chocolate orange buttermilk cake

It occurs to me that I’m going to Dublin in three weeks with my pop. This is a trip I thought we’d never take, a week spent with my father seeing his home through his eyes. Although we’re staying in a hotel and I’ve drawn a list of places where we’ll eat, I know a great deal of our time will be spent walking alongside of him, seeing the shape of his face change as a result of memory. My pop and I are fussy people; we’ll likely winge and argue like we always do, but this is something I look forward to — how we take comfort in resorting to our familiar roles.

For as long as I could remember, I’ve always been partial to sweets. From vanilla bean ice cream to fudgy brownies and warm cookies that broke apart in my hands, I’m drawn to the alchemy of baked goods, and how a few simple ingredients can yield something that elicits a kind of bliss that warms us from the inside out. My pop wasn’t into sweets; he remained indifferent by my Tollhouse cookies and deli-made crumb cakes. However, he bought boxes of biscuits, shortbread cookies filled with jelly, remnants of his childhood. He didn’t know why he loved these cookies, he just did. Growing up in a small home in Dublin with seven brothers, biscuits were a stolen treat. A cookie folded into his hands for a job well done. My pop was the youngest, the most sensitive; he’d cleave to the fabric of his mother’s dresses. Even as an adult he exercises a sort of kindness that I sometimes wish would come naturally to me. He was raised with love while I grew up suspicious with one foot off the bed, ready to run. My dad had biscuits and I had chocolate.

Miniature cakes sealed in plastic and cookies slipped into parchment paper bags, I remember getting frosting on my fingers. I remember chocolate chips melting in my palm. We rebuild and reconstruct from memory, and while my childhood wasn’t the sort I’d want to revisit and my home wasn’t a place you’d want to board a plane to, my affection for sweets is worth preserving. This is the sort of cake I want to make for my pop before we take a trip back to his childhood. This is the torch that illuminated the darkness.

INGREDIENTS: Recipe courtesy of Son is Food, with modifications.
1 1/3 cup unbleached, all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cup cane/raw sugar
2/3 cup good quality baking cocoa powder
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 large eggs
Zest/juice of one medium orange
3/4 cup buttermilk
2 tsp almond extract
3 tbsp safflower or grapeseed oil
3/4 cup hot water
Confectioner’s sugar, for sprinkling
Butter to grease the pan

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees, and grease a 9×2 inch round cake pan.

In a bowl sift the flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and sugar. Set aside. In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the eggs on medium speed. Add the buttermilk, almond extract, oil, orange juice, and zest until combined.

Slowly add the dry ingredients until just combined. Stream in the hot water and mix until completely combined. Pour the batter into the greased pan and bake for about 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. The center will appear a little wobbly — don’t worry. The cake will come together as it cools.

Let cool on a rack for 20-30 minutes and turn out to dish + serve with powdered sugar.


Worth noting: I snapped these photos in the evening, using a Lowel EGO Digital Imaging light, on a solid tip from Pinch of Yum.

8 thoughts on “chocolate orange buttermilk cake

  1. The cake looks intensely chocolatey. And I’ve thought about getting into low light or evening photography, but haven’t been brave (or wintry) enough to take the plunge. Your photos look great!


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