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Sincere Acts of Sweetness

March 29, 2008

Perfect Lemon Party Cake with Coconut Buttercream

A month or so ago I was trolling around the internet, reading (and lusting) over baking and cooking blogs, when I came across one that was a Daring Bakers Blog member. Curious to learn more, I clicked on the hyperlink and found myself scrolling through a limitless blog roll of baking blogs all around the globe. I was in awe!
I read the history about how the group got started and what was involved in becoming a member of the group. I liked what I read, so I quickly fired off my “Pick me! Pick me!” email to Lis and Ivonne. Within a day I received my welcome email and was officially on the mailing list. I couldn’t wait for my first challenge!

On March 1, I received an email outlining my mission; it was a cake recipe by Dorie Greenspan called the “Perfect Party Cake”. While there were some rules regarding the recipe that I absolutely had to follow, there was still a lot of room for creativity. For me this was a good thing because I can never seem to make any recipe without putting my mark on it in some way.

I couldn’t wait to make this cake. I wanted to do something really fun and different with the cake but in the end decided to stay true to the traditional party cake concept. The only thing I changed in this recipe was substituting black cherry preserves for the raspberry and adding the ingredient of lemon curd. The lemon curd just seemed like a really good addition to the lemon cake and lemon flavored buttercream. I also made one mini cake for my son, who detests coconut.

One thing I really liked about this recipe was the author’s writing style. Dorie writes like she’s talking to you, not just in the stereotypical cookbook tone. For example, she is very specific as to how long to mix ingredients together, which I appreciated. For me this is really helpful because sometimes I really worry that I’m over mixing ingredients. Turns out I probably under mix most of the things I make.

My first baking challenge was not free of mishaps. I added an extra stick of butter to the cake batter by mistake. It wasn’t until I started to make the buttercream that I realized that I was missing a whole stick of butter and by then it was too late. The cake was already in the oven. The good news is that it didn’t seem to hurt the cake at all. I’m really curious to know what it would have tasted like had I left it out! The other mistake I made was that I banged the pans of batter on the counter before I put them in the oven to remove the air bubbles. This was some silly technique that I learned in seventh grade home economics. It occurs to me after rereading the recipe that perhaps having all those air bubbles would have helped the batter to rise more in the pan (my cakes were shy of an inch in height before I cut them in half). I’ll think twice before I ever remove the air bubbles from the pan again!

This was a cake that did not disappoint! While the cake didn’t look as pretty as I would have liked (next time I’ll do a crumb coat before I add the coconut), it really tasted great. The cake was soft and moist, with just the right hint of lemon flavor, and with a beautiful white color. The buttercream wasn’t too sweet and it complemented both the flavors and texture in the cake.

I thoroughly enjoyed every second of this experience as a Daring Baker member. I am already looking forward to next month’s mission!

Perfect Lemon Party Cake

Yield: I was able to get about 14 slices out of this cake, but they were on the small side.

Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan

2 1/4 cups cake flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups buttermilk, at room temperature
4 large egg whites, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons freshly grated lemon zest (the yellow part, not the white)
1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon pure lemon extract

1 cup sugar
4 large egg whites, at room temperature
3 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

2/3+ cup raspberry preserves stirred vigorously or warmed gently until spreadable (I used Hero brand’s black cherry preserves)
1 1/2 cups of your favorite homemade lemon curd. The recipe I used can be found here (Note: this is not in the original recipe.)
About 1 1/2 cups sweetened shredded coconut

Getting Ready
Center a rack in the oven and preheat 350F. Butter two 9 x 2 inch round cake pans and line the bottom of each pan with a round of buttered parchment. Put the pans on a baking sheet.

To Make the Cake
Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

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.
5. 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, and 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).
To 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. (I used this tool. In my opinion it worked a lot better than a knife.)

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. Top the preserves with about a one-third to one-half cup of lemon curd. Cover the curd with about one-quarter of the butter cream. Top with another layer, spread with preserves, curd, and buttercream and then do the same with a third layer (you’ll have used all the jam, curd, 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.


  1. I thought about using a lemon curd also..I'm not really fond of raspberries but for my first challenge I thought I'd stay true to the recipe..(fear of getting in trouble:) )

    Thanks for visiting me Julia!

  2. Your cake looks lovely. What a nice wife and mother you are to make separate cakes for separate tastes. Thanks for participating.

  3. Congratulations on your first challange - your cake turned out great. Wow a whole extra stick of butter that must have been one moist and buttery cake.

  4. Great first challenge Julia. Glad you enjoyed the whole experience...it's got to do with loving what you're doing. An extra stick of butter here or there can be undone by love!! Welcome to Dbs!

  5. I think your cake looks perfect! And I love the mini cake you made for your son.

  6. Your cake and mine are definitely sisters - maybe even identical twins!! You did a lovely job, love your cake and your pretty pink tulips too, I can never resist them!

  7. Actually, I think there's nothing more elegant than a white cake dressed up in fluffy coconut. It's beautiful and simple. And those layers are making me want a piece allllll over again! What a great mom to make her boy such a cute little cake! Very nice!

  8. Julia you are so right, Dorie writes like she can talk you right through a recipe.
    Amazing how an extra stick of butter can't spoil a buttercream!
    I think your cake is just beautiful!

  9. Can I give it 6 out of 5 stars? I got to eat it!

  10. Wonderful job on your first challenge! It looks wonderful!

  11. Sounds like you've joined a great group of people. The cake looks DELICIOUS! Bet you're baking is making you a favorite at work! Hope you enjoyed Hawaii!

  12. Fantastic job on your first challenge! The cake looks delicious and perfectly baked.

  13. The cake is simply lovely! Well done on your first challenge :)

  14. great job, especially for a first challenge!
    Congrats and welcome!

  15. Congratulations on your first challenge!!! Welcome to the Daring Bakers and I hope you have fun baking with us!!! that is such a cute little cake too!!!

  16. Great First Challenge!! Welcome!!

  17. What a great mom you are to make a cake for the one who doesn't like coconut! beautfiful cake.

  18. Great job with your cakes! They look great! Welcome to Daring Bakers!

  19. This cake came out to be just amazing...my husband loves anything lemony...so Julia suggested me to make this one on his birthday and it was too good.
    Thank Julia. Keep posting such amazing recipes :)


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