July Cake Craze: Jaya’s Orange Cake
I’m not really one to take *chances* with the recipes I post here. They’re all pretty inoffensive, not really anything radical or too surprising, really. This time, though, I have a rather odd, though fiercely delicious cake to share with you.
In my home town there is a dearth of international cuisine – a series of Indian restaurants has gone out of business one at a time (the first one opened while I was in high school), and only a couple of years ago we got our first Thai restaurant. When the Greek restaurant opened, it made a BIG splash. This didn’t really bother me when I lived there because we did frequent all the international restaurants we could – my parents were very talented at bringing up open-minded daughters in a town that did all it could to stifle it (go mom and dad!). But coming back home for visits after living in Boston (where I routinely eat all sorts of Asian food, and have access to Ethiopian, Cambodian, seriously good Italian, and so forth) it’s really shocking to me how many burger dives, mainstream chains, and generic restaurants that population can support.
Anyway, when I was in high school, one of the mainstays of our international repertoire was a really fine Korean restaurant run by a really sweet woman named Jaya. Her bulgogi was delicious, as was the bi bim bab, and she made this chicken soup that I still weep to think of (I would routinely send one of my parents out for that soup when stressed or sick or just sad). I so loved this restaurant that I talked my whole group of friends to go there for dinner before our Junior prom (and it’s not a prommy kind of place). When we were hosting Graham Kerr for a symposium my mom organized, we took him there for dinner. I (who never broke the rules at school, really) organized “newspaper research trips” during our newspaper class to go downtown and get some Korean during the school day. (Don’t tell my parents!)
Long story, short: I had a deep and abiding love of that restaurant. It has since changed ownership (Jaya wanted to retire and hang out with her grandkids) and I haven’t been back in years, but if I think really hard I can still taste the chicken soup and the peppery char taste of the fried rice and the deep black mushroom flavor of the shiitakes that appeared in many of her dishes. But the one flavor that has stuck with me through the years is her Mandarin Orange Cake. I finished every meal at Jaya’s with a slice of this cake, regardless of how full I was. I am simply powerless to resist this cake. It’s a dense cake, served cold with a light glaze instead of any kind of icing. Its texture is somewhere between cake and cheese with a little jello-y toothsomeness and a surprisingly fine crumb.
Somehow my mom finagled this recipe out of Jaya’s hands and I got my hands on it when I was home in the spring. The directions were scant, but I think I figured it out (apart from making a couple of mistakes that pushed the texture of *my* cake toward the cheese end of the spectrum – but I’ll not make those mistakes in the recipe, so you won’t either, if you try this cake!).
I keep thinking, okay, this one is odd enough that I’ll probably lose my credibility, but you’ve just got to believe me that it’s a delicious, delicious cake. It’s also a pretty low-maintenance recipe which doesn’t involve creaming anything or icing anything, so it’s certified Safe For Summer*, so give it a try! Let me know what you think!
With no further ado, here’s the recipe.
Jaya’s Orange Mandarin Cake
- 1 box yellow cake mix
- 1 large box orange jello (i.e. 6 oz. or 2 small boxes)
- 1 small can mandarin oranges, drained – reserve syrup (I think I’ve decided that this means an 11 oz. can, but I accidentally used a 14 oz. can)
- 1 t vanilla extract
- 5 eggs (next time I make this, I’m going to reduce to 4 eggs because this one was VERY eggy tasting)
- 3/4 c vegetable oil
- 1 c juice (orange juice + mandarin orange syrup)
- Preheat the oven to 350.
- Combine mandarin orange syrup and orange juice to equal 1 cup.
- In a blender or food processor, combine mandarin oranges, oil, vanilla extract, and juice. Blend until oranges are smooth.
- By hand, mix in eggs one at a time.
- Add the cake mix to the wet ingredients and mix by hand until incorporated.
- Pour into prepared 9″ by 13″ cake pan and bake at 350 until done, about an hour, but check after 30 minutes.
- Chill and glaze with a thin mixture of powdered sugar and orange juice. You can serve this cake warm, but it tastes *much* better cool.
*by which I mean your cake will still work even if you’re baking in an un-air-conditioned kitchen that is registering somewhere around 95 degrees.