I'll start from the beginning: I was making this cake as a test for my annual prime rib Christmas dinner with friends. Since sweets are my thing, I try to make something different every year.
Next I started making the icing, it seemed simple enough, but once I started I realized you needed an electric hand mixer so you can beat it while it's on the stove. I only have a stand mixer. So my simple 7 minute icing turned into 15 minute hand whipped icing. My arm still hurts.
I started putting together the cake, my layers now cool and ready. I spoon on the whipped orange-chocolate ganache, set the next layer on top. I started frosting the cake, but the frosting had dried a bit and become marshmallow-like in consistency; so I was picking it up with my (clean) hands and smearing it on. About this time I realized the ganache was melting, turning into pudding.
So I'm sitting at my kitchen table, my hands covered in frosting and the filling is pouring out the sides of the cake. I would imagine this is the point where most people give up and throw the thing in the trash. But no, for some reason, the first thing I thought was to salvage it some how.
I start scraping off the icing, then I pull off the top layer, the filling running through my fingers, yelling at the dog to not lick it off the floor, praying that it doesn't break in half. Of course, the ganache didn't just spoon off; it splattered, gooped, making the biggest mess possible. I had pudding-y mess all over my table, counters and floor.
Cue tears and laughter. It was just so ridiculous.
I was still determined to make it work though. I set the top layer back on and made some fail safe buttercream.
I still can't believe it came together in the end. Though it wasn't what I had imagined, it was beautiful and delicious, despite all the mishaps.
It strikes me that the holidays are a lot like this too. Crazy, messy, potentially disastrous, but so much fun and absolutely beautiful. I wish you lots of adventures in the kitchen this Christmas, and please, please make sure your oven is on when you stick your cake in!
Here's the recipe for the cake, the buttercream and the candied oranges, which are so, so delicious. Fill this with whatever you'd like - orange marmalade would be great!
2 (4-oz.) bittersweet chocolate baking bars, chopped
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 2/3 cups granulated sugar
1/3 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
3 large eggs
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 (8-oz.) container sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup hot brewed coffee
1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour 2 (9-inch) round pans. Line bottoms of pans with parchment paper. Lightly grease parchment paper.
2. Melt chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl at HIGH 1 1/2 minutes or until smooth, stirring at 30-second intervals.
3. Beat butter and sugars at medium speed with a heavy-duty electric stand mixer until well blended (about 3 minutes). Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating just until blended after each addition. Add melted chocolate, beating just until blended.
4. Sift together flour, baking soda, and salt. Gradually add to chocolate mixture alternately with sour cream, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Beat at low speed just until blended after each addition. (Mixture will be thick.)
5. Stir vanilla into hot coffee. Gradually add coffee mixture to batter in a slow, steady stream, beating at low speed just until blended. Pour batter into prepared pans.
6. Bake for 38 to 42 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pans on a wire rack 10 minutes. Remove from pans to wire rack, and let cool completely (about 1 hour).
Spread Filling between layers, spreading to edges of cake and leveling with an offset spatula. Gently press top cake layer down. Spread Frosting over top and sides of cake. Swirl frosting using back of a spoon, if desired. Top with Candied Oranges.
2 large navel oranges, thinly sliced
2 cups sugar
1/2 vanilla bean, split
1. Bring 4 cups water to a boil in a 3- to 3 1/2-qt. saucepan over medium-high heat. Add oranges. Return to a boil; cook 5 minutes. Transfer oranges to a parchment paper-lined jelly-roll pan, using a slotted spoon; discard water.
2. Combine sugar and 2 cups water in saucepan. Scrape seeds from vanilla bean into water; add vanilla bean to water. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until sugar is dissolved. Add orange slices. Return to a boil; cover, reduce heat to medium, and simmer 10 minutes. Uncover and cook, stirring occasionally, 35 to 45 minutes or until rinds are softened and translucent.
3. Remove oranges, using tongs; arrange on parchment paper-lined jelly-roll pan, folding oranges as desired. Blot with paper towels. 4. Pour syrup through a fine wire-mesh strainer into a bowl, reserving syrup and vanilla bean for another use. Discard solids. Let oranges stand 15 minutes.
Vanilla Orange Buttercream
3 cups confectioners' sugar
1 cup butter
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon orange extract
1 to 2 tablespoons milk
1. In a standing mixer fitted with a whisk, mix together sugar and butter.
2. Mix on low speed until well blended and then increase speed to medium and beat for another 3 minutes. 3. Add extracts and milk and continue to beat on medium speed for 1 minute more, adding more milk if needed for spreading consistency.
Honey & Jam
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(Imagse: Hannah of Honey & Jam)