Thursday, December 29, 2011

Orange Vanilla Cake with Chocolate Italian Meringue Frosting

You’d think that the last two weeks of school before the winter break would be the most relaxing, but you’d be wrong. Over the last couple of weeks before the holidays, I’ve had more tests, quizzes, assignments, and essays due than I can count. Now that the holidays are finally, finally here, I actually have time to sit back and catch my breath. Although it seems as though the school year is passing by in a blink of an eye, I feel like I’m losing momentum. With each passing school day, it became increasingly difficult to drag my exhausted body out of bed.

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.


  1. That looks just beautiful. I wish I could make those chocolate shavings like that for the tops...I am not any good at that part, so much admiration for yours! My son is in his first year of college and he had one week break and then he had to head back to college because he is a swimmer for his college team and they were going to have two weeks of hard training before classes start he is thinking his break was not near long enough either!! Happy New Year to you...your blog is charming, thanks for stopping by mine so I could find yours!

  2. Absolutely gorgeous, Kyleen! I love the combination of chocolate & orange, so will add this to my "must bake" list! I wish you every success & happiness in 2012! xoxo

  3. Hi Kyleen! Thanks so much for stopping by! In answer to your question about how I get the chicken so brown... No big secret, really. The oven does most of the work for me. It does get a wee bit of help from the soy sauce and honey too. The key when using either to marinate or baste, is to heat your oven to no more than 375 to keep them from burning.

    I love your blog and the story of how you chose the name. I wish I had the kind of passion for baking that you do. I love to cook, but baking is my husband's forte. This cake looks absolutely scrumptious! I had a hard time resisting the urge to lick my screen! Pretty sure I'll be passing the recipe on to Mr B in the very near future. He takes hints very well. ;~)

    Have a wonderful New Year and enjoy the rest of your break!
    ~Mrs B

  4. You got such a beautiful finish on the buttercream! Thanks for visiting my blog Kyleen!

  5. This cake looks absolutely dreamy - choc orange is a killer combination. I hope that you are recovering from your evening in the cold, and hope you have a Happy New Year!

  6. This looks very light and fluffy. Well done!

  7. I wish I could frost a cake half as good as that. Its stunning. I'm imagining that the cake tastes like one of those chocolate oranges that you break apart into segments. I normally am not a huge fan of fruit and chocolate together, but those get me every time. I hate to tell you this, but the two weeks before winter break never get easier while your in school. I had to take time off of work just to study for my anatomy final. It was brutal.

  8. I made a similar cake last night; o how I wish I had seen your recipe! Will keep it in mind for the repeat cake. Delicious!

  9. You have a lovely blog! And your cake is gorgeous. It looks delicious. Have a Happy New Year!

  10. Wow that looks beautiful! The cake looks so light and luscious. I like the idea of orange zest and liqueur. Would be perfect for a fancy occasion. Great photos Kyleen.

  11. This cake is beautiful and so is your blog!

  12. The orange curd really draws me in - and then there's delicious meringue frosting. So many layers of flavors - so beautifully celebratory! May you have many such cakes in your future before the rigors of high school begin again. Happy New Year!

  13. Kyleen

    Your cake is beautiful. Love your pictures!

    Happy New Year and I hope you have a great second semester in school. Also, hope you can catch up on your sleep and feel better soon.

    Best Wishes for 2012 and look forward to your wit baking creations!


  14. Snippets of Thyme (Sarah)December 30, 2011 at 8:14 AM

    What a beautiful cake. I'll bet it was fun to make those chocolate shavings. I know how stressful the work is before the holidays. We homeschool and I get just as stressed as my 2 kids because if deadlines aren't met, I can't pull in a teacher to handle it! I am the teacher! I let my freshman son slip into the holidays not finishing a government paper. It's been on my conscience all through the break. 3 more days of break for us and then back to the grind!

  15. Lovely cake, perfect for an afternoon coffee to share with friends and familiy.

  16. christinefreshlocalandbestDecember 30, 2011 at 10:44 AM

    What a wonderful gift for the family that you whipped up. The cake must be so light and fluffy with the addition of corn starch. I love the holidays because you can spend time doing everything but work, but for that very reason it goes by really fast, too fast.

  17. Awesome looking cake & it sounds incredibly delicious. Orange and chocolate are made to go together. I've never tried making chocolage shavings before. I'm putting this in my 'to make' file. I may save it for my birthday cake:)
    Thank you for stopping by my blog!

  18. This looks absolutely fantastic! There's just something about a pile of chocolate shavings that I can't resist. And the orange and chocolate combo? Sigh...heavenly. Fantastic! Happy New Year =)

  19. While I DO miss christmas break, I do NOT miss finals week before it. But you survived! yay!

    And you made a totally rock star cake. In.Love.

    Happy new year!

  20. I can't believe how good this looks and such a beautiful presentation!

  21. Emily @ A Cambridge StoryJanuary 3, 2012 at 9:56 AM

    This cake looks absolutely incredible - and your photos are stunning!! Thanks for stopping by my blog; I'm looking forward to reading more on yous!!

  22. This cake looks amazing!!! I love the chocolate on top!


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