Bon Appétit (December 2009)
The last chocolate cake we made -- a Hot Chocolate Cake with Homemade Marshmallows, just before Christmas -- was a whimsical triumph. Skyscraper tall and slathered in fudgy frosting, that cake was lauded with a crown of vanilla marshmallows and sprinkled with a dusting of cocoa. It was whimsy at its finest: Delicious, sure, but also silly and fun.
Think of of this Orange-Scented Bittersweet Chocolate cake as the exact opposite.
Dark, rich and lusciously smooth, this is one serious cake. The regal chocolate glaze anoints the dense, orange-scented cake with a subtle sweetness. The candied oranges add more sweet flavor, but it's a measured sweetness, balanced by the tart citrus. The whole thing is indulgent yet refined. It's all very...adult.
Put it this way: If the Hot Chocolate Cake was a silly schoolyard crush, this Orange-Scented Cake is a full-blown affair.
As for the prep, this cake itself is relatively standard. The brown sugar and the sour cream give you a batter that's dark and thick -- despite the two cups of flour in the batter, you'll swear this is a flourless cake when you take a bite.
The real star here is, of course, the blood orange compote. But it's the easiest part of the entire dessert. You essentially just simmer oranges (with the peel) in a simple syrup for an hour. That's it!
A few notes on the compote: We couldn't find blood oranges at the market, so we used tangelos instead, which the recipe recommends as a substitute. The tangelos were perfectly delicious, although we're sure the deep garnet color of the blood oranges would make this dish even more of a knockout.
Also -- and we can't figure out why, exactly -- it took us a lot longer than the recommended 40 minutes to get a thick enough compote. We simmered the oranges for closer to 80 minutes. It wasn't a problem, really -- just much longer than the recipe said it should have taken.
Finally, we had followed the recipe and cut the oranges into wedges. But that yielded large-ish slabs of candied peel once the compote was done. We thought they'd be a little unwieldy to eat, so -- once the compote had completely cooled -- we used scissors to cut the peel into smaller strips. It's up to you, of course, but we thought the strips worked better in the final product.
As easy as the compote is, the glaze is actually easier. Melt chocolate and butter. Whisk in corn syrup. Done.
So how about the taste? Amazing! Like, groan-out-loud amazing.
As we said, the cake is decadent and dense and bittersweet, and the orange flavors -- from the zest and from the Grand Marnier -- really stand out. The syrupy glaze adds its sweetness, but the compote's bright, tart, sweet flavor really takes the dessert to a whole other place.
It's refined, dark and a little exotic -- just the kind of dessert to inspire a love affair.
• 3 medium or 4 small blood oranges
• 2 1/2 cups (or more) water
• 1 cup sugar
• 2 tablespoons Grand Marnier or other orange-flavored liqueur
• 2 cups all purpose flour
• 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• 1 pound bittersweet chocolate (do not exceed 61% cacao), chopped
• 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
• 1 1/4 cups sugar
• 1 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
• 1 tablespoon Grand Marnier or other orange-flavored liqueur
• 2 teaspoons finely grated orange peel
• 4 large eggs
• 3/4 cup sour cream
• 6 ounces bittersweet chocolate (do not exceed 61% cacao), chopped
• 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
• 2 tablespoons dark corn syrup
• 8 10-inch-diameter cake pan with 2-inch-high sides
• Small offset spatula
: Blood oranges are available at some supermarkets and farmers' markets. If you can't find them, use another thin-skinned citrus fruit (such as tangelos) instead.
• Cut ends off oranges. Cut oranges with peel lengthwise in half, then cut each half lengthwise into 3 wedges. Combine 2 1/2 cups water and sugar in large saucepan. Bring to boil, stirring until sugar dissolves. Add orange wedges and any accumulated juices to syrup and bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer until orange peel is soft and translucent and syrup is reduced and thickened, turning orange wedges occasionally and adding more water by 1/4 cupfuls as needed if syrup is too thick before orange wedges are soft, 35 to 40 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in orange liqueur. Cool 15 minutes. Transfer to small container. Cover and chill. DO AHEAD Can be made 1 week ahead. Keep chilled. Bring to room temperature before using.
• Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 325°F. Lightly butter 10-inch-diameter cake pan with 2-inch-high sides. Line bottom of pan with parchment paper; butter parchment.
• Whisk flour, baking powder, and salt in medium bowl to blend. Combine chocolate and butter in large metal bowl. Set bowl over saucepan of simmering water; stir until chocolate-butter mixture is melted and smooth. Remove bowl from over water; add both sugars, orange liqueur, and orange peel and whisk until blended (mixture will look grainy). Add eggs, 2 at a time, and whisk until just blended after each addition. Whisk in sour cream. Add flour mixture and stir in with rubber spatula just until incorporated. Transfer batter to prepared pan; spread evenly.
• Bake cake until tester inserted into center comes out with moist crumbs attached, about 50 minutes. Cool cake in pan on rack 30 minutes. Run small knife around sides of cake to loosen. Invert cake onto rack; peel off parchment. Cool cake completely (center may sink slightly).
• Combine chocolate and butter in small metal bowl. Set bowl over saucepan of simmering water; stir until chocolate-butter mixture is melted and smooth. Whisk in corn syrup. Cool glaze until barely warm but still pourable, about 10 minutes.
• Pour glaze onto center of cake. Using small offset spatula, spread glaze over top of cake, leaving 1/2-inch plain border around top edge. Let stand at room temperature until glaze sets, about 2 hours. DO AHEAD Can be made 2 days ahead. Cover with cake dome and store at room temperature.
• Using hot dry knife and wiping knife clean between slices, cut cake into slices. Divide among plates. Serve some candied orange compote alongside.