As much as I love cupcakes, I think there are still occasions that are better served with layer cakes. Layer cakes are, by nature, celebratory desserts. They most often preside over birthdays and weddings, but they are just as appropriate for lesser occasions. In fact, it seems to me that the only real requirement for a layer cake occasion is that you want the recipient(s) to feel special. For my purposes this week, the layer cake said, "Welcome! I'm so glad you're here!" And my recipients were, of course, my parents.
I've been living in the Pacific Northwest for nearly nine months now without any visitors, so you can imagine how glad I was to see a few familiar faces on my side of the country. And this cake, I think, was the perfect way to show my appreciation. You might recognize the orange cake recipe -- it's the same one I used for the creamsicle cupcakes I made a few weeks ago. It is wonderful and moist on its own, but paired with this amaretto pastry cream and some fresh fruit, it is simply divine. You can use most any juicy, ripe fruit here. I chose strawberries only because I have a 4 lb crate of them in my refrigerator right now (currently on sale at QFC for $5). Don't, however, leave out the fruit because the texture it adds to the cake is part of what makes it so fantastic. Spongy orange cake, smooth amaretto cream, and juicy fruit -- sublime!
Orange Layer Cake with Strawberries & Amaretto Pastry Cream
A Dulcedo original compilation
Adapted from a recipe by Cheryl at The Cupcake Bakeshop
Makes three 6" cake rounds (enough for 2 layer cakes)
2-3 medium oranges
3 large eggs
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon orange extract
2 cups sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
Fresh strawberries for assembly
A recipe from Bon Appétit - December 2001
Makes enough for one 6" three-layer cake (so double it if you want to make two cakes)
1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
1 1/4 cups whole milk
1 1/4 cups sugar
4 large egg yolks
1/2 cup all purpose flour
2 tablespoons amaretto or other almond liqueur
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
To make the cake:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
Peel oranges (removing any seeds and as much of the white pith as possible) and puree in a blender or food processor. Measure out 1/2 cup of the liquidy pulp. In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine orange pulp, eggs, buttermilk, vanilla, orange extract, sugar, and vegetable oil.
With the mixer on low, gradually add in the flour mixture, beating until just incorporated.
Spoon the batter into three 6" greased and floured pans lined with parchment* and bake for 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
* Trace the bottom of your pan onto parchment paper and then cut out the round. Grease the bottom of the pan and then grease and flour the sides of the pan. Place the parchment round in the pan and then grease the top of the parchment. (And if you're like me, you cheat and use the Pam or Crisco spray that has flour in it for baking.)
To make the pastry cream:
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, combine the sugar, egg yolks, flour, amaretto, vanilla, and salt (mixture will be thick and pasty). In a medium saucepan, combine cream and milk and bring to simmer. Remove from heat.With the mixer on medium speed, gradually drizzle the hot cream mixture into the egg yolk mixture. Once the pastry cream is combined, return it to the saucepan. Whisk over medium heat until the pastry cream boils, thickens, and is smooth, about 6 minutes. Transfer pastry cream to bowl. Press plastic wrap directly onto surface of the pastry cream and refrigerate overnight.
Using a serrated knife or wire cake slicing tool, slice each of the cake rounds in half horizontally. Spread a layer of pastry cream over one half of a round. Place a layer of strawberries on top of the cream. Repeat with remaining cake halves, pastry cream, and strawberries.