The Blood Orange Creamsicle Birthday Cake


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Blood Orange Creamsicle Cake: Blood Orange Chiffon Cake, Vanilla Marshmallow Cream Frosting, Candied Blood Orange Peel, Orange-Grand Marnier Marmalade, and Grand Marnier Syrup.

On Friday night, with the declaration “I want cake,” Chad walked right into describing the cake that would become his birthday cake. He wanted orange and vanilla, and absolutely nothing else. His birthday is today (Monday), but I wanted cake asap, too, so I made it after rounding up supplies at the Saturday Santa Monica Farmer’s Market.

The cake turned out to be a wonderful balance of the two flavors, and with enough textures to make it dangerously addictive. Two-thirds of the cake is already gone, and we’ve held ourselves back. Well, kind of… Chad had three slices today (but “two were small!”) and I had two slices. To be sure, it came into its own after a night in the fridge, for the flavors to mingle and fortify themselves.

Also, this being National Candy Month, I wanted to experiment with putting candied orange peel on cakes in order to participate in Yum Sugar’s I Heart Candy! event. Using soft candy on cake seemed like a good idea for added texture and flavor. I also happen to like candied orange peel because it’s intensely flavored and a rare candy that’s made from fresh fruit itself. It also lets you use the whole fruit so that you can prevent waste.

This Candied Orange Peel was different from how I usually do it; I looked to The Sweet Life and Chez Panisse Desserts for guidance there. I usually like thick candied peel, but for the cake, I wanted something more dainty. So, instead of cutting and peeling away the whole peel, I used a vegetable peeler to cut off thin bands, which were then sliced thin. I candied them until translucent in a sugar syrup laced with cream of tartar to prevent crystallization, strained them, put them out on a cooling rack to dry out, and then rolled them around in sugar before strewing them on the cake. It’s important to remember to take off the peel before you juice them, or else it’s difficult to get it off. I was afraid that they might be awkward with the texture of the cake and frosting, but I was really happy with them. So, yeah, candy on cake? Yum.

The actual cake part is chiffon cake, which I’ve loved from first bite. Chiffon has the moistness of a butter cake and the lightness of a genoise. But it has no butter. It has oil and yolks as the fats, and it has egg whites folded into the batter. It doesn’t taste or feel at all oily (I used grapeseed oil). The batter also needs a watery liquid, so it’s perfect for incorporating juice into. I had organic blood oranges and valencia oranges, so I used half of each kind of juice in the cake as well as blood orange zest. I would have liked to use all blood orange juice, but they’re more acidic than regular oranges (even, I suspect, this late in the season). I didn’t want to mess with the structure too much or use water instead of some of the juice; for a lemon chiffon cake, on the other hand, you have to cut the juice with water or else there’s too much acid. The juice was very bloody looking, but the cake turned out a light yellow.

When I was looking around for cake recipes, I discovered that the Tartine cookbook and The Cake Bible have almost identical recipes. The differences were that Tartine uses AP flour and 6 egg yolks, and Cake Bible uses cake flour and 7 egg yolks. The Cake Bible’s would probably have a lighter crumb, but since I was planning on frosting the cake, I opted for the Tartine way, so that there would be more contrast between the cake and frosting. Beranbaum says that she prefers a glaze for chiffon cakes, which I agree would match the lighter cake.

I baked it in an angel food cake pan, and cut it into 3 layers. I guess ring-shaped cakes aren’t usually layered, but I think it worked. I only used 2 layers in the cake, though, because the recipe yields a very tall cake — it rose almost to the rack above it while baking and settled to make a cake as tall as the mold (it also took 1hr 20 minutes to bake thoroughly instead of the 55 min prescribed). I froze the leftover cake layer for spontaneous trifle-making.

The layers were brushed with a 1:1 simple syrup flavored with Grand Marnier and then spread on a thin layer of Mediterranean Organic-brand Orange Marmalade cut with Grand Marnier (I know, I know, I wish I’d made my own marmalade, too). The cake doesn’t really need a syrup to moisten it like a sponge or genoise would, but I wanted the boozy boost and I really liked the refreshing wetness from the marmalade. I wasn’t too thrilled with the marmalade itself — it was too firm, had commercial pectin in it, and was weakly flavored. I had to loosen it up, and Grand Marnier worked well. I chose Grand Marnier over the Patron Orange Liqueur that I have b/c GM is made with cognac and I wanted that added depth.

