This week, I’m introducing the first of what I hope will be a growing collection of “ballet bakes.” The idea behind them will be to create recipes that are inspired by ballets I’m learning or performing with Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre. What’s more, the day that I decided to act on this idea fell during the most incredibly convenient time– it was in the middle of rehearsals for a piece choreographed by Stanton Welsh called Orange. I mean, I was practically spoon-fed the flavor for my blog with a title like that!
Of course, a flavor is just the start of a recipe, a foundation on which to build a whole dessert. I generally have a list of baking ideas running through my mind, but I rarely possess the decisiveness or the focus to mold my swirling thoughts into an actual plan on my own. When I’d concluded, then, that I was heading down the citrus route this week, I knew immediately my next step: seek out some consultation. That’s why, when I found myself at a loss for direction last week, I grabbed my friends Jack, Sam, and Grace, and picked their brains about what I should make. Not only did they help me decide on the idea of dance-inspired bakes, they came up with a plethora of potential desserts centered around oranges. Thanks to them, I left the studio that day excited and anxious to get working on a new recipe.
Everyone knows that I love to bake, and I do! I love the actual process of combining ingredients and testing combinations and measuring and boiling and scooping–the physical act of making food is wonderfully satisfying to me. But the more I dive into this hobby, the more I realize that baking for me involves so much beyond what actually occurs in the confines of my kitchen (or whoever’s kitchen I happen to be mooching that day). The baking that I love begins with the idea. It begins with the phone call to my mom in the middle of Giant Eagle to talk through the ideas I have for a recipe and get her advice as I wander through the aisles looking for inspiration. It begins with looking through the magazine recipe my grandma shared with me because she thought it had potential to be a great flavor for a dessert. This week, it began between rehearsals with a pow-wow between three of my friends, who enthusiastically offered up tons of fabulous (and a few not so fabulous 😛 ) concepts for an orange themed dessert.
Similarly, the baking never ends with the close of my oven door. Rather, it ends with the giddy swarm of friends that congregated when I brought out some of the cake at work this week and their satisfied smiles upon trying a piece. It could end with the elaborate taste-test I conduct with my roommates to finalize a recipe, or the regular text to my family group chat to get votes on the most Instagram-worthy food photo for my post. If I’m lucky enough, it’ll occasionally even end with someone sharing with me how they tried a recipe from the blog for themselves.
On those days when I’m exhausted, when I’ve been dirtying my apron for hours, when my kitchen becomes a sauna, and a dessert is going horribly wrong, it’s easy to limit my experience with baking to the actual hours I clock in with my ingredients. I’ll admit that by the afternoon of the third day working with this cake, I was very much tired of seeing any more orange zest. But this cake also reminded me that the reason I love to bake is so much more than the actual baking: it’s the brainstorming, the thrill of a crazy idea, the chance to share something I love. Most importantly, though, it’s the people who are along with me for the ride, the ones who make my love for this process grow every week, and without whom this blog would certainly not exist. Thank you for baking with me 🙂
Every time I think of you, I give thanks to my God.
Orange “Creamsicle” Cake with Chocolate Ganache (V)
CAKE (MAKES 1 6″ CAKE; DOUBLE OR TRIPLE FOR DESIRED NUMBER OF LAYERS)
- 1/2 cup sugar (vegan if desired)
- 1/3 cup vegan butter, room temperature
- 1/4 cup cream soda, room temperature
- 1/4 cup orange juice, room temperature
- 2 tsp orange zest
- 1/8 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- oranges for garnishing
- 2 TBSP orange juice
- 2 TBSP cream soda
- 4 oz. bittersweet vegan chocolate
FROSTING (adjust extracts to taste)
- 1/2 cup vegan butter, room temperature
- 2 cups powdered sugar
- 2 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 2 tsp orange extract
- salt to taste
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease and line the bottom of a 6″ cake pan with parchment.
- In a small bowl, whisk together flour and baking powder. Set aside.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine butter and sugar. (You can also use a hand mixer). Mix on medium speed until very smooth.
- Add cream soda, orange juice, salt, vanilla extract, and orange zest. Mix until combined. If butter splits, its okay; continue to next step.
- Gradually mix in flour+baking powder mixture until completely incorporated. Increase mixer speed to medium-high and whip for 30 seconds.
- Pour batter into prepared pan. Tap on the counter to eliminate air bubbles.
- Bake in preheated oven for 30-35 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in cake’s center comes out clean.
- Turn cake out of pan, and allow to cool completely. Place in freezer or fridge before cutting/frosting.
- Combine cream soda and orange juice in microwave-safe measuring cup. Microwave until very hot, just before boiling.
- Begin stirring in chocolate until it is all mixed in. You may need to heat up the mixture again to allow it to completely incorporate (Only use 15 second intervals to avoid burning).
- The final product should end up being about 2/3 cup when all the chocolate is added.
- Place ganache in fridge or freezer to cool until ready to use; just check it periodically to make sure it doesn’t freeze.
- Place butter in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on medium for a few seconds to spread it out in the bowl.
- Begin adding powdered sugar, about 1/2 cup at a time, and mixing on low-medium speed.
- When mixture becomes too dry, add extracts (adjust amounts to taste if desired). Continue mixing and adding powdered sugar until it’s completely incorporated.
- Add salt a pinch at a time to taste. Mix on high for 30 seconds.
- Stack cake layers, and cut to make them even. Unstack.
- Spread a very thin layer of frosting on top of bottom layer. Spread a layer of ganache on top of frosting. Stack second cake on top, and repeat frosting/ganache layers until you reach the top.
- Apply a very thin, smooth coat of frosting to entire cake (called a crumb coat), and place cake in freezer until frosting layer is firm.
- Remove cake, and apply second and final layer of frosting.
- Using a spoon or squeeze bottle, spread ganache on entire top of cake, and drip some down the sides. (Make sure your ganache is spreadable but not warm before doing this; if it gets too firm, microwave for a very short time, and stir).
- Top as desired (I dehydrated orange slices in a 200° oven for a few hours!), and enjoy! Keep leftovers in the fridge to keep the ganache from melting.