Cointreau Daffodil Cake | Retro Revamp

 I'm delighted to announce that my Cointreau Daffodil Cake recipe made the semi-final shortlist on FOOD52's Retro Recipe Contest. In their latest contest, they were on a quest to find the best retro recipe, updated with a modern twist! 

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After their testing chefs made my daffodil cake in their test kitchen, here's what they had to say...

"This cake is an updated version of a classic sponge cake from the 1940s. We loved Pia Silver's triple shot of sunny orange in the cake: with orange extract, orange zest, and Cointreau. This elegant cake should be on your next retro-inspired menu (or any menu, for that matter)."- FOOD52

Read on for my modernized version of this old-fashioned, classic Daffodil cake recipe, as featured on FOOD52's Retro Recipe contest.

I hope you try making it for a special occasion. This Cointreau daffodil cake is a perfect Spring cake or celebratory cake for your Easter table.


Some things just never go out of style... they just get better with time!

Light as cotton, airy as a Spring breeze carrying hints of fragrant orange blossom, this fluffy pale yellow and white daffodil cake, delicately flavored with orange Cointreau liqueur and decorated with sugared pastel violas is a delightfully refreshing take on a retro dessert recipe from the 1940s, specially and symbolically revamped for 2021.

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The original version from the 1940s:

Open up any recipe book from the '40s and '50s from Good Housekeeping to Betty Crocker and you are sure to find Daffodil cake featured under sponge cakes, sandwiched somewhere between its more popular cousins, Angel food cake and Chiffon cake. Daffodil cake is a completely butter-free and oil- free cake, featuring egg yolks in half the batter and egg whites in the other half, layered in swirls and baked into a light and high, airy sponge cake.

Retro revival revamped for 2021:

My update to this timeless and memorable old-fashioned dessert was flavoring it with bright citrus notes and and decadently lacing it with Cointreau liqueur and a sweet Cointreau icing with orange zest. Decorated with fresh or sugared edible flowers (pansies and violas in spring or nasturtiums in summer) this cake is truly a delight for the senses.

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I specially chose to resurrect this vintage dessert for 2021. Last year was a very difficult year for many, but a year where we trimmed the fat and realized what's really important. As the clouds lifted earlier this year and the sun started to peek through, this low-fat, fragrant, light and sunny yellow cake, is a symbolic representation of 2021; a much needed breath of sweet fresh air and an edible ray of sunshine. A reminder that happiness and hope is on the horizon... and a reminder that things only get better with time. 

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Cointreau Daffodil Cake Recipe

Total time: Prep: 60 min. Bake: 35-40 min. + 2 hours cooling

Yield: 12 servings


For Meringue or White Batter:
☐ 6 large egg whites at room temperature
☐ 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
☐ 1/2 teaspoon orange extract
☐ 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
☐ 2   teaspoons Cointreau
☐ 2/3 cup fine granulated sugar
☐ 1/2 cup cake flour- spooned and leveled
☐ 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
☐ 1/2 teaspoon salt

For Yellow Cake Batter:
☐ 6 large egg yolks at room temperature
☐ 2 tablespoons Cointreau
☐ 1/2 cup cake flour
☐ 1/2 cup fine granulated sugar
☐ 1 teaspoon baking powder
☐ Pinch of salt
☐ 1/2 teaspoon orange extract
☐ 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

For Cointreau glaze/ Cointreau icing:
☐ 1/4 cup Cointreau for drizzling directly onto the cake
☐ 1 tablespoon Cointreau for making the glaze
☐ 2 tablespoons orange juice
☐ 1 1/2 cups sifted confectioner's sugar
☐ 1 tablespoon melted butter
☐ Orange zest from 1 orange

Step-by-Step Instructions:

Pre-heat oven to 350°F.

Step 1: Prepare the Flour Mixture for the White Cake/ Meringue Batter
Sift the flour, baking powder and salt required for the White Cake Batter and set aside.

Step 2: Prepare the Flour Mixture for the Yellow Cake Batter
In a separate plate, sift the flour, baking powder and salt required for the Yellow Cake Batter and set aside.

