Here we are with our second post of the Distant Kitchens series! Erin and I were so thrilled with the response we received from our first post which featured an adaptation of Richard Bertinet’s Peach and Rosemary Almond Tart. If you are just tuning in for the first time, you can read more about the series on both our blogs (Stacy/Erin). In short, Distant Kitchens is about exploring the nuances and differences of how the same recipe can be adapted, tweaked and styled by different people from around the world.
On to our exciting second recipe!
My life is full of everything birthday this past week as my baby turned one! I must say, I am in complete denial, but I guess time must continue to tick no matter how much I pray for it to stop. While Erin and I discussed our next recipe for Distant Kitchens, we found ourselves coming back to Tessa Huff’s new cake book “Layered” Every. Single. Time. What better way to celebrate Henry’s first birthday than to try a unique-not-from-a-darn-box birthday cake (not that I ever make boxed cakes…. Well… except for that one time)!
We decided on Tessa’s Blood Orange Thyme Cake, only to realize that blood oranges aren’t readily available this time of year. Our first adaptation of the recipe was to use naval oranges. Although I was really excited to bake with blood oranges (my favourite kind of orange), I must say I was pleasantly surprised by the amazing flavour this cake brought to my ever-hungry tastebuds!
This was also the first time I made Swiss Meringue Buttercream. I am not an icing-lover. I am the first person to make a naked cake because of the lack of icing. I love my sweets, but American buttercream is a bit much, don’t you think? Let me tell you, I am proud to say that I am officially converted! It is so light, the sweetness is tame (unlike traditional American buttercream) and it is very easy to flavour. You still get the amazing buttery taste, without the overwhelming amount of confectioners sugar. For this recipe, we flavoured with a yummy puree of raspberries. Now that is frosting!
I made these cakes with Olive. It was such a fun morning of baking and mixing together. She definitely has a talent for baking already! She helped squeeze the oranges, cut the circles and make the candied thyme wreaths. She kept telling me “Oh! They are just so cuuuute!” Like our last recipe for Distant Kitchens, there were a few components to this cake, but I didn’t find it as time demanding as the first… Maybe because I was in good company!
Because I was making this cake for Henry’s first birthday, I opted to make an army of mini cakes rather than one large cake. What better way to celebrate than everyone getting their own individual cakes. I mean, Henry was totally down for the idea (and so was his hair after the fact)! I did receive some flak from his daddy about making pink cakes, but as soon as I told him it was raspberry not food colouring, the cakes were ok!
Enough about me! How did we do?
Again, the experiment was a success! While I made a small army of mini cakes, Erin made one giant one! Although we used the exact same recipe, we had great and different results. Aside from the obvious size differences, I made candied thyme wreaths to decorate the tops whereas Erin used a combination of thyme and a heap of fresh raspberries. We both let our orange glaze do its thing (mine seemed to have a mind of its own!), which resulted in unique cakes each time (and some mess to wipe up afterwards)!
Overall, we were both so pleased with how our cakes turned out. Not only were they visually pleasing to look at and style, they also tasted superb. The combination of orange and thyme is not something I have used often, but I think I will start in the future. I am also learning more about what a difference glazing each layer with syrup makes. It added such a nice punch of flavour to each bite. I am the first to admit that I am a cake novice, and I truly feel that I have learned so much just from this one recipe.
I cannot wait to try more of Tessa‘s cakes from her wonderful book. Just scrolling through the pages makes my mind wonder and mouth water!
What did Erin think? Don’t forget to head over to her blog to see how her cake turned out and to learn of a yummy excuse to use the leftover orange thyme syrup!
