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Saturday, March 29, 2008

Daring Bakers Cake

I couldn't be happier with the choice of assignment this month. Each Daring Baker assignment is a great opportunity to stretch and learn but this month is very special because the posting date is my birthday and the assignment is cake!

But the choice of cake was not just any cake; it was an inspired choice. Our host baker, Morven from Food and Random Thoughts chose perfect Party Cake by Dorie Greenspan.

When I looked at the ingredients, lemon, coconut, raspberry preserves... I lapsed into a happy daze because I love those flavours. It was truly the perfect party cake for my birthday.

The cake baking went without a hitch and the batter tasted great. When the cake cooled, a little depression formed in the middle. The cake tester came out clean but I guess it needed a few more minutes in the oven. But you can always get over a minor depression with a scoop of icing.

I tightly wrapped the cake in plastic and put it in the freezer. This will be a busy birthday weekend so I have to make this cake in stages.

Results of this baking adventure

A more excellent tasting batter I cannot imagine.

This whipped up like a dream but took a long time... it was best to take taste testing breaks to keep up my energy ;-) ... The taste testing breaks were much appreciated.

I've always loved coconut so I loved this part too.

I choose Master's Choice Seedless Raspberry Jam which is the best mass market raspberry jam on the market in Canada. After I tasted this jam, I stopped thinking about making my own.

Entire Cake
I'm sure it will be fantastic but we haven't cut into yet. That will happen tonight and I will be eating this cake over my keyboard while I surf the net checking out the other Daring Baker exploits. After I vacuum the crumbs from my keyboard, I'll let you know how much I enjoyed it.

Here is a shortened version of the recipe. The entire recipe can be found in Dorie Greenspan's book Baking, From My Home to Yours

Perfect Party Cake

2 ½ cups cake flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ tsp 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/4 oz) unsalted butter, room temp
½ tsp pure lemon extract

1 cup sugar
4 large egg whites
3 sticks (12 oz) unsalted butter, room temp
¼ cup fresh lemon juice
1 tsp pure vanilla extract

2/3 cup seedless raspberry preserves, warmed gently until spreadable
About 1 ½ cups sweetened shredded coconut

Getting Ready
Centre rack in oven and preheat to 350 degrees F. Butter two 9 x 2 inch round cake pans and line 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 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 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 1/3 of the flour mixture, still beating on medium speed.

Beat 1/2 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 piece of floss, lasso the cake at the mid point and pull gently. This will 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.


I'm such a dork; I forgot to turn on the commment section. Thank you Jenny for pointing that out to me.

The cake was delicious. It was a little dry but I expected that the freezing, thawing and delay in eating would have that effect. Otherwise, it rated a ten. Next time, it will be straight from completion to consumption.

Monday, March 24, 2008


Spring has arrived and we're challenged to find some signs that nature is stretching awake after a long winter. The sap in the maple trees isn't running. Sugar bush season requires night time temperatures below zero Celsius (32 F) and daytime temperatures above zero. The snow banks skulking at the sides of the road are laughing at us as we crane our necks to see oncoming traffic. We're close to breaking the snow record of 444cm (almost 15 feet) and I'm cheering for the record, much to chagrin of my neighbours.

Right now it's 10 degrees below... I'm glad it has warmed up a little.

However, a little bit of spring can be bought at every grocery store and here's mine.

Spring has sprung,
The grass has riz'
I wonder where the birdie is?

As I looked into the sky,
A little birdie pooped in my eye.
'Tis a blessing cows don't fly!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Snow Day

For the first time I can remember, God declared a snow day.

Snow days are the holiday highlight of all children. And, to tell the truth, I still love a snow day. School buses are cancelled because of the dangerous driving conditions; that means that a good 100% of the children beg their parents to keep them home from school for the day. When nature takes it one step further, the schools have to be closed.

If we are lucky enough that the schools are closed, each child suits up in the morning and plays outside in conditions deemed too dangerous for learning.

Curiously, it's strangely peaceful. There is no traffic. Only the shrieks of overjoyed children and the wind howling can be heard as the children tumble and wade through the snow.

Most businesses gear down, since everyone knows that if we aren't taking care of our children, we are having fun lobbing snow balls at our neighbours.

This past week we received over 80 cm of snow (almost three feet). Neighbours pitched in to clear the snow and grind away at the snow plow deposit of grimy ice at the end of the driveways.

It's a great time to slow down and appreciate your family and neighbours - and we have great neighbours.

But for the first time I can ever remember, church services were reduced and/or cancelled. I guess God really did focus us on our priorities.