The idea for this recipe came to me late at night before the holidays. I was thinking of an excuse to make a layer cake that I could bring for dessert to a holiday meal, but nothing felt like a good fit. Flavours and combinations of ingredients swirled in my head until I landed on the citrus of orange and subtle bite of ginger, surrounded by smooth cinnamon molasses buttercream, and marked with candied orange slices and lined on the bottom with candied ginger.
The candied orange slices can be made a couple days in advance – they’re optional, but are lots of fun to decorate with and are a tasty extra treat.
This cake is heavier and denser than your typical layer cake, so I’d recommend enjoying it with a cup of tea. My Opa was thoroughly impressed with this cake (I am mentioning this because it’s incredibly rare to get such praise on baked goods from him), to the point that after he had a few bites he immediately grabbed a tupperware and cut an extra large piece to take home. Hopefully you or whoever you share it with will have a similar reaction!
Orange Ginger Cake with Cinnamon Molasses Buttercream and Candied Orange Slices
Yield: One round two-layer 9″ cake
Watch this cake carefully towards the end of baking. Because it’s baked at a slightly higher temperature than normal, it’s a lot easier to overbake!
This recipe is really three-in-one: Orange Ginger Cake, Cinnamon Molasses Buttercream, and Candied Orange Slices. Adapt and use the recipes with other cake or frosting combinations to get creative!
I also decided to include some marmalade in the cake filling (between the first and second layer) – this is optional, but highly recommended as the bitterness of the marmalade balances out the sweetness of the buttercream.
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 3/4 tsp. salt
- 3 1/2 tsp. baking powder
- 1 Tbsp + 1 tsp powdered ginger
- ¾ cup butter at room temperature
- 1½ cups granulated sugar
- 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
- Grated zest of 1 large orange
- 1 Tbsp of grated, fresh ginger
- 3 large eggs at room temperature
- 1 cup orange juice
Candied Orange Slice Ingredients:
- 1 large orange, washed thoroughly
- 2 cups sugar
- 2 cups water
- 2 Tbsp orange juice
- 1 ¾ cups unsalted butter at room temperature
- 1 ½ tsp cinnamon
- ¼ tsp salt
- 3 ½ cups confectioners’ sugar
- 4 Tbsp molasses
- 3 Tbsp milk
Filling Ingredient (optional):
- 1 cup marmalade (for filling, do not mix in to buttercream)
- Preheat oven to 375°F.
- Grease two round 9” cake pans and line the bottom with parchment paper.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients (flour, salt, baking powder, powdered ginger).
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, or in a large bowl using an electric hand mixer, cream the butter on medium high until lighter in colour, about 1-2 minutes.
- Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the grated orange zest and grated ginger. Cream on high for another 1-2 minutes until the zest and ginger is evenly incorporated. This will help aerate the ingredients to bring out more of their flavours.
- Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the sugar and vanilla. Beat on medium high for 2-3 minutes, or until well combined.
- Beat in the eggs on medium to medium high, one at a time, until well incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl after each addition.
- Add the flour mixture in three equal parts, alternating with the orange juice. It should go: ⅓ flour mixture, ½ orange juice, ⅓ flour mixture, ½ orange juice, ⅓ flour mixture. After each addition, mix on low just to combine (do not overmix or your cake will be very heavy and dense!).
- Divide the batter evenly between the two cake pans. It will likely be very thick, so use your spatula to gently spread it out evenly.
- Bake in the oven for about 25 minutes. Because of the high heat, I recommend checking for doneness by the 22 minute mark. A toothpick inserted into the centre of the cake will come out clean when the cake is done.
- Cool cakes in their pans on a cooling rack for about 10 minutes.
- Flip cakes onto a cooling rack and allow to come to room temperature.
Candied Orange Slice Directions:
Method adapted from Simply Sated
- Bring a medium saucepan of plain water to a boil.
- Prepare a medium bowl of ice water and set aside.
- Using a very sharp knife, slice orange widthwise (perpendicular to the top and bottom) into slices no thicker than ¼”.
- Add orange slices to boiling water and boil for 1 minute.
- Remove orange slices and immediately add to ice bath until cooled. Gently drain oranges.
- In a large, wide skillet, over medium heat, bring water, sugar, and orange juice just to a gentle boil until sugar dissolves.
- Reduce heat to low and add orange slices. Arrange them in a single layer with as little overlap as possible.
- Gently simmer for 1 hour, flipping the each slice every 15 minutes. By the hour mark, the rinds should lighten in colour and change from opaque to slightly translucent.
- After 1 hour, remove slices from saucepan and arrange on a cooling rack for at least 1 hour (I did this before bed and left mine overnight).
- Once cool, you can keep the orange syrup for another use – just store in the fridge in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks. Perhaps use in a cocktail or mocktail?
- Once cool, orange slices will keep separated by parchment paper in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, or in a large bowl using an electric mixer, cream the butter on medium high to high until light and fluffy – about 2-3 minutes.
- Add the salt and cinnamon, and cream on medium high for another minute or until well-combined. This will help give the cinnamon more time to incorporate and aerate, making it more fragrant.
- Add the confectioners’ sugar and mix, starting on low to avoid a powdery mess and working your way up to medium high, until light and fluffy, about 4-5 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl at least once during this step.
- Slow mixer to low and drizzle in the molasses. Raise speed back up to medium high until well-combined.
- Add the milk, one tablespoon at a time and mixing to incorporate fully between each addition, until you reach your desired consistency. The buttercream should be thick yet spreadable. It should hold its shape but not be too firm. If you feel like you’ve added too much milk and the buttercream becomes too thin, add confectioners’ sugar 1 tablespoon at a time until you get back to desired consistency. 3 tablespoons of milk was the perfect amount for me, but you may need more or less
Assembling and Frosting the Cake Directions:
- Level your cake layers. This just means use a serrated knife (like your bread knife, or something nice and long) and cut off the rounded top of the cake so it is level. Don’t worry about “wasting” this part or how the cake will look – your crumb coat will hide any accidents, and you can eat this as a snack while you go.
- Using an offset spatula (one of my favourite baking utensils!), place a small dollop of frosting on a 9” cake board and center the first layer of the cake on top, cut-side down.
- If not using marmalade: Add a generous layer of frosting on the top of this cake – roughly ¼” to ½” thick. It doesn’t have to look perfect as the other layer will go on top. If using marmalade: Pipe concentric circles (see photo at top of post) of buttercream, starting on the edge of the cake and working your way to the middle. Leave a ½” gap between each piped circle. You’ll need to clean out your piping bag, or use your second one, if you have it, or a ziplock bag with a small hole cut out of a bottom corner. Fill with 1 cup marmalade, and fill in the gaps between the buttercream. This will create a patterned effect when you slice into the cake (and likely impress who is eating it! Unfortunately I did not get a great photo of this).
- Center the second layer on top. Add a thin layer of frosting along the top and down the sides of the cake. It doesn’t need to be perfect as this is the crumb coat, but try and get it as smooth as possible.
- Place the cake in the freezer for about 15 minutes so the crumb coat can set (this will make frosting the rest much easier!).
- Frost the rest of the cake! I’ve mentioned this before, but a very handy tool for this is a lazy susan. If you are a perfectionist and are trying to smooth out or level the top of the cake, dip the offset spatula in a glass of hot water – don’t worry about wiping the water off the spatula, it will melt and combine into the frosting.
- If using, arrange candied orange slices as you see fit!