I started baking orange cake as a hobby a decade ago, which eventually becomes a favorite item on the menu in our restaurant.
I am happy to share with you how to make my delightful orange cakes, which sells. This recipe is a derivation of the pound cake, make with only pure orange juice and zests. It is a no-frills recipe, emphasize on the technique, the formulation. This simple recipe is packed with an irresistible flavor and guaranteed a full indulgence of the taste buds.
You will expect to read a long article because I want to explain the recipe in detail. Please read before attempting the recipe. Most of the information is in the text, not the abbreviated recipe.
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Part 1- The ingredients
The first step to make this orange cake is to remove the butter from the refrigerator. Do this first because it takes time for the butter to soften, and only soft butter can form good buttercream.
Cut each block of butter (250g/8oz) into eight or nine pieces. Place the butter slaps in the mixing bowl.
Always start with this step to let the butter soften before beginning the creaming process. I do not cut the butter into small pieces. By the time I get the rest of the ingredients ready, the butter has already fully softened.
Through my experience, I found out that only soft butter can produce the fluffiest buttercream, which can trap more air in the sugar/butter mixture to create the lightest possible orange cake.
Castor sugar is ideal as it is fine enough to dissolve quickly to form a homogenous cream that is light and fluffy.
You can also use the granulated sugar, slightly bigger granules. You need to mix the sugar and butter longer to get the similar fluffy result.
I want to clarify the amount of egg as mentioned in the recipe.
Eggs are graded according to the size. Therefore, it is best to mention the exact weight of the egg in the recipe instead of how many eggs are used.
The eggs I get from my vendor is about 50g each excludes the shell. Our kitchen staffs are so used to digital scales that we measure everything with it, inclusive liquids like water, milk, and eggs.
I strongly suggest that you get a digital weighing scale with accuracy down to one gram. I am speaking from my experience working in the restaurant for more than a decade. It helps to standardize all the recipes, and take everyone out of the guesswork how much exactly is a cup, a tablespoon, etc.
There is so much flavor in the orange zest that it is a waste if you do not include into the cake.
I will use the zest from all the oranges for the cake. That means it is more convenient to zest the oranges before juicing them.
The orange zest should be finely minced. Run the chef knife over the zest to mince it to ensure there are no large pieces is present. This process takes some extra time, but I think it is worth it. I believe that none of my customers like to chew on any larges pieces of orange peel. So far I have not encountered any negative feedback regarding this after so many years.
I used 80g of orange juice per cake a few years ago but increase to 95g this year to make it moist and soft without affecting the stability and texture.
Sometime there will be some pulp in the juice, which is calculated as part of the amount I want.
The above ingredients will determine the underlying flavor of the orange cake.
Adding almond nibs (and other ingredients) is to enhance the taste, and as the garnish for the orange cake.
I add about 20g of almond nibs to the batter and another sprinkle another 5g on the surface. Adding almond nibs is a welcome addition to my customers. You can use other nuts for the same purpose.
My previous version of the orange cake is decorated with chocolate chips on the surface. You can purchase the ready-made chips, or prepare your own.
Put the block of chocolate in the refrigerator until it hardens. Cut the chocolate with a sharp knife into thin slices, then turn ninety degrees and cut them into cubes. Since the hardened chocolate is brittle, it will shatter into small chips during the second cut.
I use the plain cake flour which contains about eight percent of gluten. If you use self-raising flour, check the content clearly as it includes a certain percentage of baking powder. You have to omit the baking powder in the recipe if you do so.
I prefer to add 1% of salt to the plain cake flour. That means if I use 100g of flour, I will add 1g of salt. Please make sure you are using unsalted butter, or you will end up an orange cake that is too salty.
The standard amount of baking powder is between 1% of and 4% of the flour. Most people will sense the weird taste of baking powder and a feeling of roughness on the tongue if it exceeds this amount. I am quite sensitive to baking powder and can taste it even it is around 3%. That is why I only use 2%, with a satisfactory result.
