I have a deep appreciation for the fusion of chocolate and orange. Yes, I have written recipes that showcase these two ingredients before…and I know that I will probably do so again…and again and again, since there are always new ways of exploring flavor combinations that I love.
But I already told you…I am kind of in love. Or no, wait. I told you that I am obsessed.
Well, I am probably both: in love and obsessed with the kind, yet powerful union of chocolate and orange. Those two ingredients in unison can compose a symphony of flavors in my palate. The bitterness of the chocolate along with the tartness and sweetness of the orange. Yes, I know I am repeating myself so I will stop right there.
I think the idea for this recipe began with a simple yet delicious dessert I made for my family while visiting Spain.
I could describe the recipe for you, but if you take a look at the photocollage below, you may understand the procedure fairly quickly. First, simply dip orange segments in melted tempered chocolate and finish each segment with premade candied citrus peel and chocolate sprinkles. Suuuuuper easy. Suuuuuuuuper attractive, pleasing, seductive, and delicious.
I never posted the recipe for the chocolate-covered orange segments for solely one reason. Would you care to know why? Well, if you notice in the picture, the chocolate that covers the orange segments is not tempered (Aaaaahh!!!) and untempered chocolate is a big no no, at least to me and many other pastry cooks, chefs, or…pastry nerds..Tempered chocolate has a beautiful shine, a smooth finish, and a satisfying snap. I’m completely addicted to it.
While being in my hometown in Spain, I unfortunately couldn’t find couveture chocolate that is used for tempering. So I simply melted regular bittersweet chocolate and dipped the orange segments in the chocolate, knowing that I would have to remake the recipe once more with the real thing…tempered chocolate. Tempering chocolate can be an intimidating process, but I promise to offer the best and most thorough explanation I am able to provide when I post the recipe for chocolate-covered orange segments…as soon as I get my hands on some couveture chocolate.
Anyways…where was I? Oh yes, of course. Those chocolate-covered oranges inspired me to try other ways of uniting chocolate and orange. Thus, these chocolate and orange mini pastries were born. Layers of lightly flavored orange cake and orange Italian meringue buttercream are layered and glazed with ganache. Then they are finished with candied orange peel and chocolate sprinkles…Enjoy!
**Yields approximately 15 mini pastries. Freeze 4-6 weeks without ganache. Keep at room temperature for 3-4 days.**
Note: The Italian buttercream along with the cake and candied citrus peel can be done days in advanced. The cake and the Italian buttercream can be frozen until you’re ready to assemble the mini pastries. I deeply discourage you from doing all four recipes on the same day. That might just drive you insane.
Ingredients for Orange Italian Meringue Buttercream: (I like to have leftover buttercream every time I make it and freeze it for later use. If that’s not the case for you, you can cut the recipe in half).
12 oz sugar
3 oz water
4.5 oz strained egg whites
15 oz butter, cubed
4 tsp orange juice (I didn’t get my hands on orange liqueur such as Grand Marnier, but I believe that replacing orange juice for Grand Marnier would make a great contribution. I suggest adding it a little bit at a time and tasting the flavor until you reach the desired orange flavor).
2 T orange zest
Procedure/Recipe for Italian Meringue Buttercream: (Please read all steps first before proceeding in order for the technique to be completely clear from start to finish).
1. Combine water and sugar in a pot. Mix water and sugar with fingers to make sugar is lump-free.
2. Heat water and sugar to 238 F (soft ball stage) and add corn syrup to water/sugar mixture as soon it looses yellow color and it becomes clear. Be sure to watch it closely and attentively.
3. Test the temperature of the sugar by numbing finger in ice-cold water, quickly dipping finger in hot water/sugar mixture, and re-dipping finger right back into cold water. Form the cooled sugar into a ball with your hands. Drop ball onto a flat surface. Sugar is ready when it makes a sound when it reaches the surface and when it doesn’t sink in while resting.If you would rather avoid using this procedure, you can also use a candied thermometer and test the sugar until it reaches 238 F.
4. Begin to whisk egg whites at high speed when sugar has reached or is close to reaching 238 F. Decrease speed to medium after about five seconds, just after egg whites have been broken up.
5. Begin to slowly add the hot sugar to egg whites while egg whites continue to whip, meringue is soft, and yellow color is gone. Be sure to pour sugar from the side of the mixing bowl so that it doesn’t go flying everywhere. Whip meringue/238 F sugar until the bottom of the mixing bowl has cooled off and feels lukewarm to the touch.
6. Add pieces of butter continuously to mixture when egg whites are fluffy and stiff peaks are close to being formed. Stop whipping when buttercream looks fluffy and stiff peaks form.
Store in freezer for 6-8 months. Recondition buttercream before use by warming it up over a double boiler and whipping it until fluffy.
Ingredients for Orange Cake:
3 oz cake flour
5 oz AP flour
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
6 oz sugar
3.5 orange juice
4 oz egg
4 oz vegetable oil
1 tsp vanilla
3 1/2 tsp orange zest
Recipe/Procedure for Orange Cake:
1. Sift cake flour, AP flour, salt, baking soda, and baking powder into a large bowl.
2. Add sugar to dry ingredients and mix well to combine.
3. In a different bowl, whisk milk, orange juice, eggs, vegetable oil, and vanilla together.
4. Combine the wet and dry mixtures together, just enough so that all ingredients are incorporated into the batter. Do not over mix.
