The Perfect Birthday Cake

Today is my daughter Jade’s birthday so I was thrilled when I found out the recipe for my first Daring Baker’s Challenge! Yes, I joined the team of daring bakers to improve my baking skills which are practically nil πŸ™‚

Perfect Birthday Cake
I have to say that I was happy with the results considering this is my first attempt at baking for Daring Bakers. I was lucky that my first recipe turned out to be similar to the Coconut Cake that I have baked before.

This month’s challenge, hosted by Morven of Food Art & Random Thoughts, is to bake Dorie Greenspan’s Birthday Cake. You see, a Daring Bakers host decides at the beginning of the month which recipe is going to be the theme that month and the rest of the group bakes the same thing and posts their recipes at the end of the month. Sounds fun, yes? I think the hardest part is keeping mum about the recipe until the posting time. At least that was my trouble. I wanted to shout out I had made my cake! but, I had to wait until March 30 to post about it. And when the end of the month came what did I do? I got busy! So it is already mid day on the last day of the month and I’m scrambling to type up my DB entry.

I must mention that I am not very artistic and so my cakes tend to be very plain. I hope that by baking often enough I can maybe learn how to dress up my cakes a bit better. Some of the entries are just too awesome for words. Check out the Daring Bakers Blogroll if you don’t believe me.

For my first attempt, I followed the instructions as it was given except for the coconut as the girls aren’t really that crazy about coconut. On the coconut cake that I’ve made previously, only my husband and I ended up eating the whole thing or the girls scrape off the coconut.

Raspberry Filling

For the Cake
2 1/4 cups cake flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
Β½ teaspoon salt
1 ΒΌ cups whole milk or buttermilk (I prefer buttermilk with the lemon)
4 large egg whites
1 Β½ cups sugar
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
1 stick (8 tablespoons or 4 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
Β½ teaspoon pure lemon extract

For the Buttercream
1 cup sugar
4 large egg whites
3 sticks (12 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
ΒΌ 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 Β½ 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 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).

Whip FrostingTo 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.

The 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.

Playing Around
Since lemon is such a friendly flavour, feel free to make changes in the preserves: other red preserves – cherry or strawberry – look especially nice, but you can even use plum or blueberry jam.

Fresh Berry Cake
If you will be serving the cake the day it is made, cover each layer of buttercream with fresh berries – use whole raspberries, sliced or halved strawberries or whole blackberries, and match the preserves to the fruit. You can replace the coconut on top of the cake with a crown of berries, or use both coconut and berries. You can also replace the buttercream between the layers with fairly firmly whipped sweetened cream and then either frost the cake with buttercream (the contrast between the lighter whipped cream and the firmer buttercream is nice) or finish it with more whipped cream. If you use whipped cream, you’ll have to store the cake the in the refrigerator – let it sit for about 20 minutes at room temperature before serving.

The cake turned out quite good and I just loved the lemon flavors. However, the husband wasn’t too crazy about the lemon frosting. Something about overdosing on his grand mother’s lemon meringue pie and getting turned off lemon flavored pastries for good. So, I made a second cake, this time with Pineapple filling.

Cook PineappleI started by taking a can of crushed pineapple and cooking it down with three tablespoons of sugar so it’s not so watery and more syrupy. Reduce the liquids to at least half then drain off about a fourth of a cups worth of syrup and use in the frosting instead of lemon juice.

I also colored the frosting yellow (hard to tell on the photos). This version was better received by the family. Now I have to learn to dress up my cakes a bit.
Pineapple Cake Pineapple Cake Slice

Now you also know where I got eight egg yolks for the Classic Leche Flan I posted previously.

Print Friendly
15 comments on “The Perfect Birthday Cake
  1. JMom says:

    hi Lisa! Thank you. I’m glad it turned out well too. At least I didn’t have to be embarassed my first time out. lol!

  2. Lisa says:

    Hey, welcome to the group! Glad your cake turned out good πŸ™‚

  3. JMom says:

    hi courtney, and I got a few more ideas for flavors from other daring bakers! πŸ™‚

    hi chou, thank you, I really enjoyed this first challenge and am looking forward to the next one already!

    hi jenny, thank you. My family really liked the pineapple version.

    hi snug, thanks πŸ™‚

    Hi Stel! naku, naubos lahat within a day or two. The girls even brought some to school for their friends. The Clone of course brought some for her teachers. Magaling sumipsip yun eh. πŸ˜€
    I don’t have Dorie Greenspan’s cookbook either. Actually, this was my first time hearing about her. Just goes to show how much I bake. hehe!

  4. stel says:

    beautiful, JMom! what a nice combination w/ the pinya…
    you made two cakes?! meron pa?

    belated happy birthday to the lovely Jade…

    (i really have to get Dorie Greenspan’s book!)

  5. snug says:

    Pineapple cake = Yum! πŸ™‚ Congrats on your first challenge!

  6. Jenny says:

    I think the pineapple is a great idea, and your cakes look good!

  7. Chou says:

    Congrats on your first challenge! πŸ™‚

  8. courtney says:

    I love the additon of pineapple. So many great flavors out there!

  9. JMom says:

    hi leafy bombshell, thank you for the welcome and for letting me know about the color. My laptop’s monitor is really crappy I have to tilt my head and practically hang upside down to see the colors right. lol!

    hi airy fairy, yeah, I really surprised myself how well the icing turned out. πŸ˜€ I am definitely doing this cake again.

    Hi Deeba, thanks! The cake did come out quite nice. I’ve had pretty good luck baking with the Swan’s Down flour. I’m crossing my fingers that my luck will hold out πŸ™‚

    Hi Joey, thank you! I’ve been watching all you daring bakers with envy for so long, I just couldn’t resist anymore. πŸ˜€

  10. joey says:

    Welcome to the Daring Bakers! So glad you have joined πŸ™‚ This is definitely the place to practice your baking…with one huge support group πŸ™‚

    You cake came out great! Congratulations on your first challenge!

  11. Deeba says:

    Got to the Leche Flan post first & left a message there telling you that is exactly what i would do if I had 2 make 2 party cakes!!! WOW…GREAT FIRST CHALLENGE…& twice over…BOW to you!! Very good indeed. The crumb of your cake looks so moist & the frosting luscious. Welcome to Dbs!

  12. your cake looks fabulous! i love the shiny-ness of your icing…just lovely. wish mine had been like that!

  13. Welcome to DB and congrats on your first challenge. You actually can tell that the frosting is yellow on the second cake and it looks just lovely. Wonderful job!

  14. JMom says:

    Thanks Claire! I gotta make my rounds and get some tips from other daring bakers now.

  15. Claire says:

    I think that the pineapple cake would just be delicious! Great job!

Leave a Reply