Are you a glass half full or glass half empty kind of person? I have to admit that I, like Darth Vader, naturally swing to the darker side, BUT knowing my sinister ways, I try very hard to make a conscious decision to look at the bright side.
Lately, I feel like life keeps shoving me towards the light, helping me to become a more intrinsically positive person. Yesterday was my late grandfather’s birthday, and for his special birthday dinner he would always ask my mom to make her famous Orange Chicken and an Orange Layer Cake. As I was remembering him and wishing he were still here with us, I knew I had to make the cake.
This cake, with its rich and buttery citrus-y layers, smothered with creamy frosting and sprinkled with coconut is bright and cheerful and quite apropos for a self-proclaimed optimist like my grandfather. He was no mamsy pamsy optimist mind you. He was not simply a glass half full kind of guy. Instead, he tended more to think, “the glass may be half full now, but will surely fill up and runneth over momentarily”.
If only I could be more like him…or Sadie, my Golden Retriever. She is ever the optimist. Notice her trying to telepathically will the bite of cereal her way. She goes through her day sure everyone loves her (she is usually right) and everyone at OUR office is going to give her a biscuit (her muffin top proves this one correct) and that life is simply just going to go her way—and BOY does it!
This cake was going to be a bit of a Hail Mary. My grandfather’s favorite cake had come from a box mix in the 70’s. I searched the internet for a replica recipe and never quite came up with THE ONE. So, I did my thing, added my own bits and pieces to a basically good jumping off point recipe from Cooking Light, wished for a little luck and threw it together. After tasting a smidgen of the batter, I was feeling rather optimistic about the outcome.
Maybe his birthday was beginning to have a positive effect on me. As the cake cooled and I shaved off a bit of a layer to “even it out” (please translate that to sneak a bite), I nibbled and nibbled and then nibbled some more. I couldn’t help myself. It was positively d-i-v-i-n-e! The tangy burst of orange was perfection. Drenching it in a little orange simple syrup, frosting it with the cream cheese icing and sprinkling it with coconut could only make it even better.
I highly encourage you to make this very simple layer cake. I am all about honesty here, so I will have to admit that I ended up frosting this cake with a canned vanilla whipped frosting (for shame!) since I was very short on time, but feel free to click here for my cream cheese frosting if you want the whole shebang.
Orange Layer Cake
Inspired by Cooking Light and Changed-up by Me
3 cups sifted cake flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
9 tablespoons butter, softened
1 2/3 c. sugar
1 T. grated orange zest
2 teaspoons natural vanilla extract
1 teaspoon natural orange extract or you can leave this out if you don’t have it
3 large egg whites
1 large egg
1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1 1/4 cup low-fat buttermilk
1/2 cup low-fat milk
optional: two drops of red and three drops of yellow food dye if you want it a bit orange-y in color.
garnish: sprinkle with 1 c. of sweetened flaked coconut
1/3 c. granulated sugar
1/2 c. freshly squeezed orange juice OR Grand Marnier OR Cointreau (live it up folks!)
Frosting: Please click on cream cheese frosting from my Red Velvet Cake or just use a tub of whipped vanilla frosting from a can (gasp!).
To make the cake: Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Spray two 8 or 9 inch round cake pans with cooking spray. Then line both pans with parchment paper (you will always thank me for this extra step and you will never again have to pray before trying to release your cakes). Spray the lining with cooking spray as well and then drop a tablespoon of flour into each cake pan. Tap the flour around the sides and bottom and toss out extra into a trash can or into the sink. Make sure all parts of the pan are covered with a dusting of flour.
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together flour through salt. In the bowl of a stand mixer or in a separate bowl with a hand beater, beat the softened butter until fluffy and then add the granulated sugar. Beat again on medium speed until fluffy. Add the orange zest through the orange extract. Add one egg and three egg whites, one at a time, beating on low in between each egg. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the orange juice and beat on a medium speed until combine.
Mix the buttermilk and low-fat milk in a liquid measuring cup together.
Add 1/2 of the dry ingredients to the batter and combine on a low speed, scraping down the bowl. Add 1/2 of the milks to the batter and combine on low speed again. Repeat and beat on low speed, scraping down the bowl and beating until it looks smooth and all of the ingredients are incorporated. Divide the batter evenly among the cake pans and bake for approximately 25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean when tested in the center of each layer. Cool completely.
Make your cream cheese frosting or pop open the can in my case.
Decide which layer will be the bottom and which will be the top. With a serrated knife, carefully slice off the “dome” part of the bottom layer, exposing some spongy cake crumbs. Mix the orange juice (or liqueur) with the sugar. Poke holes in the bottom layer using the bottom of a wooden spoon. I poked about 6 holes. Don’t poke in all the way to the bottom or the syrup will just drain through. Just poke about half way through the layer.
Pour or baste the orange syrup over the bottom layer, neatly so as not to let it drip down the sides. Frost the top of the bottom layer (not the sides, there is not enough frosting for that). Place the top layer on the bottom layer and frost the top. Sprinkle with coconut flakes. Feel free to top with mandarin oranges or orange wedges and perhaps serve with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. That is sheer perfection. Enjoy!
January 18, 2013 at 3:10 pm
What a wonderful tribute to your grandfather, and a reminder that living in a “glass half full” frame of mind is both a choice and a great way to live! I love this cake. I love orange flavors. I must make this cake. Thank you for sharing it, Geni! Have a great weekend. 🙂
January 18, 2013 at 3:19 pm
Well aren’t you full of citrsy sunshine this month! I immediately checked to see if there was a bday soon to make this cake as it looks amazing! It’s baked so perfectly and I love how you decribed it as bouncey!!
