Sunday, September 9, 2007

White Cake, Orange Zest, Whipped Cream & Crystallized Flowers – Romantic or Heavenly?

Wondering if I am on a baking spree? Not exactly! It’s been a season for celebration, birthday and anniversary, and we have been indulging ourselves in some sweet luxuries. Baking cakes on special occasions has been a small sweet-tradition I have been following ever since I learnt to bake a cake properly. Hence when it was time for one such special occasion (I know…u can make out that from the design of this cake!), I asked CJJ what he wanted exactly and the answer came quickly,”Something very simple…some sponge cake…. Yellow-ish….white-ish type”. Baking an ordinary plain cake did not sound all that exhilarating to me….so to make it a bit more exciting, I gave him a very vulnerable choice to add orange zest and as expected, the answer was positive. Next thing I saw myself giving him another option, tickling his memories of a whipped cream covered Black Forest Cake which I made recently. Well, one thing led to the other and finally we ended up with a White Cake flavored with orange zest covered in whipped cream and topped with candied flowers and leaves, which did bring smiles on his face!

I don’t know if there is one single recipe for White Cake flavored with orange zest covered in whipped cream and topped with candied flowers and leaves; this was something I customized to suit our palate which usually has a strong inclination towards some simple light cakes compared to heavy cakes covered in butter cream. Experts can make your own variations; beginners, you may stick to the basic cake recipe, with or without orange zest. Adding lemon zest is also a good idea.

White Cake with Orange Zest

(Recipe Source: “Wedding Cakes You Can Make” by “Dede Wilson”)

  • 1 ¾ cups cake flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 3 large egg whites, at room temperature
  • ¾ cup whole milk, at room temperature
  • ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • ½ tsp Vanilla extract (Original recipe suggests 1 tsp)
  • 1 tbsp Orange zest (Not required if you want a plain basic white cake)

For the moistening Orange Syrup:
  • ¼ cup water
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tbsp Orange juice ( I used Tropicana)
For Filling and frosting:
  • 2 cups heavy (double) cream
  • 3tbsp Confectioners Sugar
  • 1tbsp Orange Juice (I used Tropicana)
  • To Make the Cake: Preheat the oven to 350F. Prepare cake pan by lining the bottoms with parchment paper and grease the sides and sprinkle lightly with flour. Note: I used a single 8-inch heart shaped cake pan, and it was correct; the original recipe calls for two 6-inch round cake pans.
  • Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt; Set aside.
  • Whisk together the egg whites and milk in a small bowl and set aside.
  • Beat the butter for about two minutes, until soft and creamy. Add the sugar gradually and beat until very light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Scrape down the bowl once or twice and then add the vanilla and combine well.
  • Add the flour mixture in 4 additions, alternately with the egg white + milk mixture, beginning and ending with the flour mixture and beat until smooth on low –medium speed after each addition.
  • Pour the batter to the prepared pan and bake for 25 minutes until a toothpick/skewer comes with a few moist crumbs or none. The edges will be barely tinged with brown and will have begun to come away from the sides of the pan.
  • Cool on racks in pans for 5 minutes and unmold directly onto racks and peel off the parchment paper and let it cool completely.
  • To make the Orange syrup: In a small saucepan, stir together water and granulated sugar over low heat until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is hot. Turn off the stove and let it cool completely. Add the orange juice just before assembling the cake. Note: The moistening syrup can be made in advance but should not be flavored with orange juice until right before using.
  • For Filling and frosting: Combine heavy cream, confectioners sugar and 1 tbsp Orange juice in a stainless steel or glass bowl and beat on medium-high speed, until it forms soft peaks. Note: I made the mistake of overbeating the cream which changes the texture of the whipped cream, so do not make the mistake I did.
  • Assembling the cake: When completely cook and ready to assemble, split the cake horizontally using a serrated knife or a cake leveler. Brush 3 tbsp Orange syrup onto the top of each cake layer and spread about ¾ cup whipped cream evenly over the first cake layer. Now place the second cake layer and frost the entire cake, sides and tops, with the remaining whipped cream. Refrigerate for a couple of hours before serving. Note: To be on the safer side, I applied a very thin layer in the beginning to lock in all the crumbs and immediately after that final frosting was applied. If still few crumbs are visible, use a toothpick to remove those crumbs.
  • Decorate: You can decorate your cake anyway you want; let me write down how I did it!! . I tried to create some “ripples” (Really?? Does it look like that?? ) on top by moving the spatula in a back and forth action. You can do this with a spoon too. It is difficult to achieve a smooth surface when you work with whipped cream, unlike butter cream. To create a simple, attractive and romantic look, I made some crystallized flowers and leaves and placed on one side. Before placing the flowers and leaves, pile up some whipped cream, wherever you wish to place the flowers, to gain some height and then arrange the flowers, to have a neat look. (HOW TO for Crystallized flowers follow.)

Crystallized flowers/Candied Flowers/Sugar Frosted Flowers.
(Source: “First Steps in Cake Decorating” by “Janice Murfitt”)
  • 1 egg white
  • 1 cup extra fine sugar (Not powdered)
  • Fresh Flowers preferably EDIBLE flowers.
  • Mint Leaves
  • A Small Paintbrush – Food safe.
HOW TO: Make sure that the flowers you pick are edible ones and not a poisonous variety. Great care must be taken to ensure that no insecticides has been sprayed which means, flowers from your garden are the most preferred ones as you know your flowers for sure! Wash and dry the flowers without any bruises on petals. Whisk the egg white until frothy. With the paint brush, apply beaten egg white evenly over the petals on both sides. Holding the flower above another bowl, spoon some superfine sugar lightly over the flowers on both the sides. Gently shake off the excess and place them gently on a wire rack covered with paper towel. Frost the leaves also in the same way. It will take 1-2 days to dry completely. The flowers will have the best shape if allowed to dry upside down. Some edible flowers are roses, lilacs and violets. Browse for more options. This is also a great idea for decorating individual cupcakes. Check out Annita’s for a pictorial.

Baking Schedule I followed:
  • Made the crystallized flowers 2 days in advance, so as to get them fully dried on the day of assembling and frosting the cake.
  • Baked the cake one day in advance and when completely cool, double wrapped in a plastic wrap and kept at the room temperature.
  • Made whipped cream just before assembling everything.

Verdict: The White Cake, with a light and delicate taste, is best for tea time. It is soft and has a nice texture. When flavored with citric zest, it gives that extra kick to the cake and when frosted with whipped cream and sugar frosted flowers, it presents a simple, informal, lighthearted look and romantic touch to the occasion, if baked in a heart shape. The moistening syrup is not required if you are not planning to layer and frost the cake. The orange flavor is not overwhelming if you stick to the measurements. The lightness of the cream and the smell of the orange, with a soft and moist cake give a completely fresh and light feeling. Simple & Easy. An addition to my baking repertoire and a topper in CJJ’s favorites :)

A good recipe…..some cool practical ideas……..a bit of patience……frost with tons of love and care…that’s all you need to bring surprise and smile on your loved ones’ face and make your special days sweet, simple and romantic ! :)


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