Orange Election Day Cheesecake

My editor, Maria Guarnaschelli, adores the combination of chocolate and orange so I created this cake for her. A true orange taste is hard to achieve but this cheesecake and orange curd pack a powerful orange punch.

The design of this cake came about when I was decorating a cheesecake for the press party for The Cake Bible in the fall of 1988. I had an inspiration to encircle the cake with a train of elephant-shaped cake cutouts because they are my favorite animal. But as it was an election year, and my purpose was to enhance the cake, not to make a political statement, I alternated the elephants with donkeys. My five-year-old nephew was so intrigued with the shapes that I used the cutters the next day to make him animal-shaped peanut butter and jelly sandwiches! If ever you want to get your kid to eat something he or she is resisting, put it between bread and cut it into a favorite shape. It will work for at least one bite!

The elephant and donkey motif makes this a fun cake to serve when friends come to watch the election returns. The creamy orange cheesecake is so delectable it will satisfy both Democrats and Republicans.

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Make the biscuit and cheesecake at least 1 day up to 2 days ahead
Preheat the oven to: 450°F.
Baking time: 7 minutes
Cheesecake
Preheat the oven to: 350°F.
Baking time: 1 hour and 45 minutes
INGREDIENTS MEASURE WEIGHT
room temperature volume ounces/pounds grams
Biscuit
cocoa, preferably Dutch-processed ¼ cup 0.75 ounce 23 grams
boiling water ¼ liquid cup
pure vanilla extract ¾ teaspoon
4 large eggs ¾ liquid cup 7 ounces                                        200 grams

(weighed without shells)

1 large egg yolk teaspoons 0.5 ounce 18 grams
superfine sugar, divided cup + 1 tablespoon 5 ounces 145 grams
sifted cake flour cup (sifted into the cup and leveled off) 1.25 ounces 33 grams
cream of tartar ¼ teaspoon
Cheesecake
cream cheese (softened)* 2 8-ounce packages 1 pound 454 grams
sugar 1 cup 7 ounces 200 grams
1 large egg 3 tablespoons 1.75ounces                        50 grams

(weighed without shell)

2 large egg yolks 2 full tablespoons 1.25 ounces 37 grams
orange zest, finely grated, divided (from about 5 navel oranges) 3 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon 0.75ounce 20 grams
pure vanilla extract teaspoons
salt ¼ teaspoon
sour cream 2 cups 17 ounces 484 grams
heavy cream 1 liquid cup
Orange Curd
orange juice, freshly squeezed (from about 3 oranges) 1 liquid cup
unsalted butter (softened) 4 tablespoons 2 ounces 57 grams
4 large egg yolks 2 full fluid ounces 2.5 ounces 74 grams
sugar ½ cup 3.5 ounces 100 grams
(orange zest reserved from the cheesecake) (4 teaspoons) (8 grams)
salt a pinch
Ganache Glaze (optional)
bittersweet chocolate, preferably Lindt Excellence, finely chopped 1⅓ 3-ounce bars 4 ounces 113 grams
heavy cream liquid cup + 1 additional tablespoon if necessary
OPTIONAL: Cointreau 1 teaspoon

*Don’t be tempted to use the more expensive “natural” cream cheese. Philadelphia brand, available even in Japan, offers the best and most consistent flavor and texture for this cake. Cream cheese without gums will aerate more, yielding more volume and less creaminess.

Method

Biscuit

One day ahead, make the Chocolate biscuit and the cheesecake.

Position an oven rack in the lower third of the oven, and preheat the oven to 450°F.

In a small bowl, with a rubber spatula, stir together the cocoa and boiling water until smooth. Stir in the vanilla and cover tightly with plastic wrap (preferably Saran brand).

Separate 2 of the eggs, placing the yolks in one large mixing bowl and the whites in another. To the yolks, add the additional yolk, the remaining 2 eggs and cup of the sugar. Beat, preferably with the whisk attachment of a heavy-duty mixer, on high speed 5 minutes or until thick, fluffy and tripled in volume. Add the cocoa mixture and beat for a few seconds until incorporated.

Sift the flour mixture over the egg mixture and set it aside.

Beat the egg whites until foamy. Add the cream of tartar and beat until soft peaks form when the beater is raised. Beat in the remaining 1 tablespoon of sugar and beat until stiff peaks form when the beater is raised slowly. With a large rubber spatula, fold one third of the whites into the batter until all of the flour is incorporated. Gently fold in the remaining whites. Pour the batter into the prepared jelly-roll pan and use an offset metal spatula to level it.

Bake for 7 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean and the cake is springy to the touch. Loosen the edges with a small metal spatula or sharp knife and, lifting by a long edge of the liner or parchment overhang, gently slide the cake from the pan onto a flat surface. Cover with a clean dish towel and allow to cool.

