Charles Schulz was right.
Happiness is a warm puppy.
And when you add some good, old-fashioned Chocolate Orange Buttermilk Cake to the mix, you’ve got pretty much everything you need to reach nirvana.
I’ve told you about Timber before; he’s the Corgi puppy that belongs to another family at our school.
His owner, Nadia, is a doll, and knowing how in love Charlotte is with her puppy, she kindly allows Charlotte to take Timber out from time to time to get her puppy fix.
I’m so grateful that she’s so generous sharing her puppy that I try to bring her something home-baked every time we pick Timber up.
One week we brought her Salted Caramel Bars, another time Chocolate Bark, and this weekend I thought it was time to make a throwback Bundt cake — this time emboldened with tangerine juice and wickedly dark chocolate.
Good night nurse– it’s so delicious.
You start by squeezing some orange, tangerines or satsumas — and setting that aside. The juice will go both in the batter and in the warm orange syrup you pour over after the cake after that.
The recipe calls for you to whip together the butter and sugar and then add the eggs — and then alternately add the buttermilk/vanilla and the dry ingredients to the batter.
It’s an Ina Garten recipe (from Barefoot Contessa Family Style) that I’ve tweaked over the years — and I find that the dark chocolate and orange combination is a comely one.
The darker the chocolate, the better — it keeps the cake from being too sweet and cloying.
Don’t over-mix the batter or the crumb will be tough.
Spoon it into a well-buttered pan (I love an interestingly shaped non-stick pan).
The cake takes almost a full hour to bake — but that’s okay.
When you have a new friend, the time passes quickly.
It’s ridiculous how cute Timber is.
After the park, we brought him back to our house to play — and explore.
The kids said that he was mesmerized by his own reflection.
I mean really, if you looked like that, wouldn’t you want to stare, too?
And the four kids at my house took turns holding him.
I watched my kids gently holding this puppy, and I loved the fact that coincidentally they’d both ended up wearing a Snoopy shirt on this puppy-sharing day.
Watching my kids tenderly share this little creature, I realized that I may not live long enough to see them experience parenthood first-hand and then share it with one another, but I hope to.
I really, really do.
But in case I don’t, I have frozen this image in my mind; it’s my greatest hope that this is how they will be with one another.
Gentle. Compassionate. Awe-struck.
And close enough geographically to be able to share it with each other.
While they frolicked, I pulled out the cake, and drizzled on the orange syrup.
My kitchen smelled like a dream.
And then I made a quick icing with more tangerine juice and powdered sugar, and drizzled that on, too.
The kids were willing to put Timber down long enough to grab a treat of their own.
I love this cake — moist, very tangerine-y and studded with all those dark nubbins of chocolate.
I had enough leftover to send Timber home with a box of ample slices.
I left some for a new neighbor outside her door.
I knew her son had a Tae-Kwon Do class and I thought that this might be a pleasant thing to come home to.
I had still had enough to share with a friend the next day — the perfect accompaniment to a hot latte.
And with still more left on hand, the rest got wrapped up for teachers at school.
So thanks to generous neighbors who share the joy of a new puppy with those who are just dog-crazy.
And lastly, a shout-out to Charles Shulz for reminding us what matters and that joy needn’t be an elusive, unattainable thing.
Sometimes, things really are that simple.
- ½ lb. (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 2½ C. granulated sugar
- 4 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
- ⅓ C. grated orange zest (6 oranges or about 12 tangerines)
- 3 C. all-purpose flour
- ½ tsp. baking powder
- ½ tsp. baking soda
- 1 tsp. kosher salt
- ¾ C. freshly squeezed orange or tangerine juice, divided
- ¾ C. buttermilk, at room temperature
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract (I also added 1 tsp. orange extract)
- 2 C. dark chocolate chips (optional)
- To Glaze One Loaf (optional):
- 1 C. confectioners' sugar
- 1½ Tbs. freshly squeezed orange or tangerine juice
- Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour two 8½ X 4½ X 2½ inch loaf pans. Line the bottoms with parchment paper.
- Cream the butter and 2 cups of the granulated sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment for about 5 minutes, or until light and fluffy. With the mixer on medium speed, beat in the eggs, one at a time, and the orange zest.
- In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and the salt. In another bowl, combine ¼ of the orange juice, the buttermilk and vanilla (and orange if you're also using).
- Add the flour and buttermilk mixtures alternately to the batter, beginning and ending with the flour.
- Divide the batter evenly between the two pans, smooth the tops, and bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour (my Bundt cake took 57 minutes), until a cake tester comes out clean.
- While the cakes bake, cook the remaining ½ cup of the granulated sugar with the remaining ½ orange juice in a small saucepan over low heat until the sugar dissolves. When the cakes are done, let them cool for 10 minutes. Take them out of the pans and place them on a baking sheet over the tray. Spoon the orange syrup over the cakes and allow the cakes to cook completely.
- To glaze, combine the confectioners' sugar and orange juice in a bowl, mixing with a wire whisk until smooth. Add a few more drops of juice, if necessary, to make it pour easily. Pour over the top of one cake and allow the glaze to dry. Wrap well, and store in the refrigerator.