Daring Bakers March Challenge

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This month’s Daring Bakers challenge was to make Dorie Greenspan’s Perfect Party Cake. I had missed last month’s french bread challenge, so I was super excited to get back in the kitchen and bake.

Overall, the cake itself was very easy to make, and I almost couldn’t keep myself from just eating the cake before making the icing and whipped cream to accompany it. I remember thinking, all this other stuff is going to make the cake so heavy, but really, even with the icing and whipped cream, the cake itself was light as air.

We were allowed to make some changes to the original recipe. Rather than fill each layer with buttercream, I decided to make sweep whipped cream flavored with Gran Marnier. I have made this kind of whipped cream before, and the GM adds a really nice, unexpected flavor. I also layered the whipped cream with thin slices of strawberry, and the jam I used was champagne-strawberry. Finally, I covered the top of the cake with blueberries and lined the bottom of the cake with strawberries.

The most labor-intensive part of this cake was cleaning out my Kitchenaid mixer bowl three times for three different mixes. That and stirring sugar and egg whites over a small bowl. Other than that, this cake was super easy and a real joy to make. I loved how we could be personal with the recipe. And I almost left off the buttercream icing because I thought the cake looked so gorgeous just bare. Next time I think I might skip icing the sides of the cake. Who am I kidding, I can’t ice a cake worth a damn!

This cake is definitely a keeper and would be great for 4th of July, especially with the blueberries and strawberries. Thank you Morven for hosting this month’s challenge!

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Dorie’s Perfect Party Cake

For the Cake
2 1/4 cups cake flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 ¼ cups whole milk or buttermilk (I prefer buttermilk with the lemon)
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
1 container strawberries
1 1/2 small containers blueberries

For the whipped cream
2 cups heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons Gran Marnier

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 make the whipped cream
With a whisk attachment, whisk the heavy whipping cream in the bowl of an electric mixer until peaks begin to form. Add the sugar, vanilla, and GM, and beat until stiff peaks form.

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 third of the whipped cream.
Top the whipped cream with thin slices of strawberries.
Top with another cake layer, spread with preserves and whipped cream and layer with strawberries, and then do the same with a third layer.
Place the last layer cut side down on top of the cake and use the buttercream to frost the sides and top.
Toss the blueberries in some sugar and cover the top of the cake with the blueberries. Line the bottom of the cake with strawberries, tops cut off and then cut in half.

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5 Responses to “Daring Bakers March Challenge”


  1. 1 sydneyblue March 30, 2008 at 10:13 am

    So glad you are finding the time to cook again and to share your cooking with us — we will definitely plan on having this at 4th of July at our house! Looks fabulous.

  2. 2 familiabencomo March 30, 2008 at 4:35 pm

    Oh, wow! Amazing – yours is so tall & perfect. Great job, fellow DB!

    xoxox Amy

  3. 3 CB March 30, 2008 at 6:37 pm

    Lovely cake. The blueberry garnish on top with the strawberry halves on the bottom give it a great splash of color. Awesome job!
    Clara @ I♥food4thought

  4. 4 eatyet April 2, 2008 at 5:31 am

    i love how thick the frosting is 🙂 -L

  5. 5 bridget April 3, 2008 at 4:10 pm

    Oh wow, strawberry-champagne jam sounds fantastic. I had the same thought about leaving the sides bare – I think it would be really pretty to see the layers of jam and buttercream peaking out, plus it would make the cake a smidgen healthier.


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