Lately I was reading this beautifully written book, A Homemade Life by Molly Wizenberg, the creator of Orangette, where she wrote about a Vanilla Bean Buttermilk Cake with Glazed Oranges and Creme Fraiche in one of the chapters. Just the name itself sounds delicious enough to make me want to eat it right away so immediately I went rummaging my fridge and shelves for the ingredients, which I was lucky enough to have everything in place. Life seems wonderful at this point.
The cake which Molly adapted from The Cake Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum, uses a method quite different from my usual way of making cake. The flour was mixed in at the very beginning stage with all other dry ingredients, followed by the butter and the rest of the wet ingredients. The overall mixing time and speed, with the flour in, seemed a little aggresive than usual, so I was a little worried that the flour would be overmixed which might result in a tough cake.
When I removed the cake from the oven, I immediately poked it with my finger to check, in the hope that my worry would be meaningless, but the cake seemed tough. While it was cooling on the rack, I poked it every 5 minutes and each time, the cake seemed tougher as it cools. I was thinking… that was it. It was a tough cake. I knew it.
But no, I don’t know it. I cut out a neat slice, poured glazed orange and drop spoonfuls of crème fraîche on it, and tasted. Oh mine… it was divine! The cake was surprisingly tender, velvety, very nicely vanilla-scented and melt-in-your-mouth. The oranges and crème fraîche goes really well with the cake. Genius. Molly mentioned in her book that the cake begs for a second helping and it’s so good even on it’s own. I couldn’t agree more. I served it to my aunt whom had been my frequent cake tester recently and very honest in her opinions. She said after her first mouthful that for a rating from 1 (taste like puke) to 10 (can I bring the whole cake home cause I can’t stop eating it), she rated it 10.
Vanilla Bean Buttermilk Cake with Glazed Oranges and Crème Fraîche (Recipe adapted from A Homemade Life by Molly Wizenberg) Yield 8 servings
For the cake
4 large egg yolks
2/3 cup buttermilk
1 cup sugar
1 vanilla bean
2 cups cake flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
113g (1 stick) unsalted butter
- Set an oven rack in the middle position, and preheat the oven to 350F (175C). Grease a 9-inch springform pan with butter or cooking spray (I used a 9 by 2 inch round cake pan). Line the bottom of the pan with a round of parchment paper and grease it too.
- In a small bowl, lightly whisk the egg yolks with about 1/4 cup of the buttermilk. Set aside.
- Put the sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. If using handheld beaters, put it into a medium mixing bowl. Using a sharp knife, split the vanilla bean in half from tip to tip. Run the back edge of the knife down each half of the pod, scraping out the tiny black seeds. Dump them into the bowl with the sugar. Using your fingers, rub the seeds into the sugar, taking care to break up any lumps. discard the spent pod. (Or bury it in a container of sugar to make vanilla sugar.)
- Add the flour, baking powder, and salt to the vanilla sugar. Beat on low speed for a few seconds, just to combine.
- Cut the butter into pieces and add it to the dry ingredients, along with the remaining buttermilk. Beat on low speed until the ingredients are moist, then increase the speed to medium and beat until well combined, about 1 minute. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula, then add the egg mixture in three doses, beating well after each addition. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, and beat for 30 seconds on medium speed. The batter should be thick but airy, very pale and smooth.
- Scrape the batter into the prepared pan, and smooth the top with a rubber spatula. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
- Cool the cake in the pan on a rack for 15 minutes. Run a thin knife around the edge of the pan, then remove the sides. Position a wide, flat plate upside-down atop the cake, and invert the cake onto the plate. Remove the bottom of the pan and the parchment. Place a wire rack over the cake, and turn upright onto the rack. Cool completely.
Glazed Oranges (Recipe adapted from A Homemade Life by Molly Wizenberg)
4 navel oranges, at room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
- Using a small, sharp knife, supreme 3 of the oranges. To do this, slice the top and bottom 1/4 inch of each one, revealing the flesh at either end. Working with 1 orange at a time, stand the fruit on one end and cut closely down the sides, trimming away and discarding the peel and white pith. Holding the peeled orange over a medium bowl, carefully cut between the membranes to remove the individual wedges of flesh. Let the wedges, called “supremes”, and their juice fall into the bowl. Discard the core.
- Juice the fourth orange: it should yield about 1/2 cup juice. If it comes up a little short, add a bit of juice from the bowl of the supremes to make up the difference. Pour the juice into a heavy 2-quart saucepan and add the sugar. Place over medium heat and cook, stirring frequently, until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture bubbles and reduces to deep orange-golen syrup, about 10 minutes. Add the supremes, stirring them gently in the syrup, and cook until warm through, 1-2 minutes.
- Serve immediately, with wedges of the vanilla bean buttermilk cake and spoonfuls of crème fraîche.