Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Orange You Glad I Bake?

When I was a wee child, I played soccer. I didn't so much play as I did sign up to get free orange slices at halftime. I mean, clearly I didn't join because I have a natural inclination for the sport. I have the coordination of a baby giraffe and a drunk toddler all wrapped up in one wobbly package. But damn if I didn't love those orange slices. I've always been a fan of fruit, seeing as it is the natural dessert of the food world. Bless the person who came up with fruit and dessert fondue. I remember in my youth my mom used to melt chocolate Symphony bars and dip strawberries in them to get us to eat anything other than McDonald's apple pies for dessert. Although, looking back, she probably also made this dessert because children drive you crazy, and every once in awhile you need to indulge in some really good chocolate to cope. She has also always been a fan of chocolate and orange combined together. I was introduced to the orange Milano cookie by my mother. I don't care who you are, when you bite into an orange Milano you get the distinct impression of what it must have felt like to be Italian nobility: "Servant--tell chef I require a dessert that has both chocolate and cream, but I must be able to eat it with my fingers without making any mess at all."  Talk about the good life. I'm still a huge fan of any flavor Milano cookie, but the orange will always reign supreme. I decided I needed to take this love to the next level, so naturally that means baking it into cake form. Say ciao! to the orange chocolate Milano cake, named as such for its shockingly identical taste...
Brown and orange, not just for the five remaining Cleveland Browns fans.
Like most of you, I've spent the last week and half living and breathing all things Olympics. I wonder how long synchronized swimming routines take to master and what it must feel like to be able to get your entire body perfectly inline with someone else's. I've yet to even master synchronized walking with my own two legs, so things like diving, swimming, and gymnastics leave me feeling relatively underwhelmed by my existence and generally concerned I may well step off a curb wrong and simply fall over dead one day. I was not blessed with a streamlined physique and proclivity for athletics. I was blessed with the ability to bake my ass off though, and I feel like this is worthy of a medal of some sort. Or at least a hearty thumbs up. And I can guarantee you that if you make this orange chocolate Milano cake, people will want to laud you with medals, well wishes, and for two seconds forget people with superhuman abilities exist (looking at you, Ledecky. There's only room for one Katy in this blog).
This is what a medal podium looks like in the baking world.
I searched high and low for the perfect orange chocolate cake recipe, and I was relatively shocked that Pinterest offered me nary a recipe up to my standards. It's like one of those moments when you Google something relatively simple and yield no results. I managed to quell the confusion and decided to go full Martha on this cake and just do it my damned self. Insider trading aside, she's a pretty big baking inspiration. To make my orange chocolate Milano cake, you'll need:
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup flour, plus 2 TBS
  • 4 TBS Hershey's unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 TBS Hershey's unsweetened dark cocoa powder
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 3/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 large egg at room temp
  • 1/2 cup of milk at room temp
  • 1/4 cup veggie or canola oil
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 TBS pure orange extract
  • 1/2 cup nearly boiling water
While it's a lot of ingredients, everything falls together with nice ease. You can use a 9x9 or 8x8 circular or square pan for this recipe. Just be sure to grease the hell out of the pan. I even put down Parchment paper first and greased that since this is a very dense cake.

