Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Dorie Greenspan's Perfect Party Cake

Every year I ask my husband what he dessert wants me to make for his birthday. And year after year, he's been asking for this cake from Dorie Greenspan, but he manages to change his mind at the last minute. He knows I'm not a big fan of coconut, and our little family of three would have a hard time polishing off this cake on our own (it would be difficult to transport leftovers to my skating friends or his swimming friends). So every year, he changes his bakery order at the eleventh hour. Not this time. This was finally the year that Dorie's Perfect Party Cake would be made.
Happy birthday, Daddy!

Because Dorie's cake contained lemon zest and lemon juice, I decided to swap out the fruit preserves called for in the original recipe with a homemade lemon curd instead. It turned out to be a good choice since the cake was definitely very lemon-y. I also omitted the coconut flakes because I'm not a fan.

My 4-year old was a bit hesitant to try this cake because my husband said that it was a bit tart. Addie took that to mean that it wasn't very good, but she finally came to her senses when she realized that she would be the only person who wasn't eating cake. My little girl cannot resist cake, so she tried a bite of my slice. Shyly, she looked up and said that she wanted her own piece. She scarfed down her slice of cake in record time and said several times, "This cake is just a little tart, right?" Sweet girl.

I understand why Dorie named this the perfect party cake. It is a tender white cake with a light and fluffy crumb and frosted with a lemon Swiss meringue buttercream. Although I really liked the lemon curd filling, I think I'd like the cake better with a fruit jam to make the cake slightly sweeter (rather than tart). My husband adored the cake and mentioned that he wants to keep it all to himself rather than share with others. That, my friends, is the sign of a good cake.

Happy birthday to my dear husband!

Dorie Greenspan's Perfect Party Cake
Cake
  • 2 and 1/4 cups cake flour
  • 1 TBSP baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 and 1/4 cups whole milk or buttermilk
  • 4 large egg whites
  • 1 and 1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
  • 1 stick (8 TBSP) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure lemon extract
Buttercream
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 4 large egg whites
  • 3 sticks (12 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (from 2 large lemons)
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Lemon Curd
  • 3 lemons
  • 1 and 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/4 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 4 extra-large eggs
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice (3 to 4 lemons)
  • 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
Directions
To make the cake: Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Generously grease two 9-x-2-inch round cake pans. 

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt.

In a medium sized bowl, mix together the milk and egg whites until well combined. 

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or in a large bowl if using a handheld mixer, place the sugar and lemon zest together and rub them together with your hands (do not turn on the mixer yet!) until the sugar is fragrant. 

Turn the mixer on at medium speed and add in the butter. Allow the butter and sugar mixture to cream together for about 3 minutes or until the mixture is light and fluffy. Add in the lemon extract, then a third of the flour mixture. Add in half of the milk/egg white mixture, half of the remaining dry ingredients and continue to beat on medium speed. Add the remaining milk/egg white mixture until the batter is well mixed. Finally, add in the remaining dry ingredients and beat for an additional 2 minutes or until the batter is mixed well and no flour streaks remain.

Evenly distribute the batter into the 2 prepared baking pans and smooth the tops with a spatula.

Bake in your preheated oven for 30-35 minutes, or until the cakes have risen and are springy to the touch. A toothpick inserted in the center should come out clean. Transfer the cakes to cooling racks and allow to cool for about 5 minutes. After the cakes have slightly cooled, remove the cakes from the pans and allow them to cool completely on the wire racks. Assemble the final cake only after the cake layers have completely cooled.

To make the buttercream: In the bowl of a stand mixer or in a large heatproof bowl, put the egg whites and sugar over a pan of simmering water and whisk constantly for about 3 minutes. Once the sugar has completely dissolved, remove the bowl from the heat.

Using your stand mixer with the whisk attachment (or using a hand mixer), whisk the egg white mixture on medium-high speed until it is cool. Add the butter one stick at a time, and beat until smooth. Add the lemon juice and vanilla extract and continue beating until the buttercream is smooth. Set aside until you are ready to assemble the cake.

To make the lemon curd: Zest lemons and place in a food processor or high speed blender. Add the sugar and pulse until the zest is superfine and is thoroughly combined with the sugar.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or in a large bowl if using a handheld mixer, cream the butter on medium speed. Add in the lemon sugar mixture. Add the eggs, 1 at a time until each is completely mixed in, and add the lemon juice and salt. Mix until well combined.

Transfer the mixture into a medium-sized saucepan and constantly stir over low heat until the mixture thickens up (about 10 minutes). Remove the curd from the heat, transfer to a container and cool or refrigerate.

To assemble the cake: Use a knife to slice each layer horizontally in half. Place one layer cut side up on a cake platter or cardboard cake round. Add one third of the lemon curd on top, then top the curd with about one quarter of the buttercream. Repeat with two more layers. Add the last layer (cut side down) on top of the cake and frost the tops and sides of the cake with the remaining buttercream.
Cake is best served the day it is baked. Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator and will keep for about 2 days.

Yield: Cake makes 12-14 servings; lemon curd makes approximately 3 cups

Source: Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan; lemon curd from Ina Garten, via The Food Network

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