Orange Crepe Cake

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Hello!

Today is International Women’s Day. And right now, I could share with you statistics about the potential for women’s education to significantly reduce global poverty rates, or the covert and blatant forms of sexism faced by women in male-dominated professions, or the terrifying rates of crimes against women, but I won’t.

Instead, I’ll take this opportunity to gratuitously talk about myself.

17 years ago, I decided that I wanted to be a doctor when I grew up. Before 1847, not a single woman had been accepted into a medical school in the United States. In that year, all 150 incoming male medical students at Geneva Medical College unanimously agreed that it wouldn’t be right to deny Ms. Elizabeth Blackwell a chance to follow her dreams simply because she was a woman. She would go on to finish at the top of her class. And because she (and they) did, history was made.

3 years ago, I enrolled in a research program at my high school modeled after the instructor’s experience in graduate school. She pushed us to think outside of the box and be unafraid of questions that have no answers (yet). In 1875, Stefania Wolicka successfully defended her doctoral dissertation at the University of Zurich, and became the first woman in the modern era to be awarded a Ph.D. because she dared to believe that she deserved to continue her studies even when her government told her that it was wrong. And because she did, history was made.

1 year ago, I began my first semester of my undergraduate career. In 1837, Mount Holyoke Female Seminary opened its doors as the first higher educational institution chartered specifically for women in the United States when Mary Lyon worked to make her vision a reality. It wasn’t until nearly a century later in 1914 that the first female student attended my current university. And because they did, history was made.

5 hours ago, I complimented my friend on the “I voted!” sticker on her shirt. In 1920, the Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution was ratified, and women’s suffrage became the law of the land. And because it did, history was made.

1 hour ago, I began writing this post. In 1670, Aphra Behn’s first play, written in the depths of poverty, was staged in England, making her the first English woman to become a professional writer. In the words of Virginia Woolf, “All women together ought to let flowers fall upon the tomb of Aphra Behn which is, most scandalously but rather appropriately, in Westminster Abbey, for it was she who earned them the right to speak their minds.” And because she scandalously did, history was made.

So as I sit here on this Tuesday night, thinking about candied oranges and stacks upon stacks upon stacks of crepes, I can’t help but be grateful for all the women (and men) who once decided that women like me deserve more than what the world had been willing to give, and then did something about it. Because I am where I am right now because I stand on the shoulders of revolutionaries. And without them, history never would have been made.

Happy International Women’s Day,
Anne

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Orange Crepe Cake

Crepe recipe from Journal des Femmes
Makes one 40-50 layer (including filling layers) 8″ crepe cake

Ingredients:

Candied Orange Roses and Orange Syrup:
3 organic (or otherwise unwaxed) navel oranges
2 cups sugar
1 cup water

Orange Curd:
2 tbs corn starch
2 tbs water
1 1/2 tbs orange syrup

Crepes:
375 g (3 cups) flour
1/2 tsp salt
6 large eggs
3 1/4 cups whole milk
3 tbs orange syrup
2 tsp orange extract
1 tsp vanilla extract
5 tbs melted butter

Whipped Mascarpone Cream:
4 oz mascarpone
3/4 cup heavy cream
3 tbs orange syrup
1 tbs vanilla extract

Garnish:
Powdered sugar

Directions:

Candied Orange Roses and Orange Syrup:

  1. Form the orange roses:
    1. Using a paring knife, peel each washed navel orange in a single continuous spiral. If possible, try to keep the peel as thin as possible without tearing through and dig too deeply into the white pith.
      Tip: It’s much more important for you to keep the orange peel whole than it is to avoid the pith, so don’t worry too much if your peel is a bit thick. Just be sure to blanch the roses a few more extra times to prevent your candied orange rose from being too bitter!
    2. Starting on the end where you FINISHED peeling (where just you picked up the knife), follow the natural curve of the rind to curl the orange peel into a spiral.
    3. Continue until you get to the other end (the end where you started peeling).
    4. Secure with a toothpick and trim off any excess peel from the outside using your paring knife.
  2. Blanch the orange roses:
    1. Bring a large kettle of water to a boil.
    2. Grab two heat-proof bowls that are large enough to fit all three roses and deep enough to submerge them fully (I used Pyrex containers). Fill one of the bowls with ice and cold water, and fill the other bowl with boiling water.
    3. Immediately, place all three roses into the bowl of boiling water and keep them submerged for 30 seconds, then transfer them into the ice bath.
    4. Carefully pour out then refill the bowl of boiling water, and repeat the heat-cool cycle at least 2 more times, depending on how thick your orange peels were.
      Tip: By the third (or last) time you scald the roses, the water should turn noticeably less yellowy-orange than it did in the previous times. Also, the white piths should be lightly tinted by the time you are done.
  3. In a small saucepan, dissolve the sugar into the water over medium heat until the mixture starts to boil and the sugar is fully dissolved.
  4. Reduce the heat until only a few small streams of bubbles are rising, then add in the three blanched orange roses. Continue boiling gently for about 30 minutes, or until the edges of the roses are translucent and curling back away from the center, taking care to turn over (but NOT stir!) the roses every so often. Carefully fish out the roses and allow to cool on an uncovered plate.
  5. Take the syrup off of the heat. If you would like, pour some of the hot mixture into a sterilized jar to keep for later use, reserving about 1/3 cup to cool and use for other parts of the crepe cake.