The cake will still rise properly even without adding baking powder if the creaming of butter and sugar is done correctly.
I will not use baking powder for a basic pound cake. Nevertheless, the presence of orange juice will cause the battle runnier, and baking powder is handy to ensure the cake to rise properly.
Watch the videoRead on: Watch the video recipe at the end of this post
Part 2- Breaking down the process of making an orange cake in detail
Measure the amount of each ingredient
Measure the quantity of butter, cut it into large chunks and leave it in the mixing bowl for at least half an hour. I am living in a tropical country with room temperature close to 30°C throughout the year. You may need to wait longer in the cold season before the butter turns soft.
Once the butter is soft, add the castor sugar and starts the mixing process. The optimum amount of sugar should between 80% and 120% of the flour weight. A higher amount of sugar will result in a more tender cake. (Sugar is the tenderer for cake). I finally settle the amount of sugar at 80%, as most of my customers prefer a less sweet version.
Some of my customers still think that is too sweet, but I politely decline to reduce further because the orange cake will lose its tenderness.
The most critical step- mixing
Mixing is the most critical step which I will elaborate in details.
When to start mixing. The best time to start mixing is when the butter is sufficiently softened. If the butter is too cold, it will trap less air within the butter/sugar mixture. Soft butter can trap more air and able to form a very fluffy cream. The air will expand in the oven and push the cake upward to create an adequately raised cake.
The duration of mixing. Mix the butter and sugar until there are no visible changes to the degree of fluffiness. The endpoint should be light, creamy and looks like a slightly soften ice cream.
The time to reach this point depends on the speed and the shape of the mixing attachment, the volume of the butter and sugar. When I make four cakes (i.e., 4x of the recipe below) with a large mixing bowl, it takes at least five minutes to reach a state where there is no visible increase in the fluffiness of the cream.
The mixing attachments. The wire whisk is the most suitable mixing attachment for the creaming process. (My mixer comes with a wire whisk (for cake), the blade (for making the pie) and the dough hook (for making bread). Some smaller mixer may not provide the wire whisk attachment. In that case, you have to use whatever is available. You will need a longer time to achieve the same degree of fluffiness.
The mixing speed. I start missing the sugar and butter with low speed because some blocks of butter may still not fully soften. High speed at this stage may exert too much force to the mixer blade.
Once the sugar is partially mixed with the butter, turn to high speed all the way as it yields a better result.
Add the egg only after the butter/sugar has to turn into a fluffy cream.
If you have a powerful mixer, pour all the eggs into the cream, and continue mixing at high speed. If your mixer a less powerful, divide the egg liquid into two or three portions. Pour the first portion into the cream and mix until there are no noticeable strands of eggs. Continue adding the remaining parts.
Add the orange juice.
Add the orange juice and continue mixing it until homogenous.
Making the orange cake is quite simple. All you need is keep mixing and mixing, but pay attention to the speed, visual appearance, and the fluffiness of the batter. That is the key to get the perfect result.
You need to mix it until homogeneous before proceed to the next step. It may take three to four minutes depends on the speed of the mixer and the volume of the batter. If you are unsure, mix for an additional four or five minutes. There is no harm to do so.
Adding the flour, salt and baking powder
The batter is a bit runny at this moment, which will become thicker once you add the flour.
Make sure the speed is now switched to low, as rapid mixing will create gluten in the batter which will toughen the cake.
Prolonged mixing creates gluten. That is why if you knead the bread dough for at least eight to ten minutes, it will turn to a springy, elastic ball. If you are interested in making bread, I have a Japanese milk bread recipe with a light and cottony texture.
Some people want to minimize the formation of gluten by hand mixing the flour into the batter. I find that using the lowest speed of your mixer is working well too. The endpoint of mixing is when all the flour has incorporated into the batter, NOT longer than that. This step is to minimize the gluten formation and the potential outcome of turning it into an elastic mass. It may only take one minute or less depends on the volume of your batter and the size of the mixing attachments.
