For the past eight or so years, I started a tradition for my wife’s birthday. Before this epiphany, I would ask my wife what she would like for her birthday cake? I would then, like most husbands, go hunt down the desired cake and purchase it from a bakery or sometimes an ice cream parlor. One year my wife said, she didn’t feel like having a cake or anything. She was reading about how unhealthy processed cakes were due to all the additives and processed ingredients. I don’t blame her; I am not a fan of food coloring in my food either. But, I didn’t have a problem; she always made my cake from scratch.
My wife knew I was not a good baker, but I felt the gauntlet had been cast down, the challenge had been made, and I needed to step up as a husband and respond in the only dignified way I could and that was to don an apron and start a bake’n. Thus, a new tradition was born.
I found a book with the most natural ingredients I could find at a Robert’s Bookshop selling used books in Lincoln City, Oregon. The cook book is pre-WWII, and I figured the war was a definite trigger for over processed foods in our diet as the military rations found commercial labels and entered our grocery stores soon after.
I began searching through the cake recipes and I tried several for my wife over the years. The first cake I made was almost a brick, and from then on I got much better. The cakes from this cook book are not fluffy, light cakes. They are dense, rich, thick cakes that stick to the roof of your mouth and to your ribs. They truly are good. However, three years ago I made Krista the Zesty, Orange Cake, and now I am not allowed to bake a different type of cake or change recipes. This is the birthday cake that has won my wife’s heart, and so I have dedicated the past few years to perfecting the recipe and the cake’s presentation.
When it rains, it pours… The week of my wife’s birthday this year; I had meetings scheduled every night after school, the snow plow truck broke down, and the propane stove and oven quit working. At least the wood cook stove, was available to make the cake without any problems. In fact, I prefer the wood cook stove to the propane one when baking.
I usually make Krista’s zesty, orange cake in stages. On the eve before making the cake, I make the orange icing. After I grated the peel for the orange flavor, I squeeze the fresh orange for the half cup of orange juice needed. I also grate a lemon for the icing and add the juice of the freshly squeezed lemon for a little more zing. Once the icing is cooked and thickened, I set it out to cool before placing it in the fridge overnight.
The next day, which was luckily the weekend, I began making Krista’s cake. This year I had help from my son. He did an excellent job cracking the eggs and adding the ingredients to the mixer to make the cake batter. He also learned how to juice the oranges and lemon for the batter as well.
In this next shot is our Juice King, which is our citrus juice squeezer. Krista found it at an antique sale, and it has worked great ever since we brought it home. I require the use the juicer three different times. Once for the icing, then for the cake batter, and last for the frosting.
When the batter is ready for the cake pans, I have the wood cook stove revving up to cooking temperature. The key is to not overheat the oven because waiting for it to cool is time consuming. I close the flue and open the oven vent. I also open up the ash tray drawer below the fire box and when it approaches the 350 degrees required, I shut everything down except the oven vent. I tend the firebox making sure it has enough fuel to cover the baking time of 25 – 35 minutes. Once I have the fuel and the temperature needed, I place the cake pans into the oven on the same rack. The oven temperature was so even and the cook time so short, I didn’t need to re-position the cake pans once they were in the oven.
The finished product this year was great, except I hate to waste anything, so I added way to much orange icing to the center between the layers of the cake. I must remember when it comes to presentation, less is more. However, when it comes to flavor and taste, I still tend to get carried away and put as much frosting and icing on the cake beyond surface allowance. Good thing I’m not an architect.
Here is Krista’s beautiful, zesty, orange, double layer cake made with orange, lemon zest icing between the layers and drizzled on top of the orange and vanilla butter cream frosting. Now, my wife has to wait another 366 days for her birthday cake; it’s a leap year. Unless, our son or I request it as well.