I missed doing last month's French bread challenge - which sucked. I had everything lined up and then the crap hit the fan.
This month it's cake! Woot! Perfect timing - as you know - for my daughter's birthday. I usually make her a nice dinner with the dessert of her choice. This time I told her I had to make this cake and she was cool with that. I figure she just wanted to rubberneck at the impending disaster.
The Daring Bakers' challenge this month was Dorie's Perfect Party Cake from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking from My Home to Yours. It was hosted by Morven over at Food Art and Random Thoughts. Thank you for giving us another wonderful challenge. And it was a challenge - I rarely if ever bake real cakes from scratch. My mother was never much of a scratch baker - she had had her fill of it when she was a younger woman. Imagine making butter cream icing with nothing but a hand whisk. *waits for the horror to set in* Yeah - you can see where my mom's generation thought that pre-made icing and cake mixes were a godsend. Personally, I usually stick to mixes - *gasp* - for things like layer cakes.
I jumped into the project with a lot of zest - lemon zest (har-de-har-har -nudge nudge wink wink). The whole flavor theme of the cake was lemon. Lemon zest and extract in the cake, lemon juice in the icing along with raspberry jam in between the layers.
The batter came together pretty dog-gone well. It was nice and silky looking as I put it in the pans and stuck it in the oven. However, it failed to rise properly. The layers came out flat - damn flat. Having read other bakers' comments I had used cake flour and made sure my leavening was very fresh. Personally, I am wondering if not flouring the pan had something to do with it. The recipe does not specifically call for greasing and flouring the cake pans. I thought that was in contrast to some kind of "cake wisdom" - I remember my aunt always flouring her pans. But being a neophyte cake person, I just went with the flow on this one. Also, I think my oven is running too hot again. I had my landlord adjust the thermostat about 6 moths ago, but its an ancient piece of crapola - and who knows if the adjustments need made again. Looking at the sides of the finished cake - plus the fact it was done about 5 minutes early suggest that this would be a factor.
You can see by the crumb that I also over-mixed the poor batter. Those tunnels - bad bad bad.
So basically I ended up with flat dry cake. Not good. In retrospect, I probably should have brushed on some raspberry liquor to help moisten things up some. Nothing I could do about the height. Because of the height issue, I decided not to attempt splitting the layers. That and I am a chicken. Cluck cluck.
So on to the icing. It sounded good - but the recipe calls for a meringue butter cream - lemon flavored of course! The first step is to heat the eggs and sugar over simmering water until all the sugar is melted. This went fine. I then beat the egg whites and sugar as directed. It didn't really fluff much. I was not sure if this was correct or not. I felt the recipe was a little short of "indicators" like - "after 5 minutes of beating, you should have stiff peaks" or " if your egg whites look flat you should just go buy a can of frosting, you git." It would have been a big help.
So, soldiering on, I starting dropping the butter in - 3 WHOLE STICKS!!!!!!!!! The icing looked great. All creamy and buttery... Assembly got a bit messy. I was never any good at icing my cakes - it is all a matter of practice and I just don't do it often enough to be proficient. A telling sign - my daughter came in while I was embattled with final coat and said" Wow Mom - I am sure it will taste better than it looks!"
So here is the final cake. It isn't very decorative. That's OK - we ate it up anyway.
The good news - Mom is much better at Photoshop than she is at icing a cake - so here is the cool cake I would have liked to have made....
Happy Birthday Annie!!