The Perfect Party Cake

 

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And perfect it was. This was no surprise, given that this is a Dorie Greenspan recipe. Thanks to Tuesdays With Dorie I have become a huge Dorie fan, and have found that all of her recipes are nothing short of foolproof.

This month was hosted by Morven at Food Art and Random Thoughts and we were given quite a bit of leeway for this challenge. It was certainly a nice change of pace, so thank you! The original cake recipe calls for lemon zest and extract, but not being the biggest fan of lemon (as was evidenced by giving away my Lemon Meringue Pie in January), I took the advice of my friend Laurie (otherwise known as quirky cupcake), who thought that orange would be a nice complement to the raspberry used in the recipe. Well, isn’t she a smarty pants, because orange tasted fantastic in this recipe!

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Aside from that change, the only other modification I made was the icing, as the original recipe calls for a meringue buttercream, but I thought that a cream cheese frosting would be just wonderful with the citrus and fruit flavors in the cake. It turned out to be perfect, although I would like to give the meringue buttercream a shot one of these days as well.

A number of people reported having problems with the cake not rising, but mine seemed to puff up just as Dorie said it would. The recipe gives the option of using the paddle or whisk attachment of the stand mixer, and I opted for the whisk as I figured it would infuse even more air and fluff into the cake, and whether it was the whisk or not, the resulting cake was perfectly moist and fluffy.

The only problem I really had came during assembly. I found it near impossible to spread the frosting on TOP of the raspberry layer. The frosting just kind of slid around, and raspberry jam slid everywhere. In hindsight, I would put the layers prepared with the raspberry jam in the freezer to set somewhat before trying to frost on top of it. Another friend of mine, Amber, also had a great idea – she reversed the layer and put the frosting on first and then the jam on top. She said this worked very well, so that’s another approach to consider next time.

 

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I loved this cake and couldn’t get enough of it.  The flavors complemented each other perfectly and the result was an extremely moist and fluffy cake with both a light taste and texture. I couldn’t think of a better cake for a spring or summer special occasion!

This will certainly be a cake recipe that I keep to use as a base for multiple flavor combinations.

 

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Perfect Party Cake

Yield: 10 to 12 servings

Prep Time: 45 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour 15 minutes

Ingredients:

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

For the Orange Cream Cheese Frosting:
12 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 cup butter
2 teaspoons fresh orange juice
8 cups powdered sugar

Directions:

1. 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.

2. 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).

3. To make the Orange Cream Cheese Frosting: In a medium mixing bowl combine cream cheese, butter and orange juice. Beat on low to medium until light and fluffy. Gradually add 4 cups powdered sugar, beating well. Gradually beat in the remaining powdered sugar until frosting reaches spreading consistency.

4. 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 frosting. Top with another layer, spread with preserves and frosting and then do the same with a third layer (you'll have used all the jam and have frosting leftover). Place the last layer cut side down on top of the cake and use the remaining frosting to frost the sides and top.

Serving: 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.

Storing: 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.

(Recipe for the Perfect Party Cake adapted from Dorie Greenspan "Baking: From My Home to Yours" p. 250; recipe for the Orange Cream Cheese Frosting adapted from quirky cupcake)