Being the pessimist that I am, most of the time I convince myself that surely nobody reads this blog. I say nobody because my adoring mother and twinny simply don't count; they read it because a) they love me and b) they are acutely aware that I'd go into a hufflepuff with them if they didn't.
Convinced therefore that this blog is really just a self-indulgent pleasure that few people would ever take the time to read, I always go rather giddy with happiness when someone other than a family member tells me that they not only read my ramblings but enjoy doing so. So if I don't have the pleasure of knowing you and you are reading this (firstly you should probably count your blessings we're not related, I'm pretty certifiably loopy, and secondly) thank you, welcome and please don't be shy to say hello or post a comment as it means the world to me.
Anyway, the reason I am mulling over the 'reach' of this blog is because recently I began to wonder if actually, perhaps my influence is greater than I would have myself believe. Let me explain: I was going to begin this post with an apology because yet again I have baked something chocolate orange flavoured. Then events took a turn. You see, I watched The Great Comic Relief Bake Off and do you know, across four episodes, I counted at least four different chocolate orange flavoured bakes! Now not only do I feel vindicated for having been a lifelong advocate of all things chocolate orange, but based on absolutely nothing at all other than my own sad delusions of grandeur, I'm starting to think perhaps my blog is actually read by the whole entire universe and perhaps it inspired the Bake Off bakes. Perhaps the programme is proof - proof that I am a pioneer, a trend-setter, a veritable trail-blazer when it comes to the world of chocolate orange baking!!!
Okay, so in reality it's mere coincidence, but I think I'm going to carry on in my own deluded little bubble just a short while longer and pretend that maybe, just maybe, someone out there other than my doting mum does actually read my blog.
In the meantime, here's an unapologetic little chocolate orange something-something for you. I first saw this recipe on the blog Le Delicieux, where blogger Jennifer has adapted Ina Garten’s famous Beatty's Chocolate Cake into a chocolate orange cake. Jennifer fills and coats the cake with orange curd and dark chocolate buttercream, but I decided to fill and coat mine with orange curd and a light, mousse-like chocolate Italian meringue buttercream. Italian meringue buttercream is light and airy, almost like whipped cream, so it prevents the end cake being sickly sweet, but you do need a sugar thermometer to make it. To finish, I covered the whole thing with a chocolate orange ganache, which complemented the buttercream perfectly. The result was deliciously moist chocolate orange heaven!
For the cake (adapted very slightly from Le Delicieux’s chocolate orange version of Ina Garten’s Beatty chocolate cake):
- Butter for greasing
- 260g plain flour
- 75g cocoa powder
- 2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp salt
- 400g caster sugar
- 235ml buttermilk, shaken
- 125ml vegetable oil
- 3 large eggs
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- zest of one large orange
- 235ml freshly squeezed orange juice (you’ll need 2-3 large oranges for this)
- 180g of caster sugar
- 2 tsp of golden syrup
- 50ml water
- 3 egg whites (from large eggs)
- 300g of unsalted butter, at room temperature, and cut into cubes
- 100g of 70% cocoa chocolate, melted
- 284ml double cream
- 2 tbsp golden caster sugar
- Zest of one orange
- 200g plain chocolate (50-60% cocoa)
- Juice of half an orange
To make the cake:
Preheat the oven to 180C (160C fan) and butter two 8” round sandwich tins (or one deep 8" cake tin) and line base and sides with greaseproof paper.
Sift the flour, cocoa, bicarbonate soda, baking powder, and salt into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment/K-beater. Add the sugar and mix on low speed until combined.
In another bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, oil, eggs, vanilla and orange zest. Then, with the mixer on low speed, slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry.
With mixer still on low, add the orange juice and mix until just combined. The batter will be very runny - don’t panic, it’s supposed to be.
Pour the cake batter into your two prepared cake tins and bake for 30 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean.
Cool in the pan for 30 minutes, then turn out onto a cake rack and cool completely.
To make the buttercream:
Place the sugar, golden syrup and water in a saucepan and mix until well combined. Use a pastry brush to dislodge any stray grains of sugar from the sides of the saucepan before placing over a high heat.
Stir occasionally while heating and bring to a rapid boil. Once the syrup starts boiling, add a sugar thermometer and continue cooking until the mixture reaches 120C (248 Fahrenheit). As soon as it hits this temperature, remove from the heat.
Place the egg whites in the bowl of an electric mixer and whisk to soft peaks (they should look like foam).
With the mixer running at a medium speed, slowly pour the sugar syrup into the bowl, being careful not to touch the whisk (I find it easiest to dribble the syrup down the side of the inside of the bowl), and continue whisking. Now leave the mixture to cool for five or 10 minutes.
Once the mixture has cooled to room temperature, add the butter, one third at a time, and whip on a high speed until fully incorporated. Next add the cooled melted chocolate and keep whipping until the mixture takes on the consistency of whipped cream. Don’t panic if your mix resemble a milky soup at first, you need to turn your mixer to high and whip for a good ten minutes, maybe longer. Eventually it should all come together to a beautifully silky, soft whipped-cream consistency.
To make the ganache:
Break the chocolate up into pieces in a heatproof bowl.
Heat the cream, sugar and orange zest in a saucepan. Once the cream looks like it is about to start boiling, remove from the heat and pour over the chocolate. With a spatula or whisk, beat the cream and chocolate together into a glossy ganache, then add the orange juice and mix again.
Once you have baked and cooled your cake and made your buttercream, you can start to assemble.
Cut the two cake sponges in half so that you have four layers. Place your bottom layer on the plate you wish to serve the cake on. Spread a thin layer of orange curd (or marmalade if using this instead of curd) over the layer, followed by a layer of buttercream.
Place the next layer of cake on top and spread this time only with buttercream.
Place your third layer on the top of the bottom two layers and spread with a thin layer of curd and a layer of buttercream.
Finally place your top layer of cake on top of the previous layers and spread only with buttercream.
Spread your remaining buttercream around the sides of the cake to completely cover all of the sponge. Once you have done this, place the cake in the fridge to set for an hour or two.
Whilst your cake is setting in the fridge, you can make your ganache and allow it to cool to room temperature. Note that ganache thickens the longer you leave it to set, so ensure it’s cool but still runny enough to pour over your cake. If you find the ganache has become too thick set, heat it for short bursts in the microwave until it’s runny again.
Pour some ganache over the top of your cake, spreading it gently outwards to the edges with a palette knife so that the whole of the top is covered with ganache. You need to be quite light-handed with this, otherwise you’ll find your buttercream being swirled in with the ganache.
Once the top is done, using a palette knife (ideally an offset one), gently spread ganache all around the side of your cake. If once you have finished, you still have ganache left over, pour it over the top of your cake and allow it to run down the sides.