Creamsicle in Cake Form: Oranges and Cream Cake

When my friend Jim asked if I could make a cake for his daughter Stella's third birthday, I was delighted to be able to share in the celebration. I wanted to make something light and refreshing because we would be having the cake after an outdoor summer meal. Jim's wife Colleen is a fan of citrus and I remembered that she liked the Orange Creamsicle Tart I made a few years ago. So I thought I would try Tish Boyle's Oranges and Cream Cake, which seemed like it would have a similar orange-vanilla flavor profile; the dessert is comprised of orange génoise brushed with orange syrup, layered with orange mousse.

Another reason I decided to make this cake is that I wanted another opportunity to bake génoise. I recently failed (twice) making génoise for Boyle's Tiramisu Cake, and I was determined to get the technique right. I started out making the génoise the same way I had before: whisking eggs and sugar in a double boiler until warm and whipping the eggs until they tripled in volume. The orange génoise includes orange zest in addition to vanilla extract.

Using advice I gathered from various sources online (including this post with many helpful comments from Rose Levy Beranbaum's assistant Woody Wolston), I made two changes from my previous technique.  First, instead of using a rubber spatula to incorporate the cake flour and salt, I used the 11-wire whisk attachment to my KitchenAid mixer. I have several whisks, but the KitchenAid attachment is far larger than any of them. Second, I kept my melted butter warm before folding it in (also using the whisk attachment) instead of using cooled butter. The batter looked nice and airy when I poured it into the pan.
My génoise was a success! Making orange mousse was straightforward. You combine orange zest, orange juice, lemon juice, sugar, egg yolks, and softened gelatin, and cook until the mixture reaches 180 degrees. You cool the mixture and then fold in heavy cream that has been beaten to stiff peaks. To assemble the cake, you split the génoise into two layers, and put one inside a cake ring. You brush the cake layer with orange syrup (sugar, water, and orange juice) and pour over half of the mousse. Then you stack on the second cake layer, brush it with syrup, and add the remaining mousse. The mousse spreads into a perfectly smooth finish. You chill the cake for at least three hours before serving.

Because this was a birthday cake, I added multi-colored sprinkles (and birthday candles!) before serving. It looked beautiful, although I had misjudged the amount of mousse to pour over the bottom layer of cake, so there wasn't enough mousse between the cake layers. Still, I was very happy with the way the cake turned out. The cake was very moist from the syrup. The mousse was super light and a bit on the tart side -- if I were to make this cake again, I might use all orange juice for the mousse instead of a mixture of orange juice and lemon juice. But the dessert is definitely orangey, with the layers of orange flavor in the cake, syrup, and mousse.

This was a wonderful summer dessert, and just adding a few sprinkles made it appropriately festive. More than anything, I consider it a success because I finally got the génoise to turn out properly!

Recipe: "Oranges and Cream Cake" from The Cake Book by Tish Boyle, recipe available here at Leite's Culinaria.

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