Step 3: Prepare the White Cake Batter/ Meringue
  • Place egg whites in a large, clean bowl. 
  • Add cream of tartar, orange and vanilla extract; beat on medium speed until soft peaks form.
Soft peaks in egg whites

  • Add the Cointreau.
  • Gradually add the sugar in a little at a time until the mixture forms stiff, glossy peaks.
Stiff, glossy peaks in egg whites and sugar, meringue

  • Add a 1/4 of the flour mixture at a time (prepared in Step 1) and fold it into the egg white mixture using a spatula until just combined. Do not over handle or over mix. Once all the flour mixture has been combined with the egg whites, set aside.
Meringue mixture

Step 4: Prepare the Yellow Cake Batter

  • In another large bowl, beat egg yolks and Cointreau together. 
  • Add the orange and vanilla extract.
  • Add the sugar, a little at a time and continue to beat well until the the mixture become a pale yellow.
  • Add the flour mixture (prepared in Step 2) a little at a time, continuing to beat well until the batter is completely smooth and creamy.
  • Using a spatula, fold in 1/3 of the White Meringue batter into the yellow cake batter until just incorporated. Do not mix but fold, turning the bowl as you go.
Folding meringue mixture into yellow cake batter

Step 5: Fill the tube pan

  • In an ungreased tube pan, using a spoon, spoon in half the white meringue batter into the bottom of the tube pan, spreading lightly if necessary to cover the bottom of the pan.
Layering meringue into tube pan

  • Then, spoon in or pour the yellow batter into the tube pan.
Yellow batter in tube pan, daffodil cake

  • Finally top, with the remaining white meringue batter, smoothing it out gently with a spatula.
Meringue and yellow batter in tube pan, daffodil cake

Meringue in tube pan

Using a table knife, cut through the batter to create swirls. Then, tap the pan twice on the counter to remove air bubbles.

Step 6: Bake
  • In a pre-heated oven, bake in the lower third of oven (one notch below the half mark line) at 350°F for 35-40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. 
  • Remove from oven and immediately invert pan onto a wire rack and leave it to cool completely. Approximately 1.5 hours to 2 hours.
  • See Kitchen Notes at end on how to remove cake from pan.

Step 7: Glaze
  • Using a teaspoon, drizzle 1/4 cup of Cointreau onto the top and sides of the cake. Or use a pastry brush to brush the Cointreau into the cake.
  • In a small bowl, combine sifted confectioner's sugar, orange juice, 1 tablespoon Cointreau, melted butter and orange zest. Stir until smooth. Consistency should be thick and creamy enough to drizzle onto the cake. If not liquid enough, warm for 5-10 seconds in the microwave. Then drizzle all over the top of the cake. Glaze will harden slightly as it cools.

Step 8: Decorate
Before the glaze hardens, top the glazed top with candied flowers. If available, arrange a small centerpiece of cut daffodils and narcissus in a wine glass and set in the center of the cake.

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Kitchen Notes

How to remove Cointreau Daffodil cake from pan?

Since the Daffodil cake is a version of an Angel Food cake, you should use a tube pan or Angel Food cake pan. Not a bundt pan and definitely not a bundt pan with any special designs. Since the daffodil cake is baked in an ungreased pan, it will be impossible to get the cake out of the pan in one pretty piece if you use a bundt pan. 

The best pan for this cake is a tube pan/ Angel Food cake pan which has a removable inner core sleeve and a drop-out bottom for easy removal. Plus, cooling legs help cool the cake properly and easily when inverted.

To remove the cake from the tube pan/ Angel Food pan, first invert and cool the cake completely. Using a knife or spatula, loosen the cake outer edges of the pan. Holding the tube, pull the cake out of the pan. Then, use a knife to cut the bottom of the cake free. Loosen the cake around the tube and then twist the tube free. 

I used a ring mold to make this cake, but getting it out of the pan can be a bit tricky. If using a ring mold, after the cake has completely cooled, use a flexible rubber spatula to loosen the inner and outer edges of cake from the pan. Then sliding from the outer edge of the pan, slide the spatula slightly under the cake to loosen the bottom. Work all around the pan, then overturn and shake lightly and the cake should drop out of the pan.

How to make Daffodil cake decorations?

See how to make the sugared flowers for the the daffodil cake toppers. These edible flower decorations are made by candying real flowers with egg white, Cointreau and sugar.

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If you enjoyed this Spring/ Easter sweet recipe, you may also enjoy my Marzipan Spring Flowers recipe.

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