Perfect Party Cake Tips from Dorie

Over the course of the years since Baking From My Home to Yours has been out (I can’t believe it wasn’t published just yesterday), I’ve received a few messages from bakers who’ve had problems with the Perfect Party Cake.  I haven’t been able to figure out exactly why some people have problems and others turn out fabulous cakes every time.  In part, I think the culprit might have been the flour – some people were using self-rising cake flour (I tested the recipe with Swann’s Down Cake Flour, which is NOT self-rising).  But just to be sure that everyone gets the perfect Perfect Party Cake, I asked Nick Malgieri, who created the cake and gave me the recipe for my book, to help me put together a tipsheet for us.

Happy Baking!  As always, I look forward to seeing all your wonderful sweets.


  • Make sure the butter is VERY soft, the consistency of mayonnaise, before mixing
  • Have the egg white and buttermilk at room temperature too
  • If there is grated lemon zest in the batter, makes sure it is very finely grated as with a microplane, not a box grater – large pieces of zest can weigh down the batter and prevent full leavening from taking place
  • Use buttermilk instead of milk (the acidity promotes faster setting during baking and also weakens the gluten in the batter)
  • Buy a fresh can of baking powder
  • Use bleached, not unbleached, all-purpose flour (If you’re using cake flour, make sure it is NOT self-rising)

  • Test the layers for doneness with the point of a knife or a toothpick rather than relying on a timer to determine doneness – if the layers are over baked and a little dry, the texture could seem rubbery

  • Wrap and chill or freeze the layers as soon as they cool – leaving them uncovered at room temperature for a long time could also dry them out

42 thoughts on “Perfect Party Cake Tips from Dorie

  1. Wow, thanks for the great advice.

    BTW, My daughter is graduating from 8th grade and I asked her what cake she’d like for the party tonight and she said “The cake on the cover of THE cook book,” meaning the Devil’s Food White Out Cake.

    It was pretty funny that I knew exactly which cake she meant, since I own about a hundred cookbooks, but she recognizes “BFMHTY” because it’s always in the kitchen!

  2. I’ve made this before and it’s fabulous! The only thing I would probably do different next time is choose another frosting. While the buttercream is delicious, it has so much butter that’s almost like I frosted the cake with straight butter. A bit overwhelming. A FABULOUS cake!!

    • Amanda, I agree. I love this cake… I’ve made it countless times but always use my own favorite buttercream as I was not a fan of the frosting recipe that came with the cake.

  3. This was a really wonderful cake, but I wasn’t a fan of the buttercream – waaay too much butter for me. Go with a high quality butter (buy new, just in case yours has absorbed fridge odors) if you like buttercreams. Otherwise, do what I did – cut down on the butter, increase the sugar. I like sweeter frostings :)

    • I cut down on the butter too and love this frosting!! It sooo smooth and creamy.

      The best part is watching it curdle after the butter is added and then magically turn into a creamy frosting.

  4. Thank you Dorie and Nick!! Cool! I tend to forget about my butter sitting out at room temperature and accidentally let it get to the recommended consistency. I’m a step ahead. :P

    Father’s Day/My Dad’s Birthday/First Day of Summer are all on the same day this year. I’ll be bringing the cake.

  5. Thank you so very much!!

    Looking forward to making the party cake! (But the pressure is on….with these tips, I guess it means I better churn out a successful cake–no excuses!)

  6. Crazy, I was just logging on to ask about this since I am making it today for a birthday and was worried that I couldn’t get answers since it is not until later in the month! So helpful!

  7. I made this once before for my mother’s birthday and I think I did something wrong with my buttercream – it seemed a little waxy or something funky (I probably over-mixed it). I think I’m going to try a chocolate buttercream this time and see how it goes. Thanks Dorie, for your tips – very helpful!!

    • This happens to me sometimes too, but other times it isn’t waxy. I wonder if it has something to do with the temperature of the butter because it happened the two times I forgot to take the butter out and just used it cold from the fridge because I was in a rush.

  8. This is my all-time, absolute-without-a-doubt, favorite cake. I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve made it and thankfully each time it has turned out BEAUTIFULLY. I will admit I use a different frosting but the cake itself? Oh yeah, totally fantastic regardless if you go for the lemon version or not. LOVE IT!

  9. What about layering of the jam and frosting? The pictures I see on other people’s websites are down right scary. How do you layer the two without smearing?

    • I have made this cake once before and had a hard time with getting the buttercream to spread over the jam. I made a note in my book to reverse these the next time I make this. Layer the buttercream on, chill so it sets up, spread the jam on the chilled butter cream and then place the next layer of cake on. The jam should soak into the bottom of the cake layer and give the same dramatic visual effect. We shall see. I also made a note in my book not to spread the jam all the way out to the edge of the cake. It can seep out the sides.

  10. Can I ask those that used their “own buttercream” frostings what ingredients they use? I don’t have the book here with me, but assume Dorie’s is an egg white/granulated sugar-based and not butter/confectioner’s sugar-based? The cake sounds fantastic – can’t wait to try it!

