Devil’s Food Cake with Blood Orange Buttercream

I’m delighted to see that there are a few signs of spring showing. But before my mind races to rhubarb and frilly herbs and sweet green peas, and peppery radishes, and sweet asparagus, and and and…. I have yet another blood orange recipe for you.

It was never my intention to tease you with this recipe for so long but I’m still adjusting to life after opening a shop. It’s not unlike readjusting to life after you add child and then another and then another to your family. Although I am happy to report that I am getting a full night’s sleep.

Let’s jump right to the recipe before blood oranges are out of season. There was no particular purpose for this cake except that some days the craving for cake is strong and my desire to coat a bittersweet chocolate cake with a blush toned buttercream flavored with the floral notes of blood orange sent me dashing into the kitchen to preheat the oven.

My other nudge towards cake came when I saw Stella Parks from Bravetart fame post about her quick and easy Devil’s Food cake. The image touted the texture which looked delightfully dense yet springy and oh so very dark with cocoa AND dark chocolate. Ever since finding Regan Daley’s recipe for chocolate cake from her book, In the Sweet Kitchen, I never found the need for another chocolate cake. But Stella’s recipe has earned its keep.


The color and flavor from the buttercream comes from a reduction of blood orange juice. It simmers gently until reduced to the consistency of warm honey. It’s enough to add a bright floral fragrance to the frosting but not enough to interfere with the silken texture of an all butter buttercream. What doesn’t get added to the frosting slips across the cake layers so the flavor of blood oranges will remind us that winter has its perks.

If you like to gild the lily then I’ve provided the instructions for candied blood orange peel. They are equally welcomed on top of this cake or presented in a bowl alongside coffee or tea at the end of a long meal. My cake also has a bit of candied rosemary which I prepare in the same way as the orange. Just skip the initial blanching and jump right into simmering in the simple syrup.


Devil's Food Cake with Blood Orange Buttercream

Yield 10 - 12 Servings


Devil's Food Cake

(Head to Serious Eats for the recipe)

Blood Orange Buttercream

1 cup Blood Orange juice (from 5 - 7 oranges)

6 large egg whites

1 2/3 cup sugar

5 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1 tablespoon blood orange zest

Blood Orangettes

2 blood oranges

1 cup water

3 cups sugar, divided


For the cake:

Follow the Stella Parks recipe on Serious Eats or use any of your favorite chocolate cake recipes.

For the buttercream:

Add the blood orange juice to a small saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, reduce to low then simmer until 1/3 cup remains. Let this cool.

In the bowl of a stand mixer add the egg whites and sugar.

Set this over simmering water. The base should not touch the water, instead you want the steam to warm the egg whites and dissolve the sugar.

Whisk the eggs whites and sugar while warming. Every so often feel the temperature of the egg whites. They should feel warm and the sugar should be dissolved.

Transfer the egg white mixture to the stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and begin to whip on low. Increase the speed as the egg whites froth. Whip until thick, billowing meringue forms.

Add the butter 1 tablespoon at a time. Every time I make buttercream I have a minor panic moment fearing that the frosting will never come together. Eventually it does. It may take some time.

Once the buttercream is smooth and glossy turn the mixer down to low then stir in 1/4 cup of the cooled reduced blood orange juice. Stir in the zest and salt.

For the blood Orangettes:

Using a paring knife, remove the peel from the oranges. Carefully remove the pith so only the outer peel remains.

Slice the peels into rough 1/4-inch wide strips.

Bring a saucepan of water to boil then add the orange peels to the pot. Simmer for 30 seconds. Drain then run the peels under cold water.

Repeat this process 2 to 3 more times. This removes some of the unpleasant bitterness from the peel.

Add the water and 2 cups sugar to the saucepan then bring to a simmer. Add the orange peels then let this mixture simmer for about 45 minutes or until the peels look translucent.

Add the remaining 1 cup sugar to a large bowl.

