For whatever reason I HAD to make a tiny little cake yesterday. I couldn't sleep last night until I used my tiny heart shaped mold and produced an adorable mini-cake. I knew this meant I needed to make a full batch of cake batter for my miniature cake. Lunch plans were made with a friend of mine for Tuesday and voila-I have another reason to serve cake. Therefore the full batch could be put to good use.
I decided to make my mini cake and a loaf cake with the remaining batter for my lunch date. Perfect right? My Aunt Ruth gifted me an original copy of Grandma Rose's Book of Sinfully Delicious Cakes, Cookies, Pies, Cheese Cakes, Cake Rolls, and Pastries by Rose Naftalin. Mrs. Naftalin is the Rose of the famous Rose's Deli in Portland, Oregon. Last time we were in town we made a trip to Rose's in Northwest Portland only to find the deli closed!. I was heart broken. Rose's made the best Reuben sandwiches and desserts. It makes my ownership of her cookbook even more special. When we used to eat at Rose's I would scarf down an amazing sandwich as fast as I could to get to the best part of the meal. Dessert! But I didn't need to tell you that I like dessert.
Flipping through the amazing selection of cake recipes in Grandma Rose's cookbook I landed on a recipe for an Orange Butter Cake with an orange frosting. Have you ever made a citrus flavored cake? You should try it. I used to be a strictly vanilla or chocolate cake kind of gal but citrus confections are making their way to the top of my baking list these days.
I halved the recipe because it was straight forward and easy to do so. It's not a difficult cake to make but it does include the step where you separate the eggs and beat the whites stiff and then fold in the whites. It may take a bit longer but I have found that this technique makes for the most airy and delectable cakes. If you haven't taken the extra time to make a cake with this set of instructions you should. Having an extra mixing bowl for your mixer also makes it a lot easier so you don't have to move your butter mixture and wash out the bowl to beat your eggs.
Anyway, on to the recipe.
1/2 of Grandma Rose's Orange Butter Cake (this makes 1 loaf cake, and about 4 cupcakes. Double the recipe for three nine inch cake pans)
1 cup unsalted butter softened
1 cup granulated sugar
5 eggs separated
1 tsp vanilla
2 teaspoons Grand Marnier orange liqueur (this is the amount the recipe calls for when doubled but I wanted a nice rich orange flavor. If I doubled the recipe I'd use 4 tsps. This is where Grandma Rose's and my opinions differ).
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
2 cups flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder (at high altitude I used 1/4 tsp baking powder)
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease your pans thoroughly. Cream the butter and sugar together in your mixer. I like to beat the butter alone until it's fluffy and light in color then gradually add the sugar. Add the 5 egg yolks, one at a time beating after each one until combined. Add the vanilla and liqueur. Remove the bowl from the mixer and swap in a second mixing bowl with the 5 egg whites and cream of tartar. Beat the eggs until stiff. A good test is to remove your beater and hold it upright. If the egg whites don't droop it's stiff enough. Wiggle the beater to see if the egg whites will stay upright. Set the bowl of stiff egg whites aside. In a separate bowl combine the dry ingredients (flour, salt, and baking powder).
Bake the loaf pan for 1 hour, the mini heart pan for 22 minutes, the cupcakes for 20 minutes and the layer pans for 35 minutes. Allow to cool in the pan and then turn over to remove.
While the cake is cooling you can move on to the frosting.
Orange frosting (adapted slightly by me from Grandma Rose's original Orange frosting)
1/2 cup sugar
2 tsp light corn syrup
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/4 cup water
1 egg beaten stiffly
2 Tbsp fresh orange juice
2 tsp grated orange rind
1 tsp orange or lemon flavoring
1/4 cup powdered sugar
Place the sugar, corn syrup, cream of tartar and water in a sauce pan over medium heat. Hang a candy thermometer off the side of the pan. Stir just once and then let it bubble cook without stirring again until the syrup reaches a soft ball (238 degrees). While the syrup is bubbling away beat the egg until stiff and prepare your orange juice and rind. I used small mandarin oranges because that's what I had. I beat the egg using a hand mixer. When the syrup is done turn on your beater again and slowly pour a thin stream of the hot syrup in the egg white. Make sure to have the stream very slowly hitting the egg white as you are beating it in.
Notes: This is where things get tricky. It's helpful to have a second set of hands do the pouring while you beat. I usually do this step with my stand mixer so I can slowly pour the syrup in holding the hot sauce pan with two hands- and that's exactly what I did the first try of this frosting. Yup, the first time totally screwed up and I'll tell you why. In my big mixer, that one stiffly beaten egg sat at the bottom and when I poured the syrup in slowly I couldn't get it to pour directly on to the egg while the mixer was beating. Instead the syrup caught on my beater attachment and created this frustrating yet gorgeous web of sugar tendrils that just wrapped around my beater and hit the edge of the bowl. Do over!
That's when I went to the hand mixer/husband pouring method which worked just fine. I think if I doubled the frosting recipe the stand mixer would work since it would have twice the amount of eggs in the bowl to catch the syrup. I know this frosting step sounds tricky but I promise if you try once you will either fail miserably (as I did the first time a few years ago) and have to try again-which is no big deal OR you will succeed right off the bat and have a new appreciation for this type of icing. It is fluffy and has a gorgeous texture. It's much lighter than a butter cream. It tastes heavenly with flavoring like coconut, vanilla or lemon.
Make sure you have your beater on high to medium high when beating the syrup into the egg whites. Also make sure you don't wait too long to start this step. The soft ball sugar syrup will quickly harden as it cools so you want to start this process as soon as you reach soft ball. You will notice the eggs turning glossy white and that means it's working. Congratulations! Continue beating until you've added all the syrup and it's thick.
Beat in the orange juice, rind and flavoring. Taste it and add a touch more if you like. If the frosting is too runny add the 1/4 cup powdered sugar. The frosting definitely doesn't need the sweetness but in my case it needed a little thickening after the orange juice. If I did this again I think I'd add a really good quality orange flavoring and the rind and skip the orange juice so there wouldn't be a need to add the powdered sugar. In other egg white/syrup recipes I've made the icing gets really fluffy and can hold wonderful shape on the cake-big swirls and tall fluffy mountain peaks. This icing doesn't allow for that because of the added juice.
Let the frosting cool and spread it on your cupcakes or cakes. Top with a bit of grated peel for garnish. If doubling and making the three nine inch layer cakes, I'd recommend doubling the frosting so you have a nice layer of frosting in between each layer of cake and on top. The frosting is a tad runny (with the orange juice) though so be prepared for that drippy look out the sides and on top. I normally like a stiff frosting I can swirl and pipe on with a frosting bag and decorating tips. This was my first time purposefully decorating with the drippy look. I like it on my miniature cake and I think it will work nice on my loaf cake tomorrow too. Feel free to refrigerate the frosting and frost the cake the next day or right before serving if you want.
Justin and I couldn't possibly let those pretty little cupcakes sit uneaten. We dolloped on the frosting and dug in. The cake has a very light and airy texture with a delicious buttery taste. The orange of the Grand Marnier is subtle at the end of the bite. It's really delicious and not too sweet so it pairs nicely with the sweetness of the orange frosting.