    • I really like the meringue-based buttercreams, but I just back off on the butter and up the sugar. I have to admit though – I’m a much bigger fan of cream cheese frostings, so that’s what I normally go with.

  11. When I made mine it was perfect, however I used orange marmalade and lemon curd. I didn’t have any problems spreading the buttercream over that.

  12. These hints were so helpful! I didn’t have a microplane handy to zest my lemons, so I just doubled the lemon extract and it came out perfectly! Thanks, Dorie!!

  13. I used a cream cheese frosting that I use for everything and it was too soft. I’ve made this before with the suggested frosting and it layered up much better. I think a hearty frosting and not too much filling is a good idea here. Mine wasn’t pretty but it was sure delicious…

  14. I took this cake to work for Obama’s inaugeration (we’re Canadian, so I’m not sure why, but whatever). It was the biggest hit out of all my baking in 4 years at that place. I used strawberry jam instead of raspberry, A) because I hate raspberries! and B) because I had homemade strawberry jam on hand. The lemon and strawberries went great together. I didn’t have any lemon extract and didn’t want to buy any, so I just used extra zest. I am more used to a sugary icing; the buttercream was lovely, but a little too buttery for me. Next time I make it, I’m going to try it with orange zest and maybe chocolate icing.

    All in all, this cake is FABULOUS. There is rarely a time I would ever choose white cake over chocolate, but this is one of those times.

      • Steph, I used Robin Hood’s Cake and Pastry flour, and it turned out great. I only use Robin Hood, for no other reason than because my mom does.

  15. I made the Perfect Party Cake BUT there are a few things I did that were not in the book that made it a success: first I made a traditional buttercream frosting (using a thermometer) – second – I froze each layer for 5 minutes after I applied the raspberry jam before putting on the buttercream so the two wouldn’t smear – third – I did not split the layers because they didn’t rise. Each layer was only one inch (no matter how many times I tired – the layers were only 1 inch high) so I ended up with three one inch layers – and that worked just fine. After all, it was a BIG hit – the flavors were delicious – and it looked just like the one in the book (clean layers w/ no running between the raspberry and buttercream – great texture – and delcious frosting – not too sweet).

  16. I plan on making this cake for Fathers Day. Has anyone used egg whites from the freezer? OR the egg whites from a ‘carton’? Im wondering if either of these will affect the cake. I have tons of leftover egg whites in the freezer as well as a carton that I would love to use before separating the eggs and having left over yolks.

    I would think for the frosting since the whites require whipping I will have to use fresh whites for that.

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  21. I need to make a cake for a crowd. Will this recipe work for a sheet cake, split and frosted? I plan on making it twice for two layers.


  22. I loved the lemon buttercream frosting and I don’t even normally like frosting! The coconut helped cut the richness of it a lot. This cake was a huge hit at my mom’s birthday last week – no one in my family is a “cake person”, but we all LOVED this one!!

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  25. I had a double failure of this cake today. I have no idea what went wrong – the cakes just didn’t rise at all. I followed this recipe, and the tips in this post, to the letter. I even bought a new can of baking powder for the second try – no difference. The only thing I can think of is that I used nonstick cake pans.

    Anyways, I just layered all four thin cakes together, without splitting them. The flavor was nice, but they were very tough and chewy. Very disappointing. Any idea what went wrong?

  26. I made this over the weekend and was so proud of myself! The cake is beautiful, although my layers are a bit crooked! I tried not to think about the 3 sticks of butter in the frosting, but dang, is it tasty! I used all purpose flour and instead of lemon extract, I used vanilla – I forgot to buy the lemon extract. Everything was just delicious! I will definitely make this cake again and again!

  27. Darn. I sooo wanted this cake to be “The One” because the photo in the book is gorgeous. But like so many others, there was virtually no rise. I’ve been successfully baking cakes for 50 years plus I did everything in the tip sheet (lemon zest with a microplane, new BP, buttermilk, all of it) but to no avail. Very strange. I wonder if this recipe was tested in a home kitchen before the book was printed. Since this was a test run for a birthday party in a few weeks I didn’t count on serving it to anyone other than myself and the BF. I ended up cutting a slice while it was still warm and strangely it’s got a very nice texture even though it looks like it would be as tough as wood. I believe I’ll move on …

  28. Oooh, I hope someone here can help me. I made the Perfect Party Cake twice this week, and neither one rose. I let all my ingredients come to room temperature, and I followed all the beating directions. I wonder, though – I never use “real” buttermilk, instead substituting regular milk and lemon juice. I read online somewhere today that too much acid in a recipe could cause baking powder NOT to react, thus the cake doesn’t rise. So…if i used normal milk, my cake would have risen? Does anybody know?

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  30. I attempted to make this cake for a function and it didn’t rise properly- not sure why? Used King Arthur unbleached cake flour blend, new baking powder, cultured buttermilk and eggwhites from a carton! – would love to know what happened? I was trying to make a larger cake 12″ vs 9″ so I made two batches with no luck! HELP!!!! Frosting was great!

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