Use the bottom of an 8-inch cake pan or an 8-inch cardboard round and the tip of a knife to trace an 8-inch circle in one end of the biscuit. Use scissors to cut it out. With the cookie cutters, stamp out 8 shapes. Wrap them with plastic wrap and set them aside. You can glaze the cutouts with the ganache a day before serving or just several hours before, but be sure to leave time to allow the glaze to set so you can lift the cutouts without marring the glaze.

Cheesecake

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Place the chocolate biscuit round in the bottom of the prepared 8-inch pan.

In a large mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese and sugar, preferably with the whisk beater, until very smooth, about 3 minutes. Beat in the egg, then the yolks, beating until smooth and scraping down the sides once or twice. Add 2 tablespoons of the orange zest, the vanilla and salt and beat until incorporated. Beat in the sour cream and heavy cream just until blended.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Set the pan in the larger pan and pour 1 inch of very hot water into the larger pan.

Bake the cake for 45 minutes. Turn off the oven (without opening the door) and let the cake cool for 1 hour. Remove it to a rack and cool to room temperature, about 1 hour. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

Orange Curd

Spray a 4-cup heatproof measure with nonstick vegetable spray or grease it lightly. Add the orange juice and microwave on high power until reduced to 2 tablespoons, about 15 minutes. Watch closely toward the end as the juice gets very syrupy and reduces quickly. (Or boil it in a medium saucepan on the range, stirring often to prevent burning.) Stir the butter into the concentrated orange juice. Cool to room temperature.

In a heavy noncorrodible saucepan, beat the yolks and sugar with a wooden spoon until well blended. Stir in the orange juice mixture, the 4 teaspoons of reserved orange zest and the salt. The mixture will be very thick. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until thickened and resembling mayonnaise, 4 to 5 minutes. The mixture should thickly coat a rubber spatula but still be liquid enough to pour. It will change from translucent to opaque and begin to take on a lovely orange color on the rubber spatula. It must not be allowed to boil, or it will curdle. Whenever steam appears, remove the pan briefly from the heat, stirring constantly to keep it from boiling. An accurate thermometer will read 180°F. to 185°F.* (Tilt the pan so that it is adequately immersed.) When the curd has thickened, pour it at once into a bowl.

*The Cordon Rose candy thermometer is available through Dean & DeLuca (800-227-7714).

Allow the orange curd to cool for about 5 minutes. Reserve 2 tablespoons to attach the chocolate biscuit cutouts, and pour the rest onto the cheesecake while it is still hot, using an offset metal spatula to spread it quickly to form a smooth film. If it is too thick to pour, stir in up to 2 teaspoons of warm water. Chill for at least 2 hours. (It is best to place the cake in an airtight container so that it doesn’t absorb odors from the refrigerator, but do not cover it with plastic wrap as it will mar the smooth surface.)

To unmold, wipe the sides of the pan with a hot, damp towel. Run a small metal spatula between the sides of the cake and the pan and release and remove the sides of the springform. Place the cake on a serving plate and refrigerate until shortly before serving.

Ganache Glaze

At least 1 hour or up to 6 hours before serving, prepare the ganache glaze.

Place the chocolate in a small heavy saucepan with a lid. Place cup of the cream in a small saucepan, and scald it. (Or pour into a heatproof glass measure and heat in the microwave.) Pour it over the chocolate, cover tightly and allow it to rest for 5 minutes to melt the chocolate.

Bring just to the boiling point (small bubbles will begin to appear around the edges).

Gently stir the mixture until uniform in color, trying not to create air bubbles. Pass it through a fine strainer and stir in the optional Cointreau. Allow the glaze to cool until just tepid. Makes ¾ cup.

Place the animal-shaped cutouts on a rack set in a pan to catch the glaze.

To check the consistency of the glaze: At a tepid temperature, a small amount of glaze should mound a bit when dropped from a spoon before smoothly disappearing. If the glaze is too thick and the mound remains on the surface or if the glaze seems curdled, warm the remaining 1 tablespoon of cream and add it by the teaspoon.

Spoon a heaping tablespoon of glaze over each cutout so that it cascades down the sides, being sure that the upper side of each cutout is well covered as these will show when placed on the cake. If necessary, use a small metal spatula or artist’s brush to apply the glaze to any areas missed or to break any air bubbles. Set the rack and pan in a cool spot and allow the glaze to set so that you can touch it without leaving a mark.

Up to 2 hours before serving, lift each glazed cutout, handling the glazed surfaces as little as possible, and apply a little of the reserved orange curd to the underside of the cutouts to help them adhere to the curved sides of the cake. Press each one gently in place, placing them evenly around the sides of the cake. If the cutouts are slightly higher than the sides of the cake, carefully paint a little of the chocolate glaze on any exposed areas on the bottom sides.

To serve, cut the cake with a knife that has been wiped and dipped in hot water between each slice.

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