My idea of the quintessential birthday cake involves an impossibly tall three layer yellow cake filled with creamy chocolate fudge like frosting. The cake is crowned with a heavy hand of rainbow sprinkles and a respectable number of sparkling candles. The slices must be generous and it must be served with a tall glass of ice cold milk. My sisters idea of the perfect birthday cake is the complete opposite. The reason being she has about 1201 food allergies (I kid you not which is why eating with her is always an adventure - be forwarned potetnial suitors!) so when I was assigned the responsibility of producing a birthday cake that would satisfy Papa Bear and also cater to little sister's food allergies, I knew I was going to be challenged. I scanned a lot of food blogs, I researched all my cookbooks, I hemmed and I hawed and I decided that all of my typical go to cakes weren't going to work (the reason being about 95% of celebration cakes contain butter). I decide to challenge myself and kind of just wing it and rather surprisingly it worked better then I could have ever imagined. This cake which is almost-vegan (it has eggs) and 100% dairy free (a word that usually illicits fear in the minds of butter-lovers because it tends to scream "healthy") is wonderfully (and surprisingly) decadent tasting. The use of coconut milk in the frosting gives it a tang that you usually only get when baking with buttermilk. The cake itself has a subtle orange flavor which surprises me since it contains two whole oranges (peel and all!). The coconut and orange complement each other and pair perfectly with the rich dark chocolate frosting. The sprinkling of flaked salt keeps things super interesting. I must say, I wouldn't mind getting this cake on my next birthday.
Orange Cake with Chocolate Frosting and Flaked Salt
Recipe adapted from Desserts for Breakfast
Makes one 8x3 or 9x2-inch round cake
Ok! I adapted this recipe to suit the dietary needs of the Birthday girl. The cake didn’t really need any adapting except for an oil swap from olive oil to grapeseed oil since I thought a more subtle oil would work with all the coconut flavoring in the frosting. If you don not have any dietary restrictions (or if you prefer using more commonly found ingredients like regular butter over coconut butter) you can find the original frosting recipe on Desserts for Breakfast (whose blog I highly encourage you to look at since she takes the most beautiful photographs I have ever seen). Despite the frosting being vegan, Papa Bear gave it rave reviews and said it didn’t even taste vegan which coming from him is a huge compliment (the man loves butter).
2 medium-sized oranges
2 1/3 cups (467 grams) sugar
2 ½ cups (350 grams) flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 eggs, at room temperature
6 tablespoons grapeseed oil or other neutral flavor oil
2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
5 ounces (142 grams) unsweetened chocolate
8 tablespoons coconut butter (can be found at Whole Foods)
1 cup + 1 tablespoon (215 grams) sugar
1 cup coconut milk (not lite coconut milk)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Flaked finishing salt
Make the cake: In a pot bring 6 cups of water to boil. Trim 1/2-inch from the tops and bottoms of each orange. Once the water is at a boil, submerge the oranges and cook briefly, about 1 minute. Drain the oranges, discard the water, and repeat the boiling, cooking, and draining two more times.
Combine the blanched oranges, 1 cup (200 gr) sugar, and 4 cups water over medium heat. Cook for about 30 minutes while stirring frequently until the sugar dissolves and the orange rinds are fork-tender. Let cool until room temperature. Drain the oranges and remove the seeds. Reserving the cooking liquid for glaze.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour a 8 x 3-inch cake pan or 9 x 2-inch and set aside.
In a bowl, mix to combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
In a food processor, blend the cooked oranges (including rind) until a chunky puree. Add the remaining sugar, eggs, vanilla extract, and flour mixture. Process for 2 minutes until well-incorporated. Gradually drizzle in the olive oil and process until incorporated. Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan. Bake for 40 - 45 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out cleanly. Remove from the oven and let cool on a wire rack.
Meanwhile, mix to combine 2 tablespoons of cooking liquid, and orange juice. Remove the cake from the pan. Poke the top of the cake all over with a skewer or fork and brush the liquid on the cake. Let cool completely on a wire rack.
Make the frosting. Chop the chocolate and butter and set aside. In a saucepan, bring the sugar and heavy cream to a boil over medium heat. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 6 minutes. Do not let the saucepan overflow. Remove from heat and stir in the chocolate and butter until melted. Stir in the vanilla extract. Let the frosting cool completely, whisking occasionally during cooling. Once completely cool at room temperature, the frosting will be spreadable.
Sprinkle the frosted cake with finishing salt.