Sunday, February 8, 2009

Orange and Lemon Cake

All of Evan's family lives in our area, so we're able to get together about once a month for family dinner to celebrate one thing or another. Everyone brings a dish to share and we're most often tasked with dessert. I hadn't really thought of myself as a fancy baker: I've always made cookies and simple cakes. But in Evan's family, I'm proud to say I have a reputation for coming up with creative and tasty celebratory desserts. All of the cakes are un-iced, since I have a well-known aversion to frosting. We often will accompany the cake with homemade ice cream, though this dessert is paired with a simple raspberry sauce.

This month it's my and Evan's mom's birthday. I've frequently made this cake from Patricia Wells' Trattoria cookbook since navel oranges are supposedly at their peak around now and I do love a good orange cake. Wells says she likes it for breakfast and I can understand why! The only small changes I've made to the recipe are that I like to use whole wheat pastry flour (and haven't discerned that the final cake is negatively affected) and that the organic oranges were quite small so I decided to use two instead of one. I recommend using organic orange and lemon since the zest is such an important part of the recipe.

Wells really likes vanilla sugar, which is widely used in France and Italy for desserts. To make it, simply take clean 'spent' vanilla pods (use the inner seeds and pulp for another purpose) and plunge them in sugar to infuse it with vanilla essence. I rarely bother with this and use a combination of sugar and vanilla extract instead.

INGREDIENTS
1 orange (or 2 if the oranges are quite small)
1 lemon
3/4 c. whole milk (I've used milk with less fat but we always have whole in the house these days)
3 c. all-purpose or whole wheat pastry flour (or 15 ounces)
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
16 oz. (two sticks, 1 lb) unsalted butter, cut into pieces and softened
1 1/2 c. vanilla sugar (see note above) OR
1 1/2 c. (evaporated cane juice) sugar plus 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
5 large eggs
Powdered (icing or confectioner's) sugar for dusting if desired
Raspberry sauce (optional--recipe follows)

DIRECTIONS
  1. Preheat oven to 350 and either butter of flour the Bundt pan, use Baker's Joy or another flour/oil spray, or substitute something like Pam for the butter and flour the pan (the latter is what I did this time and, while I think butter tastes better than Pam, this couldn't be beat for ease of use. I had Baker's Joy but it kept clogging and so I got rid of it)
  2. Zest the orange(s) and lemon and set zest aside
  3. Juice the orange(s) and lemon and combine with the milk. Set aside so the milk with curdle
  4. Sift the flour, baking powder, soda and salt together into a large bowl. Add the zests and stir well
  5. Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy using a stand or hand-held mixer (or, if you're feeling brawny, your arms and a whisk)
  6. Add the eggs one and a time, mixing well after each one. Wells says (rightly) that the mixture will look rather curdled once the eggs are added and that this is expected
  7. Now add 1/3 of the flour and mix well. Follow with 1/3 of the curdled milk and mix
  8. Repeat until all of the flour and milk are incorporated
  9. Pour the batter into the Bundt pan and smooth it so the batter is evenly distributed
  10. Bake in the center of the oven for 45 to 55 minutes and check for doneness with a toothpick--if it comes out clean, the cake is done, even if the cracks seem moist
  11. Set the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes to cool, then use a knife to loosen the cake from the outside and inner ring of the Bundt pan (loosening from the center section is especially important and easy to forget)
  12. Invert the pan onto the cooling rack or serving plate and cool
  13. When the cake is room temperature, use a sieve to sprinkle icing sugar over the top
  14. Serve plain, with creme fraiche, ice cream, or raspberry sauce
RASPBERRY SAUCE
This simple recipe is adapted from Deborah Madison's Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone

INGREDIENTS
2 c. fresh or frozen raspberries
1/4 to 1/2 c. evaporated cane juice sugar
1/4 c. water
1 tsp framboise, kirsch or vodka if desired

DIRECTIONS
  1. Put raspberries in a bowl
  2. In a small saucepan, heat the sugar and water until the sugar dissolves completely and the mixture is clear with no grains
  3. Pour over the raspberries and mix in. Madison has you sieve the raspberries to remove the seeds first, but I never bother
  4. Add the liqueur (or liquor) to taste if desired. If you want to balance the flavor without adding alcohol, you might consider a touch of lemon zest or even orange zest if serving with the above cake

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