Orange cake with dark chocolate and cream cheese frosting

This light, citrusy cake is the perfect way to celebrate the new year, a birthday, a deep abiding love for chocolate, or any occasion. A cream cheese frosting and a layer of chocolate ganache puts it completely over the top.

Eat. Run. Read
Orange cake with cream cheese frosting and a chocolate ganache is an unbeatable combination.

Sometimes people in my office travel to awesome places that most people (sane people) do not want to visit – i.e. eastern Congo, South Sudan, Chad, etc. I do not get to go … but I want to. Getting chased by a monkey while on a run in Juba? Sign me up! Lost on the way to a refugee camp in Chad? I’m in. Randomly producing a music video for an African pop star? Yes please!!! (True stories.)

For the rest of us, ever desk-bound, all we can hope is that our intrepid colleagues come back safe and sound, with good stories/pictures/video, and bring back some delicious foreign treats to share.

Just before Christmas, someone brought back Belgian chocolates from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (not to be confuse with the Republic of the Congo – yes, there are two Congos). All colonial irony aside, apparently there’s still a lot of Belgian stuff in Kinshasa, and the chocolate is delicious! I had a dark chocolate and orange truffle and was suddenly reminded how good dark chocolate and orange are together.

That truffle was still on my mind as I considered my baking options last weekend. Orange cake? Hmmmm. Dark chocolate ganache? Yummmmm. Together? It could work!

I’ve never made an orange cake before, and couldn’t find any good-looking recipes online, so I adapted a lemon cupcake recipe and it worked shockingly well. So here’s the cake strata breakdown: orange cake, dark chocolate ganache, cream cheese frosting, orange cake, cream cheese frosting.

I chose this cake recipe based on ease and what ingredients I had – you could probably adapt any good lemon cake recipe. The ganache layer is key here, it really makes the orange-y-ness stand out. If you don’t like cream cheese frosting, you could do a butter cream frosting instead.

Orange Cake with Dark Chocolate Ganache and Cream Cheese Frosting

Cake ingredients:
1-3/4 cups sugar

3/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature

zest of two large oranges (about 2 tablespoons)

3 extra-large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/4 teaspoon almond extract

1/4 cup fresh orange juice

3 cups cake flour (I only had 2 cups cake flour and therefore had to use one cup regular flour… it was OK, but the cake would probably be lighter if you had the right amount of cake flour.)

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 cups buttermilk

Ganache ingredients:
1/2 cup dark or semi-sweet chocolate chips

1/2 cup heavy cream

Frosting ingredients:
4 ounces (1/2 block) cream cheese at room temperature

1/4 cup butter at room temperature

2 cups powdered sugar

1/2 teaspoon vanilla 

1-3 tablespoons milk or buttermilk as needed

1. Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour two 9-inch round cake pans. 

2. Beat sugar, butter, orange zest, vanilla and almond extract in large bowl 2-3 minutes, until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in orange juice.

3. Sift or mix (I never sift… mostly because I’m lazy and don’t own a sifter) flour, baking soda, and salt into medium bowl. Mix dry ingredients into butter mixture alternately with buttermilk, beginning and ending with dry ingredients. 

4. Divide batter among prepared pans. Bake about 25 minutes, until cakes start to pull away from the edges. 

5. Let them cool in the pans for 10 minutes, then to get the cakes out, invert the pans and tap the bottom. Cool completely on wire racks until ganache-ing and frosting.

Dark Chocolate Ganache:
1. Stovetop: Bring the cream to a simmer in a medium saucepan. OR Microwave: Bring cream to a simmer in a microwave safe bowl (it took about 1 minute for me).

2. Place the chocolate in a medium bowl.

3. Once the cream reaches a simmer, pour the cream over the chocolate and let stand 1-2 minutes. Whisk in small circles until a smooth ganache has formed.

4. Let the ganache cool for about 10 minutes so it’s not too runny when you spread it on the cake. If it gets too firm, you can microwave it briefly.

Beat all frosting ingredients together until smooth and spreadable. Add more milk if necessary. 

1. Put one layer of the cake upside down on a plate so the flattest side is up. Spread ganache evenly over the layer, trying not to go all the way to the edges (otherwise you might have a chocolatey smear in your white frosting). 

2. Spread a thin layer of frosting on the bottom-side of the next cake layer and place it on top of the ganache. 

3. Frost the outside of the cake with the rest of the frosting. I garnished with shaved dark chocolate. 

4. Bring the cake to a party and make new friends!

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