creamy orange-vanilla goodness

The woman who hosts the Thursday-night small group Bible study that Wildcat Guy and I are in is an amazing hostess who always has delicious baked goods for the group to enjoy.  But I also know that playing hostess week after week can be daunting, so I had offered to bring a dessert this week.  After poring through my cookbooks, I decided on an Orange-Vanilla Cake recipe from Sandra Lee's Semi-Homemade Desserts 2, a recipe which I found particularly exciting because it would be the first time I used a vanilla bean. 

Why, yes - I am a bit of a baking nerd in the making.  I get excited by things like using vanilla beans for the first time and zesting an orange with my cheese grater.

I was also looking forward to what I hoped would be a tangy orange flavor in the cake batter.  Because as fun as it was squeezing all that juice out of the orange, it was also a bit of work, since I forgot until after the fact that I actually own a lovely glass juicer.  Next time!

Whoa - that's a lot of seeds inside the vanilla bean! And they're so little...I definitely had a moment of, "please don't let me cut myself while I scrape out all these seeds!"

How about a quarter-cup of orange marmalade to further amp up the orange-y-ness of the cake batter?  More and more, the Semi-Homemade recipes have amused me with their ingredient lists.  Because while it's great to be able to start with a boxed cake mix, the additional ingredients can be either expensive (like the vanilla beans) or impractical to purchase (like the jar of marmalade that I probably won't use for anything else in the foreseeable future).

Regardless, the batter looked (and tasted) delicious as I prepared to bake it.

And of course, once the cake was in the oven, it was time to make the frosting - which started with a base of whipped buttercream and incorporated that grated orange zest, some orange extract...

...and the remainder of the vanilla bean seeds.  Just look at all of them mixed throughout!

Oh please - as if you wouldn't have done the same thing.  Besides - I have a baker's responsibility to make sure the frosting tastes good before I spread it on the cake.

But note to self - if you refrigerate the frosting because you're baking the cake in the morning and waiting until the evening to frost it, make sure you take it out ahead of time to soften.  Otherwise, you'll be required to stay up later than you'd planned while you wait for the frosting to warm to a spreadable temperature.

So pretty!  Well, okay - except for the missing sliver.  Recently, though, as I've begun baking more and more new recipes, I've adopted the habit of cutting out a small piece for tasting purposes.  As a side benefit, it saves people the trouble of being "that person" who has to make the first cut into a dessert.  Not that it bothers me to be "that person"...but I've found that others are less interested in filling that role.

In the end, I would say the cake was okay.  The juice and marmalade just didn't lend much orange flavor to the batter.  The frosting, however, was delightful. Creamy and light and full of flavor.  I mentioned to Wildcat Guy that I'd be interested in trying the frosting on a rich chocolate cake - perhaps resulting in something reminiscent of an orange truffle?

He, on the other hand, thought everything tasted did the rest of our small group.  So maybe I'm being too picky.  Either way, it will still be a recipe I file away for the future.

Where I am: home
What I'm reading: Alice Waters and Chez Panisse by Thomas McNamee


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