There was a time when my awkward high school (and okay, college too) self loved to take those online quizzes about your personality. One of them I remember sparking deep discussion with my sister Moni, it was about your love language. Not in a romantic, partner kind of love, but a love that you show to the anyone near to your heart. Some show it with physical items, some with touch, some with words, other with hidden acts of kindness that can go unnoticed. I don't remember exactly what the five love languages are, but I do have some strong feels in general about love. About how I think this world doesn't focus enough on it. How sparsely it is given, when it should be the exact opposite. We need to realize love is a gift we can forever give to others, the easiest way to brighten a person's day and make them realize they are someone, at least to you.
I'm not sure what makes us forget to give love to others everyday. I am certainly not innocent of this - there are many days where I neglect to show my loved ones how much they mean to me. It's certainly not a natural process every day, we have to be active, be purposeful. And understand that it takes time. One of the first steps if we want to start actively showing others love is to identify how we love.
If I have a love language of my own, it most certainly would be cake.
So it should come to no surprise that I baked three for Andrew last week, and this was the first of those three. The real deal celebration cake. And celebrations call for a little bit of booze. Last year I played with Andrew's favorite beer, and this year, I moved on to his favorite cocktail: the old fashioned. We rarely spring for cocktails, but when we do, it's his go-to. So I fiddled around with some bitters and bourbon (two things that certainly do not make it onto my favorites list) to show him how much he means to me. To let him know that I appreciate every damn day what he does for me.
This weekend, I want to challenge you to reflect on how you love. Then get out there and show it! Happy Saturday.
Of note, this cake has a surprising taste - it toes the line between bitter and sweet, and the booze does not go unnoticed. If you are making this for a special person who maybe would prefer a sweeter cake, I would cut the amount of bourbon you use for the cake soak or reduce the amount of bitters added to the frosting to give the swiss meringue an overall more orange flavor. I was initially nervous that the cake would be overwhelmingly boozy, but was reassured by Andrew's bandmates that the cake was just right. So the recipe stands, but you have been warned, this cake is not for the faint-hearted.
Old fashioned cake, cake adapted from Molly Yeh
Ingredients, makes an 8 inch 2 layer cake
For the cake
- 1 3/4 cup sugar
- 2 1/2 cup all purpose flour
- 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 eggs, room temperature
- 1 cup buttermilk, room temperature
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 2 tsp aromatic bitters
- Orange zest from 1 orange
- 3/4 cup boiling water
- 1/3 cup bourbon, as the cake soak, depending on how boozy you like your cake
For the orange-bitters swiss meringue buttercream, recipe is enough frosting for 1 8 inch 2 layer cake
- 5 large egg whites
- 1 1/4 cup sugar
- 3 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature and cut into cubes
- 1 tablespoon aromatic bitters
- Orange zest from 1 orange
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- Preheat oven to 350 F, or 375 if using a convection oven. Line two 8 inch cake pans with parchment paper, and butter and flour the tins. Set aside.
- In a large bowl, whisk the sugar, flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt until well combined. In another large bowl, whisk the eggs, buttermilk, oil, vanilla extract, bitters, and orange zest until combined. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry mixture and mix until combined. Then, pour in the boiling water and whisk until combined - the batter will look thin!
- Pour the batter evenly into the cake pans and place int he oven. Let bake for 25-30 minutes, until a toothpick placed in the center of the cake comes out clean.
- Remove the pans from the oven and let cool for about 10 minutes, then remove from the pans and let the cakes cool completely on a cooling rack. Level the cakes when cooled, then poke with toothpicks all over the surface. Soak each cake with a little more than 2 tablespoons of bourbon. At this point, I like the wrap my cakes in plastic wrap and place in the freezer - it makes frosting the cake later much easier!
For the frosting
- For the frosting, whisk the eggs and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer until combined. Place this bowl over a pot of boiling water (but you want to avoid the water from touching the bottom of the bowl). Whisk continuously until the sugar has dissolved into the egg whites (about 7 minutes).
- Put the bowl into the stand mixer and, using the whisk attachment, whisk on high speed until a stiff meringue forms and the bottom of the bowl is back to room temperature (about 10-15 minutes).
- Switch the whisk attachment for the paddle attachment and on low speed, add the cubes of butter, one-by-one waiting for each cube to incorporate into the meringue before adding the next. Once all the butter is added, switch the speed to medium/medium-high and a stiffer buttercream should form - if it stays soupy after about 4 minutes, place the bowl in the fridge for 30 minutes and then try again. Add the bitters, orange zest, and salt and mix until well combined.
- Frost your cakes! You can decorate it however you'd like - here I used a bittersweet chocolate ganache and made a drippy cake, another though would be to top it with maraschino cherries like the drink!