The trials and tribulations of a scatter-brained kitchen junkie.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Checkmate - Orange Flavored Checkerboard Cake with Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting

Last week marked a milestone for me, I am officially a quarter of a century. Now because many of the people I socialize with are a few (or many) years older than I am I often get guffaws for worry about age, but really this one kind of hurt. I felt old for the first time in my life.

I spent the weeks prior ramping up for reaching this peculiar peek. I started stock piling Depends and TiVoing Matlock reruns. I practiced my angry fist in the mirror for hours on end. And then I decided that what I really needed was a good old fashioned birthday party. With pretty dresses. And grown up treats. And cake. Oh, yeah, and uh, mustaches.

So I threw myself a fancy dress and mustache party that was a smash hit. It was exactly what I needed to breath life into these old bones ;)

The only real party shot I have, look at all the mustaches

Down to business, the cake. My favorite dessert combinations are by far chocolate and orange. Well, and coconut, but I didn't want to overwhelm the cake, or my guests. So chocolate and orange it is. I started with the cake recipe on the back of the Swan's Down cake flour box and tweaked it to my liking.

For the cake
  • 1 cup unsalted butter at room temperature 
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3 cups sifted cake flour
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 c heavy cream
  • 1/2 c orange juice - preferably not from concentrate and with pulp
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 tsp orange extract
  • 2 tsp orange zest
  • 1/2 tsp lemon extract (It totally jazzes up the citrusy flavor)
For the Filling
Mmm candied orange peel

  • Mandarin Orange Marmalade with Candied Orange Peel 

For the Frosting (double batch)

  • 2 pkgs neufchatel softened
  • 1 c unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 c unsalted butter softened 
  • 3 tsp vanilla
  • 12 c powdered sugar
  • 6 tbs milk

The Steps
Mixing up the cake
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°
  2. First cream the butter. 
  3. Add sugar and mix until light and fluffy. 
  4. Add eggs one at a time, incorporating each fully before adding the next.
  5. Combine the sifted flour, baking powder, & salt in a separate bowl. Use a big bowl and save an extra dish later on. 
  6. Combine orange juice, heavy cream, extracts, and zest in a separate bowl.
  7. Alternate mixing in dry and wet ingredients, mixing well after each addition.
  8. Stir until smooth.

Preparing the checkerboard batter
How to wow your friends and earn mad cake props.
    This stuff is the boss.

  1. Acquire this set, or some close equivolent. Kind of hard to checkerboard a cake with out it.
  2. Spray pans with non-stick cooking spray - I use Pam for baking and I have to say I'm in love. As someone who usually goes generic as much as possible, this is worth the extra money. Plus, it totally smells amazing!
  3. Spray divider (the circley bit that the above set shows)
    with cooking spray. MOAR Pam!
    Sniff that fake bakery smell and weep at it's vanilla goodness.
  4. Insert divider into the first pan with the edge bits facing up.
  5. Divide batter evenly into two separate bowls.
    Go ahead and use the bowl you mixed everything in and 
      The center ring complete, starting the middle ring. 
    the bowl you used for the flour.
    Less dishes = happy baker.
  6. Add food coloring to desired shade.
    I use gel colors to avoid adding extra liquids.
    They are my color-cooking BFFs.
  7. Now the fun begins. Starting with the center ring, and holding the dividing ring in place, spoon batter into the middle circle.
    Next using your other color spoon the mixture into middle ring.  This is where it starts to get tricky, I added batter at each of the four openings and smoothed it out using the back of a spoon. 
    Try your best to make the batter in all of the pans/rings roughly the same height. 
  8. Then spoon the first color of batter into the outer ring using the same steps as above.  
  9. Gently pull the divider straight up and out of the batter.
    Try to do this quickly and with as little movement as possible to preserve the circles.
  10. Wipe off excessive batter, but the ring doesn't need to be perfectly clean going into the next pan.
  11. Repeat this exact process for the second pan. 
  12. Completely wipe the batter off of the divider ring this time, reapplying non-stick cooking spray as needed.
  13. For the third pan use the same steps only switch 
    A completed pan
    the colors. Center & outer ring should be the color used for the middle ring in the other two pans.
  14. Discard any remaining batter. Seriously, don't try to spoon it in anywhere now that the divider is gone. It's not worth it man.
  15. Bake cakes for 25-35 minutes, checking regularly for doneness.
  16. Cakes are finished baking when a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean.
  17. Let the cakes cool.

Assembling the cake
I totally spaced when it came time to assembly and forgot to take picture, but you'll get the idea.
  1. Gently run a butter knife along the edges of each cake to loosen them from the pan.
  2. Flip pan over onto plate, or hand if lazy, and flip back face up onto platter or cake board. Your bottom layer should be one of the cakes that you have two of. 
  3. Trim any severe crowning from cake. 
  4. Spread a thin layer of marmalade over the first cake, trying to kick up as few crumbs as possible.
  5. Repeat flip & trim steps for the second cake and position on top of the bottom layer. This should be the cake you have only one of.
  6. Spread another layer of delicious orange love over the cake.
  7. Again flip & trim your third cake and position on top of the second. 
  8. Frost away. I prefer to frost in three steps: a crumb coat, a finishing coat, and decorations as desired.

Making the frosting
Original recipe came from BHG 
  1. Beat cream cheese, cocoa powder, butter, & vanilla on medium speed until smooth. 
  2. Gradually add four cups of powdered sugar, incorporating completely.
  3. Beat in the milk mixing until smooth.
  4. Gradually beat in additional sugar until desired consistency is reached.
I tossed together blue, purple, and pink sparkling sugar. Then I titled the cake on my positionable turntable and just sort of sprinkled/threw them along the outer edge trying to avoiding hitting the top.  I finished off the cake with some large tip rosettes.  Then I put a cadelabre on top.

That's right, my cake has a candelabra, I am that classy.
In my slightly inebriated celebratory state I forgot to take pictures of the cake while we were cutting and serving. I assure you they would have been awesome though; so, in their stead is a picture of the remaining cake from the morning after. Not quite as pretty, but at least the checkered awesomosity is visible. The important part is that it was delicious. And it was delicious.

Yay cake!


Justine said...

The cake rocked! Just like the birthday girl :)

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