The March Daring Baker's challenge gave me a chance to take my copy of Dorie Greenspan's Baking: From My Home to Yours out for a spin again. I actually bought this cookbook last year and I think I've only used it once or twice, and it deserves to be used more than that! It really is an excellent cookbook that covers a huge range of baking ideas. The instructions are clear, options for modifying recipes are presented, and I think almost every recipe has notes about how long each item will keep which is handy information that most cookbooks skip.
Here's how our finished cake turned out (pre-slicing):
We decided to make some modifications (allowed per the challenge instructions). Instead of using raspberry jam between layers, we took advantage of the plentiful supply of blood oranges in stock at our local market, The Turnip Truck, and put together some blood orange curd (recipe at the end of this post). The challenge also gave the option of using either buttercream frosting or whipped cream for between layers and the overall frosting. After a bunch of discussion and some taste testing involving the orange curd and the whipped cream (YUM!), we went with the whipped cream option. We had some leftover blood orange juice and decided to add that into the whipped cream to punch up the color a bit. The blood orange curd turned out to be delicious, but the dark yellow of our local farm eggs overwhelmed the dark red of the oranges.
This wasn't exactly the fastest cake to put together, but we weren't really striving for efficiency either :) If we had followed the recipe exactly (using raspberry jam between layers and buttercream frosting), it would have taken less time. Although the blood orange curd didn't take long to make, it did take quite a while to cool off.
We decided to skip the coconut in the recipe because I didn't think it went well with the blood orange flavor. Instead we topped the cake with candied blood orange slices made using this recipe from Epicurious.
Here's how the candied orange slices looked on top of the cake:
I think that picture makes them look a bit like slices of tomato! They really didn't look like tomato slices at all in real life - the pictures of the pink cake were... a little difficult. Tim said that to him, the frosted pink cake looked like it must be strawberry flavored and then adding the blood orange slices on top made it clear that it was definitely something different.
Finally, here's how a slice of the cake looked:
Not really the huge contrast that I was looking for between the color of the cake and the color of the filling. The blood orange curd layer was also really thin, so it didn't show up well. I don't think I would make that layer thicker though - it would overpower the cake. The best part of this version of the cake was that it really wasn't that sweet. The blood orange juice brought a tiny bit of tartness to the cake, making this approach a good option for people who don't like super sweet desserts.
This was a delicious cake overall and I definitely would consider taking it to a party or, hm.... just baking it for us :) The cake directions are clear and provide lots of room for customization to meet individual preferences. Two thumbs up!
As always, you can check out more Daring Bakers' interpretations of the recipe by checkout the Daring Bakers blogroll. Just from the pictures I've seen on the group's blog this month, my fellow Daring Bakers outdid themselves with creative decoration ideas this month - there are some really pretty cakes out there!
Blood Orange Curd
Our recipe for blood orange curd was a mix between this 1999 NY Times article (which, interestingly, talked about the demise of the layer cake) and multiple recipes off the web like this one and this one. We added the lemon because I read somewhere that blood oranges have lower acidity than lemons, making it harder to get the curd to set - I thought adding the lemon would hedge our bets a bit and it did set up quite nicely, so it worked.
Blood Orange Curd
Juice of three blood oranges
Juice of one lemon
(Total juice: 1/2 cup)
Zest of two blood oranges (about 2 Tblsp)
1/3 cup sugar
3 egg yolks
1 stick unsalted butter
Mix together sugar and orange zest. Whisk eggs, egg yolks, and sugar mixture together. Add juice mixture. Place over simmering water in double boiler set up. Add in butter, cut up in small pieces. Cook about 10 minutes stirring constantly, or until the mixture has thickened.