Remember that time you burned yourself on your Easy Bake Oven, and ran crying to your mother? “Put some ice on it honey. You’ll be fine.” As you bolted… hysterical to the freezer, your dad yells out behind you, “Is the cake done?” Yeah, that time.
Whoever invented the idea that a light bulb would bake a cake was pure genius. Dangerous, but brilliant none the less. Despite all our second and third degree childhood burns, we kept going back to our Easy Bake Ovens… bandaged and soldiering on.
Why? Because it held the end result that we all wanted. Sweet, glorious cake. Cake fixes everything!
This Orange Crunch Cake was inspired by the famous Bubble Room on Captiva Island along the west coast of Florida. When I first moved to Florida, my sister and her family often vacationed on Sanibel/Captiva Island. It was only a scenic 3 hour drive over from the east coast where I lived, through Alligator Alley on to Naples and then Fort Myers. I would visit them from time to time for a weekend.
We frequently went to The Bubble Room for dinner and my sister ALWAYS raved about the Orange Crunch cake. The Bubble Room is a quirky colorful little restaurant situated on Captiva Island. It’s well known for its mismatched christmas decorations, trains, vintage toys, and movie memorabilia crammed into every nook and cranny… top to bottom. Basically, it looks like anyone’s grandmother’s house, who may or may not have been a recovering hoarder.
May I make a suggestion? If you ever go there, some favorites to try are the flaming Socra cheese, Gone With The Fin grouper, and of course, all entrees come with their world famous Bubble Bread and sticky buns. Gosh, my mouth is waterin’ just thinking about all this delicious food.
Once you are stuffed to the gills, the Bubble Scouts (servers) bring around a tray of GINORMOUS desserts. If you pass this up, no matter how full you are, quite frankly, you’re not a true Bubble Room aficionado. Or better yet, you can get dessert to go. This keeps you from being a total loser and insulting the Bubble Scouts.
Cue Orange Crunch cake. No words can accurately describe the awesomeness of this cake. It’s unlike any cake you have probably ever eaten before. It’s a citrus-y moist yellow cake with a brown sugar & almond crunch nestled between the layers and covered with an orange flavored cream cheese buttercream frosting. Quite simply, to. die. for.
I have experimented baking this cake for well over three years now. Something was always a little off. The cake tasted fine. The crunch layers always seemed too crunchy! Almost like a toffee. I’ve since figured out it was the butter added to the mixture that was creating the problem.
It wasn’t until I stumbled upon the baker of the famous desserts, Katie Gardenia, online, when I discovered Katie was one of the owner’s of The Bubble Room and would bake her desserts at her North Captiva home and bring them by boat over to the restaurant. How quaint is that?
Katie no longer owns The Bubble Room. She sold it in 1989 to concentrate on her art, but she published a coffee table book of her art and original recipes, appropriately called A Bubble Moment.
The recipes are a collection of stories and the many dishes and desserts the restaurant is well known for. I haven’t purchased the book yet, but the sleuth in me led me to someone who has the book and posted the recipe in a forum.
Turns out, I wasn’t that far off and only had to make a few minor adjusts. Mr. Kitchen Prescription and I enjoyed this cake for Easter dessert. By far the best success yet! The original recipe calls for boxed cake, but I’m just not a fan of boxed cake mixes, for various reasons, but feel free to use which ever you desire. The end result will still be sweet glorious cake!
- CRUNCH LAYER:
- 1 cup crushed graham cracker crumbs
- 1 cup brown sugar
- ½ c sliced toasted almonds
- 2½ c cake flour
- 1½ tsp baking powder
- ¼ tsp baking soda
- ¼ tsp salt
- 1 cup salted butter room temperature
- 1½ c sugar
- 3 eggs room temperature
- 3 egg yolks room temperature
- ½ cup buttermilk room temperature
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 2 tablespoons orange extract
- CREAM CHEESE FROSTING
- 12 oz cream cheese room temp
- ¾ Cup butter unsalted room temp butter
- 4 cups confectioners sugar
- ½ tsp vanilla extract
- 1Tbsp orange extract
- 1 whole orange zest
- Orange slices for garnish
- Preheat oven to 325 degrees and toast almonds on a lined baking sheet until light golden brown and aromatic.
- Cool almonds for 5 minutes
- Pulse graham crackers & toasted almonds in food processor or blender about 6 times.
- Pour in bowl and add brown sugar.
- Mix well
- Trace bottom of three 8"cake pans on parchment paper and cut out 3 circles.
- Oil or butter pans well and lay parchment paper circles in bottom of pans.
- Oil top of parchment paper lightly.
- Add ¾ cup of crunch mixture to each pan and press down evenly with palm of hand until bottom is covered & smooth.
- Add more if desired.
- Preheat oven to 350.
- Whisk cake flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda in large bowl.
- Set aside.
- Cream butter and sugar for 3 minutes on med low with paddle attachment.
- Incorporate eggs and yolks one at a time.
- Add ⅓ of flour mixture and half of milk.
- Mix until incorporated.
- Repeat step again.
