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.