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October 31, 2010

My Baby is Three!

My Baby Girl turns Three in a few days and this year, like last year, I combined her birthday party and Halloween. This year, being seven months pregnant, I couldn't exactly DIY everything. I had some friends and family pitch in with the party food.

There was one thing I was determined to make this year... and that was her birthday cake. Last year all over "blog world" were photos of a super epic rainbow cake, courtesy of Whisk Kid. I had a few months before the big day to dwell on the recipe that I was going to use. I decided not to use the recipe Whisk Kid used.

For me, it was a toss up between Dorie Greenspan's Perfect Party Cake and Melissa Murphy's white cake, which was a component in her Fluffy Coconut Cake, that we made a few weeks ago. So after making Melissa's white cake, I did a test run and made half a recipe of the Perfect Party Cake. I went with Dorie's cake. To me, it was lighter and fluffier.

For my monstrosity birthday cake, I needed 6-layers at 9" each. What did that mean for me using Dorie's recipe??? Three times the recipe!

I alternated the flavors. For two of the layers, I went with the lemon flavor; another two I went with vanilla; the final two I went with almond. For the food coloring, I went with Wilton Gel -- this set has all the colors you will need (plus brown & pink, which I'm sure I'll do something with in the future). For the ending, I omitted the raspberry and coconut and just used straight vanilla buttercream.

Here are the layers waiting to be frosted:

Here is the cake frosted and decorated:

For the decorations, I used edible sugar sheets.

The Birthday Girl (and everyone else) waiting for the big reveal!


The recipe:
Perfect Party Cake From Dorie Greenspan’s “Baking: From My Home to Yours”
Makes 12 to 14 servings

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

(for vanilla cake, omit the lemon zest and sub in vanilla extract; for almond, use almond extract)

1 cup sugar
4 large egg whites
3 sticks (12 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (from 2 large lemons)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

2/3 cup seedless raspberry preserves, stirred vigorously or warmed gently until spreadable
About 1 1/2 cups sweetened shredded coconut

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. (My layers were rather thin. I didn't want the cakes to burn so I baked at 325 degrees). 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.

2. For the Cake: Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt.

3. Whisk together the milk and egg whites in a medium bowl.

4. 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.

5. Add the butter and, working with the paddle or whisk attachment, 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.

6. 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.

7. 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.
(* This is where you would color the layers).

8. 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.)

9. For the Buttercream: Put the sugar and egg whites in a mixer bowl or other large heatproof bowl, fit the bowl over a pan 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.

10. 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.

11. Once all the butter is in, beat the buttercream on medium-high speed until it is thick and very smooth, 6 to 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. Press a piece of plastic against the surface of the buttercream and set aside briefly.

12. 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 the third layer (you’ll have used all the jam and have buttercream left over). 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.

Storing: The cake is best the day it is made, but you can refrigerate it, well covered, for up to 2 days.
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October 17, 2010

::SMS:: Fluffy Coconut Cake with Passion Fruit Filling

WOW... its been a whopping four months, huh? Apologies to my dear followers & friends but I've been really busy... dealing with pregnancy, a 2 year old, the summer, vacations, work, etc.... you know how it goes... life in general.

But here I am at last... with my SMS pick. (I will tell you that I did make a few of the recipes these four months, just didnt have the time or energy to post about them.)

I picked this recipe quite a long time ago... when I was very, very ambitious. Ambitious, indeed! This recipe requires quite a few steps and ingredients.

First the cake, I made half the recipe and there was enough batter for a small 7-inch cake and a six cupcakes (which I reserved for BabyM, who gobbled them up right away w/o any of the filling or frosting.) I searched all over for passion fruit juice but came up empty handed.

I decided to try vanilla pastry cream for the filling (or in my case, topping). I've been wanting to try to make pastry cream and am so glad I did. This recipe was super simple and very tasty.

Thank you very much to those who baked along with me and my sincerest apologies for my absence. I also apologize for no photos.