- Add remaining one third flour mixture and mix until incorporated.
- Don't over mix.
- Measure cake batter as evenly as you can between the 3 pans.
- Approximately 1¾ cup batter into each pan and spread out with spatula.
- Place in center rack of oven and bake until center of cake springs back or toothpick comes out clean.
- Completely cool cakes before frosting.
- Meanwhile,cream room temperature butter and cream cheese on med speed for 3-5 minutes.
- Add confectioners sugar, extracts, and orange zest.
- Mix on low speed until confectioner's sugar begins to incorporate.
- Increase speed to medium low until well blended and holds a nice shape.
- Add more confectioner's sugar sparingly if needed to achieve desired consistency.
- Frost cooled cakes with crumb coating.
- Place 1st cake crunch side up and frost top of cake evenly with desired layer of frosting ¼ to ½ inch thick.
- Repeat same step with second layer.
- Lay top layer crunch side down touching frosting and second crunch layer.
- Crunch sides should be touching one another.
- Lightly frost top layer and sides working your way from top to bottom with a thin crumb coating.
- Place in fridge or freezer 10 to 20 minutes to set crumb coat layer.
- Add final frosting layer and decorate as desired.
- Garnish with orange slices.
- Keep covered and refrigerated.
- Bring to room temp before eating.
Begin by preheating the oven to 325 degrees and toast slivered blanched almonds on a lined baking sheet until light golden brown and aromatic. Cool almonds for 5 minutes. Pulse the graham crackers & toasted almonds in food processor or blender about 6 times. Pour in a bowl and add brown sugar. Mix well. Set aside.
Trace the bottom of three 8″cake pans on parchment paper and cut out 3 circles. Oil or butter pans well and lay parchment paper circles in bottom of pans. Oil top of parchment paper lightly. This will help the cake not stick to the bottom. It makes for super easy removal. Add approximately 3/4 cup of crunch mixture to each pan and press down evenly with palm of hand until bottom is covered & smooth. Add more if desired.
Preheat oven to 350. Whisk cake flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda in large bowl.
Set aside. Cream room temperature butter and sugar for 3 minutes on med low with paddle attachment. Incorporate room temperature eggs and yolks one at a time. Add 1/3 of flour mixture followed by half of buttermilk. Mix until just incorporated. Repeat step again, adding 1/3 of flour mixture followed by the rest of buttermilk. Mix until incorporated. Add remaining one third flour mixture and mix until incorporated. Don’t over mix. Over mixing activates the gluten strands and is what causes a dry cake.
Measure cake batter as evenly as you can between the 3 pans. Approximately add 1 and 3/4 cup batter into each pan and spread out with a spatula. ***Place some cake strips around your cake pans for flat top, evenly baked layers. Place cake pans in center rack of oven and bake at 350 degees until center of cake springs back or toothpick comes out clean. Completely cool cakes before frosting.
***Baking Tip: don’t open the oven at all during first 2/3’s baking time. As tempting as it is, this can cause a cake to sink and bake unevenly.
***Baking Tip: Don’t run out any buy cake strips! Make your own. Cut an old towel into 3 equal strips long enough to fit around sides of cake. Wet them and wring out so they aren’t completely dripping wet. Wrap each strip around outside wall of cake pan. Knot it or secure ends with a safety pin. This prevents the cake from getting a dome shape and keeps the layers flat for even stacking. Genius!
While cakes are cooling, cream room temperature butter and cream cheese on med speed for 3-5 minutes. Add confectioners sugar, extracts, and orange zest. Mix on low speed until confectioner’s sugar begins to incorporate. Slowly increase speed to medium low until well blended and your frosting holds a nice shape. That means it should be stiff enough to hold onto the paddle or beater when you lift it. Add more confectioner’s sugar sparingly if needed to achieve desired consistency.
Frost cooled cakes with a light crumb coating. This prevents crumbs from getting onto your final frosting layer and keeps things much neater and prettier.
Begin the assembly of your cake layers by placing a small dollop of frosting on the bottom of a cake board so it doesn’t slide around. Place bottom cake layer crunch side up onto the board and frost the top of crunch layer, evenly with an off set spatula. Your layer of frosting should be approximately 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick. Repeat same step with the second layer. For top layer, face crunch side down, touching the crunch layer to the frosting of the second crunch layer. In other words, the top two crunch sides should be touching one another. Kissing if you will.
Lightly frost top layer and sides working your way from top to bottom with a thin crumb coating around the sides. Fill in any gaps in the layers. Place in the fridge or freezer 10 to 20 minutes to set crumb coat layer. Add the final frosting layer and decorate as desired. Garnish with orange slices.
Tip:*** I used a 1M tip for the rosettes and piped the flower design with the same tip.
Keep covered and refrigerated. Bring to room temperature before eating. I hope you enjoy baking and eating this cake as much as I do. I hope it brings back fond memories and transports you back to Sanibel/Captiva Island. I’m seriously contemplating purchasing Katie’s cookbook of original recipes so I can make some of my favorite other recipes from The Bubble Room. It’s the least I can do for her sharing such an awesome cake recipe.