Sunday, March 30, 2008

Daring Bakers-March Challenge

This month's Daring Bakers Challenge was hosted by Morven of & the recipe was Dorie Greenspan's Perfect Party Cake. I was really worried about making a buttercream bec. I'd had a couple flops in the past but this time it came together beautifully. The great thing-among many-about Daring bakers is that it does make me loosen up & not worry about the results but really enjoy the process and learn along the way. I wasn't too sure about my meringue mixture on the stove; somehow I expected it to get fluffier & ended up taking it off the stove when it got hot, as indicated in the recipe. I just trusted that I'd keep trying or email somebody if I got stuck. How lovely it was to see it whipping up into fab frosting in it's mixer! The cake was a pleasure to make too & the only trouble I had was cutting the layers in half evenly-you can see on the cut cake photo how unenven the top layer is. But it looks great & tasted fab! I will definitely be making this often with different flavorings. Check out the DB Blogroll to see all the cool ways others dBs made their cakes!

Here's recipe:

For the Cake

2 1/4 cups cake flour (updated 25 March)

1 tablespoon baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

1¼ 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

For the Buttercream

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

For Finishing

2/3 cup seedless raspberry preserves stirred vigorously or warmed gently until spreadable

About 1 ½ cups sweetened shredded coconut

Getting Ready

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.

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 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 cleanTransfer 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 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 third of the preserves.Cover the jam evenly with about one quarter of the buttercream.Top with another layer, spread with preserves and buttercream and then do the same with a third layer (you’ll have used all the jam and have buttercream leftover).Place the last layer cut side down on top of the cake and use the remaining buttercream to frost the sides and top. Press the coconut into the frosting, patting it gently all over the sides and top.ServingThe 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. Depending on your audience you can serve the cake with just about anything from milk to sweet or bubbly wine.


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.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Gingerbread People

My son is very picky about cookies of all things. No chocolate chips for him, or peanut butter, or oats, or raisins. He'll only eat sugar cookies with sprinkles of some kind on them and these ginger cookies. Needless to say, we don't make these often, as they require rolling & reshaping & icing, etc. But I did make this batch the other day. Whew! Now I'm set for the upcoming week.

Blue Food

While I was pregnant, I did have food cravings. For blue foods. There are more than you'd think and I loved them all. Blueberries, blue grapes & grape juice, roasted blue potatoes, blue corn chips, and blackberries. If I've missed any, fill me in, I still love blue things. In fact, I still sometimes get that "gotta have this" message playing in my brain, so recently I made blueberry pie. I put in extra cornstarch & it was perfect! It set beautifully. I have a deep pie plate, so used:
6 cups of blueberries, 1/2 cup brown sugar, 3/4 cup white sugar, 1 tbsp lemon juice, 1/4 tsp cinnamon, 1/4 tsp nutmeg, and 7 tbsp of cornstarch. I baked it at 400 with a crust guard for 45 mins, then removed the guard for the last 15-20 mins.

Friday, February 29, 2008

I'm a Daring Baker!

Daring Bakers are an online group that agree to bake one item a month following the exact same recipe with no changes. It's a fantastic way to bring new zest into your baking life and your human life. Any worries I had on my first challenge, Julia Child's French Bread, recipe here- -dissolved when I read the encouraging comments given to others & felt the commaraderie. Alright!

I've worked with yeast breads and double risings before so I began my recipe feeling a bit confident but not cocky. The 15 page recipe gave me pause until I read it & started organizing my ingredients and equipment. The estimated time for the bread was 7-9 hours. I set aside one of my days off work for the baking. I live in Southern California so my house was pretty cool inside. I ended up puuting the dough in the laundry room with the dryer running for its risings. My antique KA was not up to the challenge, so I did the kneading by hand. The only problem I had was that my sharp knives weren't sharp enough to properly mark the dough before baking. Next time I'll try the razor blades mentioned in the recipe. The bread was amazing & all gone in a poof! I'll definitely make this again...I don't think I can wait long, drool, drool. Many thanks to the Daring Bakers founders, Lisa & Ivonne & to this month's hosts, Mary & Sara for a wonderful experience!


(c) Flourbuttereggs 2008 All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Kung Pao Tofu

A family favorite!
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Thursday, February 7, 2008

Ginger Cookies

I tried a new recipe hoping to find a great ginger cookie that didn't involve rolling the dough out. These were a success & are from Cooking Light, to boot, so are healthier than a typical cookie.
(c) Flourbuttereggs 2008 All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008


I'm a tea person. I only have 1-2 cups a day but they are mandatory. For my b'day, my mum gave me the best thing a tea drinker could dream of....Zarafina (TM)! It's a tea brewing sytem that boils the water, steeps the tea leaves, and then decants the tea into the included pitcher. This way, the tea doesn't sit & stew in it's leaves forever. Best of all, there are separate settings for black, green, oolong, and white teas as well as for loose tea vs. bag tea. No more waiting for my boiled water to cool enough to start steeping my green tea-Zarafina does it all! My son, who's obsessed with all machinery & things with buttons and levers, said it was "the best present ever!" xox to mum! (c) Flourbuttereggs 2008 All Rights Reserved.