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Have you ever had a Terry’s Chocolate Orange? It is an orange-flavored chocolate sphere, wrapped in printed foil so it looks like a piece of fruit. Before eating, you thwack it hard against the table so it splits into twenty neat little segments. When I lived in England growing up, it was a Christmas tradition, and for me, December + nostalgia = inventive baking. :)

Enter Chocolate-Orange Pound Cake. It is bright and moist, orange-scented and chock full of mini-chocolate chips. It has a dense, tender crumb and a hint of tart citrus tang in the glaze. Pound cakes are not the simplest to make, but they are worth the effort. This just sings of holidays and making memories for me.

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Chocolate-Orange Pound Cake
makes one Bundt-style cake, two large loaves, or four small loaves

For cake:
1 c. unsalted butter, softened (2 sticks, 8 oz.)
2 1/2 c. granulated sugar
1 tsp. vanilla bean paste or real vanilla extract
3 tsp. orange oil (see Recipe Notes)
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt (not coarse)
5 large eggs
3 Tbsp. espresso powder or instant coffee powder
1/4 c. warm water
1/4 c. milk
1/2 c. creme fraiche or whole-fat sour cream
1 c. unsweetened cocoa powder (preferably Dutch-process)
2 c. all-purpose flour (I prefer King Arthur)
1 c. semi-sweet mini-chocolate chips, plus more for topping glazed cakes (I use Ghiradelli)

For glaze:
1 c. sifted powdered sugar
1/4 c. orange juice powder (see Recipe Notes, can substitute zest of one orange and use freshly squeezed orange juice in place of water)
3 Tbsp. water
1/4 tsp. orange oil

Oven 325F. Cream the butter and sugar with an electric mixer in a medium mixing bowl for 3 minutes, until lighter in color and fluffy. Add vanilla, orange oil, baking powder, baking soda, and salt, and beat again for 2-3 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time while blending and beat well after each addition. Scrape sides of bowl often with silicon spatula. (Quick tip: it may be tempting to cut short the blending time, but this part is key to a moist, tender pound cake. Your patience will pay off, I promise.)

Dissolve espresso powder in warm water in a small bowl. (Another quick tip: coffee really brings out the best in chocolate; if you don’t have espresso powder, use 1/4 c. dark brewed coffee in place of the warm water.) Whisk in milk and creme fraiche/sour cream. In separate small mixing bowl, whisk or sift together cocoa and flour. Beat this dry ingredient mixture into the batter, alternating in turns with the liquid. Take your time, being sure mixture is thoroughly blended and sides of bowl are scraped after each addition. (Add liquid, blend, scrape; add dry, blend, scrape; repeat… again, totally worth your time.) Your reward will be a homogeneous, fluffy, dense batter, worthy of a tussle over who licks the beaters. Gently stir in the mini-chips with a silicon spatula, being sure to fold in batter from the bottom of bowl to evenly distribute all the little chocolaty morsels.

Pour into well-greased or parchment-lined pans; you have several size options, depending on your needs. This recipe produces 8 cups of batter which can be baked in a 12-cup capacity Bundt-style pan, two 5″x10″ glass loaf pans, or four 4″x7″ small loaf pans. (I used these nifty French Bake-and-Give Wooden Bakers, which come with single-use wooden pans and parchment paper liners; they make for such beautiful gifts.)

Your cooking time will differ based on the container you choose, but approximate times are: one hour, twenty minutes for Bundt; one hour, ten minutes for two large loaves; and one hour even for four small loaves. Watch yours closely and pull them from oven as soon as a tester inserted in the center comes out clean. (Beware the rogue melted chocolate chip which pretends to be raw cake batter; always test twice, just in case. It would be a shame to overcook your cake and waste all that earlier effort.)

Allow cakes to cool 15 minutes in pans on cooling rack, then turn out of pan if desired. (I usually leave cakes in loaf-style pans and just slice in the container before serving.) Allow to cool completely before glazing. To make glaze, whisk ingredients in small mixing bowl until thoroughly blended and smooth. Drizzle over top of cake(s) and then sprinkle liberally with more mini-chocolate chips.

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Recipe Notes + Tips:
The key to getting intense orange flavor in this recipe is the use of orange oil. It is cold-pressed from the peel of the fruit, and it takes about 44 oranges to make each ounce of orange oil. I use Boyajian brand citrus oils; see their site for availability near you, but you can always find it on-line at King Arthur Flour or Amazon. It is absolutely worth having in your pantry.

The glaze in this recipe features a second source of orange flavor in the form of orange juice powder, also available from King Arthur Flour. It is essentially all-natural orange juice in solid, concentrated form. I love the flavor punch you get from such a small amount, but unlike orange oil, it’s really not necessary to have it for the recipe to work. As mentioned above, simply substitute the finely chopped zest of one orange and 3 Tbsp. of freshly squeezed orange juice for the orange juice powder and water. However, if you’re an adventurous cook/eater, I’d encourage you to try out orange juice powder, as well as its compatriots, lemon juice and pineapple juice powders. (I’d also love to hear about any recipe inventions they inspire. :)

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