Sunday, January 26, 2014

Orange Chiffon Cake with Creamsicle Frosting

The kids were off of school again today because of snow. I don't mind, really. We're at that golden age where they still love me, but they don't need me every minute. I know it won't last. But for today, I'm grateful.

Also today, this.

A huge crate of juice oranges arrived in the mail. Which meant that I was totally lying when I told my husband at breakfast that I was making a chocolate-peanut butter cake. Luckily, we've been married a long time, so he never believes a word I say.

I still have plans to make a chocolate-peanut butter cake with ombre icing next week. But I watched the best instructional video ever on ombre icing yesterday, so obviously whatever came out of my kitchen today would be ombrelicious.

Because I am having a guest this Friday who cannot eat dairy, I was doing a dry run for a chiffon, layer cake. Chiffons are an old-fashioned cake with no butter or milk. People either love them, or think they taste like the kitchen sponge. If you don't love them, make any yellow or white cake you like and add orange zest to the batter.  It's a free country!

But do try the frosting, which tastes the way you remember Orange Creamsicle bars did when you bought them off a white truck on a summer day. Have you tried buying those bars from the grocery store lately? Gross! What happened? We tried six different brands in August, and each one was vile in its own, unique way. It's true, you can never go home.

But you can always bake cakes!

Orange Chiffon Cake
6 large eggs, separated
3 teaspoons orange zest
1/2 cup orange juice
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup sugar, divided
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
2 cups cake flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

two 9" round cake pans
baking spray with flour

Creamsicle Frosting
3 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup marshmallow fluff
zest of one orange (optional)
1/4 cup orange juice
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
5 1/2 cups powdered sugar
3 tablespoons milk

gel food colorings (optional)
offset spatula
glass of hot water
several paper towels

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 (325 convection) and cut out wax paper circles to line the bottoms of cake pans.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, orange zest, 3/4 cup sugar, and salt until the mixture is thick and slightly lighter in color. Mix in juice, oil and vanilla. Gently whisk in the cake flour, baking powder and baking soda.
  3. In the bowl of a stand or hand mixer, beat the egg whites with the cream of tartar on medium speed until foamy. Add remaining 1/4 cup of sugar, and beat the whites on high speed until they hold a stiff peak, about seven minutes more.
  4. Stir one third of the whites into to the yolk mixture. In two additions, gently fold in the remaining whites, trying not to beat out the bubbles. 
  5. Spray the cake pans with baking spray, divide the batter between them, and bake until the tops are light brown and spring back when touched, approximately 35 minutes. Unless your kitchen is miserably hot already, turn off the oven and open the door, letting the cakes cool down slowly for another five minutes. Invert onto cooling racks, pull off wax paper, and cool completely.
  6. Level the tops of the cake with a serrated knife.

*Note: A crumb coat is the thin layer of frosting applied to the cake before actual decoration. You let this coating harden for half an hour in the fridge to keep errant crumbs from marring the frosting. Do not skip this step! Chiffon cakes shed crumbs like mad! Take this time to tint the frosting, load the dishwasher, and make sure the kids haven't killed each other.

Healthy lunch, no?

  1. Using the paddle attachment, beat the butter, fluff and zest on high speed for two minutes.
  2. Beat in 1 1/2 cups of powdered sugar, then half the orange juice. Repeat, using up the juice.
  3. Beat in additional 1 1/2 cups of sugar, then vanilla and 2 tablespoons milk, then one more cup of sugar.
  4. Adjust consistency with remaining sugar and milk. You're aiming for something smooth and spreadable, without huge air pockets.  
  5. Arrange three pieces of wax paper on your cake plate, and put one layer in the middle. Spread a thin layer of frosting on this, and put the other layer on top.
  6. Crumb coat the cake with a fine layer of frosting, evening out the sides as much as possible. Chiffon cakes do shrink into odd angles. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  7. If you want to try the ombre decoration, divide the frosting among three bowls. Using gel colors, tint one orange and one pink, leaving the third white.

  1. Remove cake from the fridge. If you have a revolving cake stand, now's the time for it.
  2. Spread the orange frosting over the top of the cake, leaving a wide lip hanging over the side.
  3. Spread the pink frosting around the bottom layer of cake. No need to be neat here, just get it stuck on.
  4. Spread the white frosting around the upper layer of cake.
  5. Using a small, offset spatula held perpendicular to the plate, begin smoothing pink into white layers, scraping excess frosting off spatula, dunking it in hot water, and drying on paper towels every few strokes. This will stop your colors becoming overblended, and keeps the surface smoother.
  6. Repeat with orange and white. Don't get carried away trying to smooth it out or you'll end up muddying the whole thing.

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