orange + chocolate muffin cake


This is a spin on the much-blogged-about French yogurt cake (gataeux au yaourt), but I like to call it a muffin cake, because it shares the moist crumb and subtle sweetness that characterizes good breakfast muffins.  And because that somehow makes me feel better about eating it for breakfast.

Now, this is in no way some original idea.  Clotilde over at Chocolate & Zucchini turned many people on to the traditional French recipe a few years back, which is so easy and so versatile that it’s often the first thing that French children learn to bake.  The recipe and interpretations of it regularly make rounds in the food blogging universe.  I’d seen it when she first posted it, and filed it away as something to try.  In the meantime, Deb over at Smitten Kitchen revived and revised it as a lime cake with blackberry sauce about a week ago.  Her method simplified the cake even further (one bowl!) and reminded me that I’d been meaning to make a version myself.

I used the core of Clotilde’s basic recipe and Smitten’s updated method, and decided to switch up the flavor profile a little.  On Sunday, I made it as an orange cake with rhubarb-orange sauce.  It was good, but I ended up ditching the sauce and just nibbling my way through the cake itself as the week progressed.  This morning, I went to grab a slice to have with my coffee, and it found we (I?) had finished the whole thing.  I immediately determined I needed to make another.

Despite not being the biggest fan of orange , I found myself wanting that specific cake, so I set out to just make another, sans sauce.  I was just about to pour the batter into the pan when I spied the bag of dark chocolate chips I’d just unpacked from the morning’s trip to the grocery store.  On a whim, I tossed in a handful.

The end result?  Not quite as basic as the plain orange version, but also not as boring.  In fact, I just ate the first, warm-from-the-oven slice, and am currently convincing myself that it would be unwise to go for seconds before dinner.  The dark chocolate both contrasts and enhances the subtle sweetness of the cake, and pairs nicely with the orange.  More nicely, in fact, than most of the orange-chocolate candies I’ve encountered.

Mostly, though, the basic cake is so darn easy to make and so satisfying, I have a feeling this will be a new go-to for me.  I like having homemade, not-too-sweet sweets about the house, and this keeps really nicely.  I can imagine lemon versions, grapefruit versions, Deb’s lime version … I can even imagine really playing up the muffin-ness of it and tossing in blueberries for a brunch dish.

Try this, make it your own; there’s a reason this recipe keeps popping up, and it’s because it’s a recipe that just feels good, to make and to eat.

Orange Yogurt Cake with Dark Chocolate
1 cup plain yogurt (do not use nonfat)
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoon dark rum
zest of one large orange (about 2 teaspoons)

2 cups all-purpose flour (or 4 yogurt tubs)
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup bittersweet chocolate chunks

Preheat the oven to 350° F and grease the sides of a round 9-inch spring-form pan.

In a large mixing-bowl, whisk together the yogurt, eggs, sugar, oil, vanilla, rum and orange zest. Add the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt and whisk until just combined.

Pour the batter into the cake pan, and bake for 35 to 45 minutes, until the top is golden brown and a cake tester comes out clean. Let stand for ten minutes, and transfer onto a rack to cool for another hour.

This cake will keep a few days at room temperature, wrapped in foil or under a cake dome.

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