A few years back, I inherited the task of making an orange cake for my dad's birthday. He explained to me that when he was a kid, my grandmother always asked each of her kids what kind of cake they wanted for their birthday, and this was his request each and every year.
Eventually the making of the orange cake was passed on to my aunt, who held the job for many years, until the baton was passed to me.
*This post probably contains affiliate links. Please see my full disclosure policy for details.
To be honest, I'm really not sure how my version of The Orange Cake stacks up against my grandmother's, who was an expert baker. Nor even my aunt's, a very competent baker herself.
But I DO know that it gets rave reviews from everyone who's tried it, so I thought it was high time that it made it onto the blog.
I absolutely love making cakes, and tweaking them until they're the best I think they can be, and that's what I've been doing with this orange cake for the past few years.
In contrast to my usual 3-4 layer towering affairs, this recipe makes a standard 2 layer 8-inch cake. I don't get too elaborate frosting this cake. I prefer to keep it simple and homestyle, in keeping with its traditional origins, and let the bright, fresh, orange flavor just shine.
It works equally well for a casual dinner party as it does as a birthday/celebration cake.
Why this Orange Cake Recipe Works
- I use a combination of oil and butter. Butter adds great flavor, while the oil keeps it moist. Most recipes use one or the other, but here you have the best of both worlds.
- I like to add an extra egg yolk to make the crumb extra tender and give the cake some extra color.
- Fresh orange juice and zest give this cake and frosting the best flavor.
Here's how I make it!
How to Make an Orange Layer Cake
Make the orange cake batter
- Whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.
- In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter, oil and sugar.
- Add the eggs, vanilla, and orange zest and beat to combine.
- Combine the milk and fresh orange juice in a measuring cup.
5. With the mixer on low speed, starting with the flour, alternate adding the milk/orange juice mixture and the flour mixture to the batter, in 3 instalments each. Beat until JUST combined.
6. Remove the bowl from the mixer and give the batter a good stir, scraping the bottom and sides to make sure everything is well incorporated.
7. Divide the batter between 2 8-inch round cake pans that have been greased and floured, or a 9 x 13 inch pan if you prefer.
8. Bake at 350 F for 30-35 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool the layers on a cooling rack, unmolding after 20 minutes to cool completely.
Make the orange cream cheese frosting
9. In a stand mixer on medium speed, beat together the softened butter and cream cheese, vanilla, and orange zest.
10. Add the confectioner's sugar, a cup at a time, beating until smooth and creamy. If you find the frosting too soft for spreading, transfer the bowl to the fridge before frosting the cake. It should firm up after an hour or so.
Frost the cake
11. Put one cake layer on a plate or turntable, put about 1 cup of frosting in the center of the cake and spread it to the edges evenly, using an offset spatula.
12. Turn the second cake layer upside down and place it on top of the first layer. Frost the top and sides of the cake with the offset spatula.
13. Garnish the top with a few orange slices if you like.
Since cream cheese frosting is made with fresh ingredients, and also has a tendency to get soft at room temperature, this cake is best stored in the fridge. You can take it out a few minutes before slicing and serving to let it soften up a bit.
Sound good to you? If you make this orange cake with cream cheese frosting, I would be thrilled and honored if you would take a pic and tag me on Instagram @ourhappymess!
Or pin for later! ↓↓↓
A few more popular cakes on the blog!
The Best Banana Cake with Fluffy Caramel Cream Cheese Frosting
Moist Carrot Cake with Brown Butter Cream Cheese Frosting
Orange Layer Cake
- 2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
- ¾ teaspoon kosher salt
- 3 teaspoons baking powder
- ½ cup unsalted butter softened
- ¼ cup vegetable oil
- 1 ½ cups granulated sugar
- 2 teaspoons orange zest
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 3 large eggs at room temperature
- 1 egg yolk
- ½ cup whole milk room temperature
- ½ cup freshly squeezed orange juice from about 2 oranges
- ½ cup unsalted butter softened
- 8 oz cream cheese
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 2 teaspoons orange zest
- 4 cups icing sugar (confectioner's or powdered sugar)*
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour 2 8-inch cake pans.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt.
- In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter, oil and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3-4 minutes.
- To the stand mixer bowl, add the eggs, egg yolk, vanilla and orange zest. Beat until well combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.
- In a measuring cup, combine the milk and orange juice.
- With the mixer on low speed, alternate adding the flour mixture and milk/OJ mixture, in 3 instalments each, beating until JUST combined (do not over beat).
- Remove the bowl from the stand mixer and give it a good stir with a rubber spatula, scraping the bottom and sides of the bowl. Divide the batter evenly between the prepared cake pans and bake for 30-35 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
- Allow the layers to cool in the pan for 15-20 minutes and turn them over onto a cooling rack to cool completely.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together the butter and cream cheese on medium speed until smooth. Beat in the vanilla extract and orange zest.
