This tender, flavorful orange layer cake is made with fresh orange juice and zest and is frosted with a tangy orange cream cheese icing.
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.
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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!
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A few more popular cakes on the blog!
Orange Layer Cake
- 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 3 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter softened
- 1/4 cup vegetable oil
- 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
- 2 teaspoons orange zest
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 3 large eggs at room temperature
- 1 egg yolk
- 1/2 cup whole milk room temperature
- 1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice from about 2 oranges
- 1/2 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.