The Perfect White Layer Cake — Period.

When I read that we would be digging into one of Dorie Greenspan’s cake recipes, I couldn’t resist a smile.  And as I read deeper into the recipe and saw the possibilities, I knew I’d enjoy imagining what could be done with this cake, the Perfect Party Cake: pure white, multi-layered, and frosting that hints of whatever I’d like it to…But then a funny thing happened.

I remembered a photo of a white cake covered with coconut and filled with lemon in my mother’s old cookbook — one that I’d imagined for years would be mine and never was.  My heart was broken.  *sniff*   So I knew I’d most likely stick very close to Dorie’s recipe.  The idea of the lemon and the coconut was more than I could resist, and I just happened to have some blackberry jam.

I’m not like many of the other Daring Bakers I come across, and goodness knows there are about ten trillion of them in FoodLand now.  I’m always in awe of those who hop to each challenge, making it nearly before the web has cooled from its reveal to our masses.  And some bake their hearts out more than once on a challenge, experimenting and diligently learning.  It’s quite admirable.

I usually wait until the last minute.  It’s not because I’m not interested.  FAR from true.  I seem to wallow in all the possibilities, imagining what each challenge might bring.  Clearly I’m a process kind of person.  But I’m proud to say that on this challenge, I actually finished the cake more than a week ahead of time and it’s been burning a hole in my pocket ever since.  Or something like that.
I would trade my world for a piece of that amazing cake right now.  And I don’t just say that about any cake.  This cake was amazing.  Period.  And when I think back on all the Daring Baker challenges I’ve been a part of in the past year, this was the best.  I loved making this cake.  Okay, so peabody’s Strawberry Mirror Cake was a very close second.  But still.

Maybe its wonderfulness was a reminder of childhood.  You know — the long denied poor child whose mother never made that luscious coconut covered cake in the Betty Crocker cook book whose page I can no longer find because it was possibly drooled  on into oblivion.  Of course, I should mention that she gave in and did make the Baked Alaska once, perhaps as a consolation, and most likely because I’d brow beaten her for years over it all.  But the coconut cake….with lemon filling between the layers.  Mmmmm….

I’ll have to ask her why she never made it.  Was it the coconut?  Hmmmm…which finnicky family member may not have liked it and so I was forever denied?

Until now!

So this was my chance.  After all these years, I’d finally get to see what my taste buds would think.  And yes, I do know that after our Lemon Meringue Pie challenge a few months ago, there’ve been quite a few confessions out there about people not particularly liking lemon.  How sad.

It’s such a bright, clean, cheerful flavor.  So fresh.  So…but I do understand, because personally, I’ve never cared for beets. Ugh.  They’re just so…red.  And rooty.  Except when they’re yellow.  But they’re still rooty.  Ahem.

I know.  You’re so over this already and you have 8,000 other blogs to read and all you really want is to see the photos.  You seriously want me to get on with it already.

But it’s my birthday!  Well, actually, it’s my blog’s birthday.  Sass & Veracity was one year old as of March 19th, and so clearly, getting to bake such an amazing cake was perfect!  I can totally tell you’re bowled over with enthusiasm on this news.  w00t?  Think of how difficult it was to not post this cake on my bloggoversary.  I was tempted.  Really, I was.  But the thought of the scandal was more than I could bear, posting ahead of the day…I’m such a rule follower.  Well except for the Lemon Meringue Pie challenge when I cheated on the meringue.

Okay, I’ve blathered long enough.  Credit — tons of it —  for this fabulous challenge choice goes to Morven of Food Art and Random Thoughts.  There seem to be quite a good number of happy bakers in FoodLand about now.  Nice.  If you’re interested in the recipe for the Perfect Party Cake, consider purchasing Dorie Greenspan’s Baking:  From My Home to Yours.

