This month’s host, Morven of Food, Art and Random Thoughts, announced we were to bake a party cake using a Dorie Greenspan recipe. The thought that came to mind was Queen Marie Antoinette’s (of France, long ago) supposed remark on being told by her ministers that her subjects didn’t have any bread to eat. She apparently said, "Then let them eat cake!" In a take off on this remark, I thought, "If I can’t bake good French bread (my previous challenge), then I shall bake cake!!"
I have baked plain ordinary cakes many times but never tried to cut them up into layers. And I have never, never made buttercream or decorated cakes. I don’t know why, but I have always been hesitant to venture forth in this direction.
So with this challenge I had to bake two cakes and cut each in half so that I would have a total of four layers to my cake. Then I had to make Swiss meringue buttercream and sandwich the cake layers with this and fruit preserves and finally cover and decorate the cake. I did want to attempt this challenge if I could as this would be the perfect opportunity for me to deal with my nervousness about buttercream and cake decorating.
The recipe the Daring Bakers had to use is below and my experience baking it follows the recipe.
Update on playing around.
I can't wait to see what combinations people come up with. You can leave out the lemon, put different flavours of preserves in the middle, leave off the coconut - it's your cake.
Words from Dorie
To Make the Cake
To Make the Buttercream
To Assemble the Cake
Fresh Berry Cake
My Cake Making Experience:
The recipe for the cake didn’t look too difficult. We needed to make two cakes but I didn’t have two cake tins of the same size. This problem was taken care of as I bought a tin to match one of mine.
The recipe called for cake flour. Now, the only flour I get here is all purpose flour. The DBs came to the rescue with a suggestion that that 1 cup cake flour = 1 cup all purpose flour – 1 tbsp flour. So this is what I did.
Other than this, I stuck to the recipe and instructions and baked my cakes at 190C. At the end of the evening I had two lovely looking cakes to work on. I am assuming these cakes would not rise as much as many other cakes but I felt my cakes could have risen a little more. At least enough for me to get reasonably thick layers after cutting them into two each.
As it was a little late to start on decorating, I let the cakes cool down overnight.
Making the Buttercream:
Making the buttercream was the best part of this challenge for me. It was perfect, no curdling, just lots of butter and a great buttercream. My buttercream was pale yellow though because the butter I used was yellow and not white.
The Filling/ Layering:
I cut the first cake horizontally into two and as I was transferring the top layer onto a plate, it came apart in my hand!! It was like magic. One minute there was this lovely layer and the next minute I had 3 irregular pieces. No fault of the cake, just sheer clumsiness on my part. I was more careful with the second cake. So as I had three intact layers, I ended with a 3 layer cake.
The fillings suggested were raspberry, cherry, strawberry, plum or blueberry preserves or any other dark colored fruit preserve that would contrast with white cake and buttercream. None of these are available where I live, though I do occasionally get strawberries and cherries at the market. So I used some lovely deep purple grape preserve I had left over from making Cardamom Flavoured Grape Mini Pies.
Layering the filling was easy as the cake had a tight texture. Putting on the buttercream was bit trickier as there was a tendency for the filling to stain the buttercream. So I plopped the buttercream in little bits all over the filling and gently spread it out before placing the cake layers over it. I didn’t have the neatest layers but that was the best I could do.
Decorating the Cake:
The recipe suggested using sweetened coconut flakes to decorate the side of the cake. It was at this point that I figured out that this form of adorning the cake was a great thing for people like me. This is really the perfect way to cover up all those imperfections resulting from "buttercreaming" a cake!
I wasn’t sure what sweetened coconut was, probably coconut to which powdered sugar is added. I thought that this could make the cake too sweet and this was something I did’nt have anyway. I had plenty of fresh flaked coconut. So I lightly toasted some on the stove top till golden brown and used this to decorate the sides of my cake.
I wasn’t sure as to how to decorate the top of my cake. As I mentioned earlier, icing/ frosting or any form of similar decorating was new to me. I decided to give it a go anyhow and coloured the remaining buttercream a light brown by beating cocoa powder into it. Then I dug out some icing nozzles I had. I didn’t have any piping bags, so I used a ziplock bag, fitted a star nozzle to one end of the bag (which I had snipped off) and tried my hand at piping some stars. They came out quite well, to my surprise, so I went crazy piping out stars to cover the top of my cake and voila, I had my perfect party cake!!
We didn’t have a party to take this cake to but we enjoyed the cake all the same. A large portion of the cake was sent over to my husband’s brothers and sister and families (they live close by), who all did justice to the cake.
This cake wasn’t difficult to make at all. Most of all, what I liked was the tight texture of the cake. This made it easy to cut the cakes into layers and there were hardly any crumbs. The toasted coconut balanced out the sweetness of the cake and the buttercream was quite tasty.
I shall use this recipe for cake (leaving out the lemon as we are not very partial to it) and the buttercream again. And I have conquered my cake decorating fears because of this challenge. In fact, I think I now have the courage to be more daring with cake decorating in future. I also feel confident about the promise I made to my daughter to decorate her birthday cake later this
Please do step across to my fellow Daring Baker blogs to see some really mouth-wateringly beautiful cakes. You can’t afford to miss them, believe me.