Four Layers to Celebrate

There’s just something in particular about layer cakes that I’m drawn to. The striated wedges that reveal neat rows of a myriad of fillings, flavors, and textures, just cutting into them is a suspenseful drama that you can’t look away from. Elaborate and beautiful any way you slice it, it’s no surprise that you’re most likely to find one of these striped confections at birthdays and celebrations. Thanks to Morven who chose this Daring Baker Challenge, it became a requirement to find something to celebrate this month- And truly, I was happy to have any excuse!

We were assigned to tackle Dorie Greenspan’s “Perfect Party Cake,” to be exact, but there were many more allowances for creativity than most challenges. Any flavors could be used to please the baker’s palate, any filling, any decoration, and either a buttercream frosting or simply whipped cream; Basically, we were pretty much set loose for this one.

Happily, the biggest obstacle that I faced was figuring about what occasion to celebrate with this fantastic cake. Since my grandma was due to return home after a winter in Hawaii mid-month, that seemed that the perfect opportunity, so I took that idea and ran with it. Soon enough, I had concocted an intricate scheme to incorporate tropical flavors in a decadent, over-the-top, but completely approachable sort of way.

It all started with a lightly pineapple-flavored cake, by way of replacing most of the liquid with pineapple juice, and then since I had drained off a can of pineapple chunks to get the juice, I tossed the solids into a pot and made a quick jam. On top of that, I spread a thin layer of lemon curd (same recipe from my book again), and then repeated the sequence until I ran out of cake. Seizing my “get out of jail free” card with the buttercream, I went the easier route of making a whipped coconut creme, which I gelled with just a touch of agar so that it would melt at room temperature. After my most recent shopping spree in NYC, I had lots of shiny dragees to play around with, so naturally they topped off the stack.

Finally, a challenge that turned out exactly as I had intended! The layers could have been a bit better defined I suppose, but there’s always room for improvement, right? But more importantly, my grandmother seemed to genuinely enjoy it (I hope!) and it was met with rave reviews from everyone else who managed to snag a piece as well. Seriously, I was floored at how enthusiastic the assessments were, and it seems as though there is considerable demand for the recipe as well! Perhaps I’ll make this same assemblage again, but with a slightly different structure to get those clear-cut layers I crave… Who knows, you may just see this one again soon.

95 thoughts on “Four Layers to Celebrate

  1. This looks wonderful! The flavor combination sounds divine. And when will you be sending some of this to my neck of the woods? :)

  2. This is one perfect looking cake – amazing.

    After some practice with vegan baking I now manage to achieve great results with cakes and such – tastewise. Still, mine never look as perfect as yours, not even close. Great Job!

  3. Sounds like a very yummy cake! And I never stop to be amazed by your pics, they all look so professional! I wish I could take pics like that.
    But your cake look so professional too! Im more amazed who regular, deadly people can make a cake look like that! (and everything else you do).

  4. Hannah – You did a fabulous job on your cake. The dragees are a lovely touch. Thanks for the link to your whipped coconut creme.

    Natalie @ Gluten A Go Go

  5. Thanks to your recipes and confidence, I too have been drawn to making layer cakes (which I used to be intimidated by – now I LOVE making them!).

    So glad that this month’s DBC turned out JUST how you intended it to (even though I think that ALL of your DBC results are fantastic) – hooray!! :0D

  6. Perfect cake with perfect layers…marvellous challenge. Love the blend of flavours; very tropical. Your frosting is pretty pretty pretty & I love the shiny dragees;never seen anything like this before. Glad Gran was so happy…

  7. i’m starting a round of applause for you right now. or better yet, the wave!
    i barely have words–that just looks incredibly scumptious. :)

  8. I would celebrate, too, if my cake had risen like that! Please do tell what you subbed for the eggs! Originally I wanted to try agar for my frosting, but the young woman at the health food store had never heard of it, so I used the vegan gelatin instead. (I felt like an elderly hippie. “Honey, where’s my cane and birkenstocks?”)

  9. Not surprised you have so many comments for such a beautiful cake… how perfect! It looks just like the ones in bakery windows! Great job!

  10. Absolutely spectacularly gorgeous! I knew pineapple would be good in this cake. I would love to try your version. It’s all so perfect.

  11. The things you bake and come up with are always so creative and well done! Your cake is so beautifully decorated. I love the idea of a pineapple cake, and then you made jam with it?? I’d never think of these things. So creative.

  12. I can really appreciate the tropical flavors of your cake. It looks beautiful and I bet it was delicious. Great job with this month’s challenge!

  13. Yay, another pineapple cake! Yours is just gorgeous…I love the toasted coconut only on the sides. And beautiful photography, as always :)

  14. This is beautiful! I’d hoped to do something as classy as your border, but I ran out of frosting first. Yours is truly elegant – a work of art. I’ll bet your Grandma was impressed.

  15. Okay I’m sure I’m not the only one that thinks this is gorgeous enough to be my wedding cake! hmm all those other details- the boy, the place, invitations and other small details- can work themselves out for a cake like this LOL


  16. Oh wow, you just sold me on your book! Not only does that look delicious, but I was just thinking this weekend that I needed to find an eggless lemon curd to make lemon-raspberry cupcakes. Yum!

  17. Hi Hannah – Can you contact me via email about the Alternative Daring Bakers Baking Together in April. (glutenagogo AT gmail DOT com) Thanks!

    Natalie @ Gluten A Go Go

  18. Oh I love layer cakes too!! It is so much fun when you don’t know what’s inside (and also when you do!) That is such a beautiful cake, perfect for the occasion!!

  19. That looks gorgeous! Love how you gave a tropical twist to the recipe. I’ll have to try this the next time I make this cake.

  20. That looks amazing,
    my name’s Amy you might remember me from a long time a go when I organized a vegan swap on Craftster that you were in. Anyways I wanted to let you know that I started a new vegan blog called The Good Goods where I review everything vegan and I’ve linked to your site and plan to do a review of your book soon,
    Have a looksy if you’d like

  21. Are you joking about my cake being beautiful, look at yours! That’s EX-ACT-LY what I was talking about when I said people who know how to make their frosting look perfectly smooth, HOW DO YOU DO IT? and would you please teach me? And you write cookbooks. I think I love you.

  22. Right on Hannah,
    This looks fantastic. I’ve been thinking about pineapple a lot lately, thinking that I’d like to make some pineapple-y treats… It’s an underrated flavor, I think!

    :) Amey

  23. the silver jimmies are so dignified! what a gorgeous cake and thanks for the link to the coconut cream topping.


  24. your blog is so pretty! the pictures are great and the recipes are awesome! i hope you’d inspire more people with this… smile always (even though things are a bit bitter right now)

  25. Hannah,
    It’d be awesome if you would post your veganized recipe, for those of us that like to follow The Daring Bakers’ blogs. I’m not sure if you used a different cake recipe for the challenge or if you veganized the four eggs?


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