These little candied orange slices were conceived to top a challenging chocolate cake with orange buttercream and ganache. Only one made it on the cake. The rest of them sat on the kitchen counter looking pretty, until one by one, they disappeared. My favorite part about these is how beautiful they are. Hold them up to the light and they are like mini stained glass windows that you get to eat. If there was ever a gingerbread house in the Hansel and Gretel nursery rhyme, these are what the windows would be made of. They taste intensely orange, and I enjoyed the perfectly chewy peels.
I thought candying fruit was a time consuming process involving multiple dips in boiling sugared water, but this recipe was really easy. All you need to do is throw it in the pot and let it slowly boil down until the water evaporates. The recipe specifies this takes 30 minutes, but I think mine were going for nearly an hour. The key is to keep the heat low, and check the pot to make sure you don’t scorch the sugar when you get close to the end.
These are delicious just as they are, but for a real treat, dip them in dark chocolate. They are beautiful on top of cakes and pies and hold their shape well. These will keep in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks, but if you expose them to humidity, they will start to get sticky. If you plan to store these for any length of time, I recommend rolling them in sugar and allowing them to dry on a baking rack for a few days-or better yet, in a food dehydrator.
Total Time: 40 minutes
This recipe calls for a Navel orange, but I used an organic orange that had a thinner skin. Recipe from Grace Parisi, Food & Wine magazine.
Combine all of the ingredients in a small, heavy saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium-low heat and cook about 15 minutes, turning the slices a few times. Turn the heat to low and continue to cook as the liquid becomes a thick syrup. Turn the slices a few more times as the liquid evaporates, being careful not to let the sugar scorch. After another 15 minutes, remove the slices and place them on a wire rack to cool.
Reserve the remaining sugar syrup for another use.
For a few months now, I’ve been on a chocolate cake mission. I’ve made it my quest to bake the perfect chocolate cake, challenging myself on the way with new techniques. My first two cakes didn’t make it to the blog. They tasted good, but looked like a third grader slapped them together. The third chocolate cake, however, was a glorious success (and the best tasting so far). This is the fourth chocolate cake. I went far outside my comfort zone, with two difficult techniques that you should not attempt while looking after a 9-month-old crawling at your feet. This three layer chocolate cake has a challenging orange French buttercream on the inside and rich chocolate ganache on the outside.
I’m proud to say I accomplished making both, along with some deceptively easy candied orange slices, but my timing was off. The French buttercream took a little too long to whip up to the right consistency and by the time the layers were frosted; my ganache had set too much to pour correctly. I ended up combining the leftover orange buttercream with the ganache to create a spreadable (and yummy) frosting. Had I more experience, I would have known my ganache was too firm, but well, now I know.
In the end, the cake was good, but not my favorite. The orange French buttercream was divine, and the cake was moist and rich, but I’ve confirmed for myself that I’m not a fan of ganache, at least, not in this circumstance. You see, I’m not a hardcore chocolate fan. Enrobing an already rich chocolate cake in what amounts to a chocolate bar is overkill. I’m chalking this one up to a learning experience. If you want to make this challenging cake, I’m including the recipe (adapted from the original on Oprah.com) and a link to what it should look like, from The Italian Dish.
Recipe for Chocolate cake with orange buttercream and ganache from The Italian Dish, adapted from Chocolate Cake from Oprah.com
Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. This recipe calls for using a 15 ½” x 10 ½” jelly roll pan to bake the cake in a single layer, dividing it into three layers. I used two 9” round cake pans, which made a four layer cake. Line the pan (or pans) with parchment paper and spray with nonstick cooking spray.
Sift together sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, oil and vanilla. Gradually add the egg mixture to the flour mixture using an electric mixture on low speed, about 5 minutes. Add the hot water and blend on low speed, scraping the sides of bowl until the mixture is thoroughly combined. Pour batter into pan(s) and cook until a toothpick comes out clean, 20-25 minutes. Cool cakes completely and invert on a wire rack. Remove parchment paper.
If you are using a jelly roll pan, carefully cut the cake into equal thirds with a serrated knife. If you are using round pans, cut each cake in half horizontally using twine or a serrated knife.
Beat egg yolks until they become light yellow and ribbonlike when you lift the beaters out of the bowl, about 5 minutes. While you are beating, heat sugar and water over medium-low heat. Continue to heat, occasionally swirling the pan, until a candy thermometer registers 238°F. While mixing on medium speed, add the hot sugar mixture to the egg yolks in a slow, steady stream. Continue to beat this mixture for about 10 minutes, until it cools completely. It should be light and fluffy. Add the butter 1 tablespoon at a time. When the butter is completely incorporated, add the orange juice or liquor to the buttercream.
Combine the chocolate and butter in a large bowl. Heat the cream and sugar in a saucepan until little bubbles start to appear on the surface of the cream (just before it boils). Pour the hot cream over the chocolate and stir. Continue to stir until the chocolate is completely melted and smooth. Cool about 15 minutes. It should be thick, but still pourable.
Arrange the first cake layer on a wire rack over wax paper. Spread the layer with buttercream. Continue stacking the layers, alternating with buttercream and spreading evenly. Pour the ganache over the top layer of buttercream, spreading and pushing it over the sides. You can collect the ganache that spills onto the wax paper to pour again until the cake is completely covered with ganache.
Cool the cake in the refrigerator about an hour. To remove the cake from the wire rack and place on a serving platter, use two spatulas or your clean hands.