Here is the SMS recipe for Fluffy Coconut Cake with Passion Fruit Filling:
Makes one 9-inch cake

20 tablespoons (2 1/2) sticks unsalted butter, softened
2 1/2 cups sugar
4 3/4 cups sifted cake flour
2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1 3/4 cups whole milk
1 tablespoon plus 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
9 large egg whites, at room temperature

1 1/2 cups passion fruit juice
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
7 large egg yolks
2 large eggs
¾ cup sugar

8 ounces (1 package) cream cheese, softened
2 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
½ pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
½ cup sweetened cream of coconut
3 cups sweetened coconut flakes


Place a rack in the center of your oven. Preheat the oven to 350°F Butter and flour two 9 x 2-inch round cake pans. Line each with a 9-inch round of parchment paper.


1. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes.

2. In separate large bowl, whisk together the cake flour, baking powder, and salt.

3. In a separate bowl, combine the milk and vanilla.

4. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture in three batches, alternating with the milk, starting and ending with the flour mixture. Mix well after each addition but be careful not to overmix. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Mix on medium-high speed for 10 seconds. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl.

5. In the very clean bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the very clean whip attachment, beat the egg whites on medium-high speed until they hold medium stiff peaks.

6. Using a rubber spatula, briskly fold one-third of the meringue mixture into the batter to lighten it. Gently fold in the remaining meringue until just combined.

7. Divide the batter equally between the two prepared cake pans. Use a spatula to level the batter. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, or until the cake springs back when touched with your finger, and a wooden skewer inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove to a rack to cool for 30 minutes before turning out onto the rack to cool completely.

The baked layers may be stored tightly wrapped in plastic wrap at room temperature for 2 days. For longer storage, wrap tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 4 days, or freeze wrapped in plastic wrap and then aluminum foil for up to 2 weeks. Do not unwrap before thawing.


1. In a medium skillet, bring the passion fruit juice to a boil. Turn down the heat to simmer, and reduce the fruit juice by half, about 10 minutes. (You will have 3/4 cup passion fruit concentrate.) Allow to cool. Stir in the lemon juice.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, eggs, and sugar until well combined. Whisk the passion fruit concentrate into the egg mixture.

3. Set the bowl over a pot of simmering, not boiling, water. Be sure it is not touching the water. Cook, stirring, until nappante (thick enough to coat the back of a spoon) or
185°F on a candy thermometer, 5 to 7 minutes. Remove from the heat.

4. Strain the mixture into a bowl set in an ice bath (see Note).

5. Lay a sheet of plastic wrap flush against the surface of the filling (to prevent a skin from forming). Refrigerate until cold before using.

The fruit filling keeps in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.


1. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the cream cheese and confectioners’ sugar on low speed, about 1 minute. Increase the speed to medium high and beat until fluffy and smooth, 2 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.

2. Add the butter and mix on medium speed until just combined, stopping once to scrape down the sides of the bowl, 1 to 2 minutes. Do not overbeat. Decrease the speed to low and add the vanilla and cream of coconut and mix until just combined.

Use immediately or store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Let the frosting come to room temperature and beat in the mixer slightly before using.


1. See How to Assemble a Layer Cake (page 91) for instructions on how to fill and frost a split layer cake.

2. After the cake is frosted, use your hands to help pat the coconut onto the sides and the top of the cake.

Once completed, the layer cake may be stored in a cake saver in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.

Note: An ice bath is a large bowl filled with two quarts of ice and two cups of water. A smaller bowl containing a hot liquid is set inside the bath in order to help cool down the liquid quickly.
Add more ice as needed.

The foregoing is excerpted from The Sweet Melissa Baking Book by Melissa Murphy. All rights reserved. Copyright © Melissa Murphy, 2008.

Here is the recipe for vanilla pastry cream:
Recipe from Bon App├ętit February 1998

1 1/2 cups half and half
1/2 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 large egg yolk
2 tablespoons all purpose flour
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Bring half and half to simmer in heavy medium saucepan. Whisk sugar, eggs, egg yolk and flour in medium bowl to blend. Gradually whisk in hot half and half. Transfer to saucepan. Whisk over medium heat until mixture thickens and comes to boil, about 5 minutes. Boil 1 minute. Pour into medium bowl. Stir in vanilla. Press plastic onto surface of pastry cream. Cover; chill until cold, about 4 hours. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Keep chilled.)
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