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I heard a rumour that there was a huge Daring Bakers’ party happening on March 30th so I arrived early in the hopes of not missing it.

You haven’t witnessed a true party until you’ve attended a Daring Bakers’ fête.

This month’s party was hosted by Morven of Food Art and Random Thoughts who chose Dorie Greenspan’s Perfect Party Cake from the book Baking: From My Home to Yours.

For a change, I actually got to the challenge early in the month as I decided to bake it for my coworkers as a way of celebrating the arrival of spring and the end of several months hard work on a huge project.

About a week before trying the recipe, I quickly scanned it and thought, “Eh, no problem!”

When I first made the cake, I used cake and pastry flour and buttermilk. The recipe gives the option of using whole milk instead of buttermilk. I put my batter together quite quickly and sent my little cakes off to the oven to do their thing. When I pulled them out, however, the cakes had not risen at all.

Okay.

I figured I must have somehow made a mistake while putting the recipe together so since I had extra ingredients on hand, I decided to try again. Once again I sent the cakes off to the oven only to pull them out a short time later in utter dismay as I looked down at two cakes that had not risen. They were as flat as pancakes.

Okaaaaaaaaaaay.

I’ve been baking for a very long time and I can’t remember when the last time was that I’d baked cakes that didn’t rise. I knew it couldn’t be my ingredients because I bake so often that I turn over my ingredients very quickly. I made the decision to try the cakes a third (and final) time but this time I used slightly different ingredients.

As luck would have it, in between my second and third try, Lis and I received an e-mail from Brilynn of Jumbo Empanadas who explained that Dorie Greenspan herself and gotten in touch with Brilynn about this very recipe. Apparently others were having problems with cakes that wouldn’t rise so they e-mailed Dorie to ask her what the problem could be. Dorie indicated that the problem is likely the flour.

This particular cake was tested with a brand of flour called Swans Down, which is apparently an exceptionally fine cake flour. Whenever I bake recipes that require cake flour, I always use what’s referred to as cake and pastry flour and I’ve never had any problems. But these cakes just wouldn’t rise for me.

In her e-mail to Brilynn, Dorie explained that people could make the cakes with all-purpose flour as long as they used the right amount. When substituting all-purpose for cake flour, you have to remove two teaspoons of flour per cup.

I decided to go out on a limb and make the cakes with all-purpose flour and whole milk. The other adjustment I made was that once my batter came together, I switched from the paddle attachment to the whisk attachment and beat my batter at high speed for a good four minutes in an effort to work some air into the batter and increase the volume.

With fingers and toes crossed, I put the cakes into the oven and hoped for the best. When I pulled the cakes out later, while they had risen a bit, they did not rise nearly as much as the recipe indicated they would.

Okaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay.

At this point I was in no mood to try them again and it was too late to try and source some Swans Down in an effort to recreate the results from the cookbook. Instead, I put my baking experience to good use and perservered with what I had.

While slicing the thin cakes in half was a bit tricky, I managed well enough. I slathered my layers with raspberry preserves and buttercream (the buttercream part of the recipe came together well and was delicious but it didn’t yield very much – I had just enough buttercream to fill and frost my cake). I had entertained ideas of trying variations but the frustration of baking the cakes three times sapped me of any desire to try something different.

I decided to decorate my iced cake with shredded coconut, white chocolate shavings and raspberries. It looked pretty good but I still couldn’t help but feel disappointed.

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That mood didn’t last long, however, as my coworkers demolished the cake in record time. While the cake layers may not have risen much, that did not affect the final result. The cake was incredibly delicious. It had a light lemony flavour that combined beautifully with the raspberry.

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Everyone knows I love Dorie. I had the opportunity to meet with her last summer and she struck me as a truly gifted and generous person. I’ve never had any problems with her recipes but I must be honest, this one stumped me a bit.

I’m going to definitely try the cake again as the end result was too good not to. But here’s hoping I have better success with those cake layers!

Thank you to Morven for choosing a cake that was truly, truly challenging!

Ciao!

For the recipe for this cake, please visit Morven’s blog.

To see what all the other Daring Bakers have created, please visit the blogroll.

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