Saturday, August 15, 2009

Sweet, Light and Orange Cake

Times with family are such a delight and I especially enjoy Sweetie's family. Yesterday we had the treat of combining a gorgeous day in a bright, sunny San Francisco with both a picinic in Golden Gate Park and a delicious coppino dinner at Sweetie's sister's beautiful home.

His niece, her husband and their lovely daughters were visiting from Tennessee. It was fun to catch up with them and what is happening in their lives, plus we took the opportunity to join them in exploring the new Natural History building, including the cute penguins and the living roof (covered with regional drought tolerant plants). We also had the treat of seeing Sarah, Straight Shooter Man, and Sweetie's sister and her charming husband (who makes a superb cup of coffee).

Since this was a triple birthday celebration I brought a cake. Since the cake had to sit in the trunk of the car for a while, buttercream and chocolate and such were not an option. It helped that I had a request for something light and orange flavored.

Marion Cunningham had the perfect recipe in her book The Fannie Farmer Baking Book. For years I didn't have a plain tube pan since I never make angel food cakes, but a few months ago I found one at a thrift store for $1. It even has a removable bottom and those cute little "feet" for cooling the cake upside down.

With a great recipe and the right pan, the rest is easy. Eggs are separated, orange zest shaved off the oranges with my trusty microplane grater, oranges juiced and the juice strained through a fine mesh strainer, flour measured and sifted twice with salt, some of the sugar put in a bowl and half the zest rubbed into the sugar ( a trick from Dorie Greenspan), and then the fun begins with the whites beaten with some of the the sugar until firm but still a bit droopy.

In another bowl the yolks get beaten until lemon colored, then the rest of the zest and the juice is added and sugar and zested sugar. I used a hand whisk to stir the sifted drifts of flour, a little at a time, into the yolks, then switched back to the machine whisk to add the first part of the beaten whites. The last part is folding in the rest of the whites with a spatula, down the center, to the bottom, up the side, then turn the bowl a bit, repeat, repeat, repeat just until the whites combine with the batter but are still full of air. The air helps it to rise...see rose pretty well!

I must admit I was a bit nervous since I don't usually make this kind of cake (I like those dense crumbed chocolate cakes the best), especially since we wouldn't know how it turned out until I was slicing and serving at the birthday dinner. When I turned the cake over to rest and cool on those little legs, I was sure the whole thing would fall out of the pan and deflate! Fortunately that didn't happen, the cake came out of the pan just fine, high and light, and the orange glaze added just the right touch of sweetness and fancy.

We served each slice with some of our locally grown, small and sweet and delectable strawberries. The combination was great and all the berries were eaten before I got a photo, so here it is garnished with grapes!

As you can see the crumb is light but much firmer than an angel food cake (because of the yolks). The sweetness is offset by the tang of the orange zest. All in all a lovely cake. Give it a try while fresh berries are around. It would be equally good with blueberries or blackberries.

Fresh Orange Sponge Cake
The Fannie Farmer Baking Book by Marion Cunningham

1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup egg whites (about 8)
1 ¼ cups sugar, divided
2 tablespoons grated orange rind (orange part – zest only), divided
1/3 cup egg yolks (about 6)
1/3 cup strained freshly squeezed orange juice
Orange Glaze (recipe follows)

Have all ingredients at room temperature!

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Take ¼ cup of the sugar and put into a bowl. Add 1 tablespoon of the zest and rub them together with your fingers until thoroughly combined.

Combine the flour and salt and sift them together twice; set aside. Put the egg whites into a large mixing bowl and beat until foamy. Gradually add ½ cup of the sugar and continue beating until the whites are stiff but moist, and stand in peaks that droop slightly when the beater is lifted.

In a separate mixing bowl, beat the egg yolks until they have thickened slightly, then slowly add the remaining ½ cup sugar and the sugar-zest combo, and continue beating until the mixture is thick and lemon-colored. Add the remaining orange rind and the orange juice and blend well.

Sift the flour over the yolk mixture, and stir gently until smooth, with no drifts of flour visible. (I used a hand held whisk and sifted in some flour, whisked it gently, some more flour, whisked it gently, and so on instead of putting all the flour in at once.)

Gently stir one quarter of the beaten whites into the batter. (I used the whisk attachment and the stand mixer, only mixing until the whites were barely into the batter. Then I took the bowl away from the mixer and used a silicon spatula to finish folding in the whites.) Pour the remaining whites on top, and fold them into the yolk mixture, cutting down in the center with the spatula, taking it to the bottom and up the side of the bowl, then turning the bowl a bit and repeating until smooth and blended.

Spread the batter evenly in an ungreased 10-inch tube pan. Bake for about 40 minutes, or until a straw inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean. Remove the cake from the oven and invert it. If it has little feet, invert onto those. If not, invert over a wine bottle or similar bottle with a thin neck.

Let cool completely before removing from the pan. Cover the top and sides of the cake with the Orange Glaze. Let glaze harden before serving. Marvelous with fresh berries.

Orange Glaze
1 1/3 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar
4 tablespoons (1/4 cup) freshly squeezed orange juice
2 teaspoons freshly grated orange rind (orange part – zest only)

Put the sugar in a medium bowl. Add the orange juice and zest and stir briskly until smooth and well blended. Pour or spoon over the cake once it is cool. (I poured, using a spatula to spread the glaze over the top of the cake and letting it drip down the sides.)


  1. That is one beautiful cake. I bet everyone loved it!

  2. What a fitting cake to bake in your "new" but old pan! Sponge cakes really are wonderful. That pan looks much like my 40 year old angel food cake pan. You lucked out, the footed ones are hard to find now.

  3. I've just had lunch and thinking that a slice of your cake would hit the sweet spot with some tea :)

  4. Ah yes, the pitfalls of making chiffon/angel food cake. ;)
    I made one for my very first blog post. Maybe I should try one more time.

  5. The only cake tin I don't own is an angel food cake pan, I must get one - not that popular here, will have to try a specialist baking store. I am sure it's going to cost me a fortune.

  6. Your cake looks just perfect! I see tube pans all the time at the thrift store. Why do people get rid of them?

  7. Citrus/orange is one of my fave flavours for every dish! :)

  8. This cake looks fabulous - I love citrus flavoured cakes. When you say 'invert' do you mean turning the pan over without the cake coming out. So how do you get the cake out, when it is cool?

  9. I adore orange cakes, and I especially like this recipe because it's generous with the zest. It must have been lovely.

  10. Mimi, Yes, it was a hit...none left :)

    Tanna, I grabbed it because it looked like an oldie but goodie and was cheap!

    Cynthia, Heres to having virtual tea with you! Enjoy a slice of cake.

    Andreas, Do try this is really good with summer fruits.

    Rose, Try thrift shops and tag/garage sales...sometimes you get lucky.

    Lynn, I think people are scared off by the folding in of the egg whites. Somewhere I saw the whole thing done with the KitchenAid whisk attachment and it worked out...might have to try that :)

    KJ, Yes, you turn it over with the cake still in the pan. Since the pan is never greased, the cake sticks. When it is cool, you run a knife around the edges (both outer and inner)to release the inner tube and then a knife around the bottom to release that, then Take the cake off the inner tube part and put on a plate. Once it is cooled it is pretty firm and easy to handle.