Bake an orange cake in Eagle County
Vail CO, Colorado
Editor’s note: Living in the Colorado high country is pure joy. Baking in it isn’t. High altitude makes cookies spread in the pan, cakes fall, and few baked goods turn out as they do at sea level. This twice-monthly column presents recipes and tips to make baking in the mountains successful.
Isn’t this a pretty little thing? And, it tastes just like it looks: Fresh, light and pleasant on the tongue. With a moist texture that is slightly less dense than a pound cake, a fine crumb and a nice citrus flavor, this orange cake would be a welcome addition at brunch, tea or dinnertime.
I like to accompany slices of the cake with orange segments (canned mandarin oranges work just fine), blueberries and a drizzle of blueberry coulis. If I’m in a hurry, I substitute blueberry jam, warmed and diluted with a little water or dark rum, for the coulis. Sweetened whipped cream flavored with Cointreau, Grand Marnier or orange oil also partners well with this dessert. Or, you can forego the whipped cream and drizzle Grand Marnier directly over a slice of the cake.
Make sure to bake this cake in a tube pan: a pan with a hole in the center. The batter needs heat from both the inside and outside to set properly at our attitude. Avoid silicone pans for this reason; they don’t conduct heat as well as metal or glass ones do.
Adjusted for altitudes between 8,000 and 10,000 feet.
Make in a 5- or 6-cup ring mol, or a 6-cup bundt or tube pan, preferably nonstick.
11⁄2 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled into measuring cup)
1⁄2 teaspoon plus 1⁄8 teaspoon of baking powder
A pinch of baking soda (about 1⁄16 of a teaspoon)
1⁄8 teaspoon of salt
8 tablespoons of unsalted butter (one stick) at room temperature
1⁄2 cup plus 2 tablespoons of granulated sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
3 to 4 drops of orange oil or 2 teaspoons orange zest, optional
1⁄2 cup of orange juice, preferably freshly squeezed
1⁄4 cup of orange juice
1⁄2 cup of confectioner’s sugar
Step one: Preheat the oven to 360 degrees (350 if you can’t set your oven to 360) with a rack in the center position. Spray the baking pan generously with an oil-flour spray and spread it evenly with a paper towel or grease and flour the pan well. This is an important step; if a cake sticks, it is usually due to problems with the pan’s preparation.
Step two: Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a bowl and whisk the ingredients to combine them well. Set the bowl aside.
Step three: Using an electric mixer, beat the room-temperature butter until it is light and fluffy. Add the granulated sugar and beat again until light and fluffy, scraping down the bowl as needed. This will take several minutes. Combine the two eggs in a small bowl or measuring cup, whisking until mixed. Make sure the eggs are at room temperature. (If necessary, warm them briefly at a low temperature in the microwave.) Add them gradually, drizzling a tablespoon or less at a time, into the butter-sugar mixture while beating it. When the addition is absorbed, add more. Scrape down the bowl and the beaters as needed. When the batter is smooth and very well combined, without any visible pieces of butter in it, reduce your mixer speed to low and stir in half of the flour mixture only until it is blended. Add the orange juice and stir, again, only until blended. Add the remainder of the flour and mix only until combined.
Step four: Spoon the batter into the prepared pan, leveling it as you do so. Tap the pan on a counter to settle the batter and eliminate any air bubbles. Bake until the top is light brown and firm to the touch and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with only a few crumbs attached. The time required will vary, depending on the pan you use. I use a shallow ring mold made of dark metal (which bakes more quickly than shiny metal) and my cake is usually done after 30-33 minutes in the oven. A deeper pan may take longer.
Step five: When fully baked, remove the cake to a cooling rack. While it is cooling make the glaze: Whisk the confectioner’s sugar into the orange juice, a quarter cup at a time, until fully combined with no lumps. The glaze will be thin. After about fifteen minutes, run a knife around the edges to loosen the cake, invert it onto the rack, and carefully remove the pan. Use a toothpick to poke holes all over the top of the cake (it will still be warm), about three-quarters of an inch apart, inserting the pick almost to the cake’s base. Brush a thin coating of the glaze all over the cake. Let the glaze dry and repeat. Then, let the cake cool completely. Serve or wrap well and store for up to three days at room temperature or freeze.
This is a variation of a recipe in “The Weekend Baker,” by Abigail Dodge.
Vera Dawson lives in Summit County, where she bakes almost every day. Her recipes have been tested in her home kitchen and, whenever necessary, altered until they work at our altitude. Contact Vera Dawson with your comments about this column and/or your baking questions at email@example.com.
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