I first created this recipe for Orange Butter Cake for the Great American Baking Show. While I practiced it in my kitchen for the show, I didn't make it to the finals so I didn't make it on the show. Not making the finals of the competition was very disappointing, but it definitely didn't spoil my love of baking. When season 5 of the show was officially announced I decided to visit some of the recipes I made for the show. I had already decided to make a cranberry curd and since orange and cranberries are one of those perfect flavor combinations I decided to make this buttery orange cake with a tart and delicious cranberry curd filling.
The recipe for the cranberry curd is included in this recipe post, but there is a separate Cranberry Curd recipe on the blog. The curd can be made with fresh or frozen cranberries. I strain the curd twice, once to separate the juice and pulp from the cranberry skins and the second time to remove small bits of cooked eggs any of the cranberry skin that made it through the first time. The curd will need to chill before using it as a filling. I recommend making it the day before you bake the cake.
How to Make a Butter Cake
Not all cakes are created equal. I make this orange butter cake recipe 4 times to get what I considered a perfect cake. Moist, tender, somewhat compact and not crumbly. When I made this cake for the baking show my recipe included enough ingredients for 10-inch and 6-inch 2-layer cakes. I tinkered with the recipe to get the right amount for either a 2 layer or 8-inch or 9-inch cake. I made a 3 layer cake by dividing the batter between three 8-inch cake pans, but this recipe will work with 2 9-inch cake pans.
The question in making this cake was the right proportion of flour, sugar, eggs and fat. Shirley Corriher's BakeWise Cookbook is a great book on how to read a cake recipe and determine if the proportion of ingredients will make a good cake.
My first cake tasted good, but had a lot of holes, which was either due to too much leavening or overmixing. The second version was moist, but it was too compact. The kind of cake where your tongue sticks a little to the rough of your mouth as you eat it. For the third version, I increased the eggs and decreased the butter, which resulted in a crumbly and somewhat dry cake.
The fourth version was the winner. The texture and taste were all great. I had basically made a high ratio cake and I learned a lot from Shirley Corriher about balancing the flour, sugar, eggs and fat for this type of cake. Overall, making these cakes was a great learning experience. I now have a great basic recipe for butter cakes.
High Ratio Cake Formulas
There are three formulas for high ratio cakes. The formulas are based on weight either in grams or ounces.
Formula 1: The weight of the sugar should equal 125% of the weight of the flour. In this recipe, the sugar is 400 grams and the cake flour is 342 grams.
Formula 2: The weight of the eggs should exceed the weight of the fat. With more fat there has to be more protein (or eggs) to maintain the structure of the cake. The weight of the eggs should equal 110% of the weight of the fat. In this recipe, the eggs are 250 grams and the butter is 227 grams.
Formula 3: The weight of the liquid (including the eggs) should equal or exceed the weight of the sugar. For this cake, the liquids are 550 grams and the sugar is 400 grams.
Cake Flour. Cake flour is used to because when the weight of the sugar exceeds the weight of the flour, more liquid is required to dissolve the sugar. Cake flour can absorb more liquid and therefore is essential for the success of this recipe.
What is Reverse Creaming
The Reversing Creaming Method is also known as the two-stage method. I learned this method from Rose Levy Beranbaum in her bestseller The Cake Bible. This method produces a level cake with minimal rise.
In the two-stage method the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt are combined in the mixing bowl. The butter and liquids (the milk and orange) juice are added to the dry ingredients until the batter is well combined. With this method, the fat coats the flour and minimizes the development of gluten. The eggs are added in three batches and this method creates compact moist cake layers. To bump up this flavor of this cake I put the sugar in the mixing bowl, zested the orange directly into the bowl and rubbed the sugar and orange zest together.
I have loved the two-stage method ever since I learned it. Not only does it produce consistently good cakes, but there are fewer dirty dishes. My husband and my co-workers got to taste all or most of my efforts and they were all unanimous that cake number 4 was the best.
Assembling the Cake
I lightly frosted the cake with vanilla Swiss meringue buttercream. I only applied a thin layer of buttercream to the sides of the cake because I liked the taste of the orange butter cake and cranberry curd to be prominent with just a hint of the vanilla buttercream. I decorated the cake with sugared cranberries by the cake can be decorated any way you choose.
I hope you try this delicious orange butter cake. If you do please leave a comment on the blog or post a picture on Instagram and tag me @bakesbybrownsugar. I am always happy to answer any question.
