Happy Birthday, Mom (& Tom Hiddleston)! a mid-winter dark chocolate + blood orange cake

Friday, February 6

blood orange cake with dark chocolate + blood orange frosting | une gamine dans la cuisine
"Decadence: where the tasty and the unsavoury, the harmful and the delightful are no longer discernible from one another." 

                                            ~ Wieki Somers
Oh hello again, everyone. The holiday season left in flurry of wind & salt. It slammed the door (with its typical jubilant-yet-oblivious manner) and left a mess of strewn confetti & unfulfilled expectations in its wake. I'm never prepared for Christmas, but I find I'm even less equipped for its abrupt departure. The breathless excitement felt at the top of a December's Ferris wheel makes January's plunge all the more grey & vacant. In an effort to soften last month's harsh edges, I decided to take a break from blogging. I simply wanted to bake for the sake of baking. My camera took refuge on a cosy pile of photo prop linens and we both enjoyed an unspoken truce. I'm sorry that I didn't announce my absence...it was a flight of fancy and I did not want to tarnish a rare act of spontaneity by over-explaining the motive behind it. An elephantine Thank You to everyone who inquired about my lack of posts (it's lovely & humbling to know they were missed!). xoxo 

This cake made me blissfully silly, again, & it reawakened my blogging nerdiness. It's embarrassing how many photos were taken (all while listening to an idiosyncratic mix of Tom Waits & the Amélie soundtrack). At first glance the recipe appears dramatic & lengthy but, if you take on each component individually, it's completely approachable. The cake is an experience. It's devastatingly rich...beyond anything I've ever made. I will have euphoric dreams about this cake for a very long, long time.

blood orange & clover honey marshmallows | une gamine dans la cuisine
orange buttermilk cake + dark chocolate orange frosting | une gamine dans la cuisine

My mother loves homemade marshmallows (she always snatches up several bags of the edible clouds from Zingerman's Bakehouse). I made marshmallows from scratch before but, like all deliriously scrumptious things, I didn't want to have them too too often. Birthdays are meant for madness & overindulging. I love my mom (& I adore Tom Hiddleston). Since their birthdays fall around the same time, I thought it would be perfectly okay to court a little bit of madness, whimsy + over-the-top indulgence. Methinks Tom would fall in love with this candid amount of decadence, too.

orange buttermilk cake + dark chocolate orange frosting | une gamine dans la cuisine

The cake itself has a fleeting density that quickly gives way to a willowy light *kiss* of citrus. It would be clever with just about any frosting incarnation, but I can't imagine anything more intoxicating than the tango canyengue of orange & dark chocolate (dark chocolate + raspberry, mabye?). I found this inventive Wellesley fudge cake frosting adaption & personalized it by adding a splash of blood orange juice and using chopped Lindt intense orange dark chocolate bars in place of regular chocolate. Ladies & Gents, you seriously have to try this. It's out of the stratosphere! I'm slowly distancing myself from traditional buttercream because it's too sweet (and boring). This recipe is a lush vacation from the mundane world of frosting ...I think it's even better than last year's arduous-yet-fabulous, German buttercream. As noted in the recipe, the frosting hardens slightly after the cake has been frosted, but it's easily reawakened after a few cosy seconds in the microwave. 

blood orange cake with dark chocolate + blood orange frosting | une gamine dans la cuisine

Getting back into blogging feels...awkward. It might take a while to regain a smooth stride (right now I'm clinging to the wall!). My writing voice is hoarse & tentative; please bear with me if posts are still a bit spaced out and disconnected (what's new?).

Winter always induces quirky, chronic dreams. Lately I'm riding a Vespa through the Patagonian desert, my only companion is an 8" tall, celery green elephant who lives on Scottish shortbread, lamingtons & honeyed yoghurt. Upon reaching the coastline, I find Tom Hiddleston (of course) sitting on a Morris chair in the middle of a corduroy-lined beach, playing Françoise Hardy's "Voilá" on guitar...to a rookery of happy penguins.Of course, in classic Valerie form, shyness takes over and I remain at a safe distance. Even in dreams I'm a sleeve-tugging, lip biting wallflower. Maybe next time...

I do wish for an 8" celery green, lamington-loving elephant, too.

blood orange cake with dark chocolate + blood orange frosting | une gamine dans la cuisine


blood orange + honey marshmallows

1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
small *pinch* of salt
2 teaspoons confectioners' sugar
3 room temperature egg whites
1 1/2 Tablespoons unflavored gelatin (2 packets)
1/3 cup fresh squeezed blood orange juice
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
grated zest of one blood orange
2 Tablespoons clover honey
1 teaspoon pure almond extract
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar (for coating)

method
In a small bowl, whisk together corn starch, salt & confectioners' sugar. Line a 9 x 13" baking pan with parchment paper. Butter the bottom + sides & coat entire pan cornstarch/sugar mixture; set pan aside.

Place egg whites in stand mixer bowl, fitted with whisk attachment.

In a small bowl, sprinkle gelatin over blood orange juice (gelatin granules should be evenly damp).

