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Saturday, March 12, 2016

The Cakey Kiss of an Orange with a touch of Dark Chocolate n Fennel

An intense Orange Cake with layered Orange Curd, fennel flavored whipped cream on top n Dark Chocolate shavings 

The goodbye of the winter comes with the disappearance of fresh oranges slowly from the local market n I never wanna say goodbye to oranges, partly because citrus are one my favorite flavors n aroma and because oranges are oranges n I just love the color orange. In fact my favorite color is yellowish orange which reminds me of the sun at dusk n dawn n fire n off course the oranges themselves. So before the oranges say goodbye I captured them in this cake-hoping this recipe would last forever n please us time n time again.

I have memories of making orange cake before, possibly last year I made them in my sister’s home-orange cupcakes n I have memories of reading about orange cakes from one of my favorite cookbooks-Recipes from a Provencal Kitchen by Michel Biehn n Bernard Touillon n I used to imagine the aroma reading that recipe n the description. But my cake comes from my experience of flavors that go well with orange, in my cake I have used fennel seeds known as ‘Mouri’, ‘Saunf’ in Bengali n Hindi respectively, this spice is aromatic with a soft aniseed flavor n it goes well with both orange n chocolate.

So the cake formed itself in my mind and I was looking for an opportunity to incorporate these flavors into the cake, so I slightly roasted the fennel seeds n pounded them until smooth n I mixed them into the cake batter and later on I used the same powdered form into the whipped cream. I was also looking for opportunities to produce a real soft light cake –that will mean incorporating air into the batter in many ways so the cake comes out light as a dream.

So there are many ways to incorporate air into a cake batter- we can use leaveners, we can use whipped egg whites to give more air, we can use more sugar while creaming the butter n sugar together, we can use heat while beating the eggs to stabilize them holding more air-so in this cake I whip the egg whites to almost stiff peak and then folded them into the batter. I creamed the sugar n butter very well for a good 7 minutes until it became really light n pale.

 I used fresh orange juice in the cake which is an acidic ingredient, so I used Baking Soda to react with that acid n produce air bubbles n therefore making the cake light, I also used Baking powder which reacts in 2 parts, once as it comes in contact with water, second when it goes inside the oven-the heat initiates another reaction producing more air bubbles.

I wanted the cake to speak of orange mainly with background flavors of fennel n dark chocolate, for that I used the orange zest because that has the essential oil n fragrance of orange which is so very beautiful, and how will I make a good orange cake without either the orange zest n the fresh orange juice!

And there is more, the two layers of the cake hold a sweet secret- a beautiful delicious orange curd, rich with egg n butter n orange. It kicks the orange flavor to a new height; at the same flavor it provides moisture.

When you bite into the cake you get this amazing orange flavor, then in the background you experience this subtle flavor from fennel seed and once in a while a little dark chocolate comes n seduces you but you never lose your focus from orange…it’s a beautiful bite-every flavor is in harmony n married to each other.

So now I will take you to the recipe.

For The Recipe: You will need

For the Cake Batter:
Orange juice- 2 medium sized, peeled, seeded n juice extracted
Orange zest- zest of 3 oranges grated on a grater/zester
Butter- 150 gm, at room temperature, unsalted
Cake Flour/All purpose flour-150 gm, sifted
Caster Sugar/Powdered sugar- 150 gm
Eggs- 3 at room temperature, yolk n white separated
Lime juice- ½ tsp
Baking Soda- ½ tbsp
Baking Powder- 1 tbsp
Fennel seed- 1 tbsp, slightly roasted n powdered
Salt- 2/3 pinches, skip salt if butter is already salted

For the Orange Curd:
Orange juice- from 1 orange
Orange zest- from 1 orange
Eggs- 2 medium eggs
Sugar powdered- 30 gm
Butter- 50 gm, at room temperature

For the Fennel Whipping Cream:
Whipping cream Dairy/Soy- 300 gm
Fennel seed- 1 tbsp, slightly roasted n powdered to smooth
Sugar- 40 gm superfine sugar, skip sugar if your cream is already sweetened

Pre-heat your oven at 180 Celsius/350 Fahrenheit
You will also need Dark chocolate shavings- you can do this with a big Chinese chopper, cutting the bar really thin n the stripes roll themselves as you slice them really thin or with a sharp knife scrape along the bar and you will see rolled up shavings coming out.

