Q: A friend and I had lunch at Cafe Lapin in Peachtree Battle Shopping Center and splurged on one of the desserts, a delicious orange cake cloaked with a chocolate ganache. The cake was buttery, moist and not overly-sweet and the ganache was the perfect balance to the subtle orange flavor. Since we don’t often get to that area, we would love to be able to re-create that delectable cake. Would the chef part with the recipe? Many thanks. — Beverly Littlefield, Atlanta
A: Like all accomplished bakers, chef and owner Matthew Hines has definite preferences for the ingredients in his cakes. To reproduce the taste, the orange juice must be freshly squeezed and you’ll want to use White Lily’s unbleached all-purpose flour, Nielsen Massey pure vanilla bean paste and Valhrona chocolate. Vanilla bean paste is available at specialty food and cookware stores like Cook’s Warehouse. “Coarse” salt would be either kosher salt or a coarse-grained sea salt.
Following the directions precisely will yield the moist pound cake texture Littlefield found so appealing at her lunch.
Cafe Lapin’s Grand Marnier Orange Pound Cake with Valhrona Chocolate Ganache
1 1/2 cups unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for buttering Bundt pan
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3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for flouring Bundt pan
1 teaspoon coarse salt
Finely grated zest of 1/2 orange
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, room temperature
3 cups granulated sugar
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons orange juice, divided (juice of 1 large orange)
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons Grand Marnier
2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste
1 cup heavy cream
1 1/2 cups 70% cocoa chocolate drops or chips
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour interior surfaces of 12-cup Bundt pan.
In a medium bowl, whisk together 3 cups flour, salt and orange zest. Set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment, beat 1 1/2 cups butter and cream cheese at medium speed until light and smooth. This may take up to 8 minutes. Then add sugar, one cup at a time. When all sugar has been added, increase speed to high and beat 5 more minutes. Reduce speed to low and add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add 2 tablespoons orange juice, 2 tablespoons Grand Marnier and vanilla bean paste. Once incorporated, with mixer speed still on low, add the flour mixture by half cups. Be careful not to overmix at this point. Stop the mixer to scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. When all the flour has been added, remove the bowl from the mixer and stir batter with a rubber spatula several times to make sure everything is evenly incorporated.
Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake in the center of the oven about an hour or until the cake is golden brown and a bamboo skewer inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, but with a few crumbs still attached. Remove cake from oven and cool on a rack 10 minutes. Then invert cake onto another cooling rack.
While cake is baking, mix remaining 1/4 cup orange juice and 1/4 cup Grand Marnier. Set aside.
When cake is at room temperature, pierce all over with a long bamboo skewer. Use a pastry brush to slowly brush cake with orange juice-Grand Marnier mixture until all the liquid is absorbed. Allow cake to completely cool.
Make ganache: In a small saucepan, heat cream until simmering. Put chocolate in a 4-cup Pyrex measuring cup. Pour hot cream over chocolate and let it sit 1 minute. Then gently being stirring with a wire whisk until chocolate is complete melted and mixture is smooth. Pour ganache over cooled cake, completely covering cake. Let cool until ganache is firm. Serves: 16
Per serving: 637 calories (percent of calories from fat, 50), 7 grams protein, 73 grams carbohydrates, 2 grams fiber, 36 grams fat (22 grams saturated), 162 milligrams cholesterol, 197 milligrams sodium.