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November Cakes a.k.a. Gooey Delicious Orange Buns

Have you ever read a piece of fiction that describes some kind of food in such rich, real detail that the food becomes real to you?

It’s a talent, writing about completely made-up food in a way that’s so real to the reader that they have a visceral need to create (re-create?) the food in their world. As an avid reader, I’ve certainly run across these kinds of fictional foods from time to time, but rarely has a recipe captured my imagination like the November Cakes from Maggie Stiefvater’s “The Scorpio Races”.

November Cakes

In the middle of a chill, windy, haunting Irish November, Stiefvater describes these rolls as “oozing honey and butter, rivulets of the creamy frosting joining the honey in the pit of my hand.” Pretty amazing, right?

November Cakes with Gooey Icing

I actually tried a recipe for this a year or two ago, but was disappointed with the dry, somewhat bland results. When I saw this particular recipe and heard people rave about it, I knew I had to give it another try.

November Cakes with Orange Glaze

And these were everything promised. The dough itself isn’t that sweet, just an orange-tinged yeast roll. It’s the combination of the honey-caramel glaze (which I also spiked with orange extract) soaking into the rolls and the sweet white orange-flavored icing on top that elevates this to complete indulgence.

november cakes wet ingredients

First, set out all the butter you’ll need for the recipe so it can get room temperature, and pre-heat the oven to 100°F. If your oven doesn’t have that as a setting (I think my lowest is like 200 F), put it on the lowest setting and then shut it off once it reaches about 100-125 degrees.

Start by pouring the milk, water, oil, and butter into a large cup measure—at least 2-cup—and microwave it for 2 minutes. When you pull it out of the microwave, crack the eggs into it.

november cakes dry ingredients

In the large bowl of your mixer, briefly pulse together 1 1/2 cups of the flour with the yeast, sugar, and salt.

november cakes dough

Pour the now-heated liquid into the dry ingredients and mix on low. Add the remaining 2 cups of flour a cup at a time and mix for about four minutes. The result will be a ridiculously liquidy, gooey mess of a dough. It’s honestly somewhere between batter and dough. I was pretty freaked out by the texture, thought there was no way it was going to turn out right. You can add a little more flour if you want, but you don’t need to, and you definitely don’t want it to get dry later on. I added maybe an extra 1/4 cup. It’s better right now to trust the process, trust that it’ll turn out like it’s supposed to.

november cakes dough rising

Turn off the oven & open the door to release the most intense heat. Grease another large bowl and use a spatula to scrape the dough down the sides of the mixer bowl, then pour the dough/batter into the greased bowl. Lay a towel over it and place it in the warm oven, then close the door and let the dough rise for an hour.

november cakes dough risen

This is why you need the big bowl…it grows quite a bit.

november cakes dough kneading

Remove the dough from the oven and turn it out (“pour” might be a better word!) onto a *heavily* floured surface. The dough was so liquidy that I was scared it would never work out. I kind of went on faith at this point, trusting in the recipe. I added a bunch of flour as I started to knead it, and all of the sudden it was this magical silky texture.

november cakes dough rolled out

Knead it for a few minutes to make it more manageable & then roll it out to about a 12″ x 20″ rectangle.

november cakes butter orange extract

november cakes dough butter on dough

In a small bowl, mix the softened butter with the orange extract. I find softened butter easier to deal with than melted butter, which will squish out the ends as you try to cut the dough. Spread the butter across the surface of the dough.

november cakes dough assembled risingJPG

Carefully roll up the rectangle short-wise (from the 12″ end), trying to keep it 12″ wide as you roll. Slice the roll into 1″ wide sections. I’d recommend using a pizza cutter or something like that, because when I tried to use a knife I totally butchered it.

Grease a 12-cup muffin tin or a 9×13 pan and place each roll into the pan, cut-side up. I threw a few into a muffin tin and then the rest into a 9×13 pan. The pan keeps them a little more moist (since all the edges touch), but the edges won’t be very pretty. The muffin tin will create prettier individual rolls. Cover with a towel & place in the oven to rise for 30 minutes.

november cakes dough baked

Remove the towel—this is important if you don’t want to burn down your house—but leave the rolls in the oven and turn the oven on to 400 F. Bake until the edges begin to brown, about 14-16 minutes (depends on your oven and how fast it heats up). Remove the rolls from the pan & let them cool on a large platter or a couple of large plates.

november cakes dough glaze ingredients

When the rolls have cooled a little, make the glaze. Combine the brown sugar, butter, honey, and orange extract in a saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring constantly. Make sure your spoon or whisk is silicone or similar; plastic can melt.

november cakes dough glaze cooking

november cakes dough glaze boiling

Add the cream and vanilla, and bring the mixture to a boil for at least two minutes, continuing to stir. Remove from the heat and let it cool for a couple minutes.