It is also when you need to add the salt and baking powder.
Most of the baking powder nowadays are double-acting. However, I found that it will lose its leavening power if you set aside the batter for more than an hour.
Mixing in the almond nibs and orange zest
Add the almond nibs right before panning. Give it a few stirs. Do not overmix the dough.
Part 3- Baking
I mentioned earlier that mixing is a crucial factor for a perfect cake. It is difficult to quantify, as every mixer behaves differently.
Similarly, baking is the next important factor. I have spent more time to investigate the behavior of my oven than my mixer. (Imagine I have two identical ovens, and the actual temperature is not the same!)
So I have to make peace with my oven and acknowledge that each of them behaves differently, even they are the same modal.
That also means it is next to impossible to guarantee to bake successfully by following the temperature and timing mentioned in any recipe. This uncertainty happens because you are using your oven at home, and the recipe creators use theirs.
However, you can start testing by following the temperature and timing suggestion in this recipe, and adjust when necessary.
“175°C/350°F top and bottom temperature for 60 minutes.”
If you are lucky, you may get it right first time. If not, you may need several rounds of testing until you understand the behavior of your oven.
Size and type of the cake pan
I use 8×8 inches square cake tin for this recipe. You can also use the 8-inches in diameter round cake tin, but the height of the cake will increase by 20%.
Through my observation, this type of butter-rich cake tends to crack at the top. (You will find many crack top pound cake on the internet). The cake tends to crack at the center if I use round cake tin. I do not have the scientific answer for that, but the crack never happens once I change to the square from round cake tins.
Lining the cake tin
What happens if the cake gets stuck to the bottom of the cake tin after baking?
You can avoid this frustrating moment by placing an oiled baking paper in the cake tin before pouring the batter into the tin.
There is no need to line the sides as the cake will shrink and detach from the sides.
The best cake tins are those with a detachable bottom or springboard cake tins.
Remove the cake from the cake tin.
Remove the cake from the oven. Let it rest at room temperature for at least five to ten minutes.
It will shrink just a little and detach from the side. You do NOT need to run a knife between the sides and the cake. If you use a cake tin with a detachable base, invert the cake on a cake board, give the cake a gentle push, and it will fall out from the cake tin together with the base. Remove the base and invert that cake again onto another cake board.
This article explains how I make the orange cake in detail. It may not be the ‘textbook’ method, but that is based on years of testing and adjusting. It is actionable and yields results. This is the basis of how to make the basic cake, and how to dress up the cake with frosting and decoration is only limited by your imaginations.
Watch this video
A picture worth a thousand words, a video worth a thousand images.
This video will show you how to prepare Orange Cake. (6.32 minutes)
(Note: If you encounter any audio / visual problem of viewing this video, you can view it from YouTube by clicking this link, which will open in a new tab)
The Orange Cake Recipe
- Zest the orange. Finely chop the orange zest.
- Ge ready the orange juice.
- Cut the unsalted butter into large pieces. Keep in the mixing bowl until it turns soft.
- Add the sugar into the mixer, start creaming the butter and sugar at high speed until it becomes fluffy and light.
- Add the egg and orange juice. Continue mixing until homogenous.
- Change the mixing speed to low. Add the salt, baking powder and flour. Mix for one minute.
- Add the orange zest and 2/3 of the almond nibs.
- Scrape down the flour from the side of the mixing bowl. Continue mixing for another one minute.
- Remove the mixing bowl from the machine. Hand mixes it once again for the final round.
- Place an oiled baking paper in the cake tin with a detachable base before pouring the batter into the tin.
- Smoothen the batter with a spatula. Sprinkle the remaining almond on top.
- Tap the cake on the working surface to remove any bubbles, if any.
- Bake at 175°C/350°F top and bottom temperature for 60 minutes.
- Remove the cake from the oven.
- Invert the cake on a cake board, give the cake a gentle push, and it will fall out from the cake tin together with the base. Remove the base and invert that cake again onto another cake board.
You may also need the following items for this recipe:
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