Carefully remove the candied peels from the syrup then add them to the bowl of sugar. Gently toss or stir to completely coat the peels in sugar.

Transfer the peels to a fine wire rack to dry for a couple of hours.

Assemble the cake:

Brush the cake layers with the remaining blood orange reduction. Frost the cake then garnish with the candied blood orange peel.

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Citrus and Chicory Salad with Candied Pine Nuts and Fried Rosemary

Since the shop opened I’ve kept a running Google Doc of all of the menus we’ve served. I make a few notes so I can remember who was there, any memorable moments and things I want to adjust for the next time. As I was going through the growing doc I noticed several repeated recipes. This Garlic Confit toast has already been featured on three menus.  David Tanis’ Mushroom Ragout has been featured at two different dinners as has a simple dessert of spice roasted pears with salted maple caramel (simply reduce maple syrup to a caramel consistency then add salt), creme fraiche and brown butter toasted biscotti crumbs.

The most repeated dish so far has been some iteration of this salad. At this point in the season citrus – blood oranges in particular, are the one thing I will miss about winter. This salad balances sweetness from the citrus with the bitter, crisp leaves of the chicories. Always the heavy hand with the vinegar there is a slight pucker tamed by thinly sliced kumquat and candied pine nuts.

A soft, fragrant and unsuspecting crunch comes by way of fried rosemary. Fried herbs are an unusual delight and not terribly complicated. The hearty winter herbs do particularly well in a hot oil bath. I fry my herbs in a modest amount of olive oil. Heat the oil until the needle-like leaves sputter the instant they hit the pan. Once their frantic sizzling subsides you know they are ready as that alerts you to the fact that all the water in the leaves has evaporated so once cooled they will crisp up just as they should. While they’re still warm add a flurry of fine sea salt to the leaves. This same method works well for sage, thyme, parsley and probably others too. Those are the ones I’ve tried so far.

I hold a firm belief that even in Winter salads need not be boring and this recipe proves that point quite nicely.


Citrus and Chicory Salad with Candied Pine Nuts and Fried Rosemary


1/4 cup olive oil

2 rosemary sprigs, leaves removed

Sea salt

1/2 cup pine nuts

2 tablespoons sugar

1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds

6 cups chopped chicories (Belgian Endive, Endive, Treviso)

3 scallions, thinly sliced

1 recipe Blood Orange Vinaigrette (below)

3 blood oranges, segmented and roughly chopped

5 kumquats, thinly sliced

Flake salt

Blood Orange Vinaigrette

Makes 1/2 cup dressing

2 tablespoons chopped shallot

1 teaspoon honey

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

2 tablespoons champagne (or other white wine) vinegar

2 tablespoons blood orange juice

1⁄4 cup / 60 ml extra-virgin olive oil

1⁄4 teaspoon sea salt


To make the fried rosemary: In a small saucepan heat the olive oil over medium high heat. Carefully drop in the rosemary and fry until the color shifts and the sputtering ceases, this tells us that all the water in the leaves has evaporated and you will be left with a crispy leaf. Carefully remove the rosemary from the oil using a slotted spoon and transfer to a plate. Sprinkle with a pinch of sea salt.

In a small skillet set over medium heat add the pine nuts. Sauté until their color shifts and they start to smell toasty. Add the sugar and cumin and stir until well coated in the sugar and it starts to caramelize. Remove to a plate to cool.

Add the greens and scallions to a large bowl along with the salad dressing and half of the chopped blood oranges and kumquats. Toss well to combine.

Transfer about half of the salad to a platter then top with half of the pine nuts and rosemary. Add the remaining greens then cap with the rest of the rosemary, pine nuts and citrus. Finish with flake salt. Serve straight away.

For the blood orange vinaigrette:

In a medium bowl whisk together the shallot, mustard, honey, vinegar, and blood orange juice. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil while whisking. Add a pinch of salt and taste. Adjust to your liking.

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