Tuesday, June 30, 2009

TWD - The Perfect Lemon Party Cake

It's here! The Perfect Party Cake was finally chosen, by Carol of mix, mix...stir, stir. This is the cake that I looked at again and again in the book and thought "I could never pull off something that looked that good."

I was right.

I made the ugly duckling of Perfect Party Cakes.

Since I cut the recipe in half, I wanted to find a suitable pan to use so I could still make four layers. I knew I wanted this to be a lemon party cake, so I opted for Dorie's lemon cream instead of raspberry preserves. Checking out the volume of the 9" round cake pan, I found that an 8x8 pan has the same volume. This was good news since I could cut the cake in half before dividing the halves to get 4 layers. It would make a nice loaf cake size but without the sloped sides that my loaf pans have. I was confident, enthusiastic, eager to get to baking.

I read and reread the recipe and Dorie's post on Tuesdays with Dorie a few weeks ago. Dorie posted some tips to help us all have successful Perfect Party Cakes. I had all my ingredients at room temperature and was ready to go.

First, I made the lemon cream. It was mostly uneventful, except for the part where Dorie says to strain the curd into the jar of a blender. I must have an excellent strainer, because it didn't let anything, curd or lemon zest, get through, so in frustration I just dumped everything in there and hoped that several minutes of blending at high speed would eliminate any traces of zest.



Later the same day, I started on the genoise. I was so excited because all of my ingredients were measured and at room temperature, and I just knew it was going to be a great baking experience. The genoise came together easily and I tucked it into the prepared 8x8 pan, smoothed the top and popped it in the oven. Since the pan was a little different shape and I didn't want any surprises, I set the timer for 28 minutes (the recipe calls for baking it 30-35 minutes). When the timer went off, I turned on the oven light and saw it had pulled away from the sides of the pan.


Yikes! How could this thing be pulling away from the sides already?!? I yanked it out of the oven, noticing it hardly rose at all. Crushed, despondent and generally experiencing the classic stages of grief (NO! This didn't just happen! Why me? It can't be! This is so unfair!...), I resolved to push on and complete the blasted thing, thinking all the while "THIS is what I do to relax on a Sunday? I mean, really?" Great attitude, huh?

Poor little genoise.


Guess I didn't smooth the batter in the pan so well after all. I set about making the buttercream, which was fairly easy, and a good upper body workout to boot. When it was finished, I looked into the bowl and wondered how on earth I would get that small amount of buttercream to fill and cover the entire cake. I retrieved the lemon cream from the fridge, whisked it like crazy to loosen it up, then sliced open my pathetic little cake.


I had plenty of the lemon cream, not so much of the buttercream, and the ridiculously tiny layers. All went well until I got to the very top layer. Dorie says to place the cut side down, and since my cake was very suntanned when I rescued it from the oven, I had a hard time covering the browning with the light buttercream. By this time, the buttercream was very soft, and every time I took a swipe at it with the offset spatula to fix one area that was showing, I took off a large swath of the frosting in that area. Argh! Finally, I surrendered to the coconut, figuring it's a great concealer.

Immediately, I photographed my homely Imperfect Party Cake and then sat down to enjoy a slice (was it for dinner? pre-dinner? snack?) I was blown away by the wonderful combination of lemon flavors with the different layers of textures. Personally, I thought the coconut detracted from my transcendent lemon experience, so I will leave that off next time.


I had considered making this a chocolate perfect party cake, because if you're talking about perfection and cakes, chocolate's a requirement in my house. But I resisted and I'm glad I did because the lemon was so light and refreshing.


(I must have taken 20 photos of this slice of cake. 18 had that worm-looking thing on the bottom. Why did I not notice this when I was taking the photos??)

I know you're wishing you could kill off a bunch of eggs and butter on a relaxing Sunday afternoon, so you should join us. We're accepting members again, and the best thing is that you get to cook along with some mighty great bakers, from Dorie Greenspan's book Baking From My Home to Yours. Check out the website for more information on joining. We'd love to have you.

42 comments:

Cynthia said...

It looks delicious -- the buttercream and coconut hid the problems you had nicely.

Steph said...

I was going to make a square version too, but I didn't have an 8x8, only a 9x9. Imagine how thin my layers would have been! You did a really great job separating the layers. They look really even.

vibi said...

LOL LOL About the photo... we get the picture anyways!!! LOL

About the cake, it's marvelous! I'm sure the extra lemony flavors made it even more heavenly... to die for!

Sara said...

It looks really great actually, except for the cake worm. That is just too funny!

sara/imafoodblog.com

Nancy/n.o.e said...

Love what you did to up the lemony-ness of this cake. Love the play by play by a baking optimist. Love the way your cake turned out. And most of all I loved the way you made me laugh in the last 2 paragraphs - killing butter and eggs is right, but don't forget the cream...

Jules Someone said...

The lemon sounds really good. I think it looks lovely. I didn't even attempt it.

Kayte said...

I think it looks lovely, and truly, with the lemon curd, absolutely spectacular. I love the shape, too!

dharmagirl said...

i love the extra lemoneyness of your cake! i bet it's just delicious! and, the rectangle is very cool.

doughmesstic said...

Oh Lord, you had me giggling! I thought it looked great, and sounded even better! My strainer, too, works overtime and lets nothing through - ever. And as for your "worm" ? Well, sometimes I'll take 400 pictures and there is a stupid hair in 387 of. Too much fun!

spike. said...

lemon cream sounds perfect! the end result looks pretty delicious

Cathy said...

I love how you went all-out lemony for this one! It looks great! Brilliant to use a square pan and layer it all up. It wouldn't be a baking weekend for me if I didn't break a sweat somewhere in there!

