A Pleasing Perfection

Dorie's Perfect Party CakeI, like many Tuesdays With Dorie bakers, am the resident baker at work. I unload treats onto my coworkers weekly (sometimes twice or three times a week, depending on the events of the weekend) to declarations of both love and hate. Love, because who isn’t enraptured by a soft, warm cookie or bite of salted caramel-laced chocolate cake? Hate, because I feed their addiction to sweets and treats that may just end up on their hips and thighs without a little self-control. I am both their doting grandmother and drug pusher.

It didn’t start out this way because Gelson’s or Bristol Farms used to be the office go-to, but it has become assumed that I will bake something for everyone’s birthday in the office/immediate store. Not that I dislike this role at all, even though since we’ve moved our offices to the rear of not one, but two stores with a larger sales staff than before so my baking pool has nearly doubled. I take great pride in paying attention and being able to recollect someone’s favorite dessert, so when the occasion arises to demonstrate that, yes, I care enough to make exactly what you love on the one day of the year that you can claim as your own without any protest from others, I am excited for the task.

Now Rachel — she’s grossed out by fruit. Don’t even think about coming near her with an orange. Milk chocolate? Perfect. Milk chocolate and caramel? Heaven.

Clarissa — a nut-embedded cake with nutty filling, cream cheese frosting, covered in toasted nuts.

Sarin — happiness is yellow butter cake with milk chocolate frosting, just like they do it at the supermarket!

Most of these Tuesday’s With Dorie bakers will feel the same way, I’m sure, and I by no means think I am the only fairy godmother of baking. There’s just something about homemade baked goods that create a warmth inside of people and the satisfaction we get from being somewhat responsible for that virtual hug is its own wonderful feeling.

Julio’s birthday was not too long ago. He likes simple cakes that aren’t too sweet, but beyond that, I didn’t have much to work with. He would have been perfectly happy with an unadorned pound cake or coffee cake, but as it was his birthday and he does so, so much for us everyday, a celebration cake was in order. Because Dorie’s Perfect Party Cake was selected by Carol of mix, mix…stir,stir this week, my decision was made. Lemony cake with a bit of raspberry filling and fluffy frosting? For his tastes, it sounded quite perfect.

Because others had had less-than-lofty cakes, I followed Dorie’s tips to a T: new can of baking powder, room temperature eggs and buttermilk, finely grated zest… Still, the cake didn’t rise so high. No matter — it was still sturdy and halved easily. I used my favorite D’arbo brand raspberry preserves even though it wasn’t seedless, but it isn’t at all cloying which is even more vital in my opinion. The frosting whipped together like a dream too. It was shaping up to be a pretty low stress baking assignment.

The end result was a glorious white cloud, though I omitted the coconut too. It didn’t feel like it was necessary, and probably wouldn’t add it again unless my frosting job was horrendous. The taste was straightforward and satisfying, but not an immediate groan-inducer. It is an undeniably pleasing cake, however, and I found myself sneaking back to the kitchen for slivers more times than I probably should have. The cake didn’t have the decadence of chocolate or caramel that creates a fervor among so many people, but for others, that type of cake is much to rich. Though Perfect Party Cake may not be everyone’s favorite cake, no one can refuse it either.

Except for maybe Rachel.

June 30, 2009

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