Sunday, March 30, 2008

March Daring Baker Challenge

The Perfect Party Cake
(with Pierre Herme's luscious lemon cream)

This month's Daring Baker Challenge was Dorie Greenspan's Perfect Party Cake. As all of you know, I'm a huge Dorie fan so I was definitely up for yet another Dorie baking challenge. One of the great things about this challenge was that this month's host decided to let us change things up a bit as far as fillings were concerned.

Once I read that I immediately knew where I was headed in Dorie's cookbook, straight to Pierre Herme's lemon cream recipe. Dorie raves about this recipe, and after making it I know why. It is absolutely the tastiest, most wonderful thing I've ever eaten. Upon tasting my eyes immediately rolled back in my head in pure delight! I have to say that at first I was concerned with this being a cantankerous (we love that word in my family) recipe, but surprisingly it is fairly easy-going. I actually hideously overcooked it (thanks to my crappy thermometer), but it still tasted amazing, once I strained out a small amount of scrambled eggs along with the lemon zest.

As far as using the cream as a filling, it worked out really well in the end. Although I'm afraid that the lemon cream stole the show some from the cake and frosting. The cake itself is beautiful. The crumb of the cake is fabulous, it's almost a cross between pound cake and angel food cake with a hint of lemon flavoring. I must say that the layers are durable too; I nearly dropped one on the floor but caught it at the last minute and it held up just fine. The frosting is nice as well, but it's actually a little too light for me but probably is perfect for this cake. I'm a fan of a thick powdered sugar frosting, but this is very tasty too!

All of the flavors work really together. I can't wait to take this to work tomorrow and get some other opinions on the cake. I have a feeling that it will be a big hit because it is such a light tasting cake. Don't let it fool you though there's actually nothing light about this cake, between the cake, frosting, and lemon cream there are 6 sticks of butter in this recipe, but you would never know it by taking a bite.

I also have to say that I had some help with my baking today, my niece Emma came over for an "Emma Day" and was a big help in the kitchen. Here she is juicing some lemons and enjoying the lemon cream:

Alright, here are the recipes! I definitely recommend the cake and the lemon cream! I really think that everyone should make the lemon cream right now, I mean stop everything, make it, and eat it with a spoon! It's that good!

Pierre Herme's French Lemon Cream
(This is from Dorie's Baking from My Home to Yours, the recipe is for a tart but can be served many ways)

1 cup sugar
Grated zest of 3 lemons
4 large eggs
3/4 cup fresh lemon juice (from 4-5 lemons)
2 sticks, plus 5 tablespoons butter, cut into tablespoon size pieces, at room temp.

Tools: Instant read thermometer, strainer, and a blender or food processor

Bring a few inches of water to a simmer in a saucepan

Put the sugar and zest in a large heatproof bowl that can be set over the pan of simmering water. Off the heat, rub the sugar and zest together between your fingers until the sugar is moist, grainy, and very aromatic. Whisk in the eggs, followed by the lemon juice.

Set the bowl over the pan and start stirring with the whisk as soon as the mixture feels tepid to the touch. Cook the lemon cream until it reaches 180 degrees F. As you whisk--you must whisk constantly to keep the eggs from scrambling--you'll see that the cream will start out light and foamy, then the bubbles will get bigger, and then, as it gets closer to 180 degrees F, it will start to thicken and the whisk will leave tracks. Heads up at this point--the tracks mean the cream is almost ready. Don't stop whisking or checking the temperature, and have patience--depending on how much heat you're giving the crea, getting to temp can take as long as 10 minutes.

As soon as it reaches 180 degrees F, remove the cream from the heat and strain it into the container of the blender (or food processor); discard the zest. Let the cream stand, stirring occasionally, until it cooks to 140 degrees F, about 10 minutes.

Turn the blender to high and, with the machine going, add the butter about 5 pieces at a time. Scrape down the sides of the container as needed as you incorporate the butter. Once the butter is in, keep the machine going--to get the perfect light, airy texture of lemon-cream dreams, you must continue to blend the cream for another 3 minutes. If your machine protests and gets a bit too hot, work in 1-minute intervals, giving the machinea little rest between beats.

Pour the cream into a container, press a piece of plastic wrap against the surface to create an airtight seal and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight.

Dorie's Perfect Party Cake
Baking From my Home to Yours

For the Cake

2 1/4 cups cake flour (updated 25 March)
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups whole milk or buttermilk (I prefer buttermilk with the lemon)
4 large egg whites
1 1/4 cups sugar
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
1 stick (8 tablespoons or 4 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon pure lemon extract

For the 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

For Finishing
2/3 cup seedless raspberry preserves stirred vigorously or warmed gently until spreadable
About 1 1/2 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.

Couple of changes: I didn't use the coconut obviously, and I also just baked the cake into three layers, which required me to cut down the baking time. I didn't much like the idea of sawing my layers in half.

Please excuse my pitiful attempt at presentation, it's embarassing, really it is! Oh, and I thank my husband for the fabulous picture at the top of the post! He's amazing!


Engineer Baker said...

Mmmm... lemon cream... Looks awesome!

Julius said...

Thanks for stopping by my blog.

I *love* your cake.

Lemon cream - what's not to love. :)

Julius from Occasional Baker

Anonymous said...

Oh, how lovely your cake turned out. I was amazed too by the amount of butter and egg whites one had to schlep out for the cake. Yours came out just great.

Ritsumei said...

Looks like you & your little helper had a blast. I'll be the lemon cream was great in there. One of these days I think I'm gonna have to get that book; seems like there's a LOT of good stuff in there.

Sheltie Girl said...

You did a wonderful job on your cake. Your helper is doing a fabulous job on making lemon cream.

Natalie @ Gluten a Go Go

JMom said...

The lemon cream sounds delicious! and wow, that last photo made me drool :D

your little 'helper' looked like she had a lot of fun with this recipe! she is so cute :)


Marie said...

Ohh your cake looks so yummy! Well done. Great pictures as well. I, too, was amazed at the number of eggwhites and butter used, but I guess for a celebration it is worth it!

Jenny said...

You are the second blog I've read so far that used the lemon cream - I'll have to try that next time.

Bridget said...

Good thing you liked the lemon cream, since it's next week's TWD recipe!

Your niece is beautiful!

SweetDesigns said...

Beautiful cake!! Great job and mmm Lemon cream !!

Lunch Buckets said...

I NEED some of that lemon cream. Isn't it weird how you can crave something you've never had?

HoneyB said...

Great job!

Jaime said...

the layers in your cake look amazing! great job!