Aardman’s Orange Jelly Cake

Lately my daughter has been watching the show Shaun the Sheep, by Aardman Animations (of Wallace and Gromit fame). During an episode entitled “The Farmer’s Llamas,” her eye was immediately caught by this cake, which is featured only for a few moments:

She was so interested in it that in a fit of reckless abandon, I promised to make it for her once she’d achieved a specific level of proficiency in one of her school activities. And here we are.

One thing I noticed about the cake was that it’s really not a cake at all– it’s a molded jelly dessert. You can tell that the top tier is pure jelly, the middle one is jelly with orange slices in it, and the bottom one is molded jelly with some kind of cream mixed in to make it more opaque (it can’t be cake, it’s too smooth). However, while we enjoy gelatin desserts we like cake better in our house, so we decided to compromise.

We kept the top jelly dome, which is made of regular orange jello. The center tier is orange-vanilla cake, baked in a 6-cup bundt pan to keep the size manageable. And the bottom tier is composed of layers of additional orange-vanilla cake (baked in round layers) and orange-scented cream, surrounded by homemade ladyfingers to get that ridged look. I garnished with kumquats, since they look most similar to the fruits in the animated cake.

The finished cake was impressive to look at and delicious to eat– the orange Bavarian cream was firm enough to slice but still light and fluffy (the yogurt helped give it some sharpness to keep it from being too sweet), and the pound cake made a nice contrast to all that mousse-y texture. Honestly, the bundt layer was pretty extraneous, since the Charlotte had layers of the same cake in it already, but it looked fabulous! All in all, I’m calling this one a success!

Orange-Vanilla Cake Base (slightly adapted from The Repressed Pastry Chef)

  • 3 eggs
  • 3 tablespoons cream cheese, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • zest of 2 oranges
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. and spray a 6-cup bundt and two 7″ round pans with baking spray. Line round pans with parchment for extra insurance.
  • Beat eggs in a bowl with 1 1/2 cups sugar and cream cheese until smooth. Add milk, 1/2 cup orange juice, vegetable oil, vanilla, and zest of two oranges.
  • In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking powder, and salt.
  • Add to wet ingredients and whisk until combined.
  • Bake the cake rounds for about 12-15 minutes, and the small bundt for about 30 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Let cool in pans for 5 minutes.
  • While the cakes are cooling, bring 1/4 cup orange juice and 1/4 cup sugar to a simmer in a small saucepan.
  • Unmold cakes and brush with hot syrup until you’ve used it all up. Let cool the rest of the way.

Ladyfingers (from Serious Eats)

  • 3 large eggs
  • 135g sugar
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 125g flour
  • 2 tbs. cornstarch
  • powdered sugar
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and place one rack in the middle of the oven. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper. If you want to be exact in your measurements (I should have done this), use a pencil to mark the length of your ladyfingers on the reverse side of the parchment so you can see it through the paper and won’t get graphite on your baking surface.
  2. In a medium saucepan, heat an inch or two of water to simmering.
  3. Whisk together eggs and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer, then place over the simmering water and continue whisking gently until the mixture comes up to 160 degrees F and the sugar is dissolved.
  4. Remove from heat and immediately start whipping on high speed in your mixer, until pale yellow and fluffy enough to hold soft peaks.
  5. Sift flour and cornstarch over the eggs and fold in gently to form a batter.
  6. Transfer to a piping bag and snip off the end to make a 1/2″ opening.
  7. Pipe onto prepared baking sheet. For individual ladyfingers you’ll want to pipe them something like 2″ apart, but if you want a continuous band of ladyfingers you can pipe them about 1/2″ apart and they’ll run together in the oven.
  8. Dust generously with powdered sugar and bake for 10-12 minutes, until puffed and firm (not hard) to the touch.

Let cool for about 5 minutes on the baking sheet. If you plan on using a strip of ladyfingers to line an 8″ or 9″ ring mold, remove them from the pan at this point and bend them into your mold to cool the rest of the way. Otherwise, let them cool completely on the sheet.

Note: My eggs never got to the proper fluffy texture– they were aerated, but never held soft peaks no matter how long I whipped them for some reason. Because I was piping them into a row it didn’t matter that they flattened out a bit, but if you’re making individual ladyfingers this could be a problem– you need that thickness to your batter to keep them puffed, not flat.

Orange Bavarian Cream (adapted from Ricardo Cuisine)

  • 2 tsp powdered gelatin
  • 1 cup (250 ml) orange juice
  • Zest of one orange
  • 1 cup (210 g) sugar
  • 1 cup (250 ml) plain 2% yogurt *
  • 1 1/2 cups (375 ml) heavy whipping cream

*If you don’t have plain yogurt, you can use vanilla yogurt and just reduce the sugar to 3/4 cup.

  • In a small saucepan, sprinkle powdered gelatin over orange juice and let it bloom for about 5 minutes.
  • Add half of your sugar to the orange juice and cook over low heat just until the sugar and gelatin are both dissolved. Transfer to a bowl and let cool to room temperature.
  • Stir in your yogurt and orange zest until smooth.
  • In a separate bowl, whip your whipping cream and remaining sugar to stiff peaks.
  • Stir 1/3 of your whipped cream into the yogurt mixture until mostly incorporated. Don’t worry too much about careful folding here, you’re trying to lighten up the yogurt.
  • Fold the next 1/3 of your cream into the lightened yogurt mixture. Repeat with the last 1/3, being careful by this point to maintain volume.

Orange jelly dome

  • Prepare orange-flavored gelatin using only 75% of the water called for in the recipe (so it maintains better structural integrity). Pour into a dome mold and chill.

To assemble:

  • Line the outside of your ring mold (I used 9″ because I needed the proportion, but 8″ might be better to fit the 7″ cake rounds) with ladyfingers.
  • Place one of your 7″ cake layers in the bottom of the ring mold. If you have gaps around the edges, you can fill them in with ladyfinger pieces.
  • Spoon half of your bavarian cream into the mold, and top with another layer of cake. Add the rest of the cream.
  • Press a layer of plastic wrap onto the surface of the cream and chill the whole thing for at least 3-4 hours.
  • Just prior to serving, carefully stack the bundt cake and jelly dome onto the mousse cake. Garnish with kumquats.

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