Perfect Spring or Summer Cake
Orange spice cakes normally showcase fall spices and herbs: cinnamon, cloves, and allspice. For this cake, I decided to swap out those typical ingredients for something that would taste more like spring. Citrus is usually associated with spring, so I figured a cake centered around oranges should do just fine with flavors you might associate more with March, April, and May.
I wasn't disappointed with my experiment. This cake tasted like a heavenly dream graced to us by fairies. It somehow tastes like orange sherbert.
Marjoram, mint, thyme, and lemongrass come together in a delectable blend, making it hard to stop eating. Crushed-up strawberries make any cake sponge taste better, and that is especially true for this recipe. And the secret to the buttercream? A hint of orange extract, which gives it a candy-like flavor.
I recommend this cake for those of you who want something a little different from chocolate or vanilla. It's perfect for a spring or summer event.
|Prep time||Cook time||Ready in||Yields|
1 hour 15 min
1 hour 45 min
The cake isn't super time-consuming to make. You could probably knock out the sponge prep and bake in an hour or less.
It does take a long time to make the buttercream and assemble it on the cake. It's not a quick five-minute icing recipe. It took me about 45 minutes to complete all the buttercream steps and add it to the sponges.
I didn't level my sponges for the pictures. I normally don't level cakes if there are only two layers.
I think the hard part of the cake is staying organized. There are a lot of ingredients, so if you're not focused, you could miss something. It's a fairly standard sponge, and if you have a stand mixer, you should be fine.
The double-boiler part can be tricky. You have to watch the egg mixture and get it to the right temperature while also melting white chocolate in a separate double boiler without it getting too hot.
I give it about 3.5/5 stars on the difficulty scale, with one star being something a child could make or a box cake mix. Five stars is for a tiramisu that is good enough to sell at a restaurant.
For the cake:
- 1 1/2 cups cake flour
- 1 1/2 cups + 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon + 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon marjoram
- 1/2 teaspoon mint
- 1/2 teaspoon thyme
- 1 teabag lemon or lemongrass tea
- 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
- 2 cups sugar
- 1 orange, zested
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 4 large eggs
- 1 1/4 cups buttermilk
- 1/4 cup fresh orange juice
- 1/2 teaspoon orange extract
- 1 tablespoon orange food coloring
- 1 cup strawberries, chopped
For the buttercream frosting:
- 5 large egg whites
- 1 2/3 cups granulated sugar
- 2 1/2 cups unsalted butter, softened
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1/2 orange, zested
- 1/2 teaspoon orange extract
- 8 ounces white chocolate, melted and cooled
For the toppings:
- orange candies
- cinnamon sticks
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour two 9-inch round cake pans.
- Mix together the dry ingredients, leave out the 2 tablespoons of all-purpose flour. Whisk together the cake flour, all-purpose flour, baking powder, salt, marjoram, mint, thyme, and lemon tea blend (or lemongrass).
- In a stand mixer, whisk together the butter until smooth. Add in the sugar and orange zest. Mix until light and fluffy, about 3-5 minutes.
- On a medium-low setting, add in the vanilla and eggs, one at a time. Turn off the unit and scrape down the sides.
- With the mixer on low, add in the dry ingredients one cup at a time. Make sure the ingredients have been thoroughly mixed before adding more.
- Slowly pour in the buttermilk and then the orange juice and orange extract. Once everything has been added, mix for about 30 seconds and then STOP.
- Fold in the strawberries and the remaining 2 tablespoons of flour.
- Add the orange food coloring. Don't stir too hard to where you disrupt the strawberries. A light orange color will have a sherbet look to it.
- Distribute the batter into the pans. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes. Check at 30 minutes to see if a fork comes out clean from the center. Mine clocked in at 32 minutes. Place the cakes, while still in their pans, on wire racks. Wait 20 minutes before removing the cakes from the pans. If you pull out a fork from the center and it's messy, add 2-5 more minutes of baking time. The messier it is the longer you'll need to bake.
- While the cakes cool, you'll make the buttercream. Heat up two saucepans with water. You'll create two separate double boilers. One needs to be simmering; place another saucepan over it with the white chocolate. Stir occasionally while you focus on making the buttercream. I found it was easiest to slowly raise the heat for the double boiler designated for the cream.
- For the buttercream, I recommend cleaning out your stand mixer bowl unless you have another one where you can start fresh and clean. Mix the egg whites and sugar with the whisk attachment. The mixture should look cohesive.
- Place the mixer bowl over your saucepan of hot water to create a double boiler. Whisk non-stop. Aim to get the egg mixture to 160°F on a kitchen thermometer.
- Transfer the mixer bowl to the stand mixer. Whisk on high for 8 to 10 minutes until it stiffens. It should have peaks rather than descend down into the bowl. A few minutes into whisking, the cream will transform into something white and very fluffy. The outside of the mixing bowl should return to room temperature.
- Mix in the softened butter. Keep mixing until fully incorporated. The butter should melt in the cream.
- Add vanilla extract, orange extract, and orange zest. Whip until silky smooth. About 3-5 minutes.
- Add in melted white chocolate. Mix until smooth. If your cream breaks, that means you need to keep mixing.
- Taste-test the buttercream. Assemble it on the cake.
- How do I get orange zest? One of the easiest ways for a home chef or baker to get orange zest is to take a cheese grater to an uncut orange. You want the dark orange part of the peel, not the layer underneath.
- What if I can't find lemongrass or mint? Mint can be hit or miss in the spice section of a grocery store. I wouldn't substitute lemongrass with other spices, like lemon pepper. My recommendation is to buy tea of either mint or lemongrass. Use the contents of one bag of each for the cake. I used one lemon teabag from Celestial Seasonings for the cake.
- What if I can't find orange extract? I do think orange extract is the ingredient that makes the cake chef's kiss, but sometimes certain extracts can't be found. You could use orange juice without pulp or skip the ingredient. The orange extract in the buttercream makes it really tasty—I would almost argue it's more important than the white chocolate.
- How small should I cut up my strawberries? You don't want large chunks of strawberries in your cake. I'd say dime-size or smaller is ideal. The larger your strawberry chunks, the more moisture they'll be holding, which could make for mushy spots in your cake.
- What are some other spring spices I could use? Parsley, basil, rosemary, and sage. Parsley and basil will take your cake in a different direction, they're a little spicy. Sage could act as a good substitute for marjoram. Rosemary might be a good substitute for mint or thyme. There isn't really a good substitute for lemongrass, maybe earl gray just because it has bergamot, another citrus-like flavor.
© 2022 Andrea Lawrence