World on a Plate

Exploring culture. One plate at a time.

Category: Sweets

Perfect Party Cake


I am surrounded by Scorpios. I, too, am a Scorpio and celebrated my birthday in the first few days of this astrological sign. We are a passionate (ok, some say stubborn) and loyal group.  This past weekend I celebrated the birthdays of two friends. When the invite went out she mentioned that they would be buying a cake and further what flavors do we all like. She’s well-mannered isn’t she?  Frankly, this type of gesture goes against my birthday cake philosophy.  Said reasoning is that it’ s your birthday and you won’t be buying that cake and the type of cake and flavor is at your call. I would have none of that.

So I found myself making a birthday cake prior to the bowling party.  Another friend, as we were driving over, cake carrier on her lap said ,"You are setting a dangerous precedent. Now everyone will want a baked from scratch cake for their birthday.

The cake that the birthday boy and girl were seeking fit the description of The Perfect Party Cake from Dorie Greenspan’s new baking cookbook, Baking: From my home to yours.  It’s a four-layer round velvety white cake moist, tight-crumbed, and flavored with lemon extra and plenty of zest. layered with raspberry preserves and a silky, not-too-rich buttercream, topped with coconut.  Quite simply it’s the cake that makers of birthday cards feature.  And also the one that the group in lanes 12 were drooling over.

Perfect Party Cake

Adapted from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking: From My Home to Yours

12 to 14 servings


Sift together

2 ¼ cups cake flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

1 ¼ cups buttermilk

4 large egg whites

1 ½ cups sugar

2 teaspoons grated lemon zest

4 oz unsalted butter, room temperature

1/2 teaspoon lemon extract


1 cup sugar

4 large egg whites

3 sticks/12 oz. unsalted butter, room temperature

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Filling & Topping

2/3 cup seedless strawberry preserves

1 1/2 cups unsweetened 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.

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.

At this point, 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.

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.

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.

SHF #12 – Nanaimo Bars – Canada


Happy Birthday! Sugar High Friday is a year old!  So in a small tribute to the event’s originator, Jennifer the Domestic Goddess I have selected a Canadian "custard" based recipe. Thanks to Elise of Simply Recipes for hosting this most indulgent event.

Funny how you eat something somewhere else and it’s a new taste sensation. This is exactly what happened last week when I had my first ever Nanaimo bar.  Or what I thought was my first. 

Growing up my mother made brownies often.  But on special occasions, dinner guests, a fundraiser or a special visitor she would embark on making a layered mint brownie.  Well, Marsha, Marsha, Marsha, let me tell you, those brownies we’re ‘outta sight’!

So there I am with my friend C, who grew up in Ottawa, at a local coffee shop in Banff, before starting off on the first leg of our road trip back to San Francisco.  You should try one of those, she suggests, points with eyes wide. It was two hours (and one black bear sighting) later before we could stop for tea to go with the bar.  Well, to cut the story short, WOW. 

Quick bit of background on the history of this bar.  It is strongly claimed by Nanaimo, Vancouver, B.C. and to have surfaced in the late 1950s.  Some say it’s a coal miner’s treat from 1930s brought over by settlers from Northern England.  Still other stories circulate that it’s from the Dutch settlers that came through in the early 1900s.  In 1986, a Nanaimo newspaper held a recipe contest to find the best of the best.

So it short there now appears to be many variations on the theme and as many thoughts on the origins of this recipe. My Boston-based mother’s recipe is simply a variation on this theme.  There are, to name a few, mint, espresso, cherry-almond and peanut butter. As it was too late to call the East Coast I just improvished as I didn’t have graham cracker crumbs.

While this is not a true baked or cooked custard as there’s no egg in the custard component of this recipe.  But there is a need for custard powder.  This appears to be some agreement out there that one should seek out the British brand Bird’s.  Being that Sam is enjoyng island life I decided that an equivalent American substitute was Jello pudding mix.  Thanks to the good graces of our host Elise at Simply Recipes for the wiggle room.