In a medium size, heavy-bottom saucepan, combine granulated sugar, orange zest, honey and 1/2 cup water. Bring to a boil over med-high heat, carefully brushing down sides of the pan as needed. As soon as the mixture starts boiling, insert a candy thermometer. When syrup reaches 230 F, start beating the egg whites on med-high speed. Continue whites until the cooking syrup mixture reaches 245 F. {Note: if the whites begin to form soft peaks, turn off the mixer until syrup is ready.}

Remove syrup from heat and quickly whisk in gelatin/juice mixture until completely dissolved.

With the stand mixer running on med-high, slowly add about 2 Tablespoons of hot syrup to the egg whites (this will temper the eggs). Turn the mixer to high speed & slowly stream in remaining syrup. Add almond extract and continue beating until the meringue is just cool to the touch.

Spread meringue into prepared pan, using an offset spatula to smooth out the surface. {Note: try to work fast, as the meringue will begin to set rather quickly.} Let the pan sit, uncovered, at room temperature for about 2 hours.

Sprinkle work surface with 1/2 cup confectioners' sugar. Run a knife around edges of the pan and turn marshmallow onto surface. You can slice marshmallows into squares, or use various cookie cutters. If marshmallows are too sticky, toss them into a bowl of confectioners' sugar (about another 1/2 cup) until coated.

Loosely covered, marshmallows can be stored at room temperature for about two days.

adapted from food & wine


buttermilk + blood orange cake
makes three 8" round cakes

2 cups granulated sugar
grated zest of two blood oranges
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup unsalted, room temperature butter
4 room temperature eggs
1 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 cup room temp. buttermilk
1 Tablespoon fresh orange juice
1/2 cup room temp. sour cream

method
Preheat oven to 350. Butter three 8" round x 2" high cake pans. Line bottoms with parchment paper, butter the parchment, then dust entire pan with flour.

In stand mixer bowl, combine granulated sugar and orange zest. Use your fingertips to rub the zest into sugar until moist & aromatic; set aside to "marinate."

In a separate large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda & salt; set aside.
In another bowl, whisk together the butter milk, orange juice & sour cream; set aside.

Add butter to the orange-infused sugar. Using the paddle attachment, beat on med speed until fluffy (about 5-8 minutes). Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition + scraping down the bowl as needed. Add almond extract and beat on med-high speed for about 5 minutes or until batter is light and voluminous.

Using a large rubber spatula, fold in the flour mixture and the buttermilk mixture in 3 additions, beginning and ending with the flour (try not to overmix the batter). Divide evenly among prepared cake pans.

Bakes for 25-30 minutes or until cake tops are springy to the touch and a toothpick inserted through the center comes out with a small bit of crumb. {Note: rotate cakes once during baking time.}

Remove cakes from oven and place onto cooling rack. Cool for about 50 minutes before releasing cakes from pan and removing parchment paper. Well covered, the baked cakes can be refrigerated for two days.

adapted from the vanilla bean blog


dark chocolate + blood orange frosting

3 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
1/2 cup dark cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened to room temp. and divided in half + cut into eight pieces.
1 1/2 cups dark brown sugar, firmly packed
1 cup half & half cream
1 Tablespoon fresh squeezed blood orange juice
4 ounces Lindt Intense Orange Dark chocolate, chopped

method
In a large mixing bowl, sift together the confectioners' sugar, cocoa powder, and salt; set aside.

Have your stand mixer bowl nearby (but not yet hooked up to machine). Have the whisk attachment on hand, too. 

In a large, heavy-bottom saucepan, combine 1/4 cup (4 Tablespoons) of butter, brown sugar, cream and orange juice. Stirring over med-low heat, cook until lethargic, small bubbles develop. Reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring often, until mixture thickens up a bit and turns deep golden brown (about 6-10 minutes, depending on the heat).

Pour mixture into stand mixer bowl. Add remaining pieces of butter (4 Tablespoons), cream and orange juice; stir till butter is melted. Add chopped chocolate and stir until smooth. Attach bowl to stand mixer and, using whisk attachment, slowly beat in confectioners' sugar/cocoa mixture on low speed until well combined. Once everything has been added, turn mixer to med-low and beat for about 30 seconds.

Stirring time to time, allow frosting to come to room temperature. Refrigerate bowl for about 20-30 minutes or until frosting reaches a spreadable consistency. {Note: if it hardens too much, whip it up again with the stand mixer.}

adapted from sifting focus


assemble to cake; place one cake layer onto desired serving plate. Use an offset spatula to frost the top. Don't be shy with the frosting, there will be a lot to go around. Repeat with remaining two cake layers then frost the edges. Garnish cake with marshmallows and sprinkle with sifted cocoa powder (if desired).

Tip: even though it firms up, the frosting remains lush and rich. For an even more sensual experience, place a slice of cake in the microwave for about 15 seconds (this reawakens the frosting's naughty, messy nature).

orange buttermilk cake + dark chocolate orange frosting | une gamine dans la cuisine

46 comments:

  1. This cake and this post have my heart. I know I say this over and over but you have such a captivating way with words -- it inspires me every time I read. So glad to see you back, Valerie! And with such a stunning, decadent masterpiece of a cake!

