I’m so excited about the Food Network’s Julia Child Challenge that I’m sending out this bonus, special-edition post. Yesterday, I wrote to tell you about the show – I was a judge on the finale – and to tell you about the amazing winner, Jaíne Mackievicz. (You know someone’s amazing when a fellow finalist, Bill Borman, amazing in his own right, referred to her as “beloved.”) Today, I’ve got a recipe and video from Jaíne, which Jaíne wrote and shot just for us.
When Jaíne and I talked during the week, I asked her what the hardest dish in the entire Challenge was for her to make, and then I asked her what her favorite dish was. The answer to both questions was the same: The Orange Cake.
The contestants’ assignment for this segment in Episode 3 was an odd one (an outlier, I think) – they had to use a piece of vintage equipment and a piece of equipment that was newer. For her vintage tool, Jaíne chose a hand mixer, which she said was just like the one her mom had, and then she picked a vacuum sealer for the shiny new gizmo. The challenge came from Julia’s love of kitchen equipment and her spunk – she loved trying new things. Remind me to tell you my story about Julia and the electric bread machine.
Jaíne decided to bake a simple, single-layer cake made with all-purpose and almond flour and flavored with orange juice and zest. She used the green-and-white mixer to beat the egg whites to a meringue – they provided most of the cake’s lift; and she used the vacuum sealer to macerate the orange segments that topped the cake. At least she tried to. When Chef Cliff Crooks, a guest judge on the episode, walked by and saw that Jaíne hadn’t put it together properly – she couldn’t figure out how to seal the sealer – he did it for her (all of the judges on each of the episodes were that kind). The show goes on and the cake is great!
If you want to read a lively recap of each episode, take a look at Julie Powell on Salon. Julie just about created blogging when she cooked her way through Mastering the Art of French Cooking and blogged – we hardly knew the word then – about it daily. She’s also the “Julie” in the movie Julie & Julia.
Jaíne wrote the recipe for the cake for us and made the video on how to make it, so our only challenge is to choose who we’ll share it with. It’s a tough assignment, but I think we can handle it.
Have a sweet – unchallenging – weekend and I’ll see you on Tuesday.
Everything you need to know to make this lovely, simple cake is in the recipe and the video that Jaíne shot for us (see above). Just a note on the crème fraîche – if you don’t have it, you can use an equal amount of heavy cream. Whip the cream and, if you’d like to add a little tang (crème fraîche has a touch of acidity that heavy cream doesn’t), fold 1 to 2 tablespoons of sour cream into the whipped cream.
Makes 6 to 8 servings
For the cake:
1 1/4 cups (150 grams) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 cup (200 grams) sugar
3 large eggs, at room temperature
2 medium navel oranges
1/2 cup (48 grams) almond flour
1 stick of unsalted butter (8 tablespoons/113 grams), melted and cooled
For the frosting and fresh oranges
Segments from 3 medium navel oranges
2 teaspoons sugar
2 tablespoons orange liqueur
1 cup (240 grams) crème fraîche
3/4 cup (75 grams) powdered sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
To make the cake: Center a rack in the oven and preheat it to 350 degrees. Butter a 9-inch round cake pan and lightly dust it with flour.
Sift the all-purpose flour, salt, and baking powder together and reserve.
Put the sugar in a large bowl, then zest the oranges on top of the sugar. Squeeze the juice from the oranges – you’ll need 1/2 cup; set the juice aside. Using your fingertips, rub the sugar and zest together until the sugar is moist and fragrant. Reserve two tablespoons of this sugar in a small bowl on the side. You will use them later to stabilize the egg whites.
Separate the eggs, putting the yolks into the bowl with the orangey sugar and reserving the whites.
Add the orange juice to the bowl with the yolks and give it a whisk. Add the almond flour, switch from the whisk to a spatula, and gently mix it in. Add the flour mixture and continue to softly bring the batter together. Stir in the melted butter.
Moving back to the whites, put them in an impeccably clean bowl (they won’t fluff up if the bowl isn’t clean). I whisked the an do this in a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. If you’re using a mixer, whip at low speed until they double in volume. Either way, when they’ve doubled, gradually add the reserved 2 tablespoons of sugar and continue to whip until they triple in volume and form glossy, stiff peaks. Using a spatula, fold half of the whites into the batter. When they are incorporated and the batter is lightened, you can gently fold in the rest of the whites. Pour the batter into the pan and smooth the top with a spatula.
Bake for 35 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.
To unmold the cake, run a small knife around the edges of the pan. Unmold the cake onto a cooling rack and let it cool to room temperature.
To frost and finish the cake: Mix the orange segments with the sugar and orange liqueur.
In a bowl, whip the crème fraîche with the powdered sugar and vanilla until it becomes more voluminous, about 3 to 4 minutes.
Spoon the whipped crème fraîche on top of the cake and casually spread it so it falls to the sides, then top it with the orange segments. Cut it into deliciously large slices and share it with your loved ones.