There has been a lot of cake-making around these parts lately. Over the holidays, I made several cakes for a Kickstarter campaign, and then came the holidays themselves, a time when all things cake flour and butter-laden are welcomed with open arms. Since then, birthdays have come and gone, and, as per usual, there was cake-making involved. So far I have already made four cakes during the month of February, and the month is only two-thirds over.
It’s a good thing I like making cakes.
It is also a good thing there is an abundance of citrus available at the market right now, since there are few things I enjoy as much as a nice, tart citrus fruit. As luck would have it, this month’s most recent cake was a freestyle sort of affair, meaning that after I was recruited to make the cake, I was then told that I could make whatever sort of cake I pleased, so long as it somehow incorporated citrus and cream. Well, ladies and gentlemen, done and done.
A fortuitous discovery of this great recipe for orange curd via The Kitchn made me all the more excited to dress up this cake of choice. The fact that blood oranges are so wonderfully in season made me giddy with anticipation. In my mind, I was envisioning a bright orangey-red filling, a sweet and tart balance to the rich and buttery layers of cake nestled above and below. As you can see, my vision was not entirely fulfilled. Yes, the blood orange curd was delicious—as tart and creamy as I could ever hope for—but, clearly, what you see before you is not so much bright or intense in hue, but rather what I can only brand as being “Barbie-worthy.” Entirely by accident, I managed to construct a pink princess cake. Pardon me, a delicious pink princess cake.
I am, of course, perfectly fine with this. In fact, I now feel as though, if ever called upon to make a birthday cake for a small child who favors princesses—or perhaps even an adult who is a proponent of pink—I will have a top-notch cake in my arsenal of offerings.
Butter Cake with Blood Orange Curd
Adapted from the long-departed Caprial’s Restaurant
This cake recipe defies all cake-making logic by having you beat the batter extremely well as you add in the dry and liquid ingredients. Your cake-making instincts may tell you to only mix this batter lightly until things start to come together, but ignore those instincts and just keep beating things together really well until the batter is smooth and mostly lump-free. I know it might feel wrong, but just do it. The smooth texture of the batter really works wonders in this cake, strange as it may seem.
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 ½ cups granulated sugar
4 large eggs
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
¾ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon baking powder
3 cups cake flour
1 cup whole milk
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease two 9-inch cake pans and line the bottoms with rounds of parchment paper.
Place the butter and sugar in a large bowl, or the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat together on high speed, scraping down the sides of the bowl often, until the butter and sugar are light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Turn the mixer speed down to low and add the eggs one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl and mixing well after each addition. Add the vanilla and mix well, again scraping down the sides of the bowl.
Sift together the salt, baking powder, and cake flour.
Add about one half of the dry ingredients to the butter mixture, then beat on low speed until well blended. Add about one half of the milk and beat well. Add the rest of the flour mixture and beat until mixed well. Add the rest of the milk and continue to beat well until the mixture is completely combined.
Divide the matter between the prepared pans and bake until the cakes spring back when touched lightly in the center, 25 to 35 minutes. Allow cake to cool in pans for 10 minutes before inverting onto cooling racks to continue to cool completely.
Blood Orange Curd
Adapted from The Kitchn
1/2 to 3/4 cups orange juice from 2 blood oranges
zest from one orange
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 large egg
2 large egg yolks
1/4 cup granulated sugar
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into chunks and softened
pinch of salt
Pour the orange juice into a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring the juice to a rapid simmer and let it reduce down to approximately 1/4 cup. This should take 2 to 4 minutes.
Transfer the orange juice to a bowl or cup to cool. Stir in the zest and lemon juice.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg, yolks, and sugar. When the orange juice has cooled to room temperature, whisk it into the egg mixture in a steady stream.
Place a clean bowl with a strainer over the top next to the stove.
Pour the egg and juice mixture back into your small sauce pan and set it over medium-low heat. Stir slowly but constantly until the mixture has thickened to a pudding-like consistency, about 4-6 minutes or until the mixture is just under 180 degrees F.
Immediately remove from heat and strain the mixture into the clean bowl to remove the zest and any bits of cooked egg. (Alternatively, you can leave the zest in the curd for a chunkier texture.) Whisk in the butter and the pinch of salt while the curd is still warm. Continue to whisk until mixture is completely smooth.
Remove orange curd to a small bowl. Lay a sheet of plastic wrap over the surface of the curd (to prevent a skin from forming), and refrigerate until cool, at least one hour.
Makes roughly 1 cup of orange curd.
To assemble the cake:
When the cakes have fully cooled, brush off any loose crumbs and lay 1 cake on a large plate. Spoon all of the orange curd in the center of the cake then, using a spoon or a small offset spatula, gently spread the curd on top of the cake, leaving a 1 to 1 ½-inch border around the edge. Lay the second cake layer on top of the lemon curd, pressing down very lightly to ease the curd over the perimeter of the bottom layer. The lemon curd will eventually drip down the edges very artfully. Just go with it.
Top with a generous layer of whipped cream.
Note: The orange curd does not supply the most stable of bases for the top cake layer, so I suggest you shore up the cake’s structure by sinking two or three skewers, cut to just higher than the height of the assembled cake, into the cake to keep it from sliding apart.