hello friend – cara cara chocolate cake

hello friend – cara cara chocolate cake

I’d forgotten about chocolate. It sat in the back of a pantry shelf out of sight, as I chose other prime flavors for recipes.  It became out of mind, too, in the search of the new, fun, and exotic.

Maybe it was the frigid weather and gusting wind that forced a need for comfort food . . . like chocolate cake.

With the citrus season at its peek, I chose Cara Cara oranges to combine with the chocolate. (It will taste just as good with other oranges, just different.) To compliment the liveliness of citrus, I whipped up a chocolate Swiss meringue butttercream for a lighter overall experience.

For me, the experience of eating the cake is like rediscovering an old friend—you forget how comfortable it is.


Cara Cara Chocolate Cake


Chocolate Cake
  • 4 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped fine
  • 1/4 Dutch-processed cocoa, sifted
  • 1/2 teaspoon instant espresso powder
  • 1/2 cup boiling water
  • 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (10 ounces), plus additional for dusting cake pans
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 12 tablespoons (6 ounces) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup granulated sugar (7 ounces)
  • 2/3 cup packed light brown sugar (about 4-3/4 ounces)
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 4 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup sour cream, room temperature
Orange Pastry Cream
  • 2 cups half-and-half
  • 1 tablespoon orange zest, freshly grated
  • 6 large egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup (3 1/2 ounces) granulated sugar
  • Pinch fine sea salt
  • 1/4 cup (1-1/4 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 4 tablespoons (2 ounces) cold unsalted butter, cut into four pieces
  • 1 teaspoon Grand Marnier or Triple Sec
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Chocolate Swiss Meringue Buttercream
  • 3 large egg whites
  • 1 cup (7 ounces) granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 16 tablespoons (8 ounces/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened but cool
  • 1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted


Chocolate Cake

1. Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position; heat oven to 350℉. Combine chocolate, cocoa and espresso powder in small bowl; pour boiling water over and let stand to melt chocolate, about 30 seconds. Whisk until smooth; set aside until cooled to room temperature.

2. Spray two 9-inch-round cake pans with nonstick cooking spray; line bottoms with parchment rounds. Spray paper rounds, dust pans with flour, and knock out excess. Combine flour and baking soda in a small bowl, set aside.

3. In bowl of standing mixer fitted with paddle attachment, beat butter, sugars, and salt at medium-low speed until sugar is moistened, about 30 seconds. Increase speed to medium-high and beat until mixture is light and fluffy, about 3-4 minutes, scraping down bowl with rubber spatula as needed.

4. Reduce speed to medium, add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition, scrape down bowl as needed. Reduce speed to low, add vanilla and room temperature chocolate mixture, then increase speed back to medium and beat until combined, about 30 seconds.

5. With mixer running at low speed, add dry ingredients in 3 additions, alternating with sour cream (in 2 additions), beginning and ending with dry ingredients, and beating in each addition until barely combined. Stir by hand with rubber spatula to finish mixing batter, scraping bottom and sides of bowl, to ensure that batter is homogenous (batter will be thick). Divide batter evenly between prepared cake pans; spread batter to edges of pans with rubber spatula and smooth surfaces.

6. Bake cakes until toothpick inserted into center of cakes comes out clean, about 25- 30 minutes. Cool in pans for 10 minutes, then invert cakes onto greased wire rack; peel off and discard paper rounds. Cool cakes to room temperature, about 1 hour.

Orange Pastry Cream

1. Heat half-and-half and orange zest in medium saucepan over medium heat until just simmering. Meanwhile, whisk yolks, sugar, and salt in medium bowl until smooth. Add flour to yolk mixture and whisk until incorporated. Remove half-and-half from heat and, whisking constantly, slowly add half-and-half to yolk mixture to temper. Whisking constantly, return tempered yolk mixture to saucepan.

2. Return saucepan to medium heat and cook, whisking constantly, until mixture thickens slightly, about 1 minute. Reduce heat to medium-low and continue to simmer, whisking constantly, 5-6 minutes.

3. Increase heat to medium and cook, whisking vigorously, until bubbles burst on surface, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove saucepan from heat; whisk in butter and vanilla until butter is melted and incorporated. Strain pastry cream through fine-mesh strainer set over medium bowl. Press lightly greased parchment paper directly on surface and refrigerate until set, at least 2 hours and up to 24 hours.

Chocolate Swiss Meringue Buttercream

1. Combine egg whites, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a standing mixer set over a pan of simmering water. Whisk constantly with whisk attachment by hand until mixture is smooth, warm to the touch and sugar has dissolved.

2. Attach the bowl to the stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Add vanilla and start to whisk on low and gradually increasing to medium-high speed until mixture form stiff (but not dry) peaks. Continue mixing until the mixture is fluffy and glossy, and completely cool (test by touching the bottom of the bowl), about 8-10 minutes.

3. Reduce speed to medium-low, add butter a tablespoon at a time, mixing well after each addition. Switch to the paddle attachment, and continue beating on low speed until all air bubbles are eliminated, about 2 minutes. Scrape down sides of bowl with a rubber spatula, add melted chocolate and continue to beat until the frosting is completely smooth. (Keep buttercream at room temperature if using the same day or refrigerate for up to 2 days)


1. With serrated knife, trim off dome on top of cakes to level, cut each cake horizontally into two even layers.

2. Place one cake layer on cake stand or serving platter, using icing spatula, distribute 1/3 pastry cream evenly on cake. Alternate between cake layers and pastry cream until you end with the fourth cake layer on top. Wrap cake in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes to set.

3. Remove cake from refrigerator, unwrap cake and spread  buttercream on top and sides of cake. Decorate with Dried Orange Crisps and chocolate pearls (if use). Serve or refrigerate cake. If refrigerated, let cake stand at room temperature for 20-30 minutes before serving.