1. Begin by lightly buttering your 8 inch cake tin n layering the cake tin with baking parchment paper n also butter it, in a big bowl cream together the powdered sugar n soft butter with a big whisk or electric hand mixer or stand mixer, do it for a good 6/7 minutes and the mixture will go light n pale, we are trying to incorporate as much air as we can at this stage.
2. After that add egg yolk no.1 n beat it in really well until the mixture is uniform, then add yolk no.2 n do the same, then add yolk no. 3 n do the same. After that add the oranges zest and mix it in well, then add half of the orange juice and slowly whisk it in until the batter becomes smooth again, then add the rest half and do the same.
3. In a big clean airy bowl take the 3 egg whites n add the fresh lime juice into it, then start beating it with a wire whisk or electric hand whisk or stand mixer with whisk attachment, first it will go to ribbon stage , then it will form soft peaks, then it will go towards stiff peak, when the egg white is at soft peak stage that is when you lift them with the whisk they don’t stand straight , add 1 tbsp of powdered sugar and whisk on, after 1 minute add another tbsp of sugar and whisk, soon they will reach to stiff peak when they will just begin to hold their shape, stop at this stage. We don’t want to reach full on stiff peak stage because after that the egg whites will have no more capacity to expand any more when they go inside the oven. We want our egg-whites to expand further in the heat of the oven, so we will stop just as it reaches stiff peak, just there- this is important.
4. Take the creamy sugar, butter, egg yolk mixture- sift the flour and the baking powder together and mix with the whisk until it becomes a uniform mixture, don’t do it for a long time, just as the batter becomes uniform it is done, add the powdered fennel seed powder and mix it in, then take 1/3 of the egg white and vigorously beat it in the cake mixture to loosen it up for30 sec, then take a silicone spatula and take another 1/3 of the egg white n softly carefully fold it in by going in a rotating motion from the outside of the bowl towards the centre, lifting up the mixture and cutting through when you go in again, rotate the bowl with every lift, do the same with the remaining portion of the egg white. Finally sift the baking soda over the batter, spreading it everywhere as you sift and again mix it well. Then pour the batter in the cake tin, place the tin on a baking tray and put it into the hot oven for about 35-40 minutes.  Every oven behaves in a different way, so keep an eye on the cake, after 35 minutes the top of my cake had no color, so I put the top grill on and I gave it 2-3 minutes more and the top became golden brown, test it with a skewer by inserting it into the cake n it should come out clean, when you touch the cake it will spring back and you will see the sides of the cake shrinking from the metal tin.
This is one of the characteristic of cakes done with folded egg white that when done the cake shrinks from the side of the pan. So now put the cake pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes, then take the cake out and place it on the wire rack to cool down. The cake needs to cook completely so that we can slice it, once cool the cake needs to go into the refrigeration to firm up for 4/6 hours so that we can slice it in 2 parts.
5. For the orange curd, prepare a water bath, pour water in deep bowl n make it come to simmer, then mix the orange zest n the sugar together in a medium bowl, then add the orange juice n mix well, then whisk the eggs in another bowl then add to the orange mixture n mix well, add the room temperature butter to the mixture and place this mixture  over the simmering water bowl making sure this bowl doesn’t touch the surface of the water, whisk constantly for the first five minutes, then whisk every 1 minute so that eggs don’t scramble, if the heat if becoming too high you feel lift up the bowl n control the temperature, then bring it back n stir often, after 20 minutes this mixture will thicken n go pale, this is orange curd, pour it into a bowl n let it cool.
6. Now we will whip the chilled cream, the cream needs to be chilled so that we can whip it to its full volume, so chill the cream in the fridge for 12 hours before you whip it and chill the bowl n the whisk for 2 hours if you are using dairy cream, if using soy cream you can skip it, so whip the cream until it begins to hold shape which is stiff peaks, then add the fennel powder and whisk it in, set aside in the refrigerator.
7. Now we will assemble the cake, take the cold cake out of the refrigerator, with a sharp big knife give light cut marks along the perimeter of the cake first to devide it in half, then as you rotate the cake cut a little into the cake, in this way you will get a smooth slice of the cake , carefully lift up the top layer and then take the orange curd and smear it generously over the bottom layer with a palette knife, then place the top layer carefully over it, then take the whipped cream and smear it over the surface with the palette knife and then put some of the cream in a piping bag and pipe over the cake into a beautiful pattern-just the way you like it,
Take the dark chocolate shaving and arrange it over the surface-in between the piped designs or just the way you like it, then drop some of the remaining orange curd over the piped cream, finally slice some orange cloves and open them up and place them over the cake and hey there! It seems you are done.

Now you can eat the cake but I will suggest you place the cake in the refrigerator for 1 hour, so after an hour take the beauty out and first show it to everyone, create the anticipation, then gather everyone and keep a sharp knife ready, slice through the beauty with uttermost love and then it approaches your lips...the moment, let it kiss you and then you get the taste, you get the aroma. Sooooo good right! Bon Appétit.

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