August 14, 2009

practically perfect palate pleaser?

Many, many moons ago, the Daring Bakers made Dorie Greenspan’s Perfect Party Cake. A few months later, the Tuesdays with Dorie group also chose it as a challenge. If nothing else, I’ve revealed my utter disregard for bandwagon-jumping by waiting so long to follow suit.


But follow suit I did. I made the cake. I slathered sweet, cinnamon-laden cranberry relish between the layers. Most importantly, I filled and topped the beast with velvety cream cheese frosting.

My verdict? Frankly, I was let down. I wouldn’t be surprised if I goofed up along the way or missed an important component (to which I’m still oblivious), but for me, the cake was neither impressive nor memorable. Using relish as a filling, however, was something akin to a stroke of genius (that’s as close as I come), and the frosting (always and forever my favorite) was delicious.


At least I can say I did it. I jumped aboard the Perfect Party Cake train, and now I’m jumping right back off.

Perhaps for Thanksgiving this year I’ll try shmearing cranberry relish between the layers of a carrot cake. A carrot cake topped with cream cheese frosting, of course. And, if I'm feeling spunky, plastered with toasted coconut.


It's as if the cake sensed my displeasure and therefore refused to photograph nicely.
How rude.


**Incidentally, today is my little brother's birthday. He would hate this cake, as he is irrationally anti-coconut. Celebrate wisely, Professor, and by that I mean use caution when rounding bases and go easy on the sauerkraut.

[Potentially] Perfect Party Cake
From Dorie Greenspan’s Baking: From My Home to Yours

Cake:
2 1/4 cups cake flour (I used 2 cups of all-purpose flour and 1/4 cup cornstarch--could this have been my gaffe?)
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups buttermilk
4 large egg whites
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons lemon zest (I omitted this)
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon pure lemon extract (I used vanilla)(lemon's not my favorite flavor)

Frosting:
1 (8 oz) package cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup butter, softened
2 cups powdered sugar
1-2 tablespoons milk
dash vanilla

1 cup seedless cranberry relish, stirred vigorously or warmed gently until spreadable
1 1/2 cups sweetened shredded coconut, toasted

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter three 9-inch round cake pans and line the bottom of each pan with a round of buttered parchment or wax paper.

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 (if using) 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 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 three pans and smooth the tops with a spatula.

Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the cakes are well risen and springy to the tough--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, unmold 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 2 months.)

To make the frosting, cream the butter, cream cheese, and vanilla until smooth. Add the powdered sugar a bit at a time and beat until creamy. Add the milk to obtain the proper consistency.

Put one cake layer on a cardboard cake round or a cake plate protected by strips of wax or parchment paper. Spread it with one half of the relish. Cover the relish evenly with about one quarter of the frosting. Top with another layer, spread with remaining relish and another quarter of the frosting. Place the last layer on top and use the remaining frosting to coat 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 it’s best to let it set for a couple of hours in a cool room. Serve it at room temperature.

They say that the cake is best the day it is made, but I found that refrigerating it made it a better product.

62 comments:

muffinsareuglycupcakes said...

hmmm? the cake looks really quite awesome to me!

got to love that book :) got to be one of my favourite books ever! dorie greenspan is the bomb!

yet to try this one in my book though. the only one i remember is the devil's white out cake! really good :D

Amanda @ Mrs.W's Kitchen said...

Using cranberry relish inside a carrot cake is a stroke of pure genius. Ooh, especially if you spike it with a little coconut rum, toasted coconut, a little pineapple... oh, my mouth is watering at the thought!

And it's 5 in the morning. Mouth. Watering.

Kate said...

Oooohhh, cream cheese frosting and coconut. I'm also a transplanted southerner, and these two things take me back to summer days with my grandmother in the kitchen and the tire swing hanging from the old tree... What am I talking about? We didn't have a tire swing! But this combination seems so southern to me that I felt compelled to write a tire swing into my reverie!

If you had told me that this was faboo I would have tried the recipe. But just between you and me, it looks pretty...blah. Except for the relish, though. That's got me thinking... Carrot cake is a stroke of genius... and now I have another idea as well.... !

amandá said...

I wasn't impressed with this cake either. I've honestly had box mixes that were just as good. But that relish sounds delish and I hope you do decide to use it on carrot cake bc I can't wait to see it!

Barbara said...

Your post made me grin, Grace. I agree completely about bandwagons but sometimes we can't resist. As far as birthday cakes go- this one is not my cup of tea. Perhaps when you try the filling on your carrot cake....
Besides, each member of my family has their own birthday cake favorite- too late to change minds!

♥peachkins♥ said...

cranberry relish inside moist carrot cake...mmmmmmm...

oneordinaryday said...

Ya know, I have the Baking book and nothing ever JUMPS off the page at me enough to run to the kitchen and bake. And the ones I have made have been just okay. Maybe I expect too much because it's Dorie?

