Phnom Penh; April 21, 2022:
I’ve been making a version of this cake for 15 years. As I wrote on my blog in 2008, “I’ve always loved the deep dark richness of cakes made with cocoa and the moist quality of cakes made with oils and mayonnaise instead of butter.” This recipe makes a very moist cake that will keep much longer than cakes made with butter. I’ve also always loved the combination of chocolate and orange. I make a blender mayonnaise with fruity, light-flavored oil, using orange juice instead of lemon juice. The icing is made with orange juice instead of the usual milk. I frost the cake first with a thin “crumb coat,” refrigerate it to set, then finish frosting with icing to cover any imperfections. This is crazy sweet but folks love it. I served it last night at my friend Muna’s birthday party.
For the mayo and cake:
2-3 oranges, plus orange juice for the icing (see below)
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 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, plus cocoa for the icing (see below)
1 teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon baking powder
*The eggs here in Cambodia can be small. Here, I use two small ones in the mayonnaise and 3
small ones in the cake.
Grate the zest of two oranges and set aside. Juice the oranges to make a cup of juice. If you don’t have a full cup, 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, 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 liquid, 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 icing:
2/3 cup unsweetened dark cocoa
4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter
2-1/2 cups powdered sugar
½ cup freshly squeezed, strained orange juice
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 until it is well blended. Begin adding the powdered sugar and mixing it in well, adding a little bit of the 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 light frost the first layer with about 1/3 of the icing. Add the second layer (be sure to remove the paper!) and frost the top and sides of the cake with a thin layer. Don’t worry if there are crumbs in the icing. Place the cake in the refrigerator for 15 minutes to firm the icing. Remove the cake and spread the rest of the icing on the cake, smoothing it to hide any crumbs. Store in the refrigerator but serve at room temperature.
Serves 12-24, depending on how many southerners and chocoholics are present.