Sunday, March 30, 2008
This month the Daring Bakers are flooding the food blogging world with Dorie's Perfect Party Cake, as chosen by Morven of Food Art and Random Thoughts. She also decided that we could all play with the flavors to our hearts content as long as we used the original recipes as our base jumping off point.
So, while I made an orange-strawberry version with some dulce de leche, there are many surprises waiting at the Daring Bakers' blogroll .
Let me start by saying thank you to Morven for the theme and the recipe - I loved this cake! Making it was as much of a pleasure for me as eating it was. My only regret was adding the dulce de leche on top because it slid off (even more than in the pictures). Next time I will just serve that alongside for anyone who wants more than in the layers.
I also wanted to mention that, hands-down, my favorite part of the entire process was rubbing the zest with the sugar. I'm not exaggerating when I tell you that getting in there with your fingers and working the sugar until it is moist and fragrant had a completely calming effect on me. I think I would happily wake up and do this every morning to help wake up. It was awesome and I had to taste just a little of the orange sugar which, of course tasted like candy. I loved it so much that I sprinkled more on the top of the cake to highlight it. That was absolutely my favorite part!
I layered the cakes with strawberry buttercream (by taking 1/3 of the entire buttercream and mixing in some smooth pureed strawberry preserves) and a center layer of dulce de leche. It was awesome!
Here was the process of rubbing the sugar with the orange zest - I wonder if Blogger is working on smell-o-vision capabilities - oh well, until then, you HAVE to try this.
(Adapted from Dorie's Perfect Party Cake)
For the Cake:
2 1/4 cups cake flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 ¼ cups whole milk or buttermilk
4 large egg whites
1 ½ cups sugar
2 teaspoons grated orange zest
1 stick (8 tablespoons or 4 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
For the Buttercream:
1 cup sugar
4 large egg whites
3 sticks (12 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
¼ cup fresh lemon orange juice (from 1 large orange)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste
1/2 cup strawberry preserves stirred vigorously or warmed gently until spreadable (puree in food processor to make it smooth if necessary)
1/3 cup dulce de leche
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 (I didn't have a big enough baking sheet so I just baked them directly on the rack).
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 orange 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 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 orange 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. When you are ready to assemble the cake, place 1/3 of the buttercream into a seperate bowl and whisk in the strawberry preserves for in between two of the layers.
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-half of the preserves/buttercream mixture. Top with another layer, spread with a layer of dulce de leche and then do the third layer the same as the first with the remainder of the strawberry buttercream. Place the last layer cut side down on top of the cake and use the remaining buttercream to frost 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.
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.