Is there any better combination than orange and ginger? I'm sure there are, but I discovered this combination when I created this Orange Ginger Cake for the Great American Baking Show. We were ask to create 18 mini-cakes with a holiday theme. In the middle of summer I'm not thinking of fall and Christmas flavors, I'm thinking about what I can create with strawberries, raspberries and blueberries, not orange and ginger.
I made this orange ginger cake multiple times, while preparing for the show. I played with the amount of orange juice, orange zest, fresh ginger and whether or not to add milk. The first was too peppery. For the second version I left out the fresh ginger and the pepper. Without the pepper I was able to taste more of the orange, but it wasn't orange enough. For the 3rd and 4th versions, I put back the fresh ginger, added more orange zest and experimented with the amount of orange juice. I added a cranberry compote for flavor contrast and a pop of color
Then onto the shapes, round mini cakes or square mini cakes? If you watched Cake Week of the Great American Baking Show then you know that I went with square mini cakes. During the competition I barely finished my cakes in time, and in hindsight I should have gone with round cakes. Round shapes would have been quicker to cut. But either way, Paul Hollywood and Sherry Yard both loved my orange ginger cakes. They said they could smell the ginger and loved the ginger flavor. Paul said it was amazing and Sherry even asked for the recipe. Those were probably my top moments on the show. Even typing this brings a smile to my face.
As you can see, this cake is not a mini cake. I decided to recreate my Orange Ginger Cake as a three layer cake with orange Swiss meringue buttercream. There are no cranberries in this version, but maybe for my next version I will create a cranberry buttercream. I loved the candied orange zest I created for this version of my cake. Making the candied orange was really easy. I skipped the traditional step of simmering the orange peel in water and went straight to simmering them in sugar syrup.
To increase the orange flavor I zest the orange directly on top of the sugar and then use my fingers to rub the zest into the sugar. When you zest oranges or lemons oils are released. If you zest onto a cutting board or parchment paper you lose those oils. Therefore zesting on top of the sugar you get both the oils and zest. The smell is absolutely incredible after I spend of few moments rubbing the zest into the sugar.
This recipe requires at least three bowls. No mixer is required as the cake batter is thin and can be mixed by hand. Put the dry ingredients into the largest bowl because that is where everything will end up at the end of the recipe. I used three 8 x 2 inch cake pans. If you only have 2 8-inch pans, you can bake 2 layers, and reuse one of the pans to bake the third layer. The cake batter can sit out for about an hour before going into the oven. You can use 2 9-inch pans if you want a two layer cake. You will need to adjust the baking time.
I love this cake because I love the orange and ginger flavors. It smells wonderful and fills the house with a beautiful ginger smell. This cake is very moist and the orange Swiss meringue buttercream is a perfect compliment. The buttercream gets all its flavor from orange zest. The final color the buttercream will be effected by the color of the orange and the amount of zest.
One of the lessons I learned while filming the show is that if the buttercream is too soft the buttercream will not set up. When we filmed cake week, it was 87 degrees outside and event hotter in the tent with all the ovens and the lights. I kept adding more and more butter (way more than my recipe called for) but the buttercream would not set. I finally called it quits and asked for more eggs and more butter to start over. This butter was cooler and the buttercream had the perfect texture.
This cake is now one of my favorites. While it was created as a "holiday" cake it is good any time of the year. I hope you try it and let me know what you think.
Orange Ginger Cake
- 1-3/4 cups (248 grams) all-purpose flour
- 1/4 cup (20 grams) unsweetened cocoa powder
- 2 tablespoons ground ginger
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/4 teaspoon white pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 3/4 cup (241 grams) unsulphured molasses
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 tablespoon fresh grated ginger
- 1-1/2 cups (300 grams) sugar
- 2 tablespoons orange zest
- 1 cup fresh squeezed orange juice
- 1/2 cup whole milk
- 3 large eggs room temperature
- 3/4 cup vegetable oil
- Nonstick cooking spray
Orange Swiss Meringue Buttercream
- 6 large egg whites
- 1-1/2 cups (300 grams) sugar
- 2 teaspoons orange zest
- 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2-1/2 cups (570 grams) unsalted butter room temperature
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C)
- Grease and flour 3 8x2-inch round cake pans. Line the bottoms with parchment paper.
- You will need three bowls for this recipe. Put your flour mixture in the largest bowl because all the ingredients will eventually be added to the bowl with flour. I use a clear glass bowl for the final mixture to ensure that the batter is thoroughly combined.
- Place the sugar in one of the bowls and zest the orange directly on top of the sugar. Rub the zest into the sugar with your fingers to release the oil. Juice the oranges until you have 1 cup of orange juice and then strain the juice the remove pieces of pulp or pith.
- Beat the eggs together in a small bowl.
- Whisk flour, cocoa, ground ginger, baking powder, cinnamon, salt, pepper together in a large bowl. Combine the eggs, vegetable oil, fresh ginger and sugar into a second bowl and whisk until well combined.
- Place the molasses in a third bowl, sift the baking soda onto the molasses and whisk into well combined bowl. Add the orange juice and the milk and mix until combined.
- Add the sugar mixture to the molasses mixture and whisk until smooth.
- Pour the molasses/sugar mixture into the flour mixture and stir until the molasses and flour mixtures are thoroughly combined. Make sure no flour is left on the bottom of the bowl.
- Divide the batter between the 3 pans. Each pan should have approximately 475 grams of batter. Bake the cakes until a cake tester or toothpaste comes out clean when inserted in the center, about 20-25 minutes.
- If you only have 2 cake pans, bake two of the layers, follow the directions and bake the third layer after cleaning and regreasing one of the cake pans.
- Place cake pans on the cooling racks and cool for 10 minutes. Spray cooling rack with nonstick spray and invert cake onto rack, remove parchment paper. Allow the cake to completely cool to room temperature before adding buttercream.
ORANGE SWISS MERINGUE BUTTERCREAM
- For the Swiss meringue buttercream the butter should be at room temperature, between 65 and 70 degrees F. If it is too warm the buttercream will not set up properly and it will be somewhat runny.
- Place eggs whites and sugar into the mixing bowl, place over simmering water bath and whisk until it is 170 degrees F. Remove from water bath and using the whisk attachment beat on medium-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.
- Brush off any loose crumbs on the cake layers.Place a cake layer on onto a cake plate or cardboard cake round. Add a 1 cup of buttercream and spread to the edge of the cake. Place second cake layer on top and add another cup of buttercream. Place third cake layer on top.
- Crumb coat the cake by adding a thin layer of buttercream around the cake and on top. The crumb coat seals in any stray crumbs and fills in the gaps between the layers.
- Add 1 cup of buttercream to the top of the cake and smooth the edge. Add more buttercream to sides of the cake to create a smooth surface. I decorated this cake Naked Style so you will still see the Orange Ginger Cake peaking through, but there is a enough buttercream to cover the entire cake.
- Decorate the cake with the remaining buttercream.
Amy K says
This looks delicious! What number/type of frosting tip should be used? Thank you!
Helen Marie Mathews says
So what do you do with the orange zest for the bitter cream frosting? It's not in the directions.