Normally I wouldn't post two cake recipes back-to-back, but this one is too good to keep secret. My husband requested an orange-chocolate birthday cake this year. This was new territory for me, but I was happy to experiment, and absolutely thrilled with the result. This is quite possibly the best and most decadent birthday cake I've made to date.
Pecans lend a delicate sweetness to this moist and buttery cake, while whipped egg whites make it light and fluffy. I created a subtle and pleasing orange flavor by using sour cream to balance Grand Marnier, orange zest, and orange extract. The secret to a perfect cake is to use really top-notch butter. Que manifique!
2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
3 large eggs, whites and yolks separated
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
1 tbsp orange zest
2 tbsp Grand Marnier liqueur
2 tbsp orange extract
1 1/4 cup sour cream
1 cup pecans, finely chopped
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
4 oz softened butter
5 tbsp milk
2 cups powdered sugar
1 1/2 tsp Grand Marnier
1. Preheat the oven to 350 F. Grease and flour two 9" cake pans, springform if you have them. (Tip: If using "non-stick" cake pans, use parchment paper inside the cake pans to keep the cake from crisping. Non-stick pans will burn a delicate cake like this. I strongly prefer old-fashioned aluminum pans, which have better heat transfer properties.)
2. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt and stir thoroughly.
3. Using a stand mixer or handheld mixer, beat the butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy.
4. Add the egg yolks one at a time and beat them into the butter mixture.
5. Mix in the orange zest, Grand Marnier, and orange extract.
6. Add the flour 1/2 cup at a time, alternating with the sour cream, mixing on medium speed until all flour and sour cream are incorporated.
7. Add the chopped nuts into the batter and stir with a wooden spoon to incorporate.
8. In a separate medium bowl, beat the egg whites on high speed until stiff peaks form.
9. Add the egg whites to the batter and carefully fold them in by hand using a spatula.
10. Divide and evenly distribute the batter in the prepared cake pans.
11. Bake for 30-35 mins until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
12. Melt the chocolate chips in a double boiler (or carefully in a small saucepan) over med-low heat, stirring constantly to avoid scorching. Set aside to cool for 15 minutes.
13. Using a stand mixer or handheld mixer, lightly beat 4 oz of softened butter until creamy.
14. Alternately add 1 tbsp of milk and 1/2 cup powdered sugar, mixing until incorporated, until all powdered sugar and milk have been added. (Note: the frosting will look too thin at this point.)
15. Add the Grand Marnier and mix until incorporated.
16. When the chocolate has cooled, add it to the frosting and mix on low speed to incorporate. This will help thicken the frosting. Tip: If the frosting still seems too thin for your tastes, add additional powdered sugar 1/4 cup at a time. If it gets too sweet, you can correct the flavor by adding unsweetened cocoa powder 1/2 tsp at a time.
17. After the cake has cooled, use a cake or bread knife to slice off the rounded top on one of the layers. This creates a nice flat base layer.
18. Frost the cake. I chose to decorate it with a few additional chocolate chips to add some style.