- Add the confectioner's sugar, one cup at a time, until the frosting is smooth and creamy. If you think it is too soft, put the bowl in the refrigerator for about an hour to firm up.
- Place one cake layer on a plate or turntable, and using an offset spatula, frost the top with about 1 cup of frosting. Place the second layer upside down on top and frost the top and sides of the cake. Decorate with orange slices if desired.
My name is Sonia and I made your orange-flavored buttercream frosting for our church event.
However, I made my own tweaked version of an orange cake. The buttercream frosting was a hit! Everyone that had a slice, loved it!
This Orange flavored Buttercream is a keeper....baking again this weekend using your recipe
Thank you so much
Fantastic Sonia! I'm so glad you enjoyed it 🙂
Super delicious cake! I made this recipe with my three year old. I reduced the sugar, added more zest and a little almond essence and topped with whipped cream/sour cream for a lighter finish, everybody loved it!
That sounds amazing! I love that frosting option 🙂
I only have 1 8-inch pan, do I need to adjust the recipe if I bake it as one whole cake then slice it to 2-3 layers?
The only adjustment would be to increase the baking time. I would start checking it after 20 minutes. Another solution would be to just bake the layers one at a time. The batter can sit at room temperature for 30 minutes or so while you bake the first layer. Let it cool for a few minutes, turn over onto a cooling rack, wash the pan and make the second layer 🙂
I made half the recipe and baked the cakes in 6-inch round pans. It's a bit of a pain to measure out 1.5 eggs and half a yolk, but it was worth the results. The cake is really moist, and the cake and frosting have a lovely subtle orange scent. I made the frosting with a quarter less icing sugar and it still tasted plenty sweet for us. Thank you for the lovely recipe!
Wonderful thank you so much Judy!! I'm glad you were able to adapt it to a 6-inch size easily enough 🙂
Paul Joseph Zinza
Hi Ann! Is it possible to make a lemon cake by substituting lemon juice/zest for the orange juice/zest?
Hi Paul! Yes you can totally make a lemon cake! Check out Bessie's comment, she decreased the juice from 1/2 cup to 1/4 cup (since lemon juice is more sour) and increased the milk to compensate for the missing liquid.
Made this cake a couple of times now. My husband is not a ‘sweets person’ but he absolutely loved it. I did only use one cup of icing sugar in the cream cheese icing and it was absolutely perfect! (So for those saying it’s too sweet one cup works perfectly fine 😉)
We will definitely be using this recipe on repeat! Thank you! ❤️
Fantastic Emma! Thank you so much for this. I'm so happy to hear the reduced amount of sugar worked for you. I'll make a note of it in the recipe 🙂
The cake itself was light and lovely, but the frosting was tooooo sweet! I didn't even use the whole 4 cups, I stopped at 3, but even then the final result was a cake that was sickly sweet. I ended up removing the frosting to enjoy the cake. I am quite surprised no one else has mentioned this in their review. Makes me think I've done something wrong :-s
I am sorry you found it too sweet! I have made this cake countless times and never had that particular comment before... It is pretty much a standard classic cream cheese frosting recipe, which in general is not as sweet as an American-style buttercream. Cream cheese frosting has a tendency to be quite soft, and reducing the sugar can make it too soft to hold up in a layer cake.
The is amazing !! I have made it three times so far . Do you think i can make a lemon cake using the same ingredients, or I need to change some thing?.
I'm so happy to hear that!! Lemon would be great! It is more sour than orange juice though, so I would maybe cut down a bit on the juice (maybe 1/3 or 1/4 cup instead of 1/2 and add a little extra milk to compensate) :). I'd love to know how it turns out!
Thank you very much for your tips. I tried the lemon cake, following the Orange cake recipe. Instead of 1/2 cup orange juice, I put 1/4 cup lemon juice, I also increased the milk from 1/2 a cup to 3/4 cup. The cake was amazing. Now it’s on demand in my house. Thank you again
I am so happy to hear that and thank you so much for reporting back Bessie!! I’ll have to try it 🙂
How would I use your recipe if I wanted to add chocolate to the cake batter?
Well I’ve never tried it but orange and chocolate are great together, especially at Christmas time! I think substituting 1/4 cup of the flour for unsweetened cocoa powder should do the trick :). I’d love to know how it turns out!
How would I be able to use your recipe but add chocolate to the batter?
Thank you very much! I'll have to try it now.
Just made this last week for my sis’ birthday. Excellent! I used orange extract instead of vanilla- liked the extra orange flavor. Drained mandarin oranges to decorate.
I’m so happy to hear that!! Happy birthday to your sister 🙂
This orange cake looks delicious! Festive and perfect for special occasions!
Thank you so much Natalie! It's definitely a favorite around here 🙂
Wow...this cake was amazing. The orange flavor and tender crumb made this cake a winner. This cake is now in my make again folder.
I am so happy to hear that!! Thank you so much 🙂
Looks delicious! Can't wait to make this!
Yay!! Thanks Karly! Let me know how it goes 🙂