Those of you who know me in person, and not just on the internet - hey followers who aren't related to us! We love you! - know that I have a THING for baking cakes. Big cakes. Triple layer cakes. Cakes that serve 20 people. Cakes cakes cakes. The thing is, I can't really indulge in baking ginormo cakes all the time - there are only two of us in the Fierce household and it's not really healthy to keep layer cakes on hand.
When any birthday rolls around, I immediately head to my go-to-celebration-cake-bible: Sky High: Irresistible Triple-Layer Cakes. This book is truly a stellar collection of beautiful, tasty, very-tall cakes. So yes, I did make my own birthday cake. Granted, I brought it to work to share with my fellow birthday colleagues. Apparently we're awash in Aquarians. (And yes, these photos were taken in my office conference room, so please, it's not my fault the lighting is so bad. Just pretend I am as good a photographer as J Fierce, okay?)
I followed the recipe word-for-word except for one wee thing: the white chocolate frosting. I personally cannot stand white chocolate. Might as well eat a crayon. I attempted it for this one, and did the filling and crumb-coat the night before, leaving the rest of the frosting overnight to set up. And set up it did NOT - I think, perhaps because I started this cake at eight pm and it was around midnight when I got to the frosting, and yes, this is what I do instead of go to happy hour. The nastypants white chocolate was too hot when I folded in the whipped cream, leaving the frosting grainy. There was no way I was covering the cake in three cups full o'nastiness (J Fierce notes that she has asked her sister to consult a thesaurus the next time she uses two variations on the word nasty so close together). So I just did a quick whipped cream with a couple of generous splashes of GM instead and topped the cake with white chocolate curls. Some people like eating crayons, I guess.
So - enough about baking it; how did it taste? I have to say. It was pretty darn delicious. This chiffon cake, with no butter and merely 1/4 cup of oil, has a delicate spongy-crumb texture which pairs perfectly with the orangey Grand Marnier syrup and orange zest. Baking the cake the night before serving really allows the syrup to sink in to the cake, getting everyone nicely acquainted in the flavor department. Please, take a moment to observe the diagram below to see the Flavor Distribution Departments. Happy Birthday to Me, Indeed.
Orange-Grand Marnier Cake: makes a 9-inch triple-layer cake; serves 16-20
1 3/4 c cake flour
1 1/2 c sugar (divided)
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 c neutral vegetable oil, such as canola, soybean or vegetable blend
8 eggs, separated
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice
1 tbsp grated orange zest
1/3 c water
1/2 tsp cream of tartar
Grand Mariner Syrup (recipe follows)
Orange-Grand Marnier Frosting (recipe follows, if you like eating crayons)
Candied orange peel and/or white chocolate shavings for decoration
1. Preheat the oven to 350 F. Line the bottoms of three 9-inch round cake pans with parchment or waxed paper but do not grease the pans.
2. Sift the flour, 1 cup of the sugar, the baking soda and salt into a large bowl; stir to blend. Whisk in the oil, egg yolks, orange juice, orange zest and water under well blended.
3. Put the egg whites in a clean large mixer bowl with the cream of tartar and, using the whip attachment of an electric mixer, beat until frothy. Slowly add the remaining 1/2 cup sugar and whip until soft peaks form. Do not overbeat or the cake will be dry.
4. Add one-fourth of the beaten whites to the cake batter and fold them in to lighten the batter. Gently fold in the remaining whites just until no streams remain. Divide the batter among the 3 prepared pans.
5. Bake the cake layers for 16 - 18 minutes, or until a cake tester or wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow to cool completely in the pans. Run a blunt knife around the rim of each cake to release the edges, invert onto a wire rack, and carefully peel off the paper liners.
6. To assemble your cake, place one layer of cake on a cake stand or serving plate, flat side up. Using a brush, generously moisten the top of the layer with 1/4 c of the Grand Marnier Syrup; then spread 1 cup of the Orange-Grand Marnier Frosting evenly over it. Repeat with the second layer and more syrup and frosting. Top off with the third layer, flat side up. Brush with the last of the syrup and frost the top and sides of the cake with the remaining frosting. Garnish with candied orange peel and white chocolate shavings.
Grand Marnier Syrup
1/4 c sugar
1/2 c water
1/4 c Grand Marnier
Combine the sugar and water in a small saucepan. Bring to a simmer, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Continue to cook, without stirring, until the syrup is reduced to 1/2 cup. Remove from the heat. Let cool completely, then stir in the Grand Marnier.
Orange-Grand Marnier Frosting
6 oz fine-quality white chocolate, coarsely chopped
2 1/2 c heavy cream
2 tablespoons Grand Mariner
1 tbsp grated orange zest
1. In a medium heatproof bowl, melt the white chocolate with 1/2 cup of the heavy cream over barely simmering water. Stir until smooth. Remove from the heat and allow to cool to room temperature. Stir in the Grand Marnier and orange zest.
2. In a large chilled bowl with chilled beaters, whip the remaining 2 cups cream until almost completely stiff. Add the whipped cream to the white chocolate mixture and gently fold it in.
Alternate idea: don't waste your money on white chocolate and instead just get your bowl and beaters nice and cold (pop them in the freezer for ten minutes or so), and whip a pint of heavy cream with a few healthy tablespoons of sugar and a couple of glugs of GM. Trust me on this one.