This is exactly the kind of one layer cake that is simple enough to make on a Monday night and pack in your lunch bag, yet refined enough to bring to someone on their birthday. The cake itself is pulled straight from the Cake Bible, and Rose Levy Beranbaum’s recipes never disappoint. The batter is rich with butter and thick with sour cream, while the flavourful additions of orange zest and poppy seed make it a bright and refreshing winter treat. A quick icing sugar frosting tempered with sour cream makes a superb topping, but a classic glaze or even a dollop of whipping cream would also make delectable accompaniments.
Orange Poppy Seed Cake
Adapted from Rose Levy Beranbaum, “Sour Cream Butter Cake”, The Cake Bible
2 cups sifted cake and pastry flour (200g)
1 cup granulated white sugar (200g)
4 large egg yolks
2/3 cup full fat sour cream (5.5 oz)
3/4 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature (6 oz)
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon orange zest (from 1 large orange)
1 tablespoon poppy seeds
A few hours before you are ready to bake, remove the sour cream and the eggs from the fridge and allow them to warm to room temperature. Just before you begin, pull the butter from the fridge, cut it into small pieces, and let it sit at room temperature until it has softened and become pliable.
As the butter begins to soften, preheat the oven to 350° F.
Butter a 9 inch spring form pan with a removable bottom. Cut a 9 inch circle of parchment paper, then place it in the bottom of the pan and butter the top of the parchment as well.
Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Sift the dry ingredients into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. In a medium bowl, combine the egg yolks, vanilla extract, and 1/4 of the sour cream.
To the mixing bowl with the dry ingredients, add the softened butter and the remaining sour cream. Stir on the lowest setting until the ingredients are moistened, approximately 30-60 seconds. When there are no streaks of flour remaining, increase the speed to medium (speed 3-4 on a Kitchen Aid mixer) and beat for 1 1/2 minutes to create sufficient structure and incorporate air. Be careful not to over beat the batter – this will result in a tough cake with a tight crumb. Stop and scrape the bowl well. Add the egg mixture in three batches, beating on medium speed for 20 seconds after each addition. Scrape the bowl at each addition to ensure that all the ingredients are properly combined. Add the orange zest and poppy seeds, and stir on the lowest setting just until the ingredients are well combined.
Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top evenly with the back of a spoon. Place the pan in the preheated oven and bake for 32-36 minutes or until the middle of the cake springs back when gently touched, or a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. The cake should only begin to pull away from the sides of the pan upon removal from the oven. Set the pan on a wire rack to cool and after ten minutes, remove the outside ring. Let the cake cool completely to room temperature before inverting, carefully removing the bottom of the pan and peeling away the remaining parchment paper.
Store the cake at room temperature in an airtight container for up to 5 days.
Quick n’ Creamy Orange Frosting
Note: This recipe will make about twice as much icing as needed for this cake, the remaining half may be refrigerated for up to one week. If you would like to reduce the recipe by half, you can make it using a hand beater and a small bowl, but the final product may not be as smooth.
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened to room temperature (4oz)
1/2 cup full-fat sour cream, room temperature
Pinch of salt
4 cups sifted icing sugar (500g)
3/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoon orange zest (from 1 large orange)
Beat together the softened butter, sour cream, salt and vanilla extract on medium-high speed for several minutes until well blended. The mixture will smooth out further with the addition of sugar.
Add the icing sugar 1/2 cup at a time, beating for 30-60 seconds on medium-high speed after each addition. When all the sugar has been added, beat the frosting for 1-2 minutes more until it is very smooth and slightly fluffy. The more patience you have incorporating the sugar gradually and beating it well, the smoother your icing will be. Lastly, mix in the orange zest on low speed until it is evenly distributed.
Use the frosting immediately or refrigerate it for up to one week. Bring to room temperature and stir or beat briefly before using from the fridge.