I've been wanting to try a layer cake to see if I could make one that wasn't a lopsided mess, as they've always been in the past. I've also been into teaching myself to decorate with icing, so we invited our parents for dinner and I baked this cake. I bought a few tools to help the process go smoother than if I went about it as usual: baking strips to help with more evenly baked layers (no doming) and one of those thingies that cuts a cake in half horizontally, so I wouldn't have to use a knife. If it weren't for these two items, the cake would have been kind of a disaster. You'll see that with one of the cakes I didn't do so well with the cutting of layers, but that by the time I got to the second cake, I knew what I was doing, and that thingy was a godsend.
I was at a bakery a few weeks ago and saw a cake where they used Starbursts and icing to make little gifts on top of the cake, which was too cute not to do, even though it wasn't a gift-giving occasion. The cake as a whole was pretty time consuming, so I'll likely not bake again for a few weeks, but I'm really happy with the outcome. Just need to perfect the cutting of the layers.
The cake itself got rave reviews. It was a bit lemony for my taste, considering it's a white cake, but it was refreshing. In her original recipe, Dorie Greenspan does layers of raspberry jam and buttercream. I'm not a lover of layers of jam in cake so I did a raspberry filling that I found on this blog (so many good things here). Though I could not find the extract that the recipe calls for, so I had to work around that.
Perfect Party Cake
Source: Baking From My Home To Yours by Dorie Greenspan
For the cake:
2 1/4 cups cake flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/4 cups buttermilk or whole milk (I used 1 cup buttermilk and 1/4 cup whole milk, as I didn't have enough buttermilk)
4 large egg whites
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 tsp grated lemon zest
1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 tsp pure lemon extract
For the Swiss buttercream:
1 cup sugar
4 large egg whites
3 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (about two lemons)
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
Fresh Raspberry Filling
Source: Good Things Catered
2 cups powdered sugar
Miniscule pinch of salt
1/2 cup shortening
1 1/2 tsp natural raspberry extract (I couldn't find this at three stores so I used some juice from the thawed raspberries
1/2 tsp butter flavor (sold at Michael's and I think the grocery store)
4 oz. fresh raspberries (I used frozen since I had them)
For decoration (optional):
Preheat the oven to 350 F. Line the bottom of two 9" round cake pans with parchment paper cut to size, and spray with cooking spray. 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 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 three minutes, until the butter and sugar are very light. Beat in the extract, then add one third of the flour mixture, still beting 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 unil the batter is homogeneous, then add the last of the dry ingredients. Finally, give the batter a good two-minute beating to ensure that it is thoroughly mixed and well-aereated. Divide the batter between the two pans and smooth the tops with a rubber spatula.
Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the cakes are well risen and springy to the touch. A thin knife inserted into the center of each cake should come out clean. Transfer the cakes to cooling racks and cool for about five minutes, then invert each cake, removing the parchment paper. Cool to room temperature right-side up.
To make the buttercream, put the sugar and egg whites in a mixer 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 three minutes. The sugar should be dissolved and the mixture should look like shiny marshmallow cream (mine wasn't quite that pretty). Remove from heat. Strain mixture through a fine sieve to remove any scrambled egg (which I had plenty). Beat the meringue mixture on medium speed until it is cool, about five minutes. 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, six to ten minutes. During this time, the buttercream may curdle...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, then the vanilla. You should have a shiny, smooth, white buttercream.
To make the filling, combine the shortening and extracts and beat on low until relatively combined. In a separate bowl, combine sugar and salt, then add to mixer while still on. Scrape down sides of bowl until thoroughly combined. Add raspberries and some raspberry juice (if you can't find the extract). Add water if needed to reach desired texture.
To assemble the cake, cut the two cakes into four layers either using a serrated knife or one of those cake cutter thingies I mentioned above (highly recommend for even layers). Pipe some icing around the diameter of the bottom layer to act as a dam for the filling. Fill with about one third of the filling. Top with another layer and repeat until you top the cake with the last layer, cut side down. With an offset spatula, cover the cake with icing, working it until it's smooth. Decorate as you see fit (Dorie covers hers with coconut). To do the Starburst gifts, unwrap each candy and place on a piece of parchment. Using a very small tip (number escapes me), pipe a cross on each one, then a little bow. Touching at the corners, move each candy onto the top of the cake.
Phew... long post.