Growing up, the Chocolate Hostess Cupcakes were the mostest. But after a kid in a candy store style binge on brownies, the implications of overindulging on chocolate got the best of me. I swore off all things chocolate for a long while. That's when I reached for the Orange Hostess Cupcakes, instead of their more popular chocolate counterparts. Coincidentally, that's when I realized I'd been missing out on something glorious for the better part of my childhood. This Orange Cream Cake is an ode to that citrusy discovery.
I've been picturing this orange cream dream in my mind forever. It's been at the top of my running recipe idea list since 2017. I'm often intimidated by layered, multi-component cakes, therefore I generally keep my cakes simple. But, I was more than ready to finally tackle this Orange Cream Cake. Conceptualizing, developing, testing and perfecting this recipe turned out to be almost as traumatizing as the bad brownie experience I had as a kid.
Developing the perfect homage wasn't easy
Getting this recipe just right was a tumultuous and trying effort that required countless iterations.
Everything that could go wrong during development, did. Somehow, I over-baked the cake. I didn't add enough color and ended up with an uncomfortably realistic flesh-tone version. I made the icing ganache too runny. Then, I waited too long to apply the ganache and it thickened. A heat-proof glass bowl cracked while making the Meringue Buttercream Filling. The swirls, ugh the swirls. I went in with an overload of confidence the first time, making a mockery of the swirl-age. Then I got too in my head and overthought the piping.
This cake almost wasn't
A host of unfortunate happenstances hit and I experienced a whole range of emotions; spanning utter defeat and frustration to pure jubilation. I almost gave up on this Orange Cream Cake many times, but I pressed on. Aren't we glad I did?
Next to the trackpad of my laptop is a thick lacquer of shiny meringue. There is orange ganache icing dripping all over my kitchen. Currently, there are 3 different versions of this Orange Cream Cake on my dining room table. All at varying stages of the development process.
It was a long road to get here but I can officially and proudly proclaim, this Orange Cream Cake is everything I'd been dreaming up.
Striking the right balance in flavor, texture and aesthetics took some serious doing. However, it's here and it makes my heart so happy to share it with you!
In an effort to recreate the Hostess Orange Cupcakes, I had to start at the source.
I tracked down a box Hostess Orange Cupcakes and got to work. I began by cutting right in and taking a bite. Making notes of the overall texture and flavor. Then I broke it down further and tasted each individual component of the cupcakes. The cupcake, the filling and the icing. After repeated tastings and floating the flavors around in my mind, I landed on the 3 distinct components for my Orange Cream Cake version.
How to make Orange Yellow Cake
The cake of the original Hostess Orange Cupcake is a little spongy and moist with a medium density to the crumb. I was able to achieve a similar, albeit more flavorful cake, by adapting a classic Yellow Cake recipe to be a bit lighter and a lot more orange. Here's how...
- Lighten up: I lightened up a classic yellow cake by using fewer eggs. Instead of using 6 full eggs, I used just 3 full eggs and 3 egg yolks, saving the egg whites for the Meringue Buttercream Filling.
- Orange Infusion: By adding the juice and zest of an orange, along with pure orange extract, this cake is infused with a bright and citrusy flavor.
- Moist Maker: The moisture from the eggs, butter, whole milk and orange juice gives this cake an ultra-moist crumb without being heavy and excessively dense.
Making meringue buttercream filling
To match the fluffy, marshmallowy creaminess of the filling, I went with a mix of meringue and buttercream. Best of both worlds! The Meringue Buttercream Filling is a light and airy layer that lies between two rounds of Yellow Orange Cake. It's fluffy with enough structure to keep the layers from slipping when you cut in. I used Sally's Baking Addiction's brilliant recipe for Perfect Swiss Meringue Buttercream but cut it in half and cut back on the butter just a bit. It worked just perfectly as the filling!
- Whip It Good - By first whipping up a meringue from the egg whites leftover from the cake batter, this filling becomes a marshmallowy marvel. It takes a good 15-20 minutes to whip those whites into shape with a stand mixer, so be patient. I promise it's worth it.
- Butter Me Up - The whipped meringue goes from straight sticky marshmallow to a smooth and creamy delight that's light as a cloud by beating butter in with the meringue.
- Vanillaroma - A dash of vanilla adds a deepness to the flavors that I swear makes the Meringue Buttercream Filling taste exactly like a lightly toasted marshmallow.
White Chocolate Orange Ganache to coat the cake
Nothing coats quite like a smooth and creamy stream of ganache. The original cupcake icing just tastes like straight sugar, with a smooth and satiny finish. Instead of focusing on the sweetness, I wanted to take things a step further to amp up the creamsicle flavors. So, I added orange extract and turned up the volume on the orange color for a sunnier effect.
- Smooth As Satin - Ganache is one of the easiest tricks in the book. All it takes is some chopped up chocolate and a splash of hot and heavy cream. Whisk it together and you get a satiny smooth finish.
- Take It Down To Flavortown - A splash of pure orange extract gives the White Chocolate Orange Ganache a bright and fuller flavor.
- Color Your World - By adding in some all-natural, powdered orange food coloring from Supernatural, I was able to achieve the glowing orange ganache I'd been imagining. Gel food coloring works here too.
Striking the right balance in flavor, texture and aesthetics took some serious doing
My commitment to creating this Orange Cream Cake parallels my memories of discovering the citrusy side of cakes as a kid. While it was devastating to feel betrayed by my love of chocolate, I ended up discovering a new adoration of orange. If I'd never had that setback, I may never have tried a new flavor.
In the end, our setbacks can make us more complex and reflective. This Orange Cream Cake is an example of powering through. Turns out this labor of love was worth all of the behind-the-scenes drama that it took to develop. I hope this recipe brings you as much joy as it brings me. It's nothing but sweet sunshine and swirly smiles.
I made all the baking mistakes for you
This recipe may seem bulky but the details are key to the success of this cake. I covered it all in the recipe because I don't want you to make any of the silly mistakes I made in the development process. I suggest reading through the entire recipe a couple of times before you begin. Then take it step-by-step. If you do this, you are sure to end up with a beautiful Orange Cream Cake that you will be proud to share!Print