Orange Curd:

  1. Juice the three peeled navel oranges and strain the juice with a fine-mesh sieve to remove pulp and any small seeds.
  2. Add the orange juice and syrup into a small saucepan, stirring well to mix.
  3. Dissolve the corn starch in the water, then stir into the orange juice mixture.
  4. Slowly heat the mixture over medium heat, stirring constantly to prevent lumps from forming. When the mixture comes to a boil, immediately remove from heat and stir continuously until the pot is cool enough to touch.
  5. Pour the curd into a bowl and cover the surface with saran wrap to prevent the top surface from drying out. Set aside to cool until you are ready to fill the cake!

Crepes:

  1. Sift together the flour and salt into the bowl of a stand mixer (or into a large bowl if you plan to use an electric mixer).
  2. Gently beat together the eggs, syrup, orange extract, and vanilla extract. Make a small well in the sifted flour mixture and pour in the egg mixture, then stir until combined.
  3. Add the milk into the batter a couple of tablespoons at a time, mixing with the stand mixer on slow until fully incorporated between additions.
    Tip: Be sure to add the milk very slowly at first to avoid lumps, but as the batter thins out, feel free to add the milk more quickly to speed up the process.
  4. Stir in the melted butter and mix well.
    Tip: The butter will probably cool to form little solid slivers. This is fine – just make sure to stir well every time you ladle out the batter when you cook the crepes.
  5. Preheat an 8″ skillet over medium-high heat, then reduce to low heat. Ladle just enough batter into the skillet to coat a thin layer over the entire bottom of the pan by quickly swirling the batter around immediately after adding.
    Tip: Swirl the pan away from the stove to prevent the batter from cooking too quickly to spread into a thin, uniform layer. Also, you do not need to grease the pan – there is enough butter in the batter to prevent the crepes from sticking!
  6. As the edges of the crepe begin to brown, gently pry up the edges and flip the crepe when the bottom surface is lightly browned and cook until the second side is also browned to your liking.
  7. Repeat until you run out of batter!

Whipped Mascarpone Cream:

  1. In a stand mixer or with an electrical mixer, whip the heavy cream until it reaches the soft peaks stage. At this point, your beaters should leave a trail through the whipped cream, but any peaks that form when you lift them out should easily topple over. Set the whipped cream aside.
  2. Beat mascarpone, orange syrup, and vanilla extract together until the mixture is light and fluffy. Pour in about half of the whipped cream and mix on low until well incorporated, then gently fold in the remaining half of the whipped cream with a silicone spatula.
  3. Set aside for filling!

Assembly:

  1. Stack the layers:
    1. Place your first crepe layer in the middle of the plate.
      Tip: I think the cake turns out prettier when you stack the crepes with the side that was cooked first up and the side that was cooked second down, but it’s really up to you!
    2. Spread a thin layer of the orange curd on top of the crepe.
    3. Stack a second crepe over the orange curd.
    4. Spread a thin layer of mascarpone cream over on top of this crepe.
      Tip: The layers may slide around a bit as you’re spreading this layer because it’s a bit harder to spread than the orange curd and the orange curd is kind of slippery. Don’t worry! After you put on the next layer, you will be able to readjust both layers together without getting filling all over the place.
    5. Stack another crepe on top and repeat with alternating layers of filling until you run out of crepes!
  2. Top with the candied orange roses and dust with powdered sugar. Enjoy!

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