Donna-FFW said...

Sorry this wasnt up to par.. love honest reviews however!!

I have this cream cheese frosting bookmarked. Cant wait to put it to use soon!

Gloria said...

Grace, all you make and think is a pleasure to senses! je!! love this, really, look awesome, soyummy!! xxxGloria

Lindsey said...

I do love the part about the cream cheese frosting, but I hate when something is ALL over the internet and then is a total disappointment...

lisa said...

The cake looks incredible, so it's too bad you didn't love it. The filling and frosting do sound like definite keepers!

kimberleyblue said...

I made this cake when the DBs did...I enjoyed it, but I didn't think it was a "perfect" party cake.

I love your cranberry idea though, and you can never go wrong with cream cheese frosting!

kat said...

Oh, its too bad you went through all that work only to be disappointed

Ingrid said...

Well, that stinks! I HATE when that happens. It's even worse when it looks really (like your cake) and then is terrible. Can you tell that it happened to me recently, yeah, yeah, it did. I hadn't made Dorie's cake yet so thanks for the heads up!

Happy Friday!
~ingrid

Lynda said...

I guess looks can be deceiving because I saw your cake and thought, "finally a good white cake from scratch", only to find you were dissapointed by it. :(
But the cream cheese frosting NEVER dissapoints, it's always delicious...and the cranberry filling is a great idea!

shaz said...

How rude of that little cakie not posing well for you ;P I've never had cranberry relish before, but the idea of that and carrot cake and cream cheese frosting AND coconut - oooh.

Lisa said...

Ha. What fun! I sympathize with your brother on the coconut, and have to smile at the cake that coincides with his birthday. I do like your idea for a Thanksgiving relish laced carrot cake though, sans coconut of course. Thanks for sharing your experience!

maybelle's mom said...

totally anti-coconut here, and i think your brother would agree the pro coconut people are the irrational folks. As to the carrot cake idea, I love it. I might steal it. (And, I was just about to make this cake for someone, maybe I wont.)

The Gypsy Chef said...

I am also not a band wagon jumper, however the relish idea is brilliant and has the creativity flowing. Nice idea, too bad the cake was a let down.

Paula said...

The relish does sound brilliant! I'm not a cake maker, but I'm more than willing to sacrifice myself to try other's cakes. It's for the greater good, afterall! :-)

Pam said...

It's too bad the cake didn't WOW you but the relish in the center is a great idea...I bet it will taste delicious on your carrot cake. Happy b-day to your bro.

Danielle said...

LOL...the nerve of that cake being so rude! It actually looks and sounds really good. thats too bad it's a phoney!

Laura said...

Too funny! I confess I have never felt the slightest urge to make that cake, so now I guess I won't. :)

Baking Monster said...

I got excited for a moment because I have been looking for a good white cake recipe but have been failing miserably. and for the frosting on the pop tarts, someone just gave me gel dye and im not use to it yet so i put way to much in. your lucky you got to eat them everyday, im jealous.

Dorothy said...

at least your cake looks amazing!

sliceofsueshe said...

sorry you were let down. i've had good results with this cake, especially with some white chocolate cream cheese frosting!

i've never tried that substitution for cake flour, but i don't think that would be the main cause for your disappointment.

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

The perfect party cake was before my DB time but I have to say that yours looks pretty damn good! Delicious looking in fact.

I don't think that your recipe amendments would have changed much. I do that with flour too as we don't have cake flour. And lemon or not shouldn't change it!

Marjie said...

You can bring this cake to visit me any time. Some of my daughters and I love coconut, so we'll all gobble it and not share with the fools like my sons and your brother, who have no clue what they're missing! This cake is very pretty. I think the substitution for cake flour is to sift it twice, then measure. I don't recall cornstarch having anything to do with it. Maybe next time you'll be less disappointed.

Kate said...

This looks wonderful. A beautiful cake. Coconut is a favorite!

Jennifer said...

Happy Birthday to your little brother! The cake looks good at least, sorry it wasn't all you hoped it would be!

Rebeca @All Vegged Out said...

Happy Bday to your brother :)

It looks perfect but I dunno even if you had followed it to a T... I'm not sure I'd be into that combination of flavors... oh well, now you know- more carrot cake :D

unconfidentialcook said...

It looks impressive to me...and that cream cheese frosting sounds divine. (Maybe it needs some chocolate?)

Jessica@FoodMayhem said...

My mom doesn't like lemon either. you weirdos. JK

Dawn said...

cranberry relish? good thinking agent Grace! you know I would have kicked this up a notch just like you. nice donely.

Deborah said...

I have made this cake twice - the first time it was very sweet. The second was better, but I changed it up a bit. Not every train is always a good one to jump on!!

Kerstin said...

