Tuesday, June 30, 2009

TWD: Perfect Party Cake Cupcakes

I'll admit that I'm a brat when it comes to kitchen failures. In general, as soon as I fail at a recipe, that recipe becomes the Fredo to my Michael Corleone - it's dead to me. I don't want it near my house. I move on and don't revisit it. That's right, I'm a quitter.


Last August, I was just a wet-behind-the-ears TWD newbie when I decided to make the Perfect Party Cake for my parents' birthdays (they conveniently have birthdays within a couple of days of each other, so cake consolidation just makes good sense). I was fresh off a rousing success with Granola Grabbers, so I was sure that I could just whip up a triple layer cake and delight my family. Well, the cake was a massive flop, not salvageable in any way. It didn't rise and it tasted terrible. I'm still not sure what went wrong - maybe my baking powder was old? That was back in the day when a thing of baking powder would last me seven years, not seven weeks. In any event, the cake went into the trash. (There was a happy ending though, because I ended up making the peach galette, and that turned out to be one of our all-time favorite desserts.)

I couldn't shake the Perfect Party Cake, though. It just looked so, well, perfect, for so many of life's white cake occasions. Fast forward five months when I was trying to figure out what cake to make for my daughter's fourth birthday. She easily settled on the theme (pink and purple princess), and I went back and forth a bit before deciding to give the PPC another try. I figured that I was a better baker in January than I was in August; I'd learned so much from my fellow TWD Bakers; and I had a new thing of baking powder. The stars were all lining up.


The cake turned out perfectly! I obviously did not do a layer cake since I was constrained by the Wilton castle cake pan, but the cake was lovely. I topped it with Dorie's buttercream, which came together without any trouble, if I recall correctly (sometimes I block out trouble though).

So when I saw that Carol of Mix Mix Stir Stir picked the Perfect Party Cake for this week's Tuesdays with Dorie, I wasn't sure if I was going to make it again, since we didn't really have an obvious occasion for a big layer cake around here. But I wimped out on the Coconut-Roasted Pineapple Dacquoise last week (lamely using the humidity as an excuse, no less) and I didn't really want to miss two weeks in a row; plus, it wasn't yet clear which one was the fluke - my PPC success or my PPC failure - and I figured a tie-breaker was the only way to find out.

I decided to cut the recipe in half and make cupcakes. There is nothing complicated about this cake. Sift together flour, baking powder and salt. Whisk milk or buttermilk (I used regular milk this time, buttermilk with the castle) and egg whites. Rub lemon zest into the sugar until the sugar is fragrant (this is one of my favorite Dorie tricks). Beat together butter and sugar, add lemon extract (I left the extract out of the cupcakes because I wanted the lemon flavor to be more subtle), then alternate adding the flour mixture and the milk mixture. I was hoping to end up with 5 or 6 cupcakes but got 10 large ones, even with a half recipe.

Cupcakes at Dusk

I decided to try something a little different and make strawberry cream cheese frosting for the cupcakes this time. I made half of this recipe, which was very good, although I ran out of powdered sugar, so it probably wasn't as sweet as it was supposed to be. But I thought it complemented the cake nicely.

I think the Perfect Party Cake lives up to its name. It is beautiful and delicious (but not too sweet) and the perfect vehicle for any frosting (or ice cream!) It is perfect even when there is no party in sight. Now that is what I call versatile. Thanks for the great pick, Carol!

46 comments:

Leslie said...

You are a trooper to make this one three times. Mine ended up a little like your first one, not rising though the flavor was good. I'm not sure I'm up for the drama of making it again. That castle cake for your daughter is a thing of beauty! The Wilton cakes so often look artificial but the way you decorated it makes it seem elegant. Cute cuppies, too, especially the way the frosting looks like it was draped over the top.

Steph said...

Haha.. our baking powder and baking soda used to last us a lifetime! When I first started baking, that box of baking soda was in a box that looked so different because it was so old. The cupcakes look really cute. It's nice not to have a tower of frosting sometimes.