This coffee break sweet is not for the sugar intolerant–it’ll send you to the moon where you’ll float among the stars in the chocolate heavens. Oh but what a ride it is.

>>>>Continue to Nanaimo Bar Recipe>>>>>

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Stage 21 – Oui Oui Paris



Corbeil-Essonnes to Paris Champs-Élysées | Distance 144km/89.5mi

Bicycling Magazine describes today’s challenges as "Dropped champagne flutes, wigs tangling spokes, general hijinks." At least until they arrive at the city perimeter. The cyclists here today have accomplished the unthinkable. 

Tdf_pbr_1 Many of us, when we think of Paris, think of food, particularly pastry. Pastry history is long and filled with passionate debate on ownership. Records state that Antonin Careme elevated the art form.  Larousse Gastronomique, states that  "Choux pastry is said to have been invented in 1540 by Popelini, Catherine de’ Medici’s chef, but the pastrycook’s art only truly began to develop in the 17th century and greatest innovator at the beginning of the 19th century was indubitably [Antonin] Careme…There were about a hundred pastrycooks in Paris at the end of the 18th century. In 1986 the count for the whole of France was over 40,000 baker-pastrycooks and 12,5000 pastrycooks."

So what does this have to do with bicycling. Before the TdF, there was the Paris-Brest-Paris race.  Every four years, since 1891, riders have 90 hours to complete the unmarked course. Once a professional race the ride has evolved into an amateur one. But don’t let that fool you. The next race is 2007.

In the early days of the race a pastry chef along the route was looking to increase his sales during this time put his mind to reinventing his eclairs.  What resulted is now known as the Paris Brest.  It’s a choux pastry, shaped as a bicycle wheel it’s cut in half and filled with with praline crème pâtissière and topped with almonds.  While all of this sounds impressively complicated, for the most part you can stage everything ahead of time.  Years ago, Joyce Goldstein’s Square One served a Paris-Brest pastry filled with bananas and praline custard served up with chocolate sauce.

Recipe for Paris-Brest via Meilleur du Chef (with photos)

Dippin Dots

Dd_ice "Dippin’ Dots are tiny, cryogenically frozen beads of ice cream, yogurt, sherbet and flavored ice. Invented in 1988 by microbiologist and entrepreneur Curt Jones, Dippin’ Dots offers more than 20 different flavors, plus seasonal flavors."  So states a recent news story about the company whose operations span eight countries. 

What Jones discovered was that the flash-freezing process makes for a richer, fresher-tasting ice cream.  So merrily Jones prevailed. In 1988 he established the company; by 1996 the ice cream operator placed 171st on Inc. Magazine’s “Inc. 500” list of fastest growing privately held companies. By 2000, the first franchise was offered and today  growth has accelerated.  In March of this year, Franchise Times magazine’s annual listing of the fastest growing, young franchises in the nation ranked Dippin’ Dots #1.

Today, the  International Dairy Foods Association awarded Dippin’ Dots with four of its ‘Achieving Excellence Awards’ including Best in Show award for the marketing and promotion of the company’s new Dot Delicacies product line which includes a recent line extension of ice cream cakes, Dotwich ice cream sandwiches and Dippin’ Stix, vanilla cookie sticks made to dunk into a fudge sauce then dip into Dippin’ Dots.

So why have I never heard of beaded ice cream?  Mr. Jones has even been on Oprah! he’s practically a household name.  One possibility is that for the most part Dippin’ Dots can be found at thousands of locations worldwide, most in malls, theme parks, fairs and festivals, stadiums, and arenas. But I can’t help but feel left out of a new taste sensation.  If you are in San Francisco there’s a Dippin Dots at Moscone Center and the SF Zoo.  Next time I’m at either place I am going to get me some Dots.

Dippin’ Dots Location Finder