Even though the major winter holidays are behind us, I’m already looking forward to one of my favorite holidays in February: Abe Lincoln’s birthday! Sure, the cake featured in this post might serve as a Valentine’s Day treat, but you could just as easily bake this up a couple days earlier, draw close to your fireplace (if you’re like me, the closest thing to a fireplace might be the one televised on Netflix.), and wax on upon that giant among 19th century men, Mr. Lincoln.
I’ve always held a special place in my heart for the former President. My birthday fell a day before his, and while we never celebrated his birthday at family gatherings, I like to think his craggy face beamed down at me from on high when I blew out my birthday candles, as if I was helping him get an early start on his cake, too.
In case you’re wondering, I did get myself to the theatre a few weeks ago to see the newest iteration of Lincoln’s life. Of course, Daniel Day-Lewis was phenomenal as the former President, but I was also quite taken with the story. Now that I work for the state legislature, I’m fascinated with the complex workings of state- and national-level general assemblies. It’s not easy being the President. The next time you feel the urge to complain about whoever is sitting in the White House, turn your gaze for a moment over to Congress and consider who you elected to the legislative body. As a group, they have a great deal of power in the decision-making for your local and national communities.
On that crotchety old person note, may I direct your attention to today’s recipe? Below you’ll find a delicious twist on the traditional chocolate cake. Recently I was visiting one of my favorite food blogs, Daisy’s World, and came across this recipe. Since Cameron and I were having two of our dear friends Monet and Ryan over for dessert and an X-mas gift exchange last night, I wanted to experiment with my cake-baking skills.
I love fruit-jeweled upside down cakes, and I love chocolate and citrus combinations. (Did I mention that I love Abe Lincoln?) This cake is more chocolate than fruit, but with the inclusion of candied orange peel in the caramel topping, you’ll get a nice burst of winter orange in every bite. Enjoy!
Abe Lincoln Inspired Chocolate-Orange-Almond Upside-Down Cake (adapted from a Daisy’s World recipe)
Yields 1 10-inch round cake (or in my case, an 9-inch cake and a 8-inch cake without the topping)
Orange Caramel topping
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, plus more for pan
3/4 cup packed light-brown sugar
one large orange (for zest) or 5 candied orange peels finely minced
2 tablespoons honey
1 1/4 cups sliced or slivered almonds
1 1/4 cups cake flour (not self rising)
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups extra fine sugar
3 large eggs
1 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract
1. Heat oven to 350 degrees F.
1. Generously butter a 10-inch round nonstick cake pan. (I didn’t have one on hand, so I used a 9-inch cake pan and made a smaller 8-inch cake with the leftover cake batter. I also used buttered parchment paper in the pans since I have a tendency to break cakes whenever I try to remove them from their pans. In the case of this gooey topping, the parchment paper was a lifesaver. I definitely recommend.)
2. Pour 6 tablespoons melted butter into the cake pan and swirl to coat the bottom; sprinkle in brown sugar. Grate orange zest evenly over the brown sugar. Drizzle honey over sugar mixture and sprinkle evenly with almonds.
1. For an extra light cake, sift the dry ingredients – the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt – together three times. Set aside.
2. Place butter in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat until smooth and fluffy. Add sugar and continue mixing. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Continue mixing for another 3 minutes.
3. With the mixer running on low speed, add a third of the dry ingredients and mix to combine. Add half the buttermilk and continue mixing. Add another third of the dry ingredients, mix, and add remaining buttermilk and vanilla and almond extracts. Add the rest of the dry ingredients and mix just until smooth.
4. Pour the batter into the pan. Bake until set in the center and springy, 45 to 55 minutes. Run a knife around the edge of the pan and immediately invert the pan onto a serving platter. (If you’re using parchment paper as a pan lining, then you won’t need to loosen the cake from pan with the knife.) Let it sit with the pan still on top for 5 minutes so the caramel can get a chance to soak into the cake, before removing the pan. If the topping is sticking to the pan, warm the pan surface over a low burner to loosen the caramel and then pour it over the cake. (Again, if you’re using parchment paper, you can just carefully remove the paper once you’ve sprung it from the pan.) Let cool completely. Cut into wedges with a serrated knife.