Friday, March 29, 2013

Best Orange Cake in the World

This tasty little number was discovered by Astreja K. in the pages of that Canadian classic, the New Purity Cook Book, in the summer of 1976.  Over the years, She cut out a step or two in the workflow, tinkered a bit with the baking settings, and made the cake even more orangey.  This is the result.

Astreja K.'s Amazing Orange Cake

  • 2 large navel oranges with rough peels
  • ¾ cup unsalted butter, preferably at room temperature (½ cup for cake, ¼ cup for icing)
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1½ cups all-purpose flour (unbleached is best)
  • 2 level teaspoons baking powder
  • Approximately 3 cups icing sugar

Before you start, lightly grease an 8" x 8" square pan and line with parchment paper.  (The greasing helps the paper stick to the sides of the pan.)

Rinse the oranges in hot water for a couple of minutes, giving them a good scrubbing and removing any blemishes and stickers.  Using a coarse grater, strip all the peel off both oranges into a large bowl but try to get just the outer layer and not too much of the white rind that's underneath the peel.  For a more interesting look, use one very orange orange and one yellowish-orange orange.  Put the oranges themselves aside for a few minutes.  Mix up the peel to muddle the colours together, then transfer a bit less than half to a small bowl.  (This is for the icing.)

Divide the butter into the two bowls:  ½ cup into the original large bowl, ¼ cup into the icing bowl.  Put the icing bowl aside for now.

Add the 1 cup of granulated sugar to the large bowl, and cream together with the butter and the orange peel.  Add the eggs (one at a time) and continue beating until thoroughly blended.

Cut the oranges in half and juice them into a large measuring cup.  The goal is to get about ⅔ cup of juice, but if you're not quite there you can also add some of the pulp from the oranges.   You can even add extra pulp, up to about 1 cup total of juice and pulp.

In yet another bowl, sift or stir together the 1½ cups of flour and 2 level teaspoons of baking powder.

At this point, you can get the oven ready.  Set the rack right in the middle, and preheat to 325°F.

Now you put it all together.  Add the flour and the juice to the butter/sugar/peel mixture:
  • ⅓ of the flour; mix well
  • ½ of the juice
  • Another ⅓ of the flour
  • Rest of the juice
  • Rest of the flour
Mix well after every addition.  Don't worry if it looks like the orange juice is curdling; it'll be fine once everything's combined.

Put the mixture into the pan, making sure you get it into the corners.  (Use the back of a tablespoon to push it around the pan.)  Bake for about 35 minutes, then check for doneness by lightly pressing on the top of the cake. If the dent doesn't bounce back, the cake isn't quite done. Turn the oven down to 300°F and check it every 5 minutes till done.

Remove cake from oven and let sit for 10 more minutes, then invert onto a large cooling rack and peel off the parchment paper.

Let the cake cool completely! It'll take at least an hour and a half, so relax. Put up your feet and listen to a couple of CD's.

While you're waiting, you can finish the icing. Cream the butter and orange peel together.  Gradually add icing sugar to taste and consistency.  Do not add any milk or other liquids – Only butter, sugar and orange peel.  Apply to the cooled cake with a knife or an icing spatula, occasionally rinsing the tool in hot water if you opted for a thick, heavy icing.

This is a very tolerant cake, suitable for fridge, freezer or straight out to the table.  It freezes very well, icing and all, and if you put it in the fridge the icing takes on a nice fudge-like texture.

And since neither cake nor icing calls for any milk, you could probably create a completely lactose-free version by switching the butter for a suitable non-dairy margarine.


  1. that sounds amazing! I'll be trying that out soon

  2. Sweetheart,
    Got a gluten,and sugar-free version of this?

    I agree with Debra: amazing!