My grandmother’s birthday is on Cinco de Mayo and we celebrated with her this weekend on Mother’s Day. I knew I wanted to make her a great cake and this was the first one that came to mind. I had seen this cake originally on Good Eats ‘n Sweet Treats and thought her version looked so amazing!! I stuck with a version closer to the original this time but I’m sure I’ll make it again and try Jaime’s version!

I did make a few changes to Dorie’s recipe. The major one was using a whipped cream frosting instead of buttercream. I really couldn’t justify 3 sticks of butter in the frosting so that’s why I went with the whipped cream. I’m really glad I did, as it paired very well with the cake. I also omitted the coconut (no real reason other than I didn’t feel like adding yet another ingredient to the cake) and skipped the jam in between the second and third layers of the cake. The jam proved tricky to work with and I just didn’t have enough to do all three layers. As I put one layer of the cake on top of the next, the jam underneath all came tumbling out the sides. It was quite messy but wasn’t noticeable in the end since I covered the mess with the frosting! I think this was my favorite layer cake to make to date. Everything about it was wonderful and it’ll definitely be a go-to recipe for me when I need a layer cake!

I should also note that I borrowed the idea for the almond/blueberry flowers from an issue of Rachel Ray’s magazine. She covered her cake with the flowers and it looked spectacular, but I went with something a little easier this time. Also, all the photos in this post come courtesy of my mom and Shane’s mom who were gracious enough to take pictures while I was busy cooking!

Perfect Party Cake
from Baking: From My Home to Yours, by Dorie Greenspan

For the Cake
2 ½ cups cake flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 ¼ cups whole milk or buttermilk (I prefer buttermilk with the lemon)
4 large egg whites
1 ½ cups sugar
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
1 stick (8 tablespoons or 4 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
½ teaspoon pure lemon extract

For the Frosting
2 cups very cold heavy cream
2-8 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar (to taste), sifted
1-2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract, to taste (optional)

For Finishing
2/3 cup seedless raspberry preserves (I used strawberry), stirred vigorously or warmed gently until spreadable
About 1 1/2 cups sweetened shredded coconut (I omitted this)

Getting Ready
Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F. 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.

To Make the Cake
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 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. 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 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 Whipped Cream Frosting
Working with a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment or with a hand mixer or a balloon whisk in a large bowl, beat the cream and sugar together just until the cream starts to thicken. Start beating the cream slowly – don’t rush the process – and increase the speed as the cream gains texture. Continue to beat until the cream reaches the desired consistency. Be certain not to overbeat – when cream is overbeaten, it becomes very thick and looks as if it’s on the verge of separating; seriously overbeaten cream turns to butter. To get it right if using a mixer, you may want to whip the cream until it is just shy of the desired consistency and finished the job by hand with a whisk. Cream meant to fill or frost a cake or needed to hold up a cherry or other decoration should be whipped firmer. When the cream is whipped to the just-so point, stir in the vanilla extract, if you’re using it.

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 frosting. Top with another layer, spread with preserves and buttercream and then do the same with a third layer (you’ll have used all the jam and have frosting left over). Place the last layer cut side down on top of the cake and use the remaining frosting to frost the sides and top. Press the coconut into the frosting, patting it gently all over the sides and top.