Sunday, March 30, 2008

Daring Bakers - March '08 Challenge!

My first Daring Bakers challenge! I can't tell you how psyched I have been. Not only am I hooked up with this extremely cool group of people who, like me, love to bake, but this is also the beginning of a new time of personal creativity. I've been languishing for a while, and am making a new start of it. And I deserve it!

This month's challenge was hosted by Morven, who selected "Dorie's Perfect Party Cake" from Dorie Greenspan's Baking: From My Home to Yours. I'd heard of Dorie but have never done any of her recipes (*gasp*); however, she is definitely a goddess in the blogging baking community. My little girl's 5th birthday was March 19th, so I knew the exact purpose of my party cake. Yay! How convenient.


Morven allowed us a lot of leeway in size, shape, and flavor; I decided to stick close to the original the first time. I did have a little brainstorm and came up with a list of different cake flavors and complimentary jam flavors that would be really good, I think, to do - I'll be glad to share the list with you if you merely contact me at amyjdavis93 [at] gmail [dot] com. :)


I got all of my ingredients together on a lovely weekend morning, and my daughter was all about being The Helper.

Mise en place (except for the wine bottle - Ha!)

I must say that she does a really good job for a 5-year-old and really seems to enjoy the process! I'm so proud of her - but I digress.


Dorie's cake was a beautiful white cake flavored subtly with lemon, and I didn't deviate from that. We mixed the lemon zest and sugar together, and Lord have mercy! It was the most fragrant stuff, and I seriously did NOT want to bring my head out of the bowl! My little fat lemon yielded exactly the amount of zest I needed, and I used the microplane that my mother-in-law gave me a while back - fun! I hope you can tell by the picture below what it looked like: the grainy sugar speckled with bright golden flecks of zest, and moist with the oils dispersed throughout.... Ahh!

I mixed the butter in, and we had a lump of rich, yellow, sugary bliss.

After adding the lemon extract and alternately blending in the flour mixture and buttermilk/egg white mixtures, I came out with this heavenly-looking, perfectly white batter that was simply amazing. It looked like marshmallow fluff (but since I don't like marshmallow fluff, it was infinitely better).

Then, into the nicely buttered and papered pans we go, and into the waiting oven! The pan on the right had just a wee bit more batter in it than the other one, and I'd scooped some over to the other pan to even it up; I apparently needed to scoop a wee bit more, though. One was done after 30 minutes, but the other pan still needed a bit more time. It was funny, because when I pulled the second one out I was like, 'ga!' at the color. The first was this pretty, delicate cream color; the second was a little browner. Not overdone, though - and they were both beautiful! Like a best friend, the finished cake did not give away my little secret. Bwahahahahaha.....

Out cooling on the racks

My initial idea was to make the cakes, freeze them, and decorate a few days later. But when I asked the Birthday Girl about it, she said (to my delight), "TODAY, MAMA!" How can a mom turn that down, I ask you?! I felt compelled to oblige. =:D



The recipe called for raspberry jam as the filling, but I decided to go with blueberry jam this time. I've always heard of the complimentary flavors of lemon and blueberry but have never cooked with them. Again, the feeling of compulsion arose within me. :D

It was really fun whisking the egg whites and sugar over the simmering water. Even more fun was the resulting white fluffy goodness that ensued. How'd it do that?!

Our finished product was this dreamy light meringue buttercream that "someone" just had to dip their finger into!

Oh yeah...nobody else put their finger way....


No...the icing on face and nose was NOT staged! HA!

I made buttercream icing last year for Kiddo's birthday (to top vanilla cupcakes), but this version was far superior. Last year's recipe was good, but had a residual greasiness that was kind of like, "eh?". This one, however, was light, fluffy, and heaven on earth, with a nice tang from the lemon juice.


As far as constructing the cake, it wasn't too bad. I definitely need more practice in halving a cake to make layers, but considering that this was my first time to do this, I'm quite satisfied. At least I didn't have the major trauma of layers breaking on me or anything. It almost wanted to happen, but I'm cool like that. :D


I took note of some comments from other Daring Bakers with the filling. I spread on the jam, then spread the buttercream on the bottom of the soon-to-be upper layer and put it on top of the jam side.

I was a little challenged with the icing, because it seemed like I didn't have enough - either that or I was just expecting to have more to work with. I had to keep pulling from places I'd already covered in order to cover the rest of the cake. It had me scared for a bit, there, but it turned out fine.


I skipped the coconut flakes and went instead for these little decorative candies that I sprinkled all over. There were actually some white candies in the mix, but I picked them out because I wanted little pops of color. I thought that the end result, while not being a professional-level bakery looking thing *snort* still was really cute and fun.

So it's not perfectly centered on the platter - sue me! Phhhhhhtttt!

I would love to tell you that shape of the cake in the above picture is because of the camera angle or something like that; however, like George Washington (whose birthday follows mine by one day) I cannot tell a lie. Next time I will arrange the layers, dry, on top of each other and trim away parts that don't quite match up. But adding to the Fun Element of this cake, it kind of makes me think of something that would have been on the Mad Hatter's table when Alice came to his tea party. Don't you think?

Sweet Pea was really proud of her special cake.

After our munching on this lovely creation at our home, I took it the following weekend to my parents' house when we got together for Easter (it kept extremely well, by the way). Everybody adored it!! My father was REALLY into it and ate 2/3 of what I brought (curse him, he can eat like a horse and still be this tall, Cary Grant-type guy). Ha ha!


