A few years ago, I had the chance to work in France as a pastry commis/stagiare for a little bit. It was a life changing experience, to say the least. I think, though, the most valuable lesson I learned over there was to not be afraid to experiment in the kitchen. That there really are no rules when it comes to creativity. The whole experience really took away the fear of attempting to think outside the box. I mean, worst case scenario, you and your loveliest of friends end up eating your little disaster. And, trust me, I’ve been there a few times. But! Best case scenario…you unknowing end up creating a masterpiece that will be forever remembered! Worth a shot, don’t you think?
While in France, something I noticed was the liberal use of fresh herbs and spices in pastry that were not your usual mint and cinnamon. I was really used to seeing most herbs and spices in savoury dishes only, not sweet ones. I was intrigued.
Over the years, I’ve tried this cake with a variety of herbs and spices. Cinnamon worked really well with the orange. It was fragrant and warm. Perfect for a rainy fall afternoon. I also tried it with basil. That one tasted like pasta. I think the basil might have been too over powering in that case. Kudos to my amazing roommates at the time who helped me get rid of the evidence!
I really wanted a green fresh herb (other than mint!) to work with this orange cake. I wanted colour in this cake. Aha! Cilantro. I’m a huge fan of cilantro! The smell of fresh cilantro alone always takes me back to my grandma’s kitchen. Perfect! Now, the question was: will it actually work? Oh, it definitely worked. Cilantro’s subtle citrus notes complement the orange beautifully! Ok, I know it sounds a bit strange to put cilantro in a sweet cake, but give it a try and let me know what you think.
Here’s what you’ll need for this cilantro & orange pastel, or cake:
- ½ cup of butter, unsalted and at room temperature
- 1 cup of sugar
- ⅓ cup sour cream, full fat and at room temperature
- 3 eggs
- 2 oranges
- 1 tablespoon vinegar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 ½ cups flour, all-purpose
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon baking soda
- ¼ teaspoon baking powder
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro
- 1 cup sugar, for caramel
- 2 teaspoons butter, for caramel
- Preheat oven to 325F
- Make caramel: In a small saucepan, add ¼ cup of sugar and melt over medium heat while continuously stirring with a wooden spoon. Once the sugar starts turning into a liquid with no browning yet, add another ¼ cup of sugar. Once it melts, add another ¼ cup of sugar repeating the same process until you’ve gone through the entire cup of sugar. Keep stirring until you see light browning. Once your caramel is light brown, stir in the 2 teaspoons of butter off the heat. Pour caramel into a 7 inch cake pan. Swirl the pan around so the caramel covers the entire bottom of the pan. If the caramel is not spreading evenly, use a spoon to smooth it out.
- Prepare oranges: Zest oranges and put zest aside. Peel the zested oranges and cut into slices. Arrange orange slices on top of your caramel-covered pan.
- Combine dry ingredients: In a medium bowl, combine flour, salt, baking soda, and baking powder. Set aside.
- Cream butter: Cream butter, sugar and orange zest together until light and fluffy. Add sour cream and mix until light and fluffy, once again.
- Add wet ingredients: Add eggs, vinegar and vanilla extract gradually to creamed butter while mixing. Mix until well-combined.
- Add dry ingredients: Add dry ingredients to batter until your cake batter is smooth.
- Add cilantro: Fold your chopped cilantro into the batter.
- Bake: Pour cake batter into pan with caramel and orange slices. Smooth it out and give it a gentle tap on the counter to get rid of any air bubbles. Bake for 45-50 mins checking how it’s doing after 30 mins. Remember, baking time will depend on your oven. You’ll know it’s done when it’s golden brown and a toothpick or tester comes out clean.
- Allow it to cool down and enjoy!
There is one very important thing you can adjust to your liking in this recipe: sweetness. If you like your desserts sweet, feel free to make extra caramel for the bottom of the pan. If you don’t like it as sweet, add a very thin layer of caramel to the pan. Just make sure the caramel covers the bottom of the pan completely. Otherwise, your cake will stick to the pan. Another way to prevent sticking is by covering the bottom of the pan entirely with orange slices. And speaking of orange slices, make sure your orange slices are thick enough so that they don’t disintegrate during baking. The slices should be as thick as your finger or slightly thicker.
This cake freezes really well! You can slice it up and keep it in your freezer for a good 3 months. You know, for when you feel like having a little treat. In fact, this cake actually tastes better the next day. The orange zest infuses the cake overnight and gives it extra flavour. Yum!
Once last thing, when you add the cilantro, make sure to fold it into the batter! If you mix it in, your cake will turn green. Although, if that’s what you’re going for, add the chopped cilantro to the butter along with the orange zest. Natural food colouring right there!
As always, you know I love seeing your creations. Tag me on Instagram as @metatebakeshop and on Facebook as Metate Bake Shop. Hope you enjoyed this recipe!