Amanda said...

Ha ha ha, you crack me up with the "worm looking thing", looks fabulous to me!

Hornedfroggy said...

I'm not laughing AT you... but with you. You have such a great sense of humor about your supposed mishaps. I, on the other hand, think the cake is beautiful... even with the worm-looking thing on the bottom! :)

Anne said...

You're too funny. Your cake looks delicious and I could totally go for a fresh, lemony slice right now... yum!

margot said...

Your cake looks great! I love the idea of using the eight-inch pan. I am bad about pre-measuring and letting my ingredients get to room temperature, but I actually did for this one and it really made it a pleasant baking experience.

Kim said...

This looks and sounds wonderful. Enjoyed reading about your experience. I always have problems decorating cakes. Your cake is lovely.

Cakelaw said...

LOL Leslie - I think you are unduly harsh on yourself. This looks great to me, and I like the loaf shape. I had rising issues when I made this last year, so I almost feel that I cheated by making minis instead.

Jessica said...

It looks great, and I don't think that it's an ugly duckling cake at all. My rectangle cake gave me some issues, too, but I think that I was just happy to have serious disaster on this. I'm glad that you enjoyed it!

Flourchild said...

Very nice looking cake! I am going to have to make this one soon..so sad I had to miss this one

Tracey said...

I think you salvaged it nicely! It looks delicious to me :) Your post had me laughing out loud. I love all of the lemon - perfect for summer!

AmyRuth said...

OMGOSH Leslie, you had me laughing so hard my belly hurt. Killing eggs??? LOL okay and the wormy thing on the bottom ha hahah my gosh you are too funny. I love all the picture of your Holy Slice. Okay, seriously I feel your pain. Thin is in..... or haven't you heard. My cakes were not on the thick and fluffy side although the texture of this cake is absolutely lovely. You're right about it "tasting" light. We all know it ain't! ha ha Thanks so much for the laughs and I think your slice seriously looks delicious. Glad you liked it too.
AmyRuth

SUGAR B said...

LESLIE, I love your PAN! And the cake looks GOOD to me!

There is no such thing as an imperfect cake. ;)

Michele said...

I think your cake looks lovely!

isa said...

Love the story, too funny! I think it looks delicious!

Clivia said...

Your cake looks delicious. No one would guess how many eggs you "killed off". And it tasted good, that's the important thing. Lovely photos!

Sweet as Coco said...

It looks lovely and delicious (regardless of the 'wormy thing')! My cake didnt rise a ton and the layers were pretty thin. I thought my arm was going to rip off making the buttercream!

Linda said...

If I read it correctly, you made the buttercream by hand --- okay you are my hero (and with serious arm muscles)!

Gabe's Girl said...

I think your cake looks very good, divine. You know how models get airbrushed? So, does food. I think we all set ourselves up when we look at Dorie's pics. Yeah, I think she has skills, but even food needs touch ups. The directions don't read like an easy solution for perfect layering, so I am assuming the cake was touched up. That makes me feel way better when my stuff does not look like the picture!

A quick tip: when they brown. Let the cake cool completely. Then, lightly use a serrated knife to carve the brown off. Then, thin frosting you will use to decorate and apply a crumb coat. Let set for 20 minutes or longer if possible (even refrigerate), then apply frosting. You will cover the brown up and seal in the crumbs from the cake carving!

Have a PERFECT week!

Teanna DiMicco said...

I think you are being too hard on yourself! That cake looks AWESOME! I would take a bite (or 12).

Carol Peterman said...

It looks like your cake turned out great despite your fears. The lemon filling would be great with this cake. When I run into frosting problems like you had, I find it helpful to just get a thin layer on and pop the whole thing in the fridge to set up. Then it's easy to add another layer and smooth it without pulling all the frosting away from the cake. Of course this only works if you have the time to let the cake chill. I have fought my way through many cakes because I have all of 20 minutes to get it frosted. Well done and I am glad you liked how it tasted.

PheMom said...

There really is just something about those little rectangle cakes that are so deliciously cute. Great job!

pinkstripes said...

I think your cake looks great! I love the shape and the slice on the plate looks wonderful. It makes a perfect dinner. :P

figtree said...

I look forward to trying this cake..it looks devine!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Figtreeapps

lasinthekitchen said...

I love your Perfect Party Cake! What a great idea to make a loaf size cake. The lemon cream sounds delicious too, I'll have to try it because I love lemon!
We had the same experience with the cake, mine pulled away from the sides too and I had a hard time making 4 layers since the layers didn't rise much. But it still tasted great in the end! =)

Jennifer said...

I think your cake looks wonderful! Mine wasn't very tall, either....

Mary Ann said...

I love the shape that you chose for your cake! It looks delicious.
Great job!

Pamela said...

What a great post, Leslie! I bake to relax most weekends, too. Usually, I wind up less relaxed and more stressed, but I think that's because someone always needs something at the wrong time. I think your cake turned out great. More importantly, it tasted fantastic! Great job.

Babette said...

Love the rectangle shape...Lemon cream, too!

b

Jaime said...

your cake is no ugly duckling!! it looks fabulous

Craving Ellie in My Belly said...

The "worm" thing is my favorite part of the whole post. I always do that too...

--Nick

Katrina said...

Thanks for the great cake making story. But seriously, if you didn't tell us about it and just posted a picture, we'd never know and it really does look great. I'm glad you liked it! I'm not sure I stopped by last week either, but your daquoise looks cookbook picture perfect!

Candy Girl said...

I loved your blog entry! Your honesty and humor are great. Your cake looks delicous and I love the plate in the photo!