And to keep in the spirit of challenge (because this cake was a delight to make) I’ve decided that since having read that Dorie admires a “neat cook” while skimming blogs one day, I vowed to keep my work area and kitchen clean while I was baking to my heart’s content this month just to see if I could.  Although I usually begin in an organized fashion, by the end of whatever I’m cooking, disaster reigns afterward.

I do have to say in my own defense that we celebrated Easter on Saturday and although I did make the cake on Friday, I prepared the frosting and assembled the cake on the same day I was also baking a whole ham, with all the trimmings of a complete dinner and family arriving at about 2 PM. So please, at this point, notice my clean kitchen.  I promise to show you the disaster at the end.

I also decided to experiment a bit with coconut, since I’m a big fan, and this was my chance.  I was prepared with a bag of sweetened coconut, as well as two fresh coconuts just to see what the possibilities might be.

My Notes about the Perfect Party Cake

  • I used the buttermilk because it sounded perfect with the lemon extract.  I love tart things, and was not disappointed.  The lemon flavor was quite subtle and very rewarding.
  • I used cake flour as called for and caster, or extra fine sugar because I often do when I bake.
  • I used 8″ x 3″ pans, and baked the cake at 350 degrees F on a convection setting, spinning the pans at about 20 min. into the cooking time, and removing them from the oven at 26 minutes.
  • The layers were fragrant and came easily from the pans after cooling.
  • The layers were baked the day before, wrapped in plastic and stored  at room temperature until assembly.
  • The layers were sliced in half using a long serrated edge knife


  • The frosting was made exactly as the recipe directed (I know this is difficult to believe…), beating for at least 15 minutes.
  • Rubbing the sugar with the lemon zest was interesting — I loved the texture and fragrance.
  • There was no separation during the beating, and the outcome was light, surprisingly non-greasy (for the amount of butter in it…)
  • I’m not a frosting person, but this frosting is amazing.  Really.  I loved the silkiness, the lightness, the hint of lemon — very, very good.  And it was so easy to work with which isn’t always the case with frosting in general.  It covered the cake quite well, keeping the filling between the layers from oozing out when I least wanted it to.


  • I used blackberry jam covered with frosting as the recipe directed on the bottom and top layer.
  • For the center layer, I made my own lemon curd using one of Martha Stewart’s recipes, and topped that with a mix of heavy cream, whipped with mascarpone, sweetened with vanilla.
  • The lemon curd was made the night before and stored in the fridge.  It was stirred before using to get it to a more spreadable consistency.


  • After much playing around with fresh coconuts, whacking them with my rolling pin and dropping them on the flagstones on my patio, I deliberated about whether to use a cheese slicer, a mandoline, or my potato peeler to slice the coconut.  Although I tried all three, and sliced the greatest quantity with my mandoline, I ended up liking the potato peeler the most because the coconut curled a bit and was pretty.
  • I decided to leave the brown peeling on the coconut because I used to eat it that way when I was a child, so why not?  Besides, I liked the idea of the dark edge on the coconut and thought it would look nice on the cake.
  • In the long run, I decided to go with the sweetened coconut on the sides, and the fresh as a garnish on the top.  I enjoyed the rest of the shaved, fresh coconut a few days later as a snack that was quite enjoyable.

Storing & Serving…

  • Against Dorie’s suggestion, I did have to put the cake in the fridge for a while after assembly.  I knew I’d have to do this because of the lemon curd and the cream.  I chilled it for only a couple of hours, and then took it out about an hour before serving.
  • The cake definitely slides without refrigeration as I knew it would, but I had to find out what the combination of flavors would be like, so it was worth using the cream and lemon curd.
  • The tartness of the blackberry jam and lemon curd was so lovely with the smooth flavor of the frosting and the crunch of the coconut, it will be a while before I taste a cake this good.
  • I covered the cake with plastic wrap and had one more piece the next day before sending it home with one of my older sons so I wouldn’t be tempted to eat the rest.

