Monday, August 29, 2011

Orange Pudding Cake

Orange Pudding Cake - made August 27, 2011 from Quick Recipe by the Editors of Cooks' Illustrated (book #153)

You can tell it's done when the cake has pulled away from the sides

I'm going to stray from chocolate for awhile and focus on using more of summer's bounty, namely oranges and lemons from my mom's trees.  My own orange tree boasts a grand total of 1 orange that is still small and green and has been growing by infinitesimal increments for several months now.  My lemon tree has a number of teeny little blossoms that look like they're thinking about becoming lemons someday......a really long time from now.  So in the meantime, I have to partake of my mom's more established and more prolific citrus trees.

I was curious about this recipe because I was familiar with and like chocolate pudding cake but I had never tried a citrus one.  A chocolate pudding cake typically relies on mixing up a cake batter for the bottom layer and pouring a good amount of liquid on top and the cake bakes up with its own sauce.  This was similar in principle except the egg white in the batter is supposed to rise to the top while the bottom bakes into a custard.  I was a little leery about another egg-white type cake since I'm not fond of an egg-white texture.  I like chiffon cakes and angel food cakes well enough but only if they're baked properly and don't taste like warm egg whites, like some of my past failures with souffles have gone.

You can see the custard layer that formed on the bottom

However, I was pleasantly surprised by this recipe.  The top bakes into an airy, almost chiffon-textured cake while the bottom turns into a custard almost like a creme brulee.  The orange flavor was light and refreshing, perfect for summer.  If you want to dress it up, serve with berries and/or a light lemon or orange sorbet.  This is best served warm and is at its most impressive when you first take it out of the oven but you do need to let it cool enough to enjoy the texture and flavor of the orange.

A close up of the larger version of the pudding cake
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened
¾ (5 ¼ ounces) cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
¼ cup (1 ounce) plain cake flour
¼ teaspoon salt
3 large eggs, separated, room temperature
1 cup milk
1 tablespoon grated orange zest plus ¼ cup orange juice
2 tablespoons lemon juice
½ teaspoon cream of tartar

1.     Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 325˚F.  Lightly grease a 9 x 9-inch glass baking pan with the softened butter.
2.     Whisk together ¾ cup sugar, the flour, and salt in a medium bowl.  Beat the egg yolks, milk, orange zest, orange juice and lemon juice together in a small bowl.  Pour this mixture over the dry ingredients and blend well with a whisk.
3.     In the bowl of a standing mixer, beat the egg whites at medium-high speed until they are foamy, about 30 seconds.  Add the cream of tartar, raise the speed to high, and beat until the whites hold soft peaks, about 1 ½ minutes.  Add the remaining 2 tablespoons sugar and beat until the egg whites hold a 2-inch peak, about 30 seconds.  Using a whisk, fold the egg whites into the yolk mixture.
4.     Pour the batter into the prepared baking dish.  Bake until the center is set and springs back when gently pressed, about 35 minutes.  Remove the pan from the oven and cool for 10 minutes.  Spoon the cake (it will be soft) into bowls and serve warm.