 ½ cups sweetened shredded coconutGetting ReadyCentre 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 CakeSift 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 cleanTransfer 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 ButtercreamPut 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 CakeUsing 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.ServingThe 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.StoringThe 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 AroundSince 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 CakeIf 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.

Saturday, 1 March 2008

February challenge- French Bread

This month the wonderful Mary (Breadchick) and Sara choose a recipe for French Bread, or Pain Francais, From Mastering the Art of French Cooking: Volume Two by Julia Child and Simone Beck. I am sorry to be a little late in posting- I've had a hectic weekend so far with baby showers and various other things to cook for. I made beautiful fruit tarts actually- they were just exquisite and I am so cross I didn't take photos to post on my blog.

I really liked this recipe. It did take an awfully long time, but it was mostly just waiting time. If it is a rainy day and you've no where to go, I would definetely recommend you make this.

I kneaded the dough by hand, which wasn't at all painful. Besides, I find it a much more rewarding experience than machine kneading. I couldn't find the camera until the bread just came out of the oven, hence there are no photos of the kneading and rising and baking etc. I do however, hope that you enjoy these few photos that i took of the final result. A must try recipe for the baking enthusiast. Thanks Mary and Sara