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.
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!