I recently received a copy of fellow blogger's Italian dessert cookbook called Grace's Sweet Life; the same name as her blog . My biggest problem with this cookbook, filled with the most drool worthy pictures of classic and contemporary Italian desserts, is where do I begin?
Grace Langlois, originally from Belgium, of Italian parents and living in London, Ontario, Canada has overcome several obstacles to reach the point of publishing this visually gorgeous book. Kudos to you Grace!!
I've learned that although I find Italian cooking to be straight forward and simple, the creation of the pastries is another story. We're not talking 4-5 ingredients anymore and the final products generally look like a work of art. Think about a Seven- Layer Cake (Torta Sette Strati) or Mini Lemon Mousse Cakes with Limoncello-Lemon-Jelly (Mini Torte Mousse al Limone con Celatina di Limone al Limoncello) or Sicilian Cannoli (Cannoli Siciliani). Is your mouth watering yet?
I really wanted to reproduce one of the recipes in the book and finally decided on Grace's Orange Cake (Torta all' Arancia)
Now, although my cake didn't look like Grace's (to say the least), I found that in my oven (a fast oven), the 350 F was too high. The next time I make it, I'll do it at 325 F. Note I said I would make it again. It's so easy to put together. I also think my eggs were not completely room temperature. The cake fell somewhat but the flavour was incredible. A mild but very distinct orange flavour comes through and with a cup of tea or coffee, I can't imagine this not being a hit. I didn't finish it off with the orange syrup but I do think it would be a great addition. I prefer dry cakes without the addition of syrups and icings.
6 large eggs
2 cups (250 g) all-purpose flour
4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup (120 ml) vegetable oil
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 cup plus 2 Tbsp (225 g) superfine sugar, divided
grated zest of 2 oranges
1 cup (240 ml) freshly squeezed orange juice
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
1 1/2 cups (355 ml) freshly squeezed orange juice
1/2 cup (113 g) superfine sugar
zest of 1 orange in large strips (make sure no pith is attached)
1/2 vanilla bean, split and seeded
2 to 3 Tbsp Cointreau or other orange liqueur
1. Separate the cold eggs. Place the yolks in a large bowl and the whites in a stand mixer. Cover each bowl with plastic wrap and allow the eggs to come to room temperature, about 30 minutes
2. Preheat the oven to 350 F (180 C). Very lightly coat with butter the bottom and sides of a 10 inch tube pan with feet and removable bottom
3. Using a fine-mess sieve, sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt into a medium bowl. Whisk to combine well.
4. Use a handheld mixer to beat the egg yolks, oil, vanilla, and 1 cup (225 g) sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.
5. Beat in the orange zest and juice
6. Reduce the mixer speed to low and gradually add the flour mixture, beating to just combine (do not overmix)
7. In a stand mixer fitted with the whip attachment, beat the egg white to stiff peaks beginning at low speed and gradually increasing to medium-high. When the whites are foamy, add the cream of tartar. At the soft peak stage, add the remaining 2 Tbsp (30 g) sugar.
8. Using a large flexible spatula, fold one-third of the egg whites into the egg yolk mixture to lighten the batter, then carefully fold in the remaining egg whites until just combined.
9. Pour the batter into the prepared pan, spreading it evenly with an offset spatula.
10. Bake until golden and a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean, 50-60 minutes.
11. Remove from the oven and immediately invert the pan onto a wire rack. Let the cake cool completely in the pan upside down on the rack.
12. While the cake bakes, prepare the orange syrup.
To Make the Syrup
1. In a small saucepan over medium heat, bring the orange juice, sugar, orange zest, and the vanilla bean and seeds to a simmer, stirring until the sugar dissolves, about 5 minutes
2. Reduce the heat to low, add the liqueur and continue to simmer until the syrup reduces and thickens slightly - about 5 minutes.
3. Remove from the heat and strain the syrup through a fine-mesh sieve into a pourable container. Allow the syrup to cool slightly.
To Assemble and Serve
1. Flip the cake pan over, carefully run a thin knife around the edges of the pan , and turn the cake onto a serving plate or cake stand.
2. To serve, place the cake on dessert plates and serve with warm orange syrup.
You can see how light and airy this cake is and the best part is it's not too sweet.
I found Grace's instructions to be very clear and precise. The pictures in the cookbook are amazing and do justice to each dish. In the words of the television shopping cart ladies, Anna and Kristina, this book is a "BUY". The only challenge I found with the book was that some of the recipes are long with many steps. A 5 page recipe can be rather intimidating.