Preheat the oven to 350. I only have one giant mixing bowl in our what I call "somewhat" furnished condo (seriously, what furnished kitchen doesn't come with a pasta strainer), so make do with what ya got. Dump all the dry ingredients together and whisk until well incorporated. Then add in the egg, milk, veggie oil, and extracts and blend well. Finish off by adding in the hot water (carefully) and mixing.
So smooth. So dreamy. Like the Ryan Lochte of cakes.
Pour into your prepared baking pan. This cake will rise a bit, but it will not spill out of an 8x8 pan, I promise. It took my cake 30 minutes to finish baking throughout, but if you use a 9x9 pan, it will probably take less, so start checking for doneness (spell check doesn't believe this is a word) around 25-28 minutes. Let cool in the pan for 10 minutes before using an angled spatula to ensure your edges are not sticking to the pan before removing to a cooling rack to finish cooling.
I am also sans cooling rack, so this went on my cake round and directly into the freezer for 45 minutes. I do recommend freezing before crumb coating.
When we finally get to Florida and I can unpack my entire kitchen, you'll hear my sobs of happiness from a ten mile radius...especially when I'm reunited with my stand mixer. I apologize profusely to any of you who have tried to make my buttercream frosting with a bowl and hand mixer; it is not for the faint of heart.
But you're gonna have to do it again..
This makes a large enough amount of frosting that you could get fancy and torte your cake and fill the layers with frosting. I thought about it, but since I'm trying to have some semblance of healthy desserts in my life, I opted to skip the inch-thick additional layer of frosting in the middle of the cake. Trust me, it is still delicious enough without it. So to make enough frosting for the cake and for you to shamelessly shovel several spoonfuls into your mouth for taste testing purposes, you need:
  • 1/2 cup of softened butter (1 stick)
  • 1/4 cup of Hershey's Cocoa Powder
  • 1/4 cup of Hershey's Special Dark Cocoa Powder (if you want an even lighter chocolate flavor, omit this and use 1/2 cup of the regular powder instead, but trust me when I say you want the dark cocoa powder)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract 
  • 1 tsp pure orange extract
  • 4 cups of powdered sugar
  • 5 tablespoons of milk 
Cream the butter until fluffy, then add in the cocoa powders, extracts, two cups of powdered sugar, and two tablespoons of milk. Blend well, make a huge mess with your hand mixer, curse the life you took for granted that had a stand mixer in it, scrape the bowl, add in the remaining two cups of sugar and three tablespoons of milk, and realize cake baking can get pretty emotionally draining outside your normal kitchen.

Also realize you've been tricked into a crappy photo montage.
Crumb coat your cake once it is fully cooled; once again, I do recommend freezing this cake because it is extremely moist, so even frosting a crumb coat might be tricky. Slather a nice layer of crumb coat on your cake, throw back into the freezer for thirty minutes, and longingly gaze upon the bowl of frosting.
Or you could be more productive, gathering an orange, zester, knife, and fitting a piping bag with a 1M tip. Zest a bit of the orange before cutting it for garnish. Let the zest sit out to air dry for easier handling later.
Messy, rustic, chic, all the same.
You can smooth this frosting using the Viva paper towel trick, but I wanted to make it swirly since it was so nice and creamy. I applied my second layer of frosting over the entire cake with a small angled spatula and then came back over every inch of cake with it while swirling the spatula in wavy S patterns. I then took my remaining frosting and loaded it into the piping bag. I simply topped the cake with large, mounded stars, but you could do large shells or rosettes as well. Any of them would be pretty!

But much like me in high heels, these large, mounded stars make this single-layer cake look even taller.
I finished up my decorating by dusting the top of the cake with orange zest and a couple small slices of oranges. You could get really fancy and candy orange slices to top the cake with, but that takes two hours, and I was busy wondering what the actual rules for Olympic men's field hockey were and why everyone that plays this sport is ridiculously attractive, so I already had a full day.
This. cake. Orange my God (surprisingly kept the orange puns to a minimum in this blog. What a navel  novel idea). It is rich. It is moist. It tastes exactly like an orange Milano cookie. So to answer the question, yes, it is possible to make an orange Milano even better because you can turn it into cake. You could even garnish this cake with orange Milanos to have some sort of cake-cookie inception situation happening. This yields 10 slices of cake with each slice ringing in at just under 450 calories. I know, not light or healthy by any means, but I really did feel like an Italian noble while I ate it, so my waistline is just going to have to deal with it. After feeling so inferior while watching the Olympics, I deserved five minutes of feeling better than everyone who doesn't eat cake. I may not know the sweet taste of athletic victory, but I do know exactly how good it feels to devour chocolate orange Milano cake, so in your face, coordinated people of the world. If competitive cake eating ever becomes a thing, I'm bringing home the gold. 'Til next time, my fellow eaters!
Not trying this cake would be a pith-y. Get it? What an a-peeling pun. Okay, I'm done, I swear.

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