On Saturday afternoon, JJ and I went to a family party. JJ's dad is one of 5 boys, I can't imagine what his mom went through! I was assigned to bring a dessert to the party, but wasn't sure what everyone would like. When we were at JJ's birthday dinner, his mom suggested I try making Big Grandma's Orange Cake. I never had the opportunity to try Grandma's cake, she passed away almost 4 years ago and I had only met her a few times. However, when Mom mentioned the cake, JJ and his brother both said I had to try it. There had been a few attempts by other family members, but it didn't turn out exactly right. Since they know I'm a decent baker, they figured I'd be up for the challenge!
Well, I did them proud! The cake is a simple sponge cake, baked with orange juice rather than milk or water. The filling is an orange curd, and the icing is a basic buttercream, again with orange juice rather than water or milk.
I didn't want to change the integrity of the cake as it's famous and I was trying to perfect it, but I did make a few adjustments to boost flavor and help with the scientific portion of the recipe. For example, Grandma used self-rising flour, but I'm not a fan, so I opted to use cake flour and add leaveners. I also added vanilla to give a little more flavor to contrast with the in-your-face orange notes. Finally, I made the curd a more traditional recipe and used a bit less to fill my layers as JJ told me at times, all you could taste was the sweet filling. Oh, and I was told mine was a bit fancier looking with the little white royal icing orange blossoms and a piped border!
Even if you're not a fan of orange cake, I'd still try the curd on toast or an english muffin. I love lemon and lime curd, but the orange was so different in a very good way!
Grandma's Orange Cake
2 1/2 cups cake flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups sugar
2/3 cup canola oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups orange juice
Sift together flour, baking powder, soda and salt.
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together sugar, eggs, oil and vanilla on medium speed for 2 minutes.
Alternately add flour mixture and orange juice, starting and ending with flour.
Beat until just combined.
Pour into 3 8" cake pans lined with parchment, greased and floured.
Bake for 25 minutes, or until a toothpick through the center comes out clean.
Cool in pans for 10 minutes, then cool on a baking rack for another 30, or until the cakes come to room temperature.
Orange Curd Filling:
2 cups orange juice
1 cup sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 cup cornstarch
2 egg yolks
2 tbsp. butter
Bring orange juice and sugar to a simmer in a small pot, turn to medium heat.
Whisk together sifted cornstarch and egg yolks.
Add 1/4 cup of the hot juice to the eggs and cornstarch, whisk to create a slurry and temper.
Add the slurry to the pot of juice, whisk over medium heat.
Continue to whisk until mixture becomes thick.
Remove from heat, whisk in salt, then whisk in butter 1/2 tbsp at a time.
Place in a glass dish, cover with plastic and refrigerate until chilled.
1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup butter flavored shortening (use if cake will be in heat, if not, use all butter)
2 lbs. confectioners sugar
1/4 - 1/2 cup orange juice (I squeezed in the juice from the orange I zested)
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. orange zest
Cream together butter and shortening, add salt, vanilla and zest.
Keep mixer running on low, add powdered sugar 1/2 cup at a time.
Squeeze in orange juice when icing gets too thick.
Continue to mix until all of the sugar is mixed in, adding orange juice as necessary.
Icing should be whipped and spreadable but not too wet.
Use immediately or refrigerate until using.
(I used about 2/3 of the icing to create a 1/4" thick layer of buttercream on the cake)
To assemble, place a cake on a plate, pipe an icing border around the edge. Fill with 1/2 cup orange curd. Add another cake layer and another curd layer. Top with final cake and ice with buttercream.