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May 03, 2007

Happy Birthday to Me


"Party for Me?" thought Pooh to himself. "How grand!"

Forgive me for drawing such attention to myself, but the thing about birthdays is that there is always birthday cake, and so I ask your kind indulgence by presenting to you a very special cake - in fact, a "Perfect Party Cake", as Dorie Greenspan so rightly names it in her Baking tome.

Having unfortunately reached the point in my life where I may answer that it's not polite to ask a lady her age, I will just say I am accepting turning a year older, but what I'm really celebrating is a year full of baking and photographing and eating and blogging - and all the wonderful friends I've made through this little page.

While my birthday is tomorrow, I missed noting the anniversary of Dessert First, so this page is about a year and four months old now, and I can say that it is one of the very best things I've ever done. It's inspired me to continually challenge and improve my baking skills, to be more creative and confident in the kitchen, and to really appreciate the beauty of food, as I try to share in my photos. It's also caused me to spend a small fortune on baking books, ingredients and tools - it's a good thing I don't have a weakness for shoes, or I'd surely be in the poorhouse by now! Best of all, it's allowed me to meet all of you talented, like-minded people out there who also dream constantly of food and love sharing their creations. Thank you all for the lovely comments you leave, the e-mails, the gift exchanges, and for your own beautiful sites.

I wish I could have you all over to my place for a big birthday celebration, but I hope I can share with you at least a slice of dessert - Dorie's cake, which is a breeze to bake and assemble and tastes as special as a birthday cake should. The velvety white cake is moist, tight-crumbed, and flavored with lemon zest and extract - bakes up perfectly and slices like a dream. Layered with raspberry preserves and a silky, not-too-rich buttercream, topped with coconut, it looks like a tea-party fantasy (I always favored the white birthday cakes with fruit fillings, although thankfully I've outgrown the gaudy icing roses).

The recipe makes a typical 9" cake, but I've made little miniatures to highlight their adorableness. Even if you don't have a birthday coming up, I'd highly recommend it for any special occasion where you want a cake that looks and tastes like it took much more effort than it does.

My sweetie pie has already made this week quite a happy one for me, and I think there may be a few more birthday desserts in my near future, so I'll leave you all in hopes that you're having as wonderful week as I am! I look forward to making and sharing many more delicious desserts with you in the future!


Perfect Party Cake

adapted from Dorie Greenspan's Baking: From My Home to Yours

makes 12 to 14 servings


9 oz cake flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

10 3/4 fl. oz. buttermilk

4 large egg whites

10 1/2 oz sugar

2 teaspoons grated lemon zest

4 oz unsalted butter, room temperature

1/2 teaspoon lemon extract


7 oz sugar

4 large egg whites

12 oz unsalted butter, room temperature, cut into 1-in pieces

2 1/4 fl. oz. fresh lemon juice

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For finishing

2/3 cup seedless raspberry preserves

1 1/2 cups sweetened shredded coconut

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spray or butter two 9" x 2" round cake pans. Line the bottom of each cake pan with a buttered parchment circle.

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

Whisk the buttermilk and egg whites together in a separate bowl.

Combine the sugar and lemon zest in a stand mixer bowl and rub together with your fingers until the sugar is moist and smells like the lemon.

Add the butter to the mixer bowl and beat together with the sugar for 3 minutes on medium speed until the mixture is fluffy and light.

Add in the vanilla extract.

Add in the flour and buttermilk mixtures in alternating additions, starting and ending with the flour mixtures. Be sure each addition is fully incorporated before adding the next.

When everything is added beat the batter for an additional 2 minutes.

Divide the batter between the two pans and bake for 30 minutes in the oven or until the tops are set and springy, and a cake tester inserted into the centers come out clean.

Transfer the pans to wire racks and let cool for a few minutes, then flip and unmold the cakes (run a knife around the sides of the cakes if necessary). Peel the parchment off and flip the cakes back over right side up on the wire racks to finish cooling.

The fully cooled cake layers can be wrapped in plastic and kept overnight or frozen for up to 2 months.

For the buttercream: Combine the sugar and egg whites in a medium heatproof bowl and place over a pan of simmering water.

Whisk the sugar mixture constantly over heat until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture looks smooth and shiny, about 3 minutes.

Remove mixture from heat and pour into a stand mixer bowl. Whisk on medium speed for about 5 minutes until the mixture has cooled.

Switch to the paddle attachment and with the speed on low, add the butter a few pieces at a time, beating until smooth.

When all the butter has been added, beat the buttercream on medium-high speed for about 6-10 minutes until it is very thick and smooth.

Add in the lemon juice and beat until combined. Add in the vanilla.

The buttercream is ready to be used. Place a piece of plastic wrap against the surface until you are ready to use it to prevent it from drying out.

To assemble the cake: Using a sharp serrated knife, slice each cake layer horizontally in half - see this post for tips on cutting cake layers.

Stir the raspberry preserves until it is loose and spreadable.

Place a layer on a cardboard cake round, cut side up. Spread about a third of the raspberry preserves on the cake layer.

Spread a layer of buttercream on top of the preserves. Top with a second cake layer. I found that if you have problems with this, you can spread the buttercream on a second cake layer and flip it over onto the preserve-covered layer - but you have to be very careful doing this or you'll break your cake layer!

Spread preserves and buttercream on the second cake layer as you did with the first. Top with a third cake layer.

Spread preserves and buttercream on the third cake layer as you did with the second. Top with the last cake layer, cut side down.

Use the rest of the buttercream to frost the sides and top of the cake.

Press the coconut over the sides and top of the cake.

