Perfect parties are hard to come by. For some reason this week I have spent a lot of time thinking about past groups of friends. Mostly I have been thinking how much I miss them. I miss the times of hanging out at different houses, different people – yet all the same. I miss those last minute get-togethers that college life would bring my way.
Many of the fun times I had centered more around the people than the food we ate. Years ago, we were content all just being together. The counter was a hodge-podge of things like skittles, tortilla chips, spinach salad and random bottles of soda. Nothing went together, yet at that time, nothing felt out of place.
Somehow the older I have gotten, something has changed. Dinner parties seem to have taken the place of spur of the moment get-togethers. The focus has almost shifted more to the food than the friends. It is not to say that I don’t enjoy sharing a good meal or taking something for us to break bread with. But, I miss those kinds of friendships.
Why has all this been on my mind? Over the last week, I have spent several evenings in the company of other Americans. Those times of laughter and fun remind me of the past. Before, I may have been one to bring the chips and salsa. But, my “grown-up” tastes lead me to share something more refined, more polished.
In order to celebrate a few birthdays last weekend, I baked up Dorie’s Perfect Party Cake found in Baking–From My Home to Yours. She suggested lemon and raspberry as cake, filling and frosting flavors. Knowing that I couldn’t get lemon, my mind immediately wandered to orange. Lime is my most obvious substitute, but I was hoping for something more subtle. I thought a lot about what I wanted to use along with the orange flavored cake and wound up with two options – orange marmalade and fig jam. I chose the fig jam.
The cake baked up very nicely. I used a combination of flour and cornstarch as a cake flour replacement. I used plain drinkable yogurt as a substitute for buttermilk. The lemon zest was replaced with orange zest and the extract was not used as I did not yet have it in my kitchen. (Now I do, just in case I want to give this another whirl!)
Instead of two rounds, I used a very large & shallow sheet pan. My idea was to cut out small circles to stack up as individual cakes. Cutting the cake with a small glass proved to be near disastrous and I made a quick and reasonable change of plans. I went square. I could still cut four equal squares of a reasonable, yet adorable size. So that was exactly what I did!
The cake was then layered with fig jam and orange buttercream, then more cake, more jam and buttercream and so on. I was a bit bummed to find myself short on the buttercream. Typically I go really thin on the layers and end up with triple the amount I should have on the top and sides. This time was no exception, I used very little on the layers but found I had little pockets at the bottom where I just couldn’t spread anymore. (But then I cannot imagine making more…three sticks of butter *already*…how could I even ponder to add more?)
I never planned to cover it with coconut. I am just learning to like coconut so a whole cake covered in it would have just saddened me, not made me happier! I sprinkled purple and orange candies on the top (mind you…those came in an assorted color pack…I picked out the ones I wanted!)…get it…purple (figs) and orange (orange)?
So what did my friends and I think? The taste was good, but it wasn’t great. I thought the cake batter tasted great (yes, I taste test all batters) but the baked cake lost its pizzazz. (That may have been my bad for lack of extract.) The frosting just wasn’t enough (and I did not use all of the cake since I cut circles out of part of it). I would like to try it again with a citrus curd (lime, lemon, grapefruit) and more (gasp!) buttercream. I would also like to try a chocolate version.
Mmmm…perfect party cake for perfect parties.
Dorie’s Perfect Party Cake is being served up as the March Daring Bakers Challenge. The Perfect Party Cake was chosen by this months host, Morven at Food, Art and Random Thoughts. Please visit the Daring Bakers Blogroll to see what other perfect cakes are being served up today!