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!