Orange Cake w/ Italian Meringue Frosting
The painful chant of an alarm clock beckons. Tired eyes struggle to adjust to the barely lit room. Small beams of gold and blue morning light peak through poorly closed blinds. Familiar objects across the room barely glisten; long shadows hang around hoping to hold the night’s darkness close by.
Steam begins to pour out of the small room to which drowsy legs somehow carried me. I hop behind the dark red curtain, hiding my shower, to escape the painful cold, which fills the house. Poking and massaging streams of heat slowly wake me up.
Clothed and awake, I sledge out to my car, reflectors under one arm, tripods under the other. A backpack with scripts, schedules and shot lists hang near slipping tripods; a camera bag hangs on another shoulder. With a beep I unlock the car and contemplate how I’m going to open the door.
Outside one of Houston’s largest farmers market I meet up with my business partner. An already marked and scribbled on schedule clipped to a rigid board tells us we’ll be busy filming all day. B-roll of shoppers perusing the selections, clips of fruit and vegetables stacked neatly in bins and baskets, carefully constructed shots of experienced hands preparing their stand will fill parts of the days. The rest will be scouting, negotiating, preparing, setting up, manipulating light, and taking everything down, only to start all over mere feet away.
A busy day assures both of us we will most likely be ignoring our second true love (food) for our first (film). Despite being surrounded by an endless flood of food, our attention focuses elsewhere and we knock out shot after shot. A few chorizo breakfast tacos from a taco truck parked near by sneak their way into our hands though. Then some pastries from a Mexican bakery across the street manage to capture our attention too.
The day continues and we find ourselves more captivated with food than we expected. Hours away from the end of the day and we notice a small problem. Homemade shopping bags, mere props, are suddenly engorged. Somehow we’ve managed to spend the day shopping, collecting fruits and vegetables, chiles and spices. Thank you’s to stall keepers turned into an excuse to buy a few things from them, a sort of capitalist-inspired thank you.
Another morning and I soon find myself in a kitchen swimming in oranges. How am I going to use up all this delicious citrus? It doesn’t take long for my hungry mind to think about cake.
This light, moist cake is filled with orange flavor. The orange lemon filling adds a delightfully tart layer while the italian meringue pulls it all together with a smooth, melt in your mouth sweet bite. I love playing with textures in food and the combination of a soft chew from the cake and the almost nonexistent, airiness of the meringue play off of each other wonderfully.
Assembly: To assemble this cake, spread the filling on top of the first layer of chiffon. Add the second chiffon on top. Then spread the meringue on the cake using an icing spatula just like you would spread buttercream. Once frosted you can leave the cake as is, or you can use a kitchen torch to give the came a browned, torched look as I’ve done in these photos. That is as easy as turning the torch on low and carefully applying heat where you want to brown the meringue. Don’t leave the torch in one place too long or you might blacken the meringue.
Egg Whites: This recipe calls for whipping egg whites twice. First, it is used in the chiffon cake to add air, essentially doing the job of a leavening agent. A little sugar is added to the egg whites as they whip to give the egg whites structure; you want to add sugar slowly to egg whites though otherwise the sugar can actually impede the whites from forming stiff peaks. When whipping egg whites like this you must work quickly as they begin to deflate as soon as you finish whipping. Once you fold the whites into the batter, it must be baked right away.
Second, it is used in creating an italian meringue frosting. Italian meringue differs from typical meringue in that sugar boiled to the soft ball stage is added to the whipping egg whites still hot. This is done for two reasons. First, the hot sugar essentially cooks the egg whites (pasteurizing them, making them safe to eat raw). Second, the boiled sugar, when cooled, will form a more rigid structure within the egg whites compared to granulated sugar alone. This allows italian meringue to be used on cakes, in fillings, and with other pastries that won’t be baked and will need tp sit for a couple days. Because of this, italian meringue does not require the urgency typical meringue or whipped egg whites do.
Orange Chiffon Cake
This recipe will yield 2 9″ round cakes, 2″ tall each, enough for one layer cake.