The Vanilla Marshmallow Cream Frosting is based on the frosting from the Devil’s Food White-Out Cake in Dorie Greenspan’s Baking; it’s also the icing on the cake on the book’s cover. It’s a thick meringue, with a sugar syrup cooked to 242F and whipped with egg whites. No butter, and it’s not too sweet. The recipe calls for vanilla extract as flavoring, but I used vanilla paste so that its little vanilla seeds would speckle the cake.

It’s funny that when it came time to frost the cake, I reverted back to my CIA-Greystone training and started leveling off and smoothing out the icing out of reflex. But then I snapped out of it… Sharp corners? Smooth top? Pfft, not on my watch, not anymore. This was going to be a big, billowy cake. I worked a soup spoon back and forth to fashion the billows, the first time I’ve done so. I also chilled the cake briefly with a thin crumb coat first, to prevent crumby billows.

13 Responses to “The Blood Orange Creamsicle Birthday Cake”

  1. irene Says:

    please wish Chad a VERY HAPPY BIRTHDAY from us.i bet that cake won’t last too long…. it looks and sounds sinfully delicious and too difficult not to finish it off very quickly! great job! i can almost taste it w/ your excellent descriptions. enjoy!

    love to you both!

    dad and mom

  2. fattypr Says:

    OMG! This sounds and looks so good!

    And, I’m just wondering, but based on your writing I’m assuming your two slices weren’t “small.” tsk tsk. :)

  3. Gary Says:

    Don’t we get to see the inside? ;)

  4. Nina Says:

    Thanks so much, Mom and Dad!

    fattypr - Thanks! Well…. I didn’t want to be redundant is all and I was too lazy to reconstruct the sentence to include us both… Yes, that is the story that I’m sticking to :)

    Gary - Well, I learned that taking a good picture of a slice of cake is as tricky as trying to take a good picture of a shiny chocolate coconut. :)

  5. Garrett Says:

    Oooh, sounds good. Any picture of the inside? It sounds so good, but I bet a blood red chiffon cake would have been to die for (but yellow works too). ;)

  6. Nina Says:

    Thanks. No, I was impatient and just couldn’t get a decent pic of the inside. It’s a pretty mild-mannered 2-layer affair, with white icing and a little orange from the marmalade. I was really hoping for a blood red-as-can-be cake, but after 10 egg whites were folded into the batter, it lightened up considerably.

  7. carla Says:

    I’m a new fan of yours and an avid sweet tooth. Your blog has been the best find ever! The cake looks and sounds fantastic. I literally want someone to read that whole recipe entry to me as if it were a lullaby. Sounded ambitious, but well-executed. Kudos!

  8. Nina Says:

    Hahaha The recipe entry as a lullaby! That’s awesome. Thank you! And glad that you’re enjoying the blog!

  9. Tommy Says:

    Oh, man! I think you’re going to have to make this cake again so you can show us the inside. That better half of yours is one lucky dude…

  10. Nina Says:

    Well… I think I know I what cake he’ll want for his birthday next year… but I have a feeling he (and/or) me will crave it before then… and in the meantime, I’ll try to figure out how to photograph a slice of cake passably. :)

  11. Sweet Napa » Blog Archive » Socialverse is Here! Says:

    [...] You may already know that Chad’s good at thinking up dreamy birthday cake ideas, but you should also know that his true area of expertise is software engineering. With Socialverse, I like to think that his company has developed a way for people to walk the world from the comfort of their computers.** [...]

  12. Sweet Napa » Blog Archive » A Strawberry-Cacao Nib Trifle To Go Says:

    [...] The starting point for this dessert was to use up the scraps of orange chiffon cake that I had leftover in my freezer from the Blood Orange Creamsicle birthday cake. I went back into the Tartine cookbook for their ideas on how to construct a trifle, and found that they soak the cake layers in a lightly sugared and liqueured fruit puree. I didn’t want to add too many flavors, so I just added a few blackberries to the strawberry puree, as well as Grand Marnier. The resulting puree was juicy, but it didn’t soak into the cake readily. That’s fine b/c it allowed for more textures, but if you want a thoroughly soaked layer with an eye-catching purple hue, I’d add a little water (which would have been included if simple syrup had been used) and use thin layers of cake. [...]

  13. The Salted Caramel Nut Birthday Cake - Sweet Napa Says:

    [...] year, a little while before his birthday, he idly mentioned wanting a orange creamsicle cake, so I came up with one. This year, I asked him what kind of cake he wanted, and he said “Caramel” and wanted [...]

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