For some unknown and terrible reason, I have met more people that cringe, make disgusted faces, and throw a hissy fit at the thought of consuming both something chocolate and orange at the same time. I have speculated this, but have not come to a clear conclusion. Is it because I am from the Midwest and, by general rule, we abhor new and different things? Is it because we Americans have not been properly exposed to this perfect match made in the great dessert heaven? Or, is it simply because I have not met the right people? The Europeans have fully embraced this combination, lining the the market shelves with Jaffa Cakes, Chocolate Oranges, and even the Orange Twix. They have discovered (and capitalized) on this not-so-secret heavenly combination, so why can't we?
At a young age, my sister and I happened upon this blend of flavors. Peeling fresh oranges as fast as we could, we would dip them in melted chocolate and devour them whole. Our faces would be smeared with chocolate from top to bottom. There was no time for savoring. It was a sheer hunger, a ravenous force, that drove us, needing to have moremoremore.
All I ask from you is that you do not turn up your nose at these chocolate orange cakes (though I am not sure you could hold yourself back from the wonderful aroma wafting upwards if you did).
The cake layer is dry and crumbly on its own, moistened fully by the orange syrup. The chocolate orange ganache adds just the right touch to bring this cake up to the next level. However, I found that the amount of ganache the original recipe called for was too much and overpowered the rest of the cake. By cutting down the ganache by a third, this seemed to solve tbe problem. A thinner layer of ganache could even be used to better highlight the flavors present in the cake.
This cake reminds me quite strongly of a Jaffa Cake (with an adult twist), minus the orange jam.
Chocolate Orange Miniature Cakes
From Chocolate by Nick Malgieri
Yields twelve 2 1/2-inch square individual desserts
Orange Almond Cake Layer
1 cup blanched almonds
3/4 cup cake flour
4 large eggs, separated
3/4 cup sugar, divided
Grated zest of 1 orange
1/2 teaspoon orange extract
Pinch of salt
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter and flour or line a 10 x 15-inch jelly-roll pan with parchment paper
Grind almonds finely in a food processor and stir into flour. Set aside.
In a separate bowl, whip yolks with half the sugar, the grated orange zest, and orange extract until light.
In another bowl, whip together the egg whites with salt, then whip in the rest of the sugar until whites hold a soft peak.
Fold in yolks, then fold in almond and flour mixture to the egg white mixture. Spread into prepared pan. Bake for 20 minutes. Remove cake from the pan and place on a cooling rack.
Chocolate Orange Ganache
1 1/2 pounds (24 ounces) semisweet chocolate
1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
1/3 cup light corn syrup
3 tablespoons orange liqueur
Chop chocolate into small pieces and set aside. In a saucepan, bring the heavy cream and corn syrup to a boil. Remove from heat and add chocolate. Let sit for 5 minutes. Stir in liqueur. Cool at room temperature or in the refrigerator until of spreadable consistency.
1/3 cup orange juice
1/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup kirsch or orange liqueur
Bring the orange juice and sugar to a boil in a small saucepan. Cool and whisk in liqueur.
Candied Orange Zest
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons water
Use a vegetable peeler to remove the zest from the orange in large, wide strips. Cut zest into thinner shreds and place in a saucepan. Cover with water and bring the zest to a boil. Drain the water and rinse the zest. Return the zest to the pan and mix in the sugar and water. Cook until the zest candies, about 10 to 15 minutes, or until the sugar/water mixture thickens and the peels become transparent. Remove and set on wax paper to cool.
To assemble the cake, cut the cake in half to create two 10 x 7 1/2-inch layers. Take one cake layer and spread half of the orange syrup evenly. Next, spread the cake with half of the chocolate orange filling. Top with remaining layer, moisten with the rest of the syrup, and spread the rest of the filling on top. Chill to set.
When ready to serve, cut cake into 2 1/2-inch square pieces and decorate with the candied orange zest.