This thing with the cakes, it is now firmly rooted as a family tradition. This is the memory that will stay with my son on his birthdays, I hope, – that his mom baked cakes for every one of his birthdays no matter what (except for one year when I was too sick to do anything).
It’s been chocolate every year. In my quest to expand his palate, every year around his birthday, I have this same conversation with him.
“So which flavor would you like ?”
“You have had chocolate every year? How about pistachio?”
I know my son well, so was rightly expecting this very outcome. Letting go of my desire of baking him something exotic like a pistachio and anise cake, I made this good old chocolate cake. There is always another year.
You people who bake cakes with eggs have it easy, let me tell you. When baked without eggs, the texture and the structure of the cake is rather finicky. Since our move to India I’ve had to bake them without eggs as none of the elderly folks in my family eat eggs. How I miss my Genoise….
The eggless journey has been turbulent to say the least. All these trials and tribulations has made me more pious for sure. I now start my baking with a little prayer to the baking gods. Judging by what turns out of the oven, they don’t seem to be a very attentive lot.
This day, the gods, it seems were somewhat attentive, the cakes came out rather well. Everyone who had it loved the flavor and texture, which is indeed the main concern when baking eggless cakes. None remained for the next day and that to me, is the real test – if no one comes around for a second serving, you need to work the baking gods some more.
Chocolate and Oranges together is a classic. You cannot go wrong with this flavor combination. This is a two tiered cake with a lovely soft texture. The batter includes orange zest which gives off that heady citrusy aroma that wafts throughout your house as you bake. The cake is also doused with orange syrup which enhances the taste, smell and also softens the texture.
The strawberries were used fresh to add texture and because my son likes them. I wasn’t sure of combining orange and strawberry, however they tasted great together and added yet another dimension to the cake . Given that chocolates and strawberry are also a classic combination, perhaps it is not altogether surprising that the flavors worked. Anyhow if strawberries are not at hand (and they are not easily available in this part of the world), you can skip them and do fine with just oranges.
The cake was filled and frosted with a simple fresh cream and cocoa frosting with orange zest, flavored with a hint of grand marnier. The cream was stabilized with confectioner’s sugar. The layers are thin enough that there is only one layer of frosting between the two cakes. I have used a 9inch and an 8inch round cake pan, but the recommended is to use two 8inch pans.
The recipe is adapted from Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook with some modifications.
All purpose flour – 2 1/2 cups
Dutch processed cocoa powder – 1 1/4 cups
Sugar – 2 1/2 cups
Baking soda – 2 1/2 teaspoons
Baking powder – 1 3/4 teaspoons
Salt – 1 1/4 teaspoon
Vanilla extract – 1/2 teaspoon
Grated zest of two oranges
Milk – 1 cup
Vegetable oil – 1/2 cup
Warm water – 1 cup
Yogurt – 1/4 cup
Preheat oven to 350F or 180C.
Prepare your cake pans by lining them with parchment. Butter and flour the pans. For chocolate cakes I usually use cocoa to coat the parchment instead of flour.
In the bowl of your mixer sift together the flour, cocoa, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
Mix all the wet ingredients and the orange zest together.
Use the paddle attachment, turn on the mixer on low and mix the dry ingredients for a few seconds.
Now add the wet ingredients and continue mixing on low until smooth and combined for about 2-3 minutes.
Divide the batter between the two pans.
Bake for 35-45 minutes or until a cake tester inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean. Do rotate the pans at the midway point during baking.
Once out of the oven, transfer them to a cooling rack and let them cool in the pan for about 30 minutes. Then get them out, invert, peel of parchment and reinvert cake to cool completely.
Once cooled soak them with the orange syrup. Fill and frost as desired. The cake can be baked the previous day and stored in the refrigerator. Once frosted, chill in the refrigerator for at least an hour and is best used the same day.
Orange Juice Syrup
Fresh orange juice – About 1 cup
Sugar – as per your taste, start with about 2 teaspoons
Grand Marnier or another orange liqueur of your choice – 1 tablespoon
Combine the juice and sugar. Slightly warm on low heat until the sugar melts. Take off the heat and add the liqueur.
Use the syrup to soak the cake while still warm
Fresh Orange Cocoa Cream Frosting
This is a very light chocolate flavored frosting. Since the cake was already chocolate, I wanted the main flavor to be that of orange. The cocoa and the cornstarch in the confectioner’s sugar stabilizes the whipped cream and makes it easy to pipe.
Fresh cream – 2 cups
Cocoa powder – 2 teaspoons
Confectioner’s sugar – 1/4 cup to 1/2 cup – Depending on your taste adjust the sugar quantity. I find that the sugar I get here is much less sweet than in the US.
Orange zest – 1 teaspoon
Grand Marnier or another orange liqueur – 1 teaspoon
Refrigerate the mixer bowl and beater for at least 15 minutes. Have all the ingredients cold too. Place all the ingredients in the bowl and whip until stiff peaks form.