Orange Butter Cake with Cranberry Curd
- 12 ounces fresh or frozen cranberries
- 1 1/4 cup (250 grams) white granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup fresh squeezed orange juice
- 1/4 cup water
- 2 teaspoons orange zest
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 (100grams) whole eggs
- 2 (40 grams) egg yolks
- 8 tablespoons (113 grams) unsalted butter room temperature
Cake Pan Release
- 1 tablespoon (14 grams) unsalted butter melted
- 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
- 2 cups (400 grams) granulated sugar
- Orange zest from 1 large orange about 1 tablespoon
- 3 cups (342 grams) cake flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 1/4 cup fresh-squeezed orange juice
- 16 tablespoons (227 grams) unsalted butter room temperature 65-70 degrees F
- 5 (250 grams) large eggs room temperature
Swiss Meringue Buttercream
- 4 (120 grams) large egg whites
- 1 cup (200 grams) white granulated sugar
- 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 cups (454 grams) unsalted butter room temperature 68-70 degrees F
- 2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste
For the Cranberry Curd
- You needn't thaw the cranberries for this recipe.
- In a small bowl whisk together the whole eggs and egg yolks. Place a bowl with a medium-coarse strainer next to the stove.
- Place the cranberries, sugar, water, and salt in a medium saucepan. Zest the orange directly into the saucepan. Juice the orange and add 1/4 cup of orange juice to the saucepan. Cook the mixture over medium heat, mashing occasionally with a potato masher until cranberries have mostly broken down and mixture measures about 1 1/2 cups, 10 to 12 minutes. Strain cranberry mixture through a medium-coarse strainer into a bowl, pressing on solids with a rubber spatula to extract as much puree as possible.
- Whisk eggs and yolks into cranberry mixture in the bowl. Return the mixture to the saucepan. Place a clean bowl with a fine mesh strainer near the cooktop. Cook the cranberry mixture over medium-low heat, stirring constantly with a rubber spatula, until the mixture is thickened and registers 175 degrees in multiple spots, 5 to 7 minutes.
- Off heat, stir in butter 2 tablespoons at a time until incorporated. Strain the cranberry mixture through the fine-mesh strainer. Press a piece of plastic wrap directly onto surface of curd and refrigerate for at least 3 hours. (Curd can be refrigerated for up to 3 days.)
Cake Pan Release
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. In a small bowl stir the melted butter and the flour together until it forms a paste. With a pastry brush, coat the sides and bottoms of 3 8-inch cake pans with the paste. Line the bottoms with parchment paper.
For the Orange Cake
- Crack the eggs into a small bowl and whisk.
- Put the sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer. Zest the orange directly onto the sugar. Use your fingers to rub the zest and the sugar together until it is well combined, and your kitchen smells like orange. Juice the orange until you have 1/4 cup of fresh juice. In a 2-cup measuring cup combine the milk and the orange juice and whisk to combine.
- Add the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt to the sugar-orange zest mixture and with the paddle attachment mix the dry ingredients together on low speed for 30 seconds.
- Add the butter and milk-orange mixture to the dry ingredients. Start on low speed to combine the ingredients and once combined, increase the speed to medium and mix for 90 seconds. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl.
- Add the beaten eggs in three additions, mixing on medium speed after each addition until the eggs are well combined. After mixing in the last of the eggs, scrape the side and bottoms of the bowl and mix for another 20 seconds to ensure the batter is well mixed.
- Divide the batter into the cake pans, about 500 grams into each pan. Smooth the top of the batter with an offset spatula.
- Bake for 25-30 minutes until a toothpick or cake tester is inserted in the center and comes out clean and the cake starts to pull away from the sides of the pan.
- Remove the cakes from the oven and cool in the pans for 10 minutes. Invert the cakes onto a cake rack covered with parchment paper or wax paper and allow to cool completely before adding the filling and frosting.
Vanilla Swiss Meringue Buttercream
- For the Swiss meringue buttercream the butter should be at room temperature, between 68 and 70 degrees F. If it is too warm the buttercream will not set up properly and it will be somewhat runny. If it's too cold the buttercream will not incorporate into the egg whites.
- Boil water in a saucepan large enough for your mixing bowl to sit on top and then reduce the water to a simmer. Place the eggs whites, sugar, and salt into the mixing bowl, place it over the simmering water bath and whisk continuously until the temperature reaches 170 degrees F. Remove the bowl from the water bath and using the whisk attachment of a stand mixer beat the meringue on high speed until it is increased in volume and is shiny and cool to the touch.
- Reduce the mixer speed to medium and add butter two tablespoons at a time until the buttercream is soft, thick and creamy. At one point it will look a little curdled, but continue to beat it and it will become creamy. Add the vanilla bean paste and beat on medium speed until the vanilla is thoroughly mixed into the buttercream.
Assemble the Cake
- If the cake layers have domed use a serrated knife to level the cake layers. Use your fingers or a pastry brush to brush away any loose cake crumbs. Place one layer on a cake board or plate. Create a dam by piping a ring of buttercream around the edge of the cake layer. Frost the bottom layer with buttercream and then fill the center with the cranberry curd, about 1/2 cup. Repeat with the second layer and top with the final layer.
- Crumb coat the sides and top of the cake with a thin layer of buttercream. Chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. Coat the sides with a thin layer of buttercream, so you can still see the sides of the cake. Evenly spread about 1 cup of buttercream on top of the cake.