Awww, sorry you didn't like it, that's the worse (especially when you've heard such good things about a recipe and are looking forward to trying it!). The toasted coconut on the outside does look very pretty though!

Sweet_Tooth said...

Hi there! New blogger here, just found your blog and I'm excited about following it.

Gotta say I love your candid writing style, and as a southerner myself I certainly admire your strength of will to be surviving life on the cold streets of NY!

Looks like you're keepin those southern values alive and well up there though. Best of luck to you

Foodie with Little Thyme! said...

That cake looks good to me. I do think the carrot cake would be better. Can't wait to see the results.

foodhoe said...

I think the cake photographed deliciously, the closeup of the cranberry relish with the creamy stuff is making me drool...

RecipeGirl said...

I made the PPC for DB a ways back. It was so rich that I ended up in the ER that night w/ a full-blown gall bladder attack & had it removed that very night!! Needless to say, not so good memories of the Perfect Party Cake :( Carrot, much better!

Psychgrad said...

I've made this cake twice and haven't been blown away either time. The first time, I think I overcooked it and it wasn't as soft as I would like. Second time, didn't overcook it, but it was a clear hit.

The thing that I like about the recipe is the lemon flavour. But, since you omitted that, I'm not sure that there's anything else that is particularly memorable about the recipe.

Leslie said...

Oh good..thanks for saving me the time. I was planning on making this cake..but now I wont.
I trust your delicious judgement

Anita said...

Pity it wasn't as good as you'd hoped... I do like the first photo and the sound of the frosting :)

Albany Jane said...

I like these plans you have for carrot cake - sounds delightful to me.

Aleta said...

Relish and Carrot Cake. Ok, you have my attention. When will you make this? Hehe

Juliana said...

I am sorry that you were disappointed with the cake, although the pictures look nice and yummie...I have a "little something" for you, please go to http://simplerecipes.me/
at the bottom of the post :-)

Dhanggit said...

the cake looks perfect to me!! love the cranberries !!

unconfidentialcook said...

Hi Grace. I have a little something for you on my new post....

Elle said...

Oh my gosh, the relish is pure freaking genius! The cake? I've heard such mixed reviews on it! So funny that the same recipe can swing so far in opposite directions for different people. I've never tried it, and frankly most likely won't, since it's been such a pain for so many people.

If it's any consolation--it looks fabulous! Gotta be because of your gorgeous icing and toasted coconut.

Sarah said...

Eh, I always have just a little smidge of cake with my frosting, so the disappointment of the cake part would have been nothing next to the enjoyment of yummy cream cheese frosting! Still looks tasty to me!

Selba said...

It looks so yummy...

Chef Fresco said...

Oh man!! Those layers look so moist & perfect! I want a slice now!

LilSis said...

I'll look forward to your carrot cake version. I'm not a very good baker anyway, so if you're disappointed, there's no reason for me to try it...
Thanks!

alexandra's kitchen said...

Isn't that such a let down? I have a huge pan of a truly disappointing chocolate-zucchini cake sitting on my counter and it angers me every time i look at it! I appreciate your honesty. Love your carrot cake idea!

Cheryl said...

Wow it sure looks good, I love the idea of cranberry sauce in a Carrot Cake!

Jacque said...

Honestly, I thought it was dry the first time I made it. I used my old trick of wrapping the still-warm cake well in plastic and then freezing to up the moisture factor the second time. It was better. If you want to know the real, real truth, I've found that most scratch white cakes just can't beat the moist fluffiness of a box mix (I know, I know, I can almost hear the groans of the baking blogging world as we speak for this blasphemy). I've just found that to be the case in *my* experience.

Anyway, it sure looks good. That cranberry filling sounds wonderful with cream cheese icing.

Hornsfan said...

Tis a shame it didn't turn out the way you wanted because that looks pretty tasty to me - I love the cranberry filling and cream cheese icing idea, man I can't tell you just how delicious that sounds!

Lori said...

While I love that book to death. Its one of my favs- the cake is not my fav. I guess I favor a more thicker cake. The frosting though I have made so many times and always love it, no matter what the flavor. I do so love your idea of cranberry relish.

eatme_delicious said...

Too bad you didn't love this cake. Maybe you would've liked it more if you'd used the lemon buttercream? The cake itself is not my favourite kind because I like dense cakes, but the combination of a raspberry jam, lemon buttercream, and coconut... mmm!

Jaime said...

sorry it was a disappointment. i really love this cake.

Indigo said...

Trust me, the fault won't be yours. I remember making this with DBs, and although it looked really professional (that's swiss meringue buttercream for you: my mum said it looked like a wedding cake), when I tried it I was just like '...eh'. You know? It was just... cake. Meh.

That said I wish I'd used cream cheese frosting like you: SMB tastes like eating a pillow. Euch.

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

That is one fabulous cake! Wonderful!

Cheers,

Rosa