I have two rules when it comes to cooking and baking. First, never use a recipe that says, “Stir constantly,” and second, never make a recipe that requires separating eggs and whipping the whites.
Recently, I broke Rule #2. But, I really had no choice. I had written a travel piece for the Berkshire JewishVoice about Portsmouth, New Hampshire and needed a recipe that was quintessentially New Hampshire. Well, you could have knocked me over with a maple leaf when I discovered that a favorite dessert among New Hampshire natives has nothing to do with apples, maple syrup, or seafood.
It was an orange cake. Since when have oranges grown in New Hampshire — or anywhere else in the northeastern United States? Apparently, the Old Portsmouth Orange Cake is actually a recipe that came over with early English settlers and has been a summertime favorite ever since. Come again? Oranges in summer? Is this some kind of scam being foisted on us gullible lovers of dessert?
Anyway, because I provide recipes to accompany my articles, I need to prepare them. That makes sense, as I certainly want to make sure I don’t disseminate bad food. I also have to take a picture of the final result. Well, the first recipe turned out inedible. It was so bad that I actually had to put it down the garbage disposal. So, I searched for another recipe, which I then adapted to enhance the orange flavor.
This second cake came out much better than the first. While I still hate having to beat egg whites, I have to admit they did make for a nice light, spongy cake. Sliced fresh oranges between the two layers added a nice, juicy tang in contrast to the sweet, rich buttercream frosting.
Let me know what you think of this cake!
Old Portsmouth Orange Cake
½ c. plus 2 T. cake flour
¼ c. all-purpose flour
½ t. baking powder
¼ t. salt
3 T. milk
2 T. unsalted butter
½ t. vanilla extract
5 large eggs, at room temperature
¾ c. granulated sugar
1 t. orange zest
2 T. orange juice
12 T. unsalted butter, softened
¾ t. grated orange
1 ½ c. confectioners’ sugar
2 t. orange juice
1/2 t. vanilla extract
1 T. milk
To assemble the cake:
For the cake:
Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees and adjust a rack to the center position. Coat two 9 inch round cake pans with vegetable spray and line the bottoms with parchment paper. Whisk flours, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl. Heat milk and butter in a small saucepan over low heat until butter melts.
Remove from heat and add vanilla. Set aside.
Separate 3 of the eggs, placing whites in bowl of standing mixer fitted with a whisk. Reserve the 3 yolks plus remaining 2 whole eggs. Beat the 3 whites on high speed until foamy. Gradually add 6 T. of sugar while beating to soft, moist peaks. Transfer whites to a large bowl and put the yolks and remaining whole eggs in the mixing bowl.
Beat yolks and whole eggs with the remaining 6 tablespoons sugar at medium-high speed until eggs are very thick and a pale lemon color, about 5 minutes. Add the orange zest and juice and beat to combine, about 30 seconds.
Return beaten whites to the bowl; sprinkle the flour mixture over eggs and whites. Mix on lowest speed for 10 seconds. Remove bowl from mixer, make a well in one side and pour melted butter mixture into well. Fold mixture with a large rubber spatula until combined.
Immediately pour batter into prepared pans and bake until cake tops are lightly browned and spring back when touched, about 16 minutes. When cool, run a knife around perimeter of first pan and invert pan onto plate. Peel away parchment paper and invert cake onto cooling rack.
Repeat with second cake.
For the buttercream:
In the bowl of electric mixer fitted with the whisk, beat butter on medium high speed until smooth. Add zest and beat to combine. Add confectioners sugar and salt and beat at medium-low until the sugar is moistened.
Scrape down sides of bowl and add orange juice, vanilla and milk and beat at medium speed until incorporated. Increase speed to medium high and beat until light and fluffy, scraping sides of bowl once or twice.
To finish the cake:
Using a sharp knife cut away orange peel carefully until no traces of pith remain. Cut oranges horizontally into 1/4 inch slices and then cut slices into 1 inch strips. Place one layer of cake on a cake round or serving plate. Arrange orange pieces on top of bottom layer. Spread a very thin layer of buttercream on the bottom side of the second layer and place the frosted side on top of the orange slices. Spread the remaining buttercream evenly over the top and sides of the cake.
Serve immediately or refrigerate until 20 minutes before serving.