I am surrounded by Scorpios. I, too, am a Scorpio and celebrated my birthday in the first few days of this astrological sign. We are a passionate (ok, some say stubborn) and loyal group. This past weekend I celebrated the birthdays of two friends. When the invite went out she mentioned that they would be buying a cake and further what flavors do we all like. She's well-mannered isn't she? Frankly, this type of gesture goes against my birthday cake philosophy. Said reasoning is that it' s your birthday and you won't be buying that cake and the type of cake and flavor is at your call. I would have none of that.
So I found myself making a birthday cake prior to the bowling party. Another friend, as we were driving over, cake carrier on her lap said ,"You are setting a dangerous precedent. Now everyone will want a baked from scratch cake for their birthday.
The cake that the birthday boy and girl were seeking fit the description of The Perfect Party Cake from Dorie Greenspan's new baking cookbook, Baking: From my home to yours. It's a four-layer round velvety white cake moist, tight-crumbed, and flavored with lemon extra and plenty of zest. layered with raspberry preserves and a silky, not-too-rich buttercream, topped with coconut. Quite simply it's the cake that makers of birthday cards feature. And also the one that the group in lanes 12 were drooling over.
Perfect Party Cake
Adapted from Dorie Greenspan's Baking: From My Home to Yours
12 to 14 servings
2 ¼ cups cake flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 ¼ cups buttermilk
4 large egg whites
1 ½ cups sugar
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
4 oz unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 teaspoon lemon extract
1 cup sugar
4 large egg whites
3 sticks/12 oz. unsalted butter, room temperature
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Filling & Topping
2/3 cup seedless strawberry preserves
1 1/2 cups unsweetened shredded coconut
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spray or butter two 9" x 2" round cake pans. Line the bottom of each cake pan with a buttered parchment circle.
Whisk the buttermilk and egg whites together in a separate bowl.
Combine the sugar and lemon zest in a stand mixer bowl and rub together with your fingers until the sugar is moist and smells like the lemon.
Add the butter to the mixer bowl and beat together with the sugar for 3 minutes on medium speed until the mixture is fluffy and light.
Add in the vanilla extract.
Add in the flour and buttermilk mixtures in alternating additions, starting and ending with the flour mixtures. Be sure each addition is fully incorporated before adding the next.
When everything is added beat the batter for an additional 2 minutes.
Divide the batter between the two pans and bake for 30 minutes in the oven or until the tops are set and springy, and a cake tester inserted into the centers come out clean.
Transfer the pans to wire racks and let cool for a few minutes, then flip and unmold the cakes (run a knife around the sides of the cakes if necessary). Peel the parchment off and flip the cakes back over right side up on the wire racks to finish cooling.
At this point, the fully cooled cake layers can be wrapped in plastic and kept overnight or frozen for up to 2 months.
For the buttercream:
Combine the sugar and egg whites in a medium heatproof bowl and place over a pan of simmering water.
Whisk the sugar mixture constantly over heat until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture looks smooth and shiny, about 3 minutes.
Remove mixture from heat and pour into a stand mixer bowl. Whisk on medium speed for about 5 minutes until the mixture has cooled.
Switch to the paddle attachment and with the speed on low, add the butter a few pieces at a time, beating until smooth.
When all the butter has been added, beat the buttercream on medium-high speed for about 6-10 minutes until it is very thick and smooth.
Add in the lemon juice and beat until combined. Add in the vanilla.
The buttercream is ready to be used. Place a piece of plastic wrap against the surface until you are ready to use it to prevent it from drying out.
To assemble the cake:
Using a sharp serrated knife, slice each cake layer horizontally in half.
Stir the raspberry preserves until it is loose and spreadable.
Place a layer on a cardboard cake round, cut side up. Spread about a third of the raspberry preserves on the cake layer.
Spread a layer of buttercream on top of the preserves. Top with a second cake layer.
Spread preserves and buttercream on the second cake layer as you did with the first. Top with a third cake layer.
Spread preserves and buttercream on the third cake layer as you did with the second. Top with the last cake layer, cut side down.
Use the rest of the buttercream to frost the sides and top of the cake.
Press the coconut over the sides and top of the cake.
The cake is best served a couple of hours after it is assembled to let the flavors develop. You can refrigerate it for up to 2 days, but be sure it is well covered or the cake will dry out. You should also let the cake come to room temperature before you serve it.