Geni, I’m a wine glass half full girl and when its get low, I just fill it up again!! Have a wonderful weekend! P.s. Sadie is just too cute!!
January 19, 2013 at 7:35 am
Now, my total honesty must come forth. After reading your comment, I realized my words may have been more bouncy than the cake itself. It was definitely moist and rich, not dry in the least, but I wouldn’t describe it as a fluffy crumb so I felt that I mislead my readers. It is a Cooking Light cake so it is not quite as bouncy as I originally wrote although every bit as scrumptious as I described. My office devoured it yesterday and so did my family. Take care Linda!
January 18, 2013 at 3:58 pm
You should have read my mind as if 🙂 I want in these days orange cake… but this is so beautiful more what I want. I noted the recipe. Thank you dear Geni, seems so delicious, and I agree with lovely Sadie, should be smelling so nice… Blessing and Happiness to you all, love, nia
January 18, 2013 at 5:51 pm
This cake looks absolutely delicious 🙂 I adore orange cake in any form so I will have to make this. I have to confess to a little dark side, so whenever I feel like I’m in the glass is half empty mode, I give myself a mental kick up the butt and think about what I’ve got to be thankful for, my gorgeous family!
January 18, 2013 at 8:38 pm
Okay this is SO pretty! I need to try orange in desserts, I’ve never used it as an ingredient before! Pinned!
January 18, 2013 at 8:57 pm
That’s lovely my friend, a beautiful Remembrance and smashing recipe 🙂
Choc Chip Uru
January 18, 2013 at 11:51 pm
What a beautiful love filled post and tribute to your grandfather Geni plus your cake is a definite make, that’s for sure. Beautifully photographed!
🙂 Mandy xo
January 19, 2013 at 3:24 am
This cake looks absolutely fantastic!
January 19, 2013 at 7:17 am
My favourite photo is the one of your dog, hoping for some delicious scraps 🙂
January 19, 2013 at 8:32 am
Love Sadie’s nose photo! She sounds like our golden, who is also an eternal optimist. 🙂 I am a sucker for any kind of citrus cake, this would land on my plate for sure!
January 19, 2013 at 11:40 am
Such a great cake and wonderful way to remember your Grandfather, Geni! I bet he was quite a guy and, with that outlook, the perfect Grandpa. There’s just something about orange flavoring in baked goods that I really enjoy, whether it’s a glaze, frosting, or in the batter. It just makes the cake pop, like I’m sure it does here.
January 19, 2013 at 12:33 pm
The cake looks beautiful, Geni, and a sweet way to remember your opa.
I need to learn to be optimistic…my husband said that I see gray cloud everywhere and expect the worst..can’t help ;-(
January 19, 2013 at 5:29 pm
This cake looks so perfect, I think the coconut makes a fantastic addition and I’m sure that your grandfather would have loved it!!
January 20, 2013 at 2:20 pm
The cake is so pretty and sounds good! And cute photograph of your dog looks like he was enjoying the smells of this cake recipe 🙂
January 20, 2013 at 3:11 pm
This is a nice cake, in fact a summer cake. Good for us here down under. Yum!
January 20, 2013 at 7:03 pm
This is such a happy cake. For sure will make anyone happy and think positive after a slice, or two. 😛 Sadie is so adorable. 🙂 I’m sure no one can resist her charm!
January 21, 2013 at 8:38 am
What a great cake. I remember that chicken recipe well too. Oh and Sadie. What a cutie!
January 21, 2013 at 12:09 pm
What a beautiful tribute! Happy birthday to your grandfather 🙂
January 21, 2013 at 1:53 pm
Last year I was a glass half empty gal. This year it’s half full. I’m making a concerted effort. I love that you made your grandpa’s favorite cake in his memory. It looks and sounds like a good one! As you know I’m not a big cake baker, but every now and then. And I do love citrus cakes! So did Sadie get herself that piece of cereal. I would have willed it to her. How can you resist that face!
January 21, 2013 at 6:26 pm
Most of the time I am a glass half full…occasionally half empty 🙂
Your cake looks delicious and very summery…and the picture of Sadie is so so cute Geni.
Have a great week!
January 22, 2013 at 2:41 pm
You know, remembering my Grandpa is one of my favorite things to do. I’m glad you made this cake – partly because it looks amazing and I want to try it. But I think it’s the little things like this that help to bring them back just a little, and that’s always a good thing.
January 22, 2013 at 4:51 pm
Oh, Geni, how could I not feel optimistic and sunny when seeing such a pretty cake!! What a delightful surprise.. it says a lot about your Grandfather and I love that he knew his cup would runneth over.. it’s definitely an attitude I would like to aspire to.. and your cake goes a long way in making me feel that way!! Thanks so much 🙂 xx
January 22, 2013 at 9:23 pm
i am the same way when i make a layered cake! I eat the shaved parts til I am almost sick to my stomach! Its the most fun! I love this cake. I can just smell the orange citrus flavor through your pictures. It looks heavenly, delicious and what a wonderful sweet tribute to your late grandfather!
get ready- I am sending some cookies your way!
January 23, 2013 at 6:20 am
I am definitely looking forward to the cookies! 🙂
January 23, 2013 at 4:04 pm
What a beautiful tribute to your grandfather. He would want you to be happy and positive and of course give your adorable little puppy a slice of the cake as well. I know everyone is into chocolate but I love citrus cakes oranges and lemons are my favorite and yours looks sublime.
January 28, 2013 at 8:55 am
I love orange cake and this one looks fabulous! Yummy!
February 6, 2013 at 9:48 am
This looks yummy and makes me think of summertime. I love chocolate, but sometimes I like a little change too! Yum.
February 14, 2013 at 4:47 am
Looks absolutely delicious!