Fans of the Mitford books by Jan Karon will remember Esther Bolick’s fabulous Orange Marmalade Cake for which she would never divulge the recipe. Sally Johns has unearthed it and given it to her mother-in-law, Millie. It is really fabulous and here is the recipe:

3 cups cake flour

½ teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon salt

1 cup butter, softened

2 cups sugar

3 eggs, beaten lightly

1 tablespoon grated orange zest

1 ½ teaspoons vanilla

1 cup buttermilk, at room temperature


For the syrup:

1 cup freshly squeezed orange juice

¼ cup orange marmalade

¾ well chilled heavy cream

3 tablespoons sugar

¾ cup well-chilled sour cream

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Butter two 9-inch round cake pans; line with parchment or wax paper and butter and flour the paper.

Sift the flour, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

In a large bowl beat the butter with an electric mixer. Beat in sugar gradually until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, zest, and vanilla. Add flour mixture to butter mixture alternately with buttermilk, beating after each addition until smooth. Divide evenly between pans. Smooth surfaces and rap pans on counter to expel air. Bake 45 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool on rack in pans for 20 minutes.

For Syrup: Stir sugar into orange juice. With a toothpick, poke holes at ½ inch intervals. Spoon the syrup over the cake layers until completely absorbed. Let layers cool.

For the filling: Heat the marmalade in a small saucepan just until melted. Let cool 5 minutes.

For the frosting: In a bowl, beat heavy cream with 3 tablespoons sugar until it forms firm peaks. Add the sour cream slowly, whisking until it is at a spreading consistency.

To assemble the cake: Set one of the layers on a cake plate. Carefully peal off the wax paper. Spread 2/3 of the marmalade over the top. Invert the other layer on top. Peel the wax paper off and spoon the rest of the marmalade onto the center.

Spread, leaving a 1 ¼ inch border around the edge.

Frost the sides and the top border with the cream frosting, leaving the marmalade on top exposed. If you prefer, you can frost the entire cake and garnish the top with marmalade. Chill at least 2 hours before serving. Serves 10-12. ~


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