Today is my birthday! And on Saturday, Mark and his parents arranged a complete birthday celebration. They brought a whole smorgasbord of food including a salad, pickled beets and eggs, and award-winning apple pie. There were delicious clams steamed in a huge pot over the Old Coleman Stove with sweet potatoes and the season's last corn on the cob. We had wonderful grilled lemon-chicken and deviled eggs which were declared THE best ever (send me an email if you want the secret recipe).
They invited some pretty interesting guests...and they knew how to have a good time...
The best part was I didn't have to do a thing for the party - except that I really wanted to make my own cake. I thought The Perfect Party Cake from Dorie Greenspan's Baking: From My Home to Yours would be, well, perfect. The cake was a classic combination of lemon and raspberry and coconut - and in different forms it would make the most delicious and beautiful wedding cake, or perfect petit fours, or of course cupcakes. You may think it's crazy to want to make your own birthday cake, but I can't think of a better occasion. And it was the perfect birthday party!
adapted slightly from Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan
For the Cake
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
1 stick (8 tablespoons or 4 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
½ teaspoon pure lemon extract (I omitted - didn't have any on hand)
For the Buttercream Icing:
1 cup sugar
4 large egg whites
3 sticks (12 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
¼ cup fresh lemon juice (from 2 large lemons)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2/3 cup seedless raspberry preserves stirred vigorously or warmed gently until spreadable used About 1 ½ cups sweetened shredded coconut
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.
To Make the Cake:
Whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. In a separate bowl, whisk together the milk and egg whites. 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, 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 icing:
Put the sugar and egg whites in a mixer bowl or another large heatproof bowl, fit the bowl over a plan 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 in 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, 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.
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 fourth of the frosting. Cover the frosting evenly with one third of the jam. Top with another layer, spread with frosting and preserves and then do the same with a third layer (you’ll have used all the jam and have frosting leftover). Place the last layer cut side down on top of the cake and use the remaining frosting to frost the sides and top. Sprinkle with coconut if desired.