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Orange and cacao sour cream cake

Wed, 23 June, 2021

Sour cream is not just for the Mexican takeaway – it’s a wonderful baking ingredient. It makes this orange and chocolate nib cake wonderfully moist.

orange and chocolate sour cream cake

Sour cream, yoghurt, creme fraiche - what's the difference?

Sour cream is made similarly to yoghurt, by adding bacteria culture to cream in order to start fermentation. That’s right: all those wonderful dairy products that we blissfully dollop onto chocolate cakes or baked potatoes are basically milk gone off.

Yoghurt is made by the starter culture added to milk, full or reduced fat. Sour cream is when a mix of bacteria have their way with single cream; crème fraiche – when the base is double cream. Mascarpone is very much like crème fraiche except less acidic and higher in fat content.

Buttermilk is an exception as it is a by-product: the liquid that is left when cream is churned into butter. It’s however more common these days to produce commercial buttermilk with cultures added to skimmed milk.

If you make your own butter at home, don’t throw away the liquid produced in the process, but if you make it from pasteurised cream, some lemon juice will need to be added to the buttermilk before you bake with it.

sour cream cake with orange flavour

Orange flavour and cacao crunch

Today we’re baking with sour cream though, even if buttermilk seemed momentarily more interesting (incidentally, the cake below will be just as delicious if you use buttermilk instead of sour cream).

This is a very simple recipe by Dan Lepard, from Short and Sweet, which in the original version makes a plain cake. It can be flavoured as you wish and I have gone towards orange and cocoa, a pairing of excellence.

The cake will be delicious with dark chocolate chips or shavings, but I can’t resist using raw cacao nibs whenever I can. I forget why I bought them in the first place; there must have been a valid recipe reason since I am not keen on raw chocolate and similar hipster concoctions.

Those are a marvel though: they taste slightly bitter so you would not want to simply nibble on them (probably). But added to bakes and even salads (!), they are gorgeously crunchy and deep in flavour. Besides, being barely processed they are both healthier and less conducive to weight gain than chocolate.

sour cream cake with orange and cacao nibs

How to make the sour cream cake?

The orange and cacao sour cream cake making process is straightforward, starting with beating butter until fluffy. Sugar, eggs and the sour cream follow, and the flour is mixed in until just combined.

The main flavouring is orange zest and I like to rub it into the sugar, if only to inhale the wonderful aroma! The combination of caster and soft brown sugar makes for a slightly chewier crumb but you can skip the brown and double the amount of caster sugar if you wish.

I bake it in a round cake tin; if you use a Bundt or ring tin, it will be similar to the Italian ciambella or ciambellina, the breakfast cake, and so you will be able to make like Italians and enjoy it for breakfast if you’re so inclined. But enjoy it you will, no matter what shape tin it bakes in and what time of day the cake is consumed.

Orange and cacao sour cream cake

Servings: 12Time: 1 hour 10 minutes


  • 100g (12 cup) caster sugar
  • 2 oranges, zest only
  • 100g (12 cup) light soft brown sugar
  • 175g (12 tbsp.) unsalted butter, softened
  • 3 eggs
  • 200g (scant cup) sour cream
  • 300g (212 cup) plain flour
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 50g (13 cup) raw cacao nibs


1. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas 4. Butter a 23cm cake tin and line the base with a parchment disc.

2. Place the caster sugar in a bowl. Grate the orange zest into the bowl then rub it in with a spoon into the sugar. Add the brown sugar and stir together.

3. Beat the butter until fluffy. Add the sugar mix and beat until light and smooth. Add the eggs, one by one and beat well after each addition, scraping the sides of the bowl every so often.

4. Beat in the sour cream. Stir the baking powder into the flour and add it in; beat until combined. Fold in the cacao nibs. Scrape the batter into the tin and transfer into the oven. Bake for 45 minutes until a skewer inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean.

5. Cool completely in the tin before unmoulding and cutting. It keeps very well, covered, for up to 5 days at room temperature.

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Hello! I'm Anna Gaze, the Cuisine Fiend. Welcome to my recipe collection.

I have lots of recipes for you to choose from: healthy or indulgent, easy or more challenging, quick or involved - but always tasty.


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