The cake is best served a couple of hours after it is assembled to let the flavors develop. You can refrigerate it for up to 2 days, but be sure it is well covered or the cake will dry out. You should also let the cake come to room temperature before you serve it as it does not taste as good cold.

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Happy 1st Birthday, Dessert First! Anita, you have a truly amazing blog. I love your writing and photography , it's very inspiring. Here's wishing you another year of beautiful blogging!

That really is the cutest little birthday cake. Happy birthday on your blogging. I really do enjoy your site.

Happy Birthday!
The cake looks lovely.

Happy Blog Birthday!! It's been so grand reading your lovely posts and enjoying your awesome photography. I look forward to more of it. Hugs!

Happy birthday to you!! I believe that it's perfectly acceptable to draw attention to oneself on their birthday (otherwise I should be extremely ashamed of my blog posts during the last 10 days:)

Happy Birthday to you!! The cake looks great. I have been eyeing this one in Dorie's book. I like how you did mini cakes! Very cute! I hope you had a great birthday!

Happy Birthday, Anita! May your future birthdays be as sweet or even sweeter than this one. Reading your entries has definitely been one of my recent favorite past times. ;)

And I just got my copy of Dorie Greenspan's "Baking" cookbook too, so I'll definitely have to try some of her recipes out!

Happy, happy birthday! I love your miniature-ized versions of this beautiful, celebratory cake.

Happy Blog Birthday! That cake looks amazing! I love the raspberry and the coconut.. yum!

So I'd like to know.. what did we do before we had Dorie's Baking book? hehe


Happy happy birthday Anita! I wish you a year full of joy and sweet things! This cake is absolutely lovely.

Happy Blog B-day, Anita! I look forward to another year of your inspiring recipes and delicious photography! All the best to you.

Happy Birthday! Your cake is beautiful.

OK, the recipe looks really long, but the cake? Adorable. Happy birthday!

Happy Birthday! Happy blog birthday...another May baby!
What a lovely lovely cake!!

Happy Birthday Anita!

Best wishes for a great year. I have really enjoyed reading your blog...keep the yummy desserts and awesome photography coming! That cake is on my LONG list of recipes to try from Dorie's book.

Happy birthday, Anita! Be very, very happy and keep on doing!
The cake is gorgeous, it's also a beautiful present for us from you :)
defifnitely a try on one! :)
Thank you! :D

Happy Birthday Anita,
I have noticed that there are quite a few blogger birthdays this month...point being we are all Taureans, and we all love to bake.
May you have a great day and a wonderful year ahead.Looking forward to many more wonderful posts from you .

Happy Birthday! That cake is adorable! :)

Happy Blog Birthday! Your cake looks absolutely divine. I want to reach right through the screen and start eating.

Happy Birthday....have a ball....great cake...hmmmm...wish I could have a slice right now....thanks for sharing


Happy Birthday to you and a happy belated birthday to your lovely little blog!

I know that I can say very truly that "getting to know you" has been one of the highlights of my blog experience.

You are baking sweetness and joy all wrapped into one.

I wish you much happiness and good baking in the year to come!

Tanti auguri!

Gorgeous, Anita! I love that you make the cake into miniatures - so delicate and adorable... Happy Birthday!

Hi Anita! happy birthday to you and many happy returns...i wish i could come to your house and take a bite of the cake!

Happy birthday, sweetie!

Best wishes!
This is one of the few Dorie recipes that I haven't tried yet, but it will happen.

Happy Birthday, Anita! What a sweet cake, and a special day to celebrate. Along with baking, photography and styling, you need to add your lovely lyrical writing to that list of accomplishments.

Here's to another delicious year to come--for you and your blog!

And thank you sharing your beautiful creations - both photos and desserts with us.
It's always a pleasure to come here and see what's you've been up to.
Is there any cake minus the coconut icing? :)

I probably live close enough to drop by for a bite of that cute cake. =) Happy Birthday Anita!

Happy Birthday Anita! I adore your cake, it's so beautiful! Coconut and raspberry sounds so yummy. I love your blog too, your creations are always so breathtaking!

Hi, I'm a little late to the party but wish you a Happy Birthday!
The cake looks so gorgeous and cute! Have a nice day!

First time to your site. It's beautiful and I love your adorable little cake. Happy birthday to you and your blog!

Happy Birthday Anita! What a lovely birthday post. I have not long ago come to know your blog and it is already a spot I am very fond of. Your talent is inspiring.

That does indeed look like a perfect party cake.

How delicious! happy birthday!

Lovely cake and happy birthday!

Happy Birthday Anita! I hope all your birthday and blog wishes come true! : )

wondefull idea for your birthaday great cake .... hum .... gnam gnam very delicius .... my compliment !!!!!!!!! paoly

To all of my lovely friends near and far, thank you so much for your birthday wishes - they made my day so much happier and fuller. It wouldn't have felt right celebrating without you! I'm glad I got to know you all and wish I could thank you in person!

A belated happy birthday from me! I'm sorry I missed it! Your cake looks lovely!

Dorie's book is like my bible - I agree I don't know what I did before it!

The recipe may look long but it is actually very easy to make and put together - don't be intimidated by it!

Did I miss your birthday? I love finding so many fellow Taureans and bakers!:)

Thank you - you are such a sweet and wonderful friend!

Thank you for such nice compliments on my blog - I love yours and it sounds like you had a great trip up to Seattle - can't wait to read about your new adventures!

Of course you can have yours without coconut!:)

We should meet up sometime - I should have saved some cake for you!

dear anita, happy birthday! may the year ahead be filled with much happiness, love, and of course, divine desserts! your perfect birthday cake looks simply perfect, as always! xoxo,joycelyn

Happy Birthday - a real achievement! That cake looks a real winner!

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