Nancy/n.o.e said...

Clearly (CLEARLY), the failure was a fluke, but maybe you just needed an excuse for some perfect cake in your life! I wish I had one of those cupcakes since I have no memory of tasting the one in my kitchen. Kind of mind-boggling to think how far we've come as bakers in less than a year, isn't it?

Megan said...

I remember that princess cake - it was so pretty and perfect for your daughter's birthday!

At least I think you posted it -

Anyways, this one's a keeper, that's for sure, and I'm glad the first failure was nothing more than a fluke.

dharmagirl said...

way to go! i'm super jealous of that princess castle cake--a vision in pink! and the cupcakes are scrumptious looking. i'm glad the cake has been redeemed for you:)

Barbara Bakes said...

Those cupcakes sound perfect with the strawberry cream cheese frosting!

Debinhawaii said...

Ooh, I am craving one of those perfect little cupcakes right now--yum!

Audrey said...

I'm so glad cupcakes are in fashion, because I can never make a layer cake look nice! I needed to postpone this one till I had a party around, but I'm so glad to know it's a keeper...I'll know where to go for a recipe when I do! And I want to make that frosting, too...I'm not that crazy about buttercresm, maybe because I know what's in it! Great job! :)

Jessica said...

I really like the cupcake version! They are so cute (and I speak as someone who is "over" the cupcake craze). My favorite part of this was the cake, and the buttercream didn't rock my world, so these cupcakes look absolutely, 100% perfect to me. The strawberry cream cheese icing sounds sooo good as well.
That castle cake is just adorable. Everytime I see a picture of it I get impressed all over again.

Kayte said...

Love the look of the strawberry perched on top of those lovely looking cupcakes. I think I would love these, as we liked the cake, but the filling took away from the wonderful flavor of the cake which we liked just plain, it was that good. So, next time, I have need of cupcakes, I am going with this cake recipe. Your pink and purple birthday cake is so cute...I so need some girls around here.

Jamie said...

That frosting looks good enough to eat with a spoon! Glad the cake is no longer a flop! Beautiful!

Jennifer said...

Wow, if at first you don't succeed, try and try again comes to mind! What perseverance!!!!

Those cupcakes look delicious!!!!

finsmom said...

We made the same castle cake for my daughters 1st birthday! My arm almost fell off while icing it... so tiring!

Yours turned out beautifully! I bet she loved it!

myfamousrecipe said...

Oh gosh, I'm exactly the same way about recipes that flop. My way of handling it is to announce that the recipe is "Off The List"! Some punishment... I went with cupcakes this time around, too, and used the lemon zest/sugar rub as a decorative topping. Not bad!

nick said...

Strawberry cream cheese frosting would be excellent on these IMHO. We decided after a weekend of dessert decadence to leave frosting/buttercream out completely, and they were good but def. lacking something.

Teanna said...

Cathy! That cake is amazing! Are you serious!? Can you make me a pretty pink perfect party cake? I love the strawberry frosting, too!

Tracey said...

Don't feel bad - I usually abandon failed recipes too so I'm also a quitter :)

I'm so glad you had better luck the second and third times you tried the recipe! That castle cake is so cool - nice job! I did the cupcakes too and thanks to your tip, only made 1/4 of the recipe. I do like your idea for a cream cheese frosting so maybe I'll give that a shot next time instead of my whipped cream frosting.

sara said...

The princess cake is just too much! I also made cupcakes, but I love the way you frosted yours.

vibi said...

And once again, I'm proven right... you are a great story teller! Rare are the ones that make me laugh out loud... but c'mon, low life quiter, dead old baking powder, the linning up stars... It is the best thing to come here to admire your work and have a great time reading as well!

Oh! yeah... not to defeit the principal purpose of this comment... The cupcakes are super cute! (and the pink and purple castle looks like it was made by a pro!)

spike. said...

Ah, you've come so far. Being part of this group has def helped my baking skilz. and strawberry cc frosting? now you're getting fancy

SUGAR B said...