november cakes glazed

november cakes glazed drying

One at a time, hold the rolls by their bottoms and dip the tops into the pot of caramel glaze, swirling around a little to get the top totally covered, then return to the platter. Be careful with your fingers, the glaze is hot! Spoon the remaining glaze over the rolls, and let them sit for about 30 minutes to an hour to let the glaze sink in.

november cakes with glaze & icing

Finally, make the icing. Combine the very soft butter, powdered sugar, and orange extract with the back of a spoon. Mix a teaspoon or two of water into the mixture, and increase a little bit if necessary. You want an icing that’s pourable, but not too thin. Drizzle the icing onto the rolls and serve warm.

November Cakes finished

They’re amazing fresh, but still great for a few days leftover—10-15 seconds in the microwave does wonders.

November Cakes (from “The Scorpio Races”)

Cake

  • 1 cup of milk
  • 1/2 cup of water
  • 1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon of butter, softened
  • 3 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour (I used closer to 4)
  • 3 teaspoons of active dry yeast (a little over a packet)
  • 3 tablespoons of granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt
  • 2 eggs

Filling

  • 3 tablespoons of butter, melted or simply very soft
  • 1/4 teaspoon of orange extract

Glaze

  • 1/3 cup of brown sugar
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) of unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup of honey
  • 1/4 teaspoon of orange extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoon of heavy whipping cream

Icing

  • 1 tablespoon of butter, melted or very soft
  • Up to 1 tabelspoon of water
  • 1/2 cup of powdered sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon of orange extract

Set out all of the butter you’ll need for this recipe so it can get room temperature. Pre-heat your oven to 100°F [if your oven doesn’t go that low, put it on the lowest setting and then shut it off once it reaches about 100-125 degrees]. For the cake, pour the milk, water, oil, & butter in a large (at least 2-cup) cup measure and microwave for 2 minutes. In the large bowl of your stand mixer, combine 1 1/2 cups of the flour with the yeast, sugar, and salt. Crack the eggs into the microwaved liquid, then pour the liquid into the bowl of dry ingredients and mix on low. Add the remaining flour a cup at a time and mix for about four minutes. It is a super liquidy, gooey mess of a dough (honestly, somewhere between batter and dough). You can add a little more flour, though you don’t need to; I added maybe an extra 1/4 cup, but you don’t want it to be dry later on. Turn off the oven & open the door. Grease another large bowl (preferably with tall sides) and use a spatula to scrape the dough down the sides of the bowl, then pour the dough into the greased bowl. Lay a towel over the dough bowl and place it in the warm oven, close the door and let the dough rise for an hour.

After an hour, remove the dough from the oven and turn it out onto a *heavily* floured surface. I was scared by how liquidy the dough was, but I added a bunch of flour as I started to work it, and it was a magical texture. Knead the dough to make it more manageable & then roll it out to about a 12″ x 20″ rectangle. In a small bowl, mix the softened butter with the orange extract and spread it onto the surface of the dough. Carefully roll up the rectangle short-wise (from the 12″ end), trying to keep it 12″ wide as you roll. Slice the resulting roll into 1″ wide sections, I’d recommend using a pizza cutter or something because when I tried to use a knife I butchered it. Grease & flour a 12 cup muffin tin or a 9×13 pan and place each roll, spiral/cut side up, into the pan. Cover with a towel & place in the oven to rise for 30 minutes. Remove the towel (important if you don’t want to burn down your house) but leave the rolls in the oven and turn the oven on to 400 F. Bake until the edges begin to brown, about 14-16 minutes (depends entirely on your oven). Remove the rolls from the pan & let them cool on a large platter or a couple of large plates.

When the rolls have cooled a little, make the glaze. Combine the brown sugar, butter, honey, and orange extract in a saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring constantly. Make sure you use silicone or similar, not plastic since it can melt. Add the cream and vanilla, and bring the mixture to a boil for at least two minutes (continue to stir). Remove from the heat and let it cool for a minute or two. One at a time, hold the rolls by their bottoms and dip the tops into the pot of caramel glaze, swirling around a little to get the top totally covered, then return to the platter. Spoon the remaining glaze over the rolls. Let the rolls sit for about 30 minutes to an hour to let the glaze sink in, then make the icing.

For the icing, combine the very soft butter, powdered sugar, and orange extract with the back of a spoon. Mix a tiny bit (a teaspoon or two) of water into the mixture, and increase a little bit if necessary. You want an icing that’s pourable, but not too thin. Drizzle the icing onto the rolls and serve warm (10-15 seconds in the microwave does wonders for leftovers).

Original recipe from FictionFood

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