2 9″ round baking pans, bottoms lined with parchment paper
2 large bowls
Stand mixer or a whisk and large bowl
7 ounces cake flour
3 ounces finely ground almonds (or almond flour)
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 pound sugar, split into 12 ounces and 4 ounces
4 ounces unsalted butter, melted
2/3 cup freshly squeezed orange juice (2 medium oranges)
1/3 cup water
2 teaspoons orange zest (2 medium oranges)
6 (1/2 cup) egg yolks
10 (1 1/4 cup) egg whites
1/2 teaspoon salt
1. Preheat an oven to 375°F. Line and butter the bottom of the baking pans (don’t butter the sides).
2. Mix the cake flour, ground almonds, baking powder and 12 ounces of the sugar in a bowl. Set aside.
3. In another bowl mix together the melted butter, orange juice, water, orange zest and egg yolks.
4. Slowly mix the dry ingredients into the orange juice and egg yolk mixture, mixing until completely blended. Set aside.
5. Whip the egg whites until they are foamy on high speed. Slowly add the remaining 4 ounces of sugar and salt to the egg whites with the mixer on medium. Once the sugar is added, begin whipping the egg whites at high speed again until they are glossy and form stiff peaks. Take care not to over whip the eggs.
6. Fold the whipped egg whites into the the batter, taking care not to deflate the air in the egg whites.
7. Evenly pour the batter into the prepared pans. Bake in a preheated oven for 24 to 28 minutes or until a tooth pick inserted into the center comes out clean.
8. Let cool before removing from the pan.
While the cakes are cooling, you can prepare the filling and the italian meringue. Because italian meringue does not deflate like a typical meringue, you can make it in advance (on the same day).
Orange Lemon Filling
This recipe will yield 2 cups of filling, enough for the center of this cake. It is adapted from a Bo Friberg recipe.
Heavy bottomed pot
Wooden spoon or whisk
1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
4 1/2 ounces sugar
1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1 teaspoon orange zest
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
1 teaspoon butter
1. Mix the cornstarch, sugar and eggs together in the heavy bottomed pot. Add the lemon and orange juices, zests and butter.
2. Bring the liquid to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring constantly to keep lumps from forming and the bottom from scorching.
3. Boil until the mixture is very thick and coats the back of a spoon.
4. Remove from the heat and let it cool before spreading it on the cake.
Because the boiled sugar has to be added at a particular temperature, you will need a candy thermometer or a basic understanding of what sugar boiled to the soft ball stage looks like. You will also need a stand mixer as italian meringue requires you to begin whipping the egg whites while the sugar is boiling. It also requires constant whipping at high speed while the mixture cools, which can take up to 20 minutes. You should not substitute another type of meringue for the frosting in this recipe.
This recipe will yield 2 1/2 quarts of meringue, enough to liberally frost a cake. This is a Bo Frigberg recipe.
Heavy bottomed pot
Icing Spatula, for spreading on to the cake
Kitchen torch, if giving the meringue a browned look
8 (1 cup) egg whites
6 ounces corn syrup
12 ounces sugar
1/2 cup water
1. Pour the egg whites into the stand mixer bowl, set aside. Keep your stand mixer near your stove because you will need to keep an eye on both after step 3.
2. Add the corn syrup, sugar and water to a heavy bottomed pot and bring to a boil over high heat.
3. Once the sugar reaches 230°F, begin whipping the egg whites at high speed. Continue boiling the sugar as the egg whites are whipping. Watch the egg whites to ensure they don’t whip past the thick, pre-soft peaks stage.
4. Once the sugar reaches 240°F, or the softball stage, remove the sugar from the heat. Turn the mixer to medium and very slowly pour the sugar into the bowl of egg whites in a constant, thin stream. Make sure the stream falls between the side of the bowl and the mixer attachment (if the sugar hit’s the whisk it will cause it to lump in the meringue).
5. Once all of the sugar is added, slowly bring the mixer back to high (you may need the splash guard installed). Whip the eggs on high until they are cooled and have formed stiffed peaks. This could take anywhere from 10 to 20 minutes. Keep an eye on the egg whites as you don’t want to over whip them but be sure to whip them to the stiff peaks point. This will take much longer than whipping egg whites alone.
6. Once the meringue is cooled you can spread it on the cake. Use an icing spatula to spread the meringue on the cake just like you would with buttercream. If you plan to give the cake a torched look, use a kitchen torch flame, taking care not to burn the meringue.