Welcome to the Cupcake Club! ;)

A lot of us made cupcakes instead this week, including MOI. YAY!

The cake itself was delicious and yours look awesome!

jillbert said...

You were brave to make it again and then a third time as a tie breaker. I think you've conquered this recipe! The strawberry cream cheese frosting sounds delicious.

pinkstripes said...

Your cupcakes are cute. The frosting sounds delicious.

Natashya said...

Such cute little cuppy-cakes! I am all for cream cheese frosting too. And what a birthday cake! I can't remember if I saw it the first time around. You did an amazing job, your family must have been thrilled.

Kimberly Johnson said...

Your daughters birthday cake looks absolutely amazing! The cupcakes look and sound delicious - I made cupcakes too.

Jennifer said...

I wish I had one of the cupcakes right now. Looks delicious!

Katrina said...

Way to break the tie. I quartered the recipe and got 4 cupcakes AND a 3 inch cake. Love your strawberry icing!
And your castle cake looks awesome!!!

Amanda said...

Way to be persistent! The strawberry buttercream sounds so delish!

Maria said...

I love that you made cupcakes, too cute!

TeaLady said...

So glad it worked out for you the 2nd time. Those cuppie cakes are cute.

Pamela said...

I love that you consider a failed recipe "dead" to you! Too funny. Strawberry cream cheese icing sounds decadent!! Great job, Cathy.

Melissa said...

Your cupcakes look awesome! It's actually inspiring to see that you've made it successfully since your first failed attempt. Makes me want to go back and re-try a few things that I've failed at baking correctly!

Flourchild said...

WOW what great looking cupcakes and your daughters birthday cake is very cute! You are a trooper for making this over and over again!

Di said...

Please, please, please don't tell Brianna about the Wilton castle cake pan. I'll never hear the end of it until I buy one. =) I'm glad it turned out to be a positive two out of three for the cake.

AmyRuth said...

I DO remember the Castle Cake post. Hilarious as usual and a very cute cake. I can't imagine how long it took to decorate. Whew! Clap Clap Clap for trying again and I think cupcakes would be "the Bomb!" Good choice! So glad you efforts paid off. Thank you so much Cathy for stopping by and leaving kind words.
AmyRuth

Gabe's Girl said...

You always make me laugh! I LOVE the Fredo comment. That is so one of my favorite movies. I have never made a castle cake. Your looks great. I am totally inspired. This batter seems to be awesome for cupcakes. Thanks for being a bright spot in my blogworld! You keep it real and funny.

Mary Ann said...

I am glad you made cupcakes out of this recipe becuase now I know that they turn out looking great. I love the decorated cake for your daughter. It is soo cute!
I really love this cake and totally agree that it goes well with anything!

Clivia said...

I agree, this is now my go-to white cake batter. I can't wait to try it as cupcakes.
Strawberry cream cheese frosting sounds delightful.
Well done!

Secret Server said...

I love "Cupcakes at Dusk"! The princess castle cake is beautiful. I am soo glad PCC is officially a success.

Sweet as Coco said...

You are WAY better than me to try these 3 times!!! Im the same as you...once the recipe fails...I move on!

bakingwiththeboys said...

First, I am still impressed by that castle cake. Second, glad to know the failure was the fluke. I think strawberry cream cheese icing would be perfect for these. yum.

Bridgett said...

Oh wow, I love the idea of strawberry buttercream. I am hopelessly addicted to strawberries right now!

Jules Someone said...

Those are just lovely! I've never even tried the recipe once.

Cakelaw said...

Love the cream cheese frosting - delish.

Jess said...

Nice job on all of your PPCs - I think strawberry frosting would have been perfect on the cupcakes. I'm glad my daughter wasn't in the room when I scrolled to the princess cake picture, or I'd be rustling up a castle cake pan right about now (she's already planning her 5th birthday, which is in MARCH).

Proud Italian Cook said...

I couldn't stop laughing with the first couple sentences! You are hilarius! I would make you an offer you wouldn't refuse with those cupcakes!

 
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