As some of you know, I have a special place in my heart for a truly good cake. Done right, a beautifully frosted cake can be one of the tastiest treats on earth. And in my humble opinion, if you are looking for that one perfect cake recipe that sets the standard for all others, it is this amazing recipe I found in Bon Appétit magazine about 20 years ago. Again in my humble opinion, if the creator of this amazing cake, Selma Brown Morrow has not been given sainthood status by now, someone should be answering to St. Peter for this glaring omission. (All sacrilege aside, if ever there was a cake that should be categorized as heavenly, this is it!)
The cake part is deliciously moist, with just the right amount of orange flavor and subtle crunch from the miniature chocolate chips. Then top if off with the absolute best frosting you could ever wish to lick off a plate, and you have a dessert experience you will not soon forget.
Like I said, I have been making this cake for special occasions for a very long time. The first time I made it was for the 40th anniversary of our dear friends Dick and Eloise. I had asked them ahead of time if they would like me to build a cake for the celebration. And wonder of wonders – they said yes! So the evening of the get-together, we met at Dick and Eloise’s favorite Chinese restaurant. All of the extended family was present. Well, bottom line, I actually received a standing ovation from the assembly. That’s how fabulous this cake actually is!
The next time I made this cake for a special event, it required a bit of travel. Again dear friends were celebrating their anniversary, but this time, instead of taking the cake to Kirkland, I was serving it in Hood River, Oregon. Also to complicate the whole experience, I was staying in a hotel. So of course, being the gutsy female that I am, I asked the chef at the hotel dining room if I could store the cake in their refrigerator overnight. And because I asked so nicely, he said yes with one condition. His condition was that he got to have a piece of the cake as his reward. He liked it so much he asked if he could have a bit more to share with his staff. I made some new friends that day!
The last time I made this cake was for our friend Peggy’s 60th birthday party last evening. Again the cake was given rave reviews.
So if you too want to celebrate a special occasion with a homemade cake, give this recipe a try. I can’t think of a better way to show someone how much you care, then by baking them this amazing creation.
- 1 c. orange juice
- 1 oz. unsweetened or semi-sweet chocolate
- ½ c. (1 stick) unsalted butter
- 1½ c. sugar
- 2 lg. eggs, room temperature
- 1½ tsp. finely grated orange peel
- 2 tsp. vanilla
- 1½ c. cake flour
- 1 tsp. baking soda
- ¼ tsp. baking powder
- ½ tsp. salt
- 1/3 c. unsweetened cocoa powder
- ½ c. miniature semi-sweet chocolate chips
Combine 2 tablespoons of the orange juice with the unsweetened chocolate in a small saucepan. Stir mixture over medium heat just until chocolate melts. Remove from heat and gradually add the remaining orange juice. Set aside.
In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar together. Beat in the eggs, orange peel, and vanilla. In a separate bowl whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and cocoa powder. Add dry ingredients alternately with the orange juice mixture to the butter and sugar in three additions. Beat well after each addition. The batter will be quite thin. Mix in chocolate chips.
Pour batter into 1 greased, floured and parchment paper lined 9×13-inch pan or 2-8×8-inch greased, floured and parchment paper lined pans. (Trust me, the cake will not come out of the pan(s) unless you line them with parchment paper. The orange juice, peel, and chocolate chips are sticky, and even peeling away the parchment paper can be tricky! So go slowly.) Bake in a pre-heated 350 degree oven for 25-30 minutes or until pick inserted into middle of cake comes out clean. Place the pan on a wire rack and cool completely. Do not remove the cake(s) from pan(s) until completely cool. In fact, if you want to bake the cake one day and frost it the next, just leave the cake in the pan(s) overnight.
When ready to frost a single layer cake, carefully remove the cake from the pan. Place top side down on a paper cake board or platter (if you have one the right size). Carefully peel the parchment paper off the cake. Frost the top and sides.
When ready to frost a two layer cake, carefully remove one of the layers from its pan and place top side down on cake plate or platter. Slowly peel the parchment off the cake. Frost the top side only*. Carefully remove the second layer from the pan, peel off the parchment paper and place top side up on the frosted bottom layer. Frost the entire cake with remaining frosting.
To decorate, I like to use ivy strands, curled orange peel rind and fresh strawberry fans (when in season). (Directions for how to curl orange peel and make strawberry fans provided below.)
- 10 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
- ¾ c. (1½ sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
- 9 oz. good quality bulk white chocolate, like Ghirardelli (Winco carries bulk chocolate BTW)
- ¼ c. Cointreau (orange flavored liqueur)
Using an electric mixer, whip the cream cheese and butter together. Cut the chocolate into small pieces using a heavy butcher knife. Melt in the microwave and allow to cool to barely lukewarm. Gradually add the white chocolate to the butter and cream cheese mixture. Beat until smooth. Add the liqueur. Beat again. Use immediately.
Hint: Try using a setting of 275-300 degrees for melting chocolate in your microwave. Check and stir every 20 seconds or so until most of the chocolate has melted. Remove from microwave and continue stirring until no chunks of chocolate remain.
Curled Orange Peel Rind:
Using a channel knife, a kitchen tool with a flat piece of stainless steel punctured with a sharp hole through which you can cut a small groove in the skin of the fruit (see picture below), cut a long spiral length of orange peel. Then carefully wind the peel around one of your round handled cooking utensils (I use one of my wooden spoons), wrap with plastic wrap, and place in the refrigerator for a couple of hours to form. Gently remove the rind from the spoon handle and cut into desired lengths.
Slit strawberries with a sharp knife lengthwise about 3-4 times just to the top. Fan out as you place the strawberries on top of the cake.
*The original recipe calls for a ganache filling between the layers.
- ½ c. heavy cream
- 2 T. + ½ c. strawberry jam
- 4 oz. semi-sweet chocolate
Combine heavy cream and 2 tablespoons jam in heavy saucepan. Whisk over medium heat until jam melts and mixture comes to a boil. Remove from heat. Add chocolate and whisk until chocolate melts and mixture is smooth. Refrigerate until thick enough to spread, about 30 minutes.