I baked my first cake when I was nine years old. It was an orange cake with orange frosting. And I’ll never forget the lessons I learned with that very first baking attempt. Let me tell you the story.
I am one of six children. Yes, six. When we were little, we didn’t have sweets around the house. Every year at Christmas, though, our mother would bake cookies. Hundreds of dozens of cookies. I would sit in the kitchen and watch the process for several reasons:
- I’ve always been fascinated by cooking.
- She who watches the cookie dough being made gets to lick the bowl.
- I was going to have to clean up the mess, so I might as well be close at hand.
One year, in the middle of mixing a batch of cookie dough with her hand mixer, our mother put the mixer down, got her purse, told me to get in the family car, and she proceeded to a local store to purchase her first stand mixer. Mixing that many batches of cookies was just too much work with a hand mixer. I learned then that a stand mixer was a valuable kitchen tool.
Being the oldest girl, I was given a lot of kitchen tasks from a very early age (actually, a lot of chores. Period.). When I was nine, I was given a promotion from scullery maid to pâtissier. It became my responsibility to make desserts. In my first attempt, I employed the use of that stand mixer to make an orange cake with orange frosting. This cake was a mix and so was the frosting, but I was going to be baking and I was excited!
I’ve said before that I didn’t get instruction in the kitchen tasks I was set, and it’s true. So any mistakes I made, and I’ve made many, were hard-learned. For instance, the time I added salt to the water when I was making jello, since I’d been told salting water made it boil more quickly. *big smile*
I mixed up the cake and put it in to bake. I mixed up the frosting and waited patiently for the cake to come out of the oven. I’m certain the box said to allow the cake to cool before frosting it, but I’m not exactly sure I knew that meant completely cool. So, I frosted that cake while it was still warm-ish. And that frosting ran in rivulets down the sides of my beautiful cake. I can laugh about it now, but at the time I was mortified and the teasing was pretty merciless. But I learned.
While in college I had a very well stocked college kitchen; it wasn’t until I set up my first permanent home kitchen that I decided it was time for a stand mixer. By that time, I was well-practiced in the kitchen, baked quite a bit and was a fiend for homemade bread. I knew that I needed to buy the very best stand mixer. I’ll never forget the day, after industriously saving my pennies, I came home with my stand mixer. Of course, it was a KitchenAid. This KitchenAid:
This mixer has been with me through thick and thin (batter and doughs) and is on its second motor (I killed the first making a double batch of a very heavy bread dough). As KitchenAid has introduced new colors and designs I’ve often wished they made their mixers a little less durable…I covet some of the new colors.
Recently on one of the cooking boards I participate in on Facebook, one of the girls was asking what kind of stand mixer to buy. Every single person recommended she wait to purchase one until she could afford a KitchenAid. Her sweet husband surprised her with one for her birthday very shortly after that.
Having that discussion with people who love to bake and universally love a KitchenAid mixer made me a bit nostalgic about mine. So, I decided to recreate a version of that very first cake I ever baked.
This recipe for Orange Pecan Spice Cake with Orange Cream Cheese Frosting, while similar to that first cake I baked, is a far cry from that first effort (but I will say it made me smile the entire time I was working on it). It is a scratch cake, but it’s very simple to make and unbelievably moist and delicious. I hope you’ll try it.
- FOR THE CAKE:
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- 16 tablespoons (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
- 2 tablespoons grated orange peel
- 4 large eggs
- 1 cup sour cream
- ½ cup heavy cream
- 1 cup chopped pecans
- FOR THE ORANGE SYRUP:
- ½ cup water
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- 1 orange peel, being careful to remove just the outer peel and no pith.
- FOR THE FROSTING:
- 2 8-ounce packages cream cheese, cold
- 8 tablespoons (one stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
- 2 cups powdered sugar
- 1 tablespoon grated orange peel
- 1 teaspoon orange liqueur (or orange extract)
- ⅓ cup sour cream
- Optional garnishes: Orange peel, mint leaves
- Preheat oven to 350°F.
- Butter and flour the insides of three 9-inch-diameter cake pans.
- Sift the flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt into medium bowl. Using an electric mixer, beat sugar, butter and orange peel in large bowl until fluffy.
- Beat in eggs 1 at a time.
- Stir flour mixture into butter mixture, alternately with sour cream and milk - beginning and ending with flour.
- Stir in the pecan pieces.
- Divide batter among prepared pans.
- Place the pans into a preheated oven, you may have to do this in batches if you have a single oven, and bake for about 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center come out clean.
- Transfer pans to racks and cool 10 minutes.
- FOR THE ORANGE SYRUP:
- Combine all the ingredients into a small sauce pan, over medium-high heat, and cook until the sugar is completely melted.
- Remove from heat.
- Turn cakes out of their pans onto racks, pierce the surface with a toothpick all over the top and spoon on 3 tablespoons of orange syrup per cake.
- Allow the cakes to cool completely.
- FOR THE FROSTING:
- Using electric mixer, beat cream cheese and butter until well blended.
- Beat in sugar, then orange peel and orange liqueur.
- Beat in sour cream.
- Cover and refrigerate until frosting is firm enough to spread, about 30 minutes.
- TO FROST THE CAKE:
- Place 1 cake layer on platter.
- Spread ¼ of the frosting over the top of this layer.
- Top with second cake layer and spread ¼ of the frosting over the top of the second layer.
- Top with third cake layer and spread the top and sides of cake with remaining frosting.
- Garnish, if desired.
- (Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover with cake dome and store at room temperature.)