Alas, bliss has arrived in the form of two uninterrupted weeks of vacation. How I wish it were a month. Two weeks definitely isn’t enough time for me to catch up on all my missed sleep, reading, and baking or to recharge emotionally. Towering stacks of books have piled up on my desk, threatening to tip over. In many a hurried fit, various cakes, choux pastry shells, pie crusts and other miscellaneous goods have been stowed away in my freezer.
On Christmas Eve, I went out to all-you-can-eat sushi with friends and then went home and indulged myself with a couple good novels. All in all, a most relaxing day, productive in terms of its unproductiveness. On Christmas Day, I woke up late and slipped into my favourite white and gray striped long sleeve tee, plaid pyjama pants, and cozy gray knit Ugg boots, my throat tight and my head pounding. Obviously, the hour I had spent outside in the -5 degree weather the day before (in my fashionable but thin jacket) was catching up with me. My family was hosting a holiday dinner with our relatives, so I ignored the headache and got to work on a cake.
Layers of vanilla cake were separated by a thick orange curd and frosted in a dreamy chocolate orange Italian meringue frosting. The cake was moist and rich and the curd sweet and thick, but the real focus of the cake was the frosting. Dreamy—I cannot think any other word to describe the chocolate frosting other than dreamy. The stuff is so good that you’ll find yourself licking the bowl clean.
Click below for the recipe.
Orange Chocolate Vanilla Cake
- 2 ¼ cups flour
- ¼ cup cornstarch
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons orange zest (about 2 oranges)
- 1 ½ cup granulated sugar
- 4 large eggs, at room temperature
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- ½ cup unsalted butter, melted
- ½ cup vegetable oil
- 1 cup sour cream, at room temperature
Orange Curd Filling:
- 1 eggs plus 1 egg yolk
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1/2 cup plus 1/3 cup sugar
- 2 teaspoons orange zest (about 2 oranges)
- 2 tablespoons strained orange juice
- 1 tablespoon orange liqueur
Chocolate Italian Meringue Butter Cream:
- 3 egg whites
- ¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
- 1 1/3 cups sugar
- 1/3 cup water
- 4 ounces unsweetened chocolate melted with 3 tablespoons orange liqueur
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- ½ pound butter, softened
For the cake: preheat oven to 350F. Butter three 9-inch round pans, line with parchment, butter, and dust with flour. (I used three 8-inch pans and the cake layers ended up being too tall, so I only used two layers in my cake. However, I did have frosting and orange curd leftover, so next time, I'd use three 9-inch pans.)
In a medium bowl, sift flour, cornstarch, baking powder, and salt. Add the orange zest and whisk to combine.
In the bowl of an electric stand-mixer, beat the sugar with the eggs and vanilla extract at medium-high speed until thick and airy, about 7 minutes. Add the butter and oil and beat until incorporated, scraping the bottom and side of the bowl. Add dry ingredients and sour cream in three alternating additions, beating well between additions. Pour the batter into the prepared pans.
Bake the cakes in the center of the oven for about 25-35 minutes, until springy and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cakes cool for about forty-five minutes in the pan, and then transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely before frosting. Unfrosted cakes can be made in advance and wrapped in plastic and stored at room temperature for up to 2 days, or frozen for up to a month.
For the curd: in a medium bowl, combine all ingredients; it will look curdled and not particularly delicious. Place the bowl over a pan of gently simmering water and stir the mixture until it thickens like honey and “is too hot for your finger”, as Julia Child put it. (I actually tested this out and ended up dipping my poor finger into hot curd). Do not over heat or the eggs will scramble. Let cool completely (put it in the fridge) before using.
For the chocolate Italian meringue butter cream: in the bowl of an electric stand-mixer, beat the egg whites at medium speed until they begin to foam; add the salt and cream of tartar and beat at high speed until stiff peaks form. Meanwhile, put sugar and water in a saucepan and set over high heat. Swirl the pan, but do not stir. Boil until the bubbles begin to thicken and the sugar reaches the soft-ball stage, 238 degrees.
With the mixer running, slowly pour the sugar syrup in a thin stream. Continue beating the meringue at high speed for at least 5 minutes, until the mixture is cool. It will be satin-smooth, and form stiff peaks when lifted with a spoon or spatula. Beat in the melted chocolate and vanilla into the meringue. Gradually beat in the butter, piece by piece. Chill the butter cream until of easy spreading consistency.
Assembly: Lay one cake layer on a cake board or serving platter and spread a couple tablespoons of orange curd over top, leaving a border. Place the second cake layer on top and press down slightly. Repeat with the third cake layer. Spread the frosting over the cake, starting at the top and working down the sides. Decorate as desired. I was feeling a little lazy and just shaved some chocolate on the top.