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    1. Thank you, Cynthia. That means a lot coming from you (I'm constantly ogling your food photos)!

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  2. What a scrumptious cake! And those marshmallows are simply exquisite. I have a feeling your mom adored this cake (& so would Tom!) :)

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    1. hehe! Thanks, Laura! My mom loved the cake to the point of borderline selfishness...which was a huge compliment, I guess. :D

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  3. What a stunning cake! What a terrific gift to give to your mom. Loving the marshmallows and super stunning photos!

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  4. Tom should be beating down your door for a slice of that cake--I know I'd mud-wrestle my own mom for a piece! :) Welcome back to Blogland.

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  5. What a beautiful cake and a beautiful post. I think an unexplained absence is ok. Life sometimes calls for a break. As for being rusty??? You haven't lost a beat. Your writing is beautiful and wistful as always. Xo

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  6. So, SO gorgeous, Valerie!!! And beautifully, cozily written, as always. Your writing makes me want to lounge on a couch under a dreary winter sky and have quirky daydreams...while delving into a slice of this luscious cake of course. Talk about a picture-perfect gift!!

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    1. Quirky, mid-winter daydreaming is surprisingly therapeutic. :-) Thanks for the sweet words!

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  7. Oh, Valerie, it's wonderful to have you back. Nobody writes like you do. Your cake is lovely and your prose is even lovelier. Welcome back - and happy birthday to your mom (and Tom).

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  8. What a beautiful blog and what a generous gift to your mom. I love to have a piece of that wonderful cake.

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    1. Thanks, Gerlinde (what a lovely name!). I wish I could share a slice of this everyone; the world could use a slice of cake right now.

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  9. I can never decide which is more gorgeous - your words, recipes or photographs. So happy we can have it all.

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  10. A beautiful cake and lovely pictures. Happy Birthday to your mother!

    Cheers,

    Rosa

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  11. Awww, I just love this post, Valerie! Happy birthday to your mom... and Tom Hiddleston :) <3 (also, your photos are gorgeous)

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    1. Thanks, Abby! (Maybe the cake post will find its way to Tom. Someday). :-)

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  12. Welcome back! Blogging hiatus is totally understandable - we all need it; but glad that you are back! And you came back with a vengeance! Love how beautiful (and beautifully styled) your cakes are! I want in on this one! Also, good tip about microwaving the cake for a few seconds to 'loosen' up the chocolate frosting!

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    1. Thank you, Jen. Yes, a break was very much needed. It feels good to feel good about blogging again.
      (I never thought I'd use the word microwave on my blog!) :D

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  13. I am so relieved that you're back!
    I made this cake as soon as I saw it, and IT. IS. AMAZING. (my family and friends agree) Well done, Valerie, well done.

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    1. Thank you. Thank you, Emma!
      I'm so happy everyone loved the cake!! I always worry that people won't feel the same way about a recipe because I tend to get *slightly* over-excited about baking. :D

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  14. your photos are perfection <3<3 love your blog

    https://aspoonfulofnature.wordpress.com/

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  15. I have missed your posts for a long time and so happy to see you back! Blood oranges and chocolate are a match made in heaven and you created such a wonderful cake here.

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    1. Thank you, Nik! I know I'm behind on blog visits, too. :)

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  16. I watched a vampire movie with Tom Hiddleston last night and... I kind of get it now :)

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  17. This looks delicious! I hope your mother enjoyed her cake. I'm definitely going to have to try this recipe out!

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  18. Can I just point out how beautiful are these pictures <3 LOVE IT

    https://aspoonfulofnature.wordpress.com/

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    1. Thanks, Anna! A lot of noshing took place behind the scenes.

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  19. Welcome back (you WERE missed)! And ah this cake, so gorgeous!

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  20. Absolutely gorgeous! Your words, the cake, stunning!

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  21. Your mom is a lucky lady. This cake is everything a birthday cake should be. I've been eating blood oranges like candy. I'll be sad to see them leave.

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  22. Looks delicious! I'm going to be making it for my birthday as well! Quick question, concerning the icing, when adding the ingredients to the saucepan is it 1/4 of a cup of everything listed or just the butter? Thanks :)

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    1. Just the butter. I'm elated to hear that I'm not the only one who makes their own birthday cake! :-) Hope you enjoy it as much as I did. xoxo

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    2. Thanks! It was delicious, I'll definitely be making it again! All my friends and family raved about it. Might become a new tradition :) I made it with normal oranges as I could not find any blood oranges! Seems as though I will be forced to make it again with the blood oranges to see if it as good! ;)

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  23. help! Ingredient list says baking powder; instructions refer to soda. WHICH IS IT??? thanks!

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    1. Oops! Sorry about that. It's baking Powder. xoxo

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Thanks for visiting, and for taking the time to read through my ramblings!
If you have a recipe comment or question, I'd love to hear from you.

Happy Baking!
♥ Valerie

 

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