This weekend I was able to make a baby shower cake. This post will focus on the cake itself and not the decoration.
Underneath the ribbon, fondant, and icing are two layers of a delicious cake I recently discovered: Perfect Party Cake by Dorie Greenspan. Unsure of what to choose as the flavor for this cake as the person who ordered it and I forgot to discuss that part, I opted to go with a white cake. I had just made Rose Levy Beranbaum's White Velvet Butter Cake as a wedding cake sample, and I liked it. I just decided that I wanted to try something different. I like trying different things, especially when they're baked so closely together.
So, I looked through my cookbooks and on the internet, and everybody seemed to love the Perfect Party Cake. All the reviews I read about it said that people rave about its taste, and that the lemon perfectly accents its lightness and helps to offset the sometimes eggy or floury taste white cakes have. That caught my attention. The recipe is in Dorie's book, Baking: From My Home to Yours. If you don't have this book and you love to bake, I would highly recommend it. There's even a blogging community called Tuesdays With Dorie devoted to baking the recipes of this book.
The feedback I got from this cake was that it "was great, and everyone loved the way it tasted." Success!
Due to the zesting of the lemon, the infusion of the sugar, and separating the eggs, this recipe has a couple more steps than your average cake, but it's very worth it.
½ teaspoon salt
1 ¼ cups whole milk or buttermilk (I prefer buttermilk with the lemon)
4 large egg whites
1 ½ cups sugar
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
1 stick (8 tablespoons or 4 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
½ teaspoon pure lemon extract
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.
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, unmold 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).
- The first time I made this cake (I ended up making it twice because one layer fell apart upon unmolding), I forgot the lemon extract, so I used lemon juice. The second time I actually got the extract. The difference is significant- go with the extract for a better flavor.
- As just mentioned, one of the cakes fell apart when I unmolded it (or took it out of the pan), so the second time I made it I left it in the pan to cool longer. These cakes are delicate!
- My hot oven had the cakes done in 25 minutes.
- To get the batter in the pans to be as smooth on top as possible, I spread them with a spatula as directed, but then I gave the pans a couple quarter turn spins (put one hand on each side of the pan and turn clockwise and then counter clockwise, like turning a steering wheel). It's much gentler than banging the pans on the counter as some people do. That lets air bubbles out, making for a more dense cake, and that's not what you want.