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Monday, March 31, 2008

Daring Bakers Challenge - Perfect Party Cake

White Chocolate Strawberry Layer Cake
EDIT: Picture of the inside added below. THIS CAKE IS FREAKIN PERFECT!

I joined the Daring Bakers last month, and this month was my first challenge. I was so excited when I found out it was a cake! My first instinct was to make it in cupcake form, but that wouldn't be a challenge. I stuck with the layer cake, but changed the flavors. The original recipe was a lemon cake layered with raspberry jam and lemon SMBC. My readers know I don't dig on lemon desserts, so I made a vanilla cake layered with fresh strawberries and white chocolate SMBC. (It was supposed to be White Chocolate Raspberry, but it seems there is a shortage of fresh raspberries at ALL the grocery stores w/in a 10 minute drive of my house.) This cake is absolutely to-die-for! It's exactly what I want when I think of a light, fresh strawberry layer cake. The cake itself is SO soft, and the frosting is SO silky! The strawberries lend a difference in texture and a bright tangy-ness (a word?)! If you haven't already, you NEED to make this cake!

ingredients finishing the batter
weighing both pans to make sure they're equal
ready for the oven
cooling for 5 minutes in the pans

cooling on wire racks
Each layer is sliced in half...
...then covered with frosting and a dam for the strawberries
Mmmm fresh strawberries between every layer!
A thin coat of frosting seals in the crumbs.
And Tada!
PS: This was supposed to be posted yesterday (Mar 30), but my middle name is Procrastinator. Actually, Josh and I just layed around all day. It was truly a lazy Sunday!

Original recipe from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking from My Home to Yours. My adaptations are in ORANGE!

For the Cake
2 1/4 cups cake flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 ¼ cups whole milk or buttermilk (I used buttermilk)
4 large egg whites
1 ½ cups sugar
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest (I omitted this)
1 stick (8 tablespoons or 4 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
½ teaspoon pure lemon extract (I used 1 tsp vanilla extract)

For the Buttercream (I heard this wasn't enough to frost the whole cake so I added a bit more)
1 cup sugar (plus 1/4 cup sugar)
4 large egg whites (plus 1 egg white)
3 sticks (12 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
¼ cup fresh lemon juice (from 2 large lemons) (I omitted this)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract (I omitted this)
6 ounces (by weight) white chocolate, melted and cooled

For Finishing
2/3 cup seedless raspberry preserves stirred vigorously or warmed gently until spreadable (omit)
About 1 ½ cups sweetened shredded coconut (omit)
About 1 lb. fresh strawberries thinly sliced

Getting Ready
Center 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 (omit this step and just put sugar and butter into mixing bowl). 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 pan 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 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 (or white chocolate), waiting until each addition is absorbed before adding more, and then the vanilla (omit). 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 (omit jam; spread each layer with buttercream and top with a layer of strawberries). 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 (omit).
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.

Playing Around
Since lemon is such a friendly flavour, feel free to make changes in the preserves: other red preserves – cherry or strawberry – look especially nice, but you can even use plum or blueberry jam.

Fresh Berry Cake
If you will be serving the cake the day it is made, cover each layer of buttercream with fresh berries – use whole raspberries, sliced or halved strawberries or whole blackberries, and match the preserves to the fruit. You can replace the coconut on top of the cake with a crown of berries, or use both coconut and berries. You can also replace the buttercream between the layers with fairly firmly whipped sweetened cream and then either frost the cake with buttercream (the contrast between the lighter whipped cream and the firmer buttercream is nice) or finish it with more whipped cream. If you use whipped cream, you’ll have to store the cake the in the refrigerator – let it sit for about 20 minutes at room temperature before serving.


Mara said...

Ooooh this looks SO tasty!!! I was just checking out Gigi's cake ..and now you ladies have me craving some yummy fresh layer cake.

Canadian Baker said...

Lovely!! The perfect summertime cake. :)

fifilacupcakes said...

This is as pretty as a picture!! Well done on your first challenge - can't wait to see the layers once you dig into this baby!

And Sundays are MEANT to be lazy ;)


Laurie said...

I love the white chocolate idea! Your buttercream is so white and pristine.. magnificent! :)

Anne said...

With white chocolate?! I love white chocolate and I'm pretty sure your cake tasted heavenly :) Your cake is simply lovely!

Claire said...

This is beautiful! such beautiful frosting.

CB said...

I lurve white chocolate. I'll have to make this again with your white chocolate adjustments! Great job!
Clara @ I♥food4thought

Megan said...

Thanks for the white chocolate recipe. I'm new to swiss meringue buttercream and would love to try it!

Cakelaw said...

This is a beautiful looking cake Cassie - worth the extra day.

SweetDesigns said...

Congrats on your first challenge!!! Your cake looks Wonderful!!

Annarasa said...

Ohh! Love the strawberries.


Princess of the kitchen said...

looks great. I love the variation you did. Well done

Beth G. said...

You did a beautiful job- it looks delicious!!

The Baker & The Curry Maker said...

Ooo the strawberries look great. Good job!

Ann said...

Your cake looks terrific! Love the white chocolate buttercream idea!

Sweet Sins said...

Oh come on and cut into it already i am dying to see what that pic will look like! This cake looks soooo good!!! Great job!

Suzy said...

look beauti-mus!! Well done! I can't wait to hear your review on how it tastes!

dlb said...

very nice! i think the cake looks great and am glad that you posted step-by-step photos... it will help me to make one someday, i'm sure!

the southern hostess said...

Yum. That looks and sounds delicious!

Sweet Sins said...

Look how great it looks cut!! Oh I could eat a huge piece of that right now!!! yum

Gigi said...

Congrats on your first challenge! You did a great job!

Mignon said...

MMMMMMMmmmm Im making this one. Welcome Back!

Marq said...

You did a very good job! Way to go for sticking to the challenge and not doing your normal cupcake thing! Looks delicious!

Ally said...

mmmmm White chocolate! Looks very tasty!

LiTtLe ChEfFo said...

waaaa yummy....it's lke strawberry shortcakes :p will try this recipe must be very good :)

I(dot)J said...

Looks great...

CupcakeLady said...

Excellent job with the cake. It looks so professional!!!

Angel said...

Your cake looks amazing! So pretty and neat. The white chocolate in the butter cream sounds decadent.

Gretchen Noelle said...

Lovely looking cake! Great job on your first DB challenge!

Sheltie Girl said...

You did a simply lovely job on your cake.

Natalie @ Gluten a Go Go

Erika said...

that looks sooo good! yum yum yum.

AznHyperGirl said...

this def looks deeelicious!! i wonder ... since i have fresh fruit phobia ... could i substitute it with strawberry jam?? what do you think??

How To Eat A Cupcake said...

AHG, you could definitely substitute strawberry jam. It would be much sweeter, so you may want to dilute it with water or stir it into some whipped cream.

Indispensable_poe said...

Hi, your cake looked gorgeous!

I have made the cake today. However the buttercream didn't turn out. It was runny and yellow in color. Therefore I am making different different frosting now. Do you have any idea why didn't the buttercream turn out for me?

Thank you!