ORANGE THYME CAKE
adapted from tessa huff’s book layered
makes 8-9 mini three layered cakes, or 1 large 3 layered cake
brown sugar buttermilk cake
2 1/4 cups cake flour, plus more for pans
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. baking soda
3/4 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup plus 2 tbsp. firmly packed brown sugar
1 1/2 tbsp. finely grated orange zest
1 tsp. pure vanilla
3 large eggs
1 large egg yolk
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoon buttermilk
raspberry swiss meringue buttercream
1/2 cup fresh raspberries
1 cup plus 2 tsp. granulated sugar, divided
2 egg yolks
3/4 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 tsp. vanilla paste
orange thyme syrup:
1/2 cup freshly squeeze orange juice ( about 3 oranges)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
5 to 8 sprigs fresh thyme
1 1/4 cup confectioner’s sugar
2 tbsp. plus 1 tsp. fresh orange juice
candied thyme wreaths:
1 egg white
1/2 cup sugar
10 sprigs of thyme
brown sugar buttermilk cake:
Preheat the oven to 350F. Line a jelly roll pan or cookie sheet with parchment paper. Lightly grease and flour the pan.
Combine the cake flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl. Whisk together with a hand whisk until everything is combined. Set aside.
Using a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium speed until smooth. Slowly add in the sugar and orange zest. Increase the speed of the mixer to medium-high and mix until the butter is light a fluffy. Generally this will take 3 to 5 minutes. Do not forget to stop the mixer and scrape down the bowl. (You don’t want to miss any buttery goodness)!
Mix in the vanilla with the mixer on medium-low speed. Add in the eggs and yolk, one at a time, mixing after each addition. Again, don’t forget to scrape down the bowl!
Turn the mixer to low speed. Divide the flour mixture into 3 and add to the mixing bowl, alternating with the buttermilk, starting and ending with the flour. Do not overmix the batter at this point! Stir just until combined.
Slowly pour the entire bowl into the prepared jelly roll pan. Use a spatula to spread the batter over the entire pan. Bake in the oven for 18-20 minutes or unless a toothpick comes out clean the and edges turn slightly brown.
Let the cake cool on the parchment paper on a wire rack for 20-30 minutes. Using a 2.5 inch circular cookie cutter, carefully cut out circles on a hard surface. Place circles on a wire rack.
raspberry swiss meringue buttercream:
Blend raspberries and 2 tsp. sugar together in a food processor until combined. Strain the puree through a sieve and set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the egg whites and 1 cup sugar. Whisk with a hand whisk until combined.
In a small saucepan, bring a few inches of water to simmer. Place the stand mixer bowl on top of the saucepan to create a double boiler. Make sure water continues to simmer (not boil!) and that the water does not touch the bottom of the bowl.
Heat the egg white mixture until it reaches a temperature of 155-160F, stirring occasionally. Once the temperature is reached, carefully transfer the bowl the to stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Whisk on high speed for 8 minutes. This will help cook the mixture down to room temperature and will create medium stiff peaks. Stop the mixer and switch to the paddle attachment.
Slowly add in the room temperature butter, a couple tablespoons at a time. Once the butter is completely mixed, add in the vanilla paste.
Slowly add in 1/4 cup of the raspberry puree. Continue to mix until the buttercream is smooth, creamy and free of air bubbles!
orange thyme syrup:
Place the orange juice and sugar in a saucepan and bring them to a boil over medium-high heat.
Reduce the heat to maintain a simmer and add in the sprigs of thyme. Simmer for 8 minutes. Remove from heat and let steep until cool.
Strain the syrup before use and discard the thyme.
In a small bowl, whisk the confectioner’s sugar and orange juice together until the sugar has dissolved and you are left with a paste. You can thicken your glaze with more sugar, or thin it out with more juice.
candied thyme wreaths:
Whisk egg white in a bowl until frothy.
Dip thyme sprigs in the the egg white and then in the sugar. Form a wreath, twisting the ends together, and let the wreath rest on parchment paper until dry.
Make one wreath for each mini cake.
Once the mini cake circles have cooled completely, generously brush the layers with the orange thyme syrup. Place 8-10 circles (depending on how many you were able to cut) on a cookie sheet. Spread the raspberry swiss meringue buttercream over each of the 8 layers with an offset spatula. Top with the next layer of cake and repeat with the buttercream. Add a third layer.
Use the remaining buttercream to fill in any gaps between the layers. I like to spread on generously and then use a scrapper to scrape off excess buttercream. This will give the naked cakes the rustic look.
Pour the orange glaze on top of each cake and spread evenly with an offset spatula. Let the edges drip!! Be adventurous!
Top each cake with a thyme wreath. Transfer cakes to plates or mini cake stands!