Orange Cardamom Cake with Chocolate Ganache

You know, I love ostentatious, glamorous cakes. I also find elaborate buttercream cakes lovely to look at, especially for kids’ occasions. So when a good friend asked me if I’d like to bake for her husband’s birthday party attended by adults sans kids at her home, I said yes.

I was in a bind, though, to be honest. It was a home party so by definition not too fancy, but adults only so at least some refinement was expected. Initially my idea was to bake an upside down cake. Lots of Youtube research revealed that although upside downs can be A1 tastewise, they have a high chance of not turning out so pretty. Especially when it isn’t berry season, a fruit group that promises colour upon baking.

Back to the drawing board it was. Over the week it became clear that I was going to be using in-season oranges. I often use cardamom in my tea and enjoy the fruity, fragrant flavour it lends. It would make a complementary scent to the citrus, I imagined. Ganache looked like the easiest and most elegant way to ice the cake without going the too-much frosting route. Et voila! My orange cardamom cake with a chocolate glaze.

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These are two vanilla cakes stacked and sandwiched with candied orange slices — my original masterstroke that worked so well that it actually became the USP of this cake. It was a last-minute idea to candy those orange slices and what a fantastic brainwave THAT was. It lent the cake a whole different dimension in terms of depth of flavour and interesting texture. If you make this cake, DO NOT skip this. It’s the cake’s soul, I tell you, the soul.

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Candying the oranges is a slightly long process. Easy but time consuming, so prep ahead if you can manage it. I candied them the night before and lay single-layer on a parchment sheet overnight. The process is simple: dissolve 1/2cup white sugar in 1.5 cups water over medium heat. Once dissolved, lay orange slices (peeled and thinly sliced) in a single layer in the syrup and simmer over low heat for about 45 mins, until they’re coated and soft and the sugar syrup has thickened. You can also carefully flip them midway to cook both sides.

Notice that I used blood oranges because I wanted a bright red colour but they pretty much leached out into a regular orange shade. Oh well.

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Note: you can use the orange peel as decoration like I did. For that, try to peel in one continuous motion so you end up with long segments of the rind that you can then fold into flowers or other shapes.

Once caramelized, the orange slices will look shiny and sweet and delicious. Handle carefully when transferring onto parchment because a) they’re hot and b) they’re fragile. But, look, how BEAUtiful!

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Inspiration for the cake itself came from a few different sources — here, here and here. My recipe is an amalgamation of these plus my own additions.

You’ll need

190g AP flour
2tsp baking powder
1/2tsp salt
150g granulated white sugar
115g unsalted butter
2 med-large eggs
1tsp vanilla
1/2cup milk (boiled with 1tsp crushed cardamom seeds, sieved and cooled to room temp)
1tbsp orange zest

Preheat oven to 325F or 180C. Cream butter and sugar until fluffy. Add eggs, vanilla and beat until combined. Sift flour, baking powder and salt and add to the butter mixture alternating with the milk. Mix until just combined. Add orange zest and pour batter into a greased, parchment-lined 9inch tin. Bake until toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean, about 35-40 mins.

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For the ganache, use a good quality chocolate that you don’t mind eating as is. Even if you’re using a grocery-store brand, buy the best of those you can find. I used a mix of dark and milk chocolates shredded fine.

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The rule of ganache apparently is equal quantity chocolate to heavy cream for the basic, adding more chocolate or less cream depending on consistency required. A 1:1 ratio will yield a pourable ganache that hardens quickly into a spreadable mixture. I bought two 100g chocolate packs so I used 175ml heavy cream mixed with 1tbsp unsalted butter (for a shiny ganache) because I wanted soft but not runny. Adjust according to your needs.

Pour heated cream+butter over your chocolate splinters and let sit for 2 mins before stirring gently to form a scrumptious ganache. Pour over assembled cake immediately and let it run down the sides. Decorate the top of your cake with a couple of the caramelized orange slices, gold mist (optional) and your lovely peel decorations (that can be removed before eating). They just look so purdy. 🙂

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When I brought the cake to my friend’s, their expression was worth all the effort, yay! The cake looked so elegant and tasted good too. I’m not just saying it; some guests took it home with them at the end! What great compliment?! I really do think this one is a winner. Give it a try — you won’t be disappointed.

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