Some kids get a Barbie cake, other kids get an orange Bundt cake

This is the cake that had me in fits of hysterics hours before my friend Catherine’s 18th (17th?) birthday party. I had bravely offered to supply the cake for this auspicious occasion, when, with just hours to go before dinner, I unmoulded the cake to find huge chunks of it still clinging stubbornly to the inside of the pan. I promptly lost it. I had a hissy fit in the middle of the kitchen, banging things around, crying and wanting to start all over again. My dad got very cross with me and told me to stop being so silly. Once the rage subsided, a circle of strategically placed orange slices hid the visible damage, and I learned a valuable lesson – when making this cake, grease the pan very, very well. Obviously I still haven’t got the hang of it twelve years later, as evidenced by the photo below.

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An orange Bundt cake may seem an odd choice for a birthday (after all, the shape wasn’t exactly made for holding candles), but when I was growing up this cake served as a sophisticated favourite in my family, and it’s still the cake I associate most with birthdays. Yep, some kids get elaborated frosted cakes on their special day – Bob the Builder, princess Barbie, a soccer pitch fashioned out of dyed green coconut and little figurines. Other kids get an orange Bundt cake.

Adapted from The Silver Palate Cookbook, this cake is a crowd pleaser for all ages. For adults the appeal is the sophisticated orange flavour, subtle sweetness and lack of thick, cloying frosting. For kids it’s is the sticky glaze that pools at the bottom of the plate and makes the underside of the cake gooey and moist. (OK, that’s still the appeal for me, too!). This time I added poppy seeds for a bit of extra interest, but they’re not necessary. And whether it comes out in one piece or many, it will still taste like the best citrus cake you’ve ever had.

When I told my mum I was planning a post about this cake, she said “Oh good, that cake deserves to be more famous.” It also deserves to star soon at a birthday near you.

Orange Poppy Seed Bundt Cake
Adapted from The Silver Palate Cookbook

This recipe make a very large Bundt cake, but can easily be halved to fit a smaller tube or savarin pan.

16 tablespoons (1 cup / 225 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
4 eggs, whites and yolks separated
grated zest of 3 oranges
3 cups of all purpose flour
3 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup fresh orange juice
1/4 cup poppy seeds (optional)

1/4 cup fresh orange juice
1/4 cup granulated sugar

To make the cake: Preheat the oven to 350 F / 175 C. Generously grease and flour a large Bundt pan.

In a medium bowl sift the flour with the baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, or in a large bowl with a handheld mixer, beat the egg whites until stiff. Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or in a large bowl with a handheld mixer, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add the egg yolks and the orange zest, beating until everything is well incorporated and scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary. With the mixer on low, add the dry ingredients to the batter in three additions, alternating with the juice in two additions. Mix until the dry ingredients are just incorporated. Turn off the mixer and, using a spatula, fold the egg whites gently into the batter in broad strokes, along with the poppy seeds (if using).

Pour the batter into the prepared Bundt pan and smooth down the top with a spatula. Bake in the centre of the oven for about 40 to 50 minutes, until the sides of the cake shrink away from the edges of the pan and a knife inserted in the centre comes out clean. Cool the cake for at least 10 minutes in the pan before unmoulding onto a wire rack.

To make the glaze: While the cake is cooling, combine the orange juice and sugar in a small saucepan and simmer over low heat for a couple of minutes, until the sugar has dissolved and a light syrup forms. Spoon or brush over the warm cake. Once the cake is completely cool you can also add an icing sugar drizzle if you wish (as in the photo).