Lightning McQueen Cake

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Our nephew, Brendan, turns two on Thursday. I can't even believe it--seems like just yesterday he was born! It's hard to wrap my head around the fact that not only has it been two years since he was born, but he also has a baby brother now. Life can change so much in so little time...

Anyway, his party was today. Last year, fresh out of my cake decorating classes, I made his 1st birthday cakes (Winnie the Pooh and Tigger, too!). A few weeks back, Melissa asked me if I'd be willing to make his 2nd birthday cake, too. Of course, I accepted the assignment with pleasure.

Melissa told me that she was planning a "Cars" (the movie) theme for Brendan's birthday party. She said that his favorite character from the movie is Lightning McQueen, the main character.

This is Brendan's finished cake:
IMG_0691rs by you.
I was pretty happy with how it turned out, and Brendan seemed to love it (as much as a 2 year old is going to love something, ha!). I had a lot of fun making it on Friday afternoon. More pics from Brendan's birthday to come soon...

In the meantime, I want to share the recipe I used for the cake. All of the frosting and the filling was simple vanilla buttercream, but for the cake, I used Dorie's Perfect Party Cake recipe. It was the first time I had ever made it, and it was really tasty--it had a subtle lemon flavor that was nice. I'll definitely use it as a "go-to" cake recipe in the future.

I'll include the full recipe for the cake, including Dorie's buttercream and filling recipes, even though I didn't use them. Enjoy!

Perfect Party Cake
(Source: Baking: From My Home to Yours, by Dorie Greenspan)

For the Cake:
2 1/4 cups cake flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups whole milk or buttermilk
4 large egg whites
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon pure lemon extract

For the Buttercream:
1 cup sugar
4 large egg whites
3 sticks (12 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (from 2 large lemons)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

For Finishing:
2/3 cup seedless raspberry preserves, stirred vigorously or warmed gently until spreadable
About 1 1/2 cups sweetened shredded coconut

Getting Ready: Center a rack in the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter two 9-x-2-inch round cake pans and line the bottom of each pan with a round of buttered parchment or wax paper. Put the pans on a baking sheet.

To Make The Cake: Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt.

Whisk together the milk and egg whites in a medium bowl.

Put the sugar and lemon zest in a mixer bowl or another large bowl and rub them together with your fingers until the sugar is moist and fragrant. Add the butter and, working with the paddle or whisk attachment, or with a hand mixer, beat at medium speed for a full 3 minutes, until the butter and sugar are very light. Beat in the extract, then add one third of the flour mixture, still beating on medium speed. Beat in half of the milk-egg mixture, then beat in half of the remaining dry ingredients until incorporated. Add the rest of the milk and eggs, beating until the batter is homogeneous, then add the last of the dry ingredients. Finally, give the batter a good 2-minute beating to ensure that it is thoroughly mixed and well aerated. Divide the batter between the two pans and smooth the tops with a rubber spatula.

Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the cakes are well risen and springy to the tough – a thin knife inserted into the centers should come out clean. Transfer the cakes to cooling racks and cool for about 5 minutes, then run a knife around the sides of the cakes, unmold them and peel off the paper liners. Invert and cool to room temperature right side up. (The cooled cake layers can be wrapped airtight and stored at room temperature overnight or frozen for up to 2 months.)

To Make the Buttercream: Put the sugar and egg whites in a mixer bowl or other large heatproof bowl, fit the bowl over a pan of simmering water and whisk constantly, keeping the mixture over the heat, until it feels hot to the touch, about 3 minutes. The sugar should be dissolved, and the mixture will look like shiny marshmallow cream. Remove the bowl from the heat.

Working with the whisk attachment or with a hand mixer, beat the meringue on medium speed until it is cool, about 5 minutes. Switch to the paddle attachment if you have one, and add the butter a stick at a time, beating until smooth. Once all the butter is in, beat the buttercream on medium-high speed until it is thick and very smooth, 6 to 10 minutes. During this time, the buttercream may curdle or separate – just keep beating and it will come together again. On medium speed, gradually beat in the lemon juice, waiting until each addition is absorbed before adding more, and then the vanilla. You should have a shiny, smooth, velvety, pristine white buttercream. Press a piece of plastic against the surface of the buttercream and set aside briefly.

To Assemble the Cake: Using a sharp, serrated knife and a gentle sawing motion, slice each layer horizontally in half. Put one layer cut side up on a cardboard cake round or a cake plate protected by strips of wax or parchment paper. Spread it with one third of the preserves. Cover the jam evenly with about one quarter of the buttercream. Top with another layer, spread with preserves and buttercream and then do the same with the third layer (you’ll have used all the jam and have buttercream left over). Place the last layer cut side down on top of the cake and use the remaining buttercream to frost the sides and top. Press the coconut into the frosting, patting it gently all over the sides and top.

Serving: The cake is ready to serve as soon as it is assembled, but it’s best to let it set for a couple of hours in a cool room. Serve it at room temperature with anything from milk to sweet or bubbly wine.

The cake is best the day it is made, but you can refrigerate it, well covered, for up to 2 days.


Sara August 23, 2009 at 9:30 PM  

looks great! I watched Cars for the first time last week, at the request of my 17 year old brother, such a cute movie!!

Tonya August 24, 2009 at 10:56 AM  

Hey Heather,

Any Ideas how I can get your pictures to view? Seems like your blog is the only one that puts of a blank square. Am I the only one having this problem?

Thanks for anyones advice/help.

Heather August 24, 2009 at 10:58 AM  

Tonya, are you looking at my blog at work? If so, is Flickr a blocked website?

I'm hosting my photos through Flickr.

Tonya August 24, 2009 at 11:38 AM  

Yes, however I wasn't able to view them at home either. I just went to flickr and was able to access that page. It has just been recently that I am not able to view, maybe the last month or so. I am still able to view your old blog photos posted, just not any new ones... thanks for the tip.

Heather August 24, 2009 at 11:42 AM  

I started using Flickr to host my photos, beginning with the posts about our trip to the Poconos (end of July). So yes, I think it's been about a month.

Someone else told me she couldn't see my blog photos, but only at work, where Flickr is blocked. So that's why I thought the same for you. I'm not sure why you'd have the same problem at home, though? No one else has said anything to me about it... hmmm.

Maybe I'll post and ask if anyone else is having problems. It is just SO MUCH EASIER for me to host my photos at Flickr, and I know a ton of the blogs I read do the same, so I made the switch.

Lynsey Kaye August 24, 2009 at 10:52 PM  

That cake looks awesome!! Great job.

Anonymous,  August 27, 2009 at 11:46 AM  

Hi Heather. Great job with the cake. Did you do it freehand?

Amanda August 28, 2009 at 1:47 AM  

Wonderful job Heather!

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