The Co-op had lots of ripe, sweet Valencia oranges a few weeks ago. A bounty of former orchards ripened in our back yards and there will be more. We literally gave them away in a box in front of Co-op HQ for any interested passers-by. My family’s birthday calendar and my culinary strengths (baking and preserves) happily coincided with this Co-op surplus. I made this cake twice in 10 days, and I recommend it to you as it is the happy confluence of easy and delicious.
Basically, this cake is excellent by itself and amenable to your ideas. It is so simple that you probably have the ingredients in your kitchen right now. It takes about an hour.
2 1/4 c flour
1 1/2 c sugar
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
zest of 2 large or 3 small oranges (just the orange, not the white pith)
1 c orange juice (you can use the juice of those zested oranges, and add water to reach 1 cup)
4 ounces melted unsalted butter (1 stick), cooled
- Preheat the oven to 350°. Spray two 8-inch round cake pans with vegetable-oil spray and line the bottoms with parchment paper. Spray the paper too.
- In a large bowl or the bowl of your electric stand mixer, mix the flour with the sugar, baking powder, salt and orange zest. Mix well at medium speed, then beat in the eggs, juice, and butter until blended, about 2 minutes. Divide the batter between the prepared pans and bake for about 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of each cake comes out clean. Let cool in the pans for 10 minutes, then invert the cakes onto a rack to cool completely. Peel off the parchment paper.
- Either fill with fresh chopped strawberries, mangoes, or whatever you like, or make an orange curd filling.
- Orange Curd: In a medium saucepan, combine a cup of orange juice, 1/3 c sugar, 3 tbsp flour and about 2 tsp orange zest. Keep whisking constantly over heat until the mixture thickens and starts to boil. Take off the heat and whisk in a hefty tbsp of butter. Set aside to cool with a piece of plastic wrap over the top to prevent a skin forming.
- Italian Meringue Icing: This is a treat that my family loves, as it is lighter than a buttercream and really attractive. My grandmother Nonny made a wonderful 7 minute frosting, and this is right along that line.
- In a small saucepan, bring 1 cup sugar and 1/3 c water to a boil to the soft ball stage, or 240 degrees. (You will need an electric mixer for this, or someone to help.) Meanwhile, beat 3 egg whites with a pinch (1/8 tsp) cream of tartar to the soft peak stage. While you are beating the egg whites, slowly pur in the hot sugar syrup and beat continuously for about 8 minutes, until the meringue is smooth and glossy.
- To assemble the cake, split the layers and fill with the orange curd, then frost. I decorated this one with lemon balm leaves and a geranium flower. It is not overly sweet or rich, but fresh and yummy.