5. Add orange zest to batter. Allow batter to rest 20-40 minutes in fridge.
6. Spray a rectangular 13″ x 9″ x 2″ cake pan with vegetable oil and place a piece of parchment paper on the bottom of the pan. Pour cake batter into pan. Bake at 350 F for about 20-25 minutes, until a toothpick that is inserted in the center tests clean. Allow to cool in cake pan.
7. Place a large cutting board over cake pan. Flip cake over onto cutting board and remove parchment paper. Flip cake over once more onto another cutting board so that the top of the cake is on the top. Set aside for later use.
**Keep well wrapped at room temperature for 3-4 days. Freeze for 6-8 weeks**
Ingredients for Candied Citrus Peel:
2 oz sugar
2 oz water
Recipe/Procedure for Candied Citrus Peel:
1. Scrub oranges in hot water and pat them dry.
2. Cut off pieces of orange peel and cut orange peel into thin strips. Be sure to exclude as much of the white part as possible to decrease extra bitterness.
3. Throw orange peel strips into a pot of boiling water and cook for about 30 seconds. Strain citrus peel.
4. Fill same pot with new water and bring it to a boil. Throw citrus peel into pot and cook for about 30 seconds and strain. Repeat blanching process once more.
5. Meanwhile, combine sugar and water into a pot and cook over medium heat until all the sugar has completely dissolved to create a simple syrup.
6. Bring simple syrup to a boil and cook blanched orange peel in a gentle simmer in the simple syrup until peel is translucent and tender. You must taste the peel to know if it’s fully cooked. Strain citrus peel.
7. Roll citrus peel in granulated sugar.
Ingredients for Ganache:
12 oz heavy cream
12 oz semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
Recipe/Procedure for Ganache: (this recipe should be done right when the rest of the cake has been assembled to prevent ganache from thickening so much it will can not be used to glaze mini pastries).
1. Heat heavy cream and bring to a simmer.
2. Put chopped chocolate in a large bowl and pour simmered heavy cream over chocolate. Allow cream and chocolate to rest for about a minute so that chocolate softens and melts.
3. Stir/whisk mixture gently from the center and whisking outwards until everything is well emulsified.
**Store at room temperature for 2-4 days**
Thank Goodness! The time has come to put it all together…
orange Italian meringue buttercream
candied citrus peel
1. Build and assemble your cake:
a) Place the cake on a stable surface to work on comfortably. A large cutting board works well for this type of assembly.
b) Trim off all four edges of cake and then cut cake in half with a serrated knife to end up with two thin layers of cake.
c) Cut cake in half down the center vertically to end up with four thin layers of cake.
d) Recondition buttercream to begin cake assembling.
e) Place a layer of cake layer on a cutting board. Spread orange buttercream filling on the surface of the cake layer so that it reaches every corner.
f) Place second cake layer over orange buttercream.
g) Spread orange buttercream filling on the surface of the second cake layer so that it reaches every corner and smoothen it out evenly. Repeat the spreading of buttercream and the layering of cake layers until all the 4th cake layer is on top and cake is about 1.5″ tall.
h) Make sure layers look flat and straight. If they don’t look flat, gently push down on the cake.
j) Put a big dollop of orange buttercream in center of cake and work icing with spatula in order to cover entire surface of cake until it reaches the edges. Cover edges of cake as well.
k) Smoothen top of cake by starting at the edge and coming straight across with spatula at a flat angle until surface is as smooth as possible. Place cake in fridge and chill for about 10-15 minutes before
l) Hot knife the cake: Bring water to a boil and pour it into a tall cup/beaker. Dip spatula into hot water. Dry spatula and pass it over sides of cake and then over top as well to create smoother and cleaner surface all around. Be sure to dip spatula into hot water after every pass to remove excess icing. Dry spatula and continue passing it gently over the surface of cake to smoothen it even more.
2. Cut cake.
a) Take flat cutting board w/ parchment paper and put even pressure and press down so that surface of cake is completely flat. Leave board over it and refrigerate.
b) Make 1.5” marks on top/bottom and sides of cake layers. Cut strips horizontally and vertically to end up with 1.5” squares.
3. Glaze cake.
(Use room temperature ganache that is at liquid state. Hot ganache will melt buttercream on cake. Ganache that drips onto plastic wrap after glazing cakes can be collected and used again for reglazing or for other purposes. If used for glazing, be sure to act quickly before it cools and the consistency becomes too thick).
a) Place iced cakes over a rectangular cooling rack that is covered completely with plastic wrap.
b) Pour ganache at one edge of cake and move bowl of ganache to opposite end in order to cover entire cake. Repeat same procedure with all cakes.
c) Allow chocolate to set at room temperature for about 5 minutes. Sprinkle chocolate sprinkles over the surface of cakes and finish by placing a strip of candied citrus peel in the center.