Browned Butter and Blood Orange Layer Cake

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If you looked at the patterns of the food I make, you would conclude that I never make cake. I certainly conclude that, usually around 3 pm in the afternoon or shortly after dinner, when I realize that I want cake and yet there is no cake because there is never any cake. For some reason, Past Me is always making us nutritious things out of vegetables (of all things), but never any cake. It’s almost like her priorities are completely out of order.

Today, though, with my fridge full of leftovers to eat for lunch and dinner, and the sink empty of dishes (thanks Zack!), I saw my opportunity. FUCK IT, I shouted to the internet. I’M MAKING CAKE. And so I scooped up the three blood oranges that have been languishing in the crisper, tossed some butter on the stove to brown, and proceeded to get every food preparation dish in my kitchen dirty in pursuit of cake. As a gift to Future Me, I’m also writing down the recipe, in case we ever want to make it again.

Browned Butter and Blood Orange Layer Cake (adapted from Food52’s Grown-Up Birthday Cake)

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) of butter (I used salted, but many people prefer to use unsalted)
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 cups of sugar
  • Vanilla bean, scraped
  • Zest of three blood oranges
  • Juice of three blood oranges (this yielded about 1/2 cup for me)
  • Approximately 1/2 cup of buttermilk
  • 4 T oil (I used olive)
  • 2 1/2 cups AP Flour
  • 2 T cornstarch
  1. Preheat oven to 350F.
  2. Grease and flour two 9 inch round cake pans. I also lined the bottom with parchment rounds.
  3.  Melt the butter in a heavy-bottomed pan over medium-low heat. Stir frequently, scraping the bottom of the pan, until the butter smells nutty and turns brown. There will be brown particulate matter that separates and drifts to the bottom. That is both okay and also delicious. Once the butter is browned, remove from the heat and transfer to another vessel to cool–you don’t want the carry-over heat from the warm pan to burn your nicely-browned butter.
  4. Beat together the four eggs, seeds from the scraped vanilla bean, blood orange zest, and sugar until thick. I used a stand mixer and beat them together until the whisk attachment was leaving trails in the mixture.
  5. Fill a one-cup measure with the juice from the blood oranges. Add buttermilk until the cup measure is filled. Beat the buttermilk and blood orange juice to the egg and sugar mixture.
  6. Add 4 T of oil to the cooled but still liquid browned butter, and drizzle that into the other wet ingredients while stirring.
  7. Stir together the dry ingredients and slowly incorporate them into the wet ingredients.
  8. Divide the batter evenly between the two prepared pans.
  9. Bake for 25-30 minutes.
  10. Once cool, frost with the frosting of your choice; I’m planning to use Smitten Kitchen’s Fudge Frosting.

Update: This cake was delicious (and I ate it every day for breakfast for a week), though the crumb came out a little rougher/more rustic than I was strictly going for. I’m also not sure that browning the butter was worth the effort: paired with the chocolate, the browned butter flavor gets overwhelmed. I might save the browned butter for a loaf cake that you’re not planning to frost.

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Browned Butter and Blood Orange Layer Cake