Dorie’s Perfect Party Cake was a hit.  My hunkster doesn’t like sweetened coconut, but admitted that this was good.  Other family members said they enjoyed it as well, but I didn’t have to peel them off the ceiling, so I guess I’ll have to live with “okay.”  When I asked my hunkster why he didn’t like coconut, expecting that he’d say he didn’t like the sweetness, he said it was stringy.  Goodness.  Now I’ve heard everything.



It speaks for itself, doesn’t it?  Besides, I question organzied creativity.


And don’t forget to check out the other Daring Bakers — nearly 900 strong as they all present this cake today.  It’s amazing.

67 thoughts on “The Perfect White Layer Cake — Period.

  1. That is one cute cake. I just love those coconut ribbons with their brown edges – it was certainly worth all your faffing around to get the look you wanted. Thanks for participating this month.

  2. I’m a last minute person too, but the DB challenge I try to do a bit in advance. 😉
    Your cake looks so sumptuous. Well done!

  3. Gorgeous cake. You did a great job. I am similarly tidy challenged when it comes to baking. My kitchen generally looks like a tsunami has come through. I am jealous of all your benchspace. And I love the little pull out cutting board thingy you have. I want one of those.

  4. Your cake looks wonderful and I love the coconut swirls. Thanks for the tips too as I wasn’t able to make the cake and will come back to it at some point!

  5. Kelly Wow on so many levels.
    I love that you loved this cake! Happy blog’versary!!
    Your top decoration touch is so amazing!!
    And OMG you did blackberry and lemon! That is so fantastic, sounds totally knock out good!!
    Great cake.

  6. Wow Kelly that looks so incredible…the cake is amazing. I was thinking about using the lemon curd from the lemon meringue pie challenge and after seeing yours I think I will next time I make it!

  7. Happy blog birthday to your beautiful blog…celebrated with an absolutely beautiful cake! I love the fresh coconut on top & agree the brown adds to the appeal! WOW…great post. Your lovely kitchen must have taken forever to clean up. PHEW!!! Cheers & thanks for the wondeful read!

  8. Your cake turned out absolutely beautifully. I also like to simmer and brew on the ideas. Your coconut ribbons are excellent!

  9. Holy Yum! It looks droolworthy for sure. I love a fellow procrastinator too. We must stick together. 😉 For the record, my kitchen looked way worse, so I think you did damn well at keeping tidy!

  10. I didn’t even realize how close together we started our blogs – no wonder I like you so much! Your cake looks wonderful, and happy blog birthday!!

  11. I didn’t even realize how close together we started our blogs – no wonder I like you so much! Your cake looks wonderful, and happy blog birthday!!

  12. FABULOUS! I love the idea of the blackberry jam along with the lemon curd. Blueberry jam would be lovely as well. I love, love, LOVE the coconut curls on the top of your creation! That looks so yummy. A delight for the eyes!

  13. Kelly that is the perfect party cake for your Blog’s Birthday!! And I love the shaved coconut on top. Not to mention, you are right. I’m suspicious of organized creativity too! Stringy coconut is a new one me too…..

  14. I love your post- and BTW I am so happy for your 1st blog Birthday- Many Happy Returns!!!
    The flavour combo you came up with is mouthwatering and I love the coconut with the darker edge- much more interesting looking! I had to laugh though as my kitchen looks pretty much the same war zone as yours when I am done with a baking project!
    Perfect job!

  15. I love your choices of filling! I thought about doing lemon too but could not resist the ruby red color of rhubarb! Your cake turned out gorgeous! Happy blog Aniiversary and cheers to many more!

  16. Those wide coconut ribbons are the most brilliant garnish I’ve seen yet for this. I love that you loved it because I loved it too. Also love that your kitchen looked just like mine by the end. Happy blog birthday!

  17. Those wide coconut ribbons are the most brilliant garnish I’ve seen yet for this. I love that you loved it because I loved it too. Also love that your kitchen looked just like mine by the end. Happy blog birthday!

  18. I think the coconut ribbons are just beautiful on top of this cake! What a great job! How fun that you tried to keep things clean while baking. Now, that would be a challenge!!!!!!

