Chocolate Orange Strata

by Caterina Borg, Good Food Gourmet on January 14, 2011

A large part of my job involves developing new food and dessert recipes, so it is not unusual for me to create, review, test and improve upon recipes that I come across on a daily basis. One thing that has always been a challenge for me was trying to find a pound cake recipe that uses oil instead of butter. The reason for this is that most of these butter based recipes use a dairy product like milk, buttermilk, yogurt, cream cheese or sour cream to lend an added moisture and tenderness to the cake. That is all well and good if you consume dairy products, but what if you are one of those people who have dietary restrictions and must skip around this very large food group?

Most oil based cake recipes that I have come across resulted in more of an airy sponge-like texture which is great for chiffon type applications, but it is the more densely textured pound cake type crumb that I am after. I set out to try a few recipes that I had come across online, and many were problematic from the start. Each time I found myself going back to the beginning and starting again.

Then, I happened to be looking through my library and picked up a Pillsbury cookbook that was presented to me as a gift from my dad. It was the first cookbook I ever owned and the one that spawned my interest in baking and collecting cookbooks. Since then, many more have been added to my collection. You think I’m kidding?  Take a look at these…

As I flipped through the well worn pages, I came across a recipe that I had highlighted and always wanted to try…the reason? It was an oil based cake. Would it stand up to an all butter cake in taste, appearance and texture? Well, I am pleased to say that it scored huge points on all counts!

It was easily one of the best tasting cakes I have ever had, and I am not exaggerating one bit. I guarantee that you will find the flavor and that delicate pound cake texture we all love right here in this very simple cake, without all of the added calories or guilt. The only change that I made was that I decreased the amount of orange juice from ¾ cup to 2/3 cup, and I added the chocolate strata…just because I love the flavor of chocolate and orange together. If you are a purist, you can omit the chocolate and serve it simply with a little drizzle of glaze because ultimately, the final result is yours to create.

**Recipe adapted and modified from Pillsbury Kitchen Cookbooks

Chocolate Orange Strata

2 ½ cups flour (12.5oz)

3 teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

1 ½ cups sugar (11oz by weight)

2/3 cup fresh orange juice (5.5oz by weight)

¾ cup canola oil (5.5 oz by weight)

10 drops orange oil

½ -1 teaspoon orange zest (I used ½ teaspoon)

4 eggs (7.2oz)

4oz semisweet chocolate, melted **optional for strata

1 large orange, in segments **optional

1 tablespoon sugar**optional

1 tablespoons grand marnier liquer**optional

Preheat your oven to 325°F. Cut your orange into skinless segments and place into a small bowl. Squeeze out all of the remaining juice into the segments, add the 1 tablespoon of sugar and the 1 tablespoon of grand marnier and refrigerate until you are ready to serve the cake.

If you are going to use the chocolate, melt the 4oz in a small microwave safe bowl, and then spread out thinly on a sheet of parchment paper or silicone mat. Once you have spread it out, put it in the refrigerator to chill. Once the batter is put together, you will break up the chocolate into pieces and layer it into the batter. This will create layers of chocolate (strata) that will bake into the cake.

Scale out the dry ingredients together in a small bowl and set aside. In another medium sized bowl, add the eggs and the sugar and whip together a few minutes until light and creamy, then add the oil and the orange oil, and mix together again. Sift in the dry ingredients and add the orange juice and the zest. I only used ½ teaspoon of zest, but if you would like a stronger orange flavor, you can add up to 1 teaspoon. Combine this well together with a whisk until the batter has no lumps. Pour a little batter into a well greased pan and then add some broken pieces of chocolate. Then add another layer of batter, and some more pieces of chocolate. Top off with the last bit of batter and bake at 325 for approximately 45-50 minutes or until golden brown.  Let the cake cool completely before inverting onto a platter. Serve with sugared orange segments.

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