Top of the Cabinet Chocolate Orange Drizzle Cake
Step ladders are a dangerous thing. Not because you can lose your balance and topple to a broken ankled end but because of what your journey ceiling-ward can reveal. The other evening before dinner I dragged the collapsible ladder out of my jammed and awkwardly narrow utility closet (knocking over the Tide and getting bonked on the head by an errant broom handle) in order to search out a box of penne I thought I still had up on the top shelf of a kitchen cabinet. On my way up I stopped suddenly on the second step shocked and appalled by the layer of dust clinging to the grooved glass light fixture hanging from the ceiling. I don’t even want to think about the last time it was cleaned. So, I aborted my initial mission, stepped back down, got some supplies, stepped back up and did the best dusting job I could considering that I was bracing myself with one hand and swatting my rag at the light with another.
After a dust mite induced allergy attack I resumed my penne search. I found the box and instead of making my way back down decided to open an adjacent cabinet, where I keep all my baking components just because, why not? I was already up there and was curious to discover what treasures I might find.
Oh boy. Among the canisters of dry ingredients, boxes of brown sugars, and tins of cocoa I found four items whose ages range from five to 20 years old. Yes, I said 20. The oldest of this vintage collection was a bottle of Hiram Walker Crème de Cassis. It took me a minute but I actually remembered exactly what I bought it for and when the only time I ever used it was: two original Silver Palate Cookbook raspberry pies I baked and brought to a dinner party in 1989. I remembered so well because when I arrived at the party, and told another guest what lurked beneath the foil wrapped pie plates, his upper lip curled in disgust and he said, “Oh no, I hate raspberries.” Who knew? (But I never forgot and have fed this friend many a raspberry-free dessert ever since). This little bottle has been packed and unpacked with all the other supposed non-perishables and lived with me in every apartment (four) since I left home. And instead of immediately tossing it I actually thought I might be able to still use it. I mean it’s alcohol and doesn’t that last forever? (I was thinking about boozing it up with a Kir Royale if only I had a bottle of champagne). No chance. The internet says I should have thrown the liqueur away at least 18 years ago when it would have made only one move—south on Columbus Avenue from 90th to 70th street.Continuing down my baking memory lane I confronted a half used bag of butterscotch chips. Again, I knew the when and what behind their purchase: November 2001, oatmeal butterscotch cookies that accompanied me on a weekend away to my friend Dan’s house in Connecticut. The cookies had been part of a multi-chip cookie assortment we all scarfed down after Dan’s delicious dinner and throughout the cozy weekend. However, I was not at all tempted to keep them after being greeted with that unmistakable rancid, fake butterscotch stench when I untwisted the twist tie. Into the trash they went. Then there was a small Ziploc bag of peanut butter chips, circa 2005, left over from the fancy writing I had attempted to achieve by squirting the melted chips on top of my sister’s birthday cupcakes. Another small Ziploc bag held milk chocolate chips which I had had to separate from their peanut butter partners since the market only carried Nestle’s “Peanut Butter and Milk Chocolate Morsels” and had kept “just in case” even though I hate waxy, milk chocolate. Wow, I’m a devoted sister. The two bags joined their Scottish cousin in the garbage can.
And then I came to a large Ziploc bag (containing what looked like light, dusty cocoa) sitting on top of a crumpled recipe from the New York Times for “Chocolate Orange Drizzle Cake.” The paper wasn’t that yellowed and I remembered combining the ingredients not soooo long ago. My only concern was the age of the baking powder that was part of the dry mixture—if it was more than a few months, that much I knew to be true, there was a good chance I was going to have a leavening issue. So, I made myself a deal. (Do you ever do that? I do it all the time. If this, then that. Like if the bus doesn't come in five minutes, I get to take a cab. Or if I walk the extra three blocks to get a roll of discounted Bounty, I'm allowed to have pizza for lunch. Nonsensical, I know.) So, I decided if the next time I went to the market they were carrying the requisite Seville oranges, I would throw baking powder caution to the wind and make the cake. They did, so I did.
After the flat little cake came out of the oven I Googled the recipe. It had appeared in the paper in January, 2003 but compared to the Crème de Cassis, my seven year old find was a baby!
Note: Flat or not this cake is lovely, especially if you like the combo of orange and chocolate. If you can’t find Seville oranges you can just use two regular oranges for the zest and combine 6 Tablespoons of orange juice with 2 Tablespoons of lime juice for the glaze. It’s a homey loaf cake and would be great with tea, or at a brunch or a casual dinner. Hopefully, when you make it, it will grow to be more than 2 inches high.
Top of the Cabinet Chocolate Orange Drizzle Cake
Adapted from Nigella Lawson/The New York Times/At My Table; A Rip of Orange in Deepest Winter
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Vegetable oil for pan
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup light brown sugar
Finely grated zest and juice of 2 Seville oranges (about 1/2 cup); see note
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 Tablespoons cocoa, sifted
2 large eggs
1/4 cup whole milk
3/4 cup confectioners' sugar
Heat oven to 350 degrees.
Line the bottom of a 9-by-5 inch loaf pan with parchment paper and oil pan and paper. Set aside.
In a mixer, beat butter and brown sugar until soft and fluffy.
Mix in zest of 1 orange.
In another bowl, mix together flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder and cocoa.
Beat eggs into butter-sugar mixture one at a time.
Using a spatula, fold in flour mixture.
Add milk and beat briefly until smooth.
Scrape into pan and smooth the top.
Bake until cake tester inserted in center comes out clean, 45 minutes. Set cake pan on rack to cool.
In a saucepan whisk juice, remaining zest and confectioners' sugar. Place over low heat until sugar dissolves. Strain into a pitcher.
When cake has cooled turn it out of pan, and then turn over again onto a cake rack so top is facing you. Set rack over large plate or cookie sheet.
Make little holes all over the top of the cake with a cake tester or toothpick.
Slowly drizzle syrup over the cake so that it sinks in.
Serve immediately or wrap in plastic and keep in the fridge but allow cake to come to room temperature before serving.
Posted by Miranda Levenstein at 9:00 AM