  19. There is nothing better than lemon and blackberry together – except maybe when topped with beautiful ribbons of fresh coconut! Love it.
    Happy blog-birthday by the way!

  20. I always wanted a coconut cake for my birthday.. My mom made a sour cream coconut cake (boxed cake mix) with
    a homemade frosting. I thought it was heavenly and we
    kept it in the refrigerator.. I like my cake cold..
    My mom’s cake never looked as good as yours..the coconut
    strips are fabulous! They would look great on coconut
    pie or even ice cream..Yum… thanks for the inspiration.
    Happy Blog Birthday….

  21. The coconut shavings are really gorgeous. They make the cake unique as well. I have to say, I love fresh coconut much better than the sweetened dried stuff, so I’d probably eat all the topping first!

  22. Beautifully done! The shaved coconut is so elegant. I love everything you did. When I moved away from Dallas to NYC I secretly packed my mother’s 1968 Betty Crocker – 15 years later, she’s still asks for it back! No way. I totally get your attachment to the photos & memories held between its pages.
    xoxox Amy

  23. Thanks for sharing some personal tidbits along with the recipe–isn’t it amazing how memories from childhood can be so strong? I am absolutely stunned by the beauty of your cake! And lemon curd . . . oh happy.

  24. Beautiful work, and wonderful sounding flavor combinations!
    And personally, if your kitchen had been completely clean after all that, plus the other cooking, it would have been suspicious. 🙂

  25. Happy blogversary. Beautiful decorating job on the cake. And you have a gorgeous kitchen with amazing countertops, I am so jealous.

  26. Pipe icing like “hmm, I think I’ll grab a bag without a tip and go in circles?” Yeah, it takes skills . . . (brushes lapels off)

  27. Hi Kellypea ~
    Your cake is truly gorgeous!
    Also wanted to answer your question on the DB blog: the height you achieved (1 3/4″) is perfect. I baked mine in a different mold, but when I use my 2″-tall pans, I am happy when my finished height is more than 1.5″.

  28. Hi Kellypea ~
    Your cake is truly gorgeous!
    Also wanted to answer your question on the DB blog: the height you achieved (1 3/4″) is perfect. I baked mine in a different mold, but when I use my 2″-tall pans, I am happy when my finished height is more than 1.5″.

  29. Holy cow! That’s the most spectacular one I’ve seen yet (and I’ve seen a bunch in the last two days; am I the only one who hasn’t made this cake?). Bravo.
    Thanks for the comment on my beef short ribs, too, since it meant I could find your blog and subscribe!
    Happy blogiversary.

  30. Wow! What an impressive cake – I am so impressed with all of your components. I especially love the fresh coconut. Great job!

  31. Kelly, I’m in aew of those coconut ribbons…so simple that you made them with the mandoline and created something beautiful!

  32. Ohh… I’m so glad you finally got the coconut lemon cake of your dreams. AND that this month’s challenge worked so well for you. Congratulations… great job!

  33. Oh my wonder you loved this cake so much.. Your fillings and decor is fabulous! I love the lemon curd and whipping cream folded with mascarpone! I tried finding large coconut curls that I saw Martha Stewart use one time but I never thought of shaving my own..brilliant!!

  34. HEY! Why have I not been here before! Must be that due to that busy jet-set lifestyle I lead….
    Anyhoo – that cake is to DIE for!! And I love your kitchen! Even messed up it’s awesome! 🙂

  35. Happy blog birthday a little late! A lovely cake to celebrate it…blackberry and lemon and coconut…yum! Very pretty, too the way you decorated the top with coconut. As far as keeping the kitchen clean a la Dorie…well some of us just don’t, but still clean up when all the baking is done. 😀

  36. Now this is a thing of beauty. Sorry I didn’t get over here sooner. Happy blogversary as well!!!! We will look forward to many more delicious and interesting posts from your home to ours…I sound like Paula Dean:D…our home to yours:D

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