I’ve written about this cake on the blog before, but I recently made it for a friend’s birthday and tinkered with the recipe, the way I often do. It’s getting better and better. I don’t usually like these icings made with confectioner’s sugar, but I was in a hurry and everyone loved it. I used milk in the icing, but you can use strained orange juice, as follows:
For the mayo and cake:
3 large eggs at room temperature
fine sea salt
1 cup grapeseed oil or very fruity lightly flavored extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed orange juice
butter for greasing pans
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus flour for greasing pans
½ cup high quality cocoa, not Dutch process, sifted
1 teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon baking powder
Before you begin, grate the zest of the oranges and set aside. Juice the oranges, reserving the juice. If you don’t have at least 1 cup of juice, add water to make up for it.
For the mayonnaise, place one of the eggs and a pinch of salt in a blender and blend on medium high for about 15 seconds. With the motor still running, begin adding the oil, in droplets at first, then gradually create a stream and continue slowly adding the oil until all of it is incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the blender, add 1 tablespoon of the orange juice, and blend again to incorporate. Taste the mayonnaise and add a little more juice if you like.
Preheat the oven to 350°. Grease two 9” cake pans with butter, line with parchment or wax paper, grease the paper, then dust with flour.
Beat the two remaining eggs in the large bowl of a mixer on fairly high speed, then gradually add the sugar. Continue beating until light and fluffy. It will nearly double in size. Add the vanilla, the reserved orange zest, and the mayonnaise and beat to combine.
In a separate bowl, whisk the flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and ½ teaspoon of salt together, then fold a third of the dry ingredients into the batter. Add about half the remaining orange juice and fold it in, then another third of the dry, then the rest of the water, then the rest of the dry ingredients. The batter should be well blended.
Divide the batter between the two prepared pans, give the pans a rap on the counter to dislodge any air bubbles, and bake in the center of the preheated oven until a toothpick stuck in the center of the cake comes out clean, about 20 to 30 minutes. Do not overcook; the cakes should just barely be beginning to pull away from the sides of the pans. Place the pans on a rack and allow to cool completely.
For the frosting:
2/3 cup unsweetened dark cocoa
4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter
3 cups powdered sugar
1/3 to ½ cup milk or reserved orange juice, strained
Sift the cocoa into the large bowl of a mixer. Melt the butter and pour into the cocoa, using a spatula to mix it at first, then turn on the motor and slowly begin to mix it. Continue mixing unitl it is well blended. Begin adding the powdered sugar and mixing it in well, adding a little bit of milk or orange juice when it gets stiff. Continue alternating the sugar and the liquid, using only as much liquid as necessary. The frosting should be dark, shiny, and smooth.
When the cake layers are perfectly cool, carefully remove a layer from the pan, remove the paper, and frost the cake, beginning by putting about 1/3 of the frosting on the first layer and spreading it out. Add the second cake layer (be sure to remove the paper!) and frost the top and sides of the cake.
Serve at room temperature. Serves 12-24, depending on how many southerners and chocoholics are present.