I will SOOOO make this cake again! I might try a whole teaspoon of extract next time in the cake instead of 1/2 tsp. but I haven't totally decided on whether that might be too lemony. I would definitely make more buttercream to make sure that I had plenty (probably 1.5 X's the recipe), but as far as any "flaws" in the recipe or cake there weren't any. This is such a versatile recipe, and a lot of fun to make as well. Try it - you'll love it!


Click here for the results of the many, many others in the Daring Bakers family! The recipe is posted all over the place, so I won't put it here since my post is already quite long.

Thank you, Morven, and thank you, Dorie!


Vicki said...

Ok, Amy J, you're making me hungry!! And I'm eating as I'm reading this. (Of course cake isn't on my diet right now...)

A happy belated birthday to the Junior Rogue Girl!

Ann said...

Welcome to Daring Bakers! Your cake is just lovely!
Ann at Redacted Recipes

Maddy said...

Your cake looks divine- that's my favorite jam that you used and I bet it went really well with the cake! It's my first DB challenge, too : )

Suzana said...

That's a good looking cake! Great job on your 1st challenge. Welcome to the DBs!

jiminy said...

YYYuuummmm! Amy J. Loved your explanation of the process, and pictures of your helper. Do I know a Wren who might bring a cake to the Champagne and Dessert party.

Jiminy the Hungry Wren

Amy J. said...

Thanks, y'all!

Vicki - Omigosh, you have no idea. Dreamy!

Maddy - the blueberry DID go well with the cake, and I highly recommend it if that's your fave jam! You'd be in heaven. Glad to be in the "1st Challenge" category together!

Ann and Suzana - Thanks, I'm excited to join the DB's!

Jiminy - you read my mind. I was already considering bringing this to the party. My only dilemma is deciding what flavors to use....

Barbara Bakes said...

What a fun party cake - I love your pictures, especically with your helper!

Linda said...

Amy J. I love your cake and I love that you are reconnecting with your creative side! What a great way to start with a beautiful cake that allowed Sweet Pea to be involved! You go! Linda Albee

Kate said...

Your cake is so cute! I love the candy decorations, it makes it the perfect birthday cake! Your icing covered kiddie is adorable!

Anonymous said...

Very sweet cake! I love the photos.

Marye said...

you did a beautiful job!

AranciOnissimA said...

Hello Amy!
It's true we did the same decoration!!!
Very cute!

Morven said...

Cute as a button! I'm so glad you enjoyed making this cake. I think it's a winner too.

coco said...

Beautiful cake with the colourful buttons! And a cute little helper too :)

HoneyB said...

I love the pastel colored dots decorating your cake! The inside looks YUMM :)

Passionate baker...& beyond said...

That's one pretty cake Amy. I love the candies; gives the cake such a pretty & magical look. Great first challenge...welcome to DB's!

chriesi said...

Your cake is very cute! I think that is a great idea to do the double DB together. :) I am gonna bake the pretzels these days so that I can catch up with you! If you want drop me a mail about which we should do next! greetings

Anonymous said...

LOVE the polka-dots (who doesn't, right!?!?!). Happy birthday to your baby! I have a 5 yr old girl too, but I only let her lick the batter (bad mom!).

My mom is from Clarendon, dad from Weiner - I've been through Pine Bluff hundreds of times!

xoxox Amy

Fran Z said...

What a pretty cake! I agree- I could have used more icing, I felt like I could have used more in the layers.
Welcome to DB!

Carrie said...

Congrats on your first challenge, it looks very festive. And what an adorable little helper you had!

Amy J. said...

Cool, Amy! I'm not originally from Pine Bluff - grew up in north Mississippi and lived in Memphis. My parents still live over there, so I go through Clarendon a LOT!

Small world!! :)

Lunch Buckets said...

Love the dots! so cute And the helpers not bad either :)

Princess of the kitchen said...

your cake looks scrumptious. Ver4y preetty. Well done

Anonymous said...

How wonderful to have such a perfect event for your cake! It looks lovely!

chriesi said...

Hi Amy!

I wanted to thank you for the comment on my art! I am glad you like my pictures! I would have dropped you a mail, if I had your address. If you like you can mail me: noemireka(at)gmail(dot)com so that we can check out which challenge we do as next!


This looks delicious! Congrats on your first challenge!

Joy said...

Wow that cake is so pretty - it reminds me of spring. Your little helper is very sweet too!

Katie said...

Your cake looks wonderful. Using blueberry jam was a great idea - it goes so well with lemon

Joey Biscotti said...

I love the domed shape and the lovely little candies - you are so creative.

creampuff said...

Congratulations on your first DB challenge! It looks gorgeous!

the AIRY FAIRY said...

well done on completing your first challenge! the cake looks lovely. super cute with all those multi-coloured sugar balls! i like the thought of having it on the mad-hatters table!!!

Tracy said...

Great job on your first challenge. I love the dots - so colorful and perfect for Spring!

MilliMe said...

Hi Amy,
the cake looks absolutely beautiful!!!
I like the candies you put on it, very cute = )

Sheltie Girl said...

You did a fabulous job on your cake. I'm so glad your Sweet Pea loved her cake.

Natalie @ Gluten A Go Go

Ill-Behaved Woman said...

AMY J.!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Love you, woman. I'm proud of your culinary prowess. :)

(This is Brandie. Shh!). ;)