Few things annoy me as much as a dry cake. You know what I’m talking about–cakes that fail the “fork test.” Can you pick up those leftover crumbs on your plate with just the s-l-i-g-h-t-e-s-t pressure from the backside of your fork? Does the cake gently spring back if you give it a little nudge with your finger? No? Then you might as well be eating a cracker…
Unfortunately, I find that most cakes in Korea fail the fork test on a regular basis— It’s not too surprising, since baked goods are still relatively new to a country that excels in rice cakes, shaved ice desserts and red bean buns… Basically, I almost never buy cakes in Korea–and instead choose to make it from scratch at home. However, there are a few challenges to overcome, such as the lack of certain ingredients which are ideal for moist-cake baking.
I love to use boxed pudding mixes to bake incredibly moist and delicious cakes. This is especially since I do not have ready access to sour cream (another great moist-cake secret ingredient) here in semi-rural Icheon, Korea. Vanilla pudding mixes are certainly no easier to find in my town, but I can at least buy them in bulk when I visit the US or the foreign food mart. Buttermilk is also hard to come by, as well, so I make do with “pretend buttermilk” (vinegar + milk) with fantastic results.
This cake is basically a yellow cake with subtle hints of orange from zest added to the batter, and apricot from jam added to the whipped cream icing. The flavors complement the chopped walnuts, almonds and dried cranberries on top. Is your mouth-watering, yet?
This cake was also the first time I tried the Wilton Bake-Even Strips, and I was very pleased with the results. Fellow bakers will understand the frustration that ensues when the cake you want to layer/ frost/ decorate bakes with a small mound in the center. These bake even strips, which are first soaked in water and then wrapped around your pans, ensure even baking. Say goodbye to uneven or cracked tops, and overcooked edges! The only downside is that it extends the cooking time since it’s essentially cooling down part of the cake pan as it sits in the oven. I found that my cake needed an additional 10 minutes—but it was well worth the wait to have a cake that was level and a breeze to frost!
Orange Cake with Whipped Apricot Icing
Makes two 9″ cakes.
- 2 large eggs
- 1 cup buttermilk (“pretend buttermilk” : Add 1 tablespoon of white vinegar to a cup measure, and then fill to the brim with milk)
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- zest from one orange
- 1 1/2 cups white sugar
- 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 box instant vanilla pudding mix (4 serving size)
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 2 tsp. baking powder
- Preheat oven to 350°F / 180°C. Place rack in the middle of the oven. Grease/flour the sides of two 9″ cake pans, and line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper.
- Mix the milk, oil, vanilla, orange zest and sugar in a large mixing bowl until smooth. Add in eggs, one at a time, and mix until completely blended.
- In a separate bowl, combine the flour, pudding mix, salt and baking powder.
- Slowly mix dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. Make sure there are no lumps.
- Pour batter into prepared pans and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. (I used the Wilton Bake-Even Strips, so I needed to bake for 40 minutes).
- Let cakes cool completely before frosting.
Apricot Whipped Frosting
- apricot jam/jelly/preserves
- whipping cream
Nothing very precise here—just add some apricot jam to some whipping cream in a large bowl and whip away! I used about 2-3 tablespoons of apricot preserves to about 1 1/2 cups of whipping cream, and whipped with an electric mixer. This makes more than enough to frost the cake, so I also cut the cake into two layers and added a layer of apricot whipped cream in between them. As you’ll see from the picture below, the two layers are far from even– the bottom layer absorbed a lot of the middle layer of whipped cream and “compressed” a bit. Next time I’ll be sure to make the bottom layer much thicker to compensate. Of course, none of this has any bearing on the taste, which is still awesome, if I say so myself :)!
(Quick shout out to Fog City International Cafe in Incheon, Korea: I used the apricot jam I bought from them!)
Lastly, I topped the cake with some chopped walnuts, almonds and dried cranberries–all flavors that complemented the subtle orange and apricot flavors of the cake.
I hope you enjoy this delightful dessert!