You never know exactly what the outcome will be when you grab an old recipe card and just go with it. I have mentioned in previous posts that older recipes often leave out many specific details. This is usually for one of two reasons: a) they were just jotting down notes for themselves and they only captured enough details to remember key ingredients/steps because they had made it before, or b) they were sharing the recipe but assumed the recipient would have the same base knowledge of baking or cooking because everyone cooked and baked from scratch back then – of course you would know how long to bake a cake (sometimes they didn’t even include the oven temp). All of that provides some real challenges at times. What’s more most of these recipes are written in cursive and the hand writing isn’t always the best. I’m old enough to decipher most of it, but I fear future generations will look at these recipe cards like they are written in Latin.
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Today I have good news on two fronts. I was able to decipher this recipe for orange cake and translate it into a set of directions I hope you will find simple and easy to follow. The even better news is this is a delicious cake with great orange flavor but contains no artificial colors or flavors.
As always, the complete recipe in easy to print form is located at the bottom of the post.
This cake goes together quickly, pretty much dump the ingredients in a bowl and beat with an electric mixer until the oranges are completely broken down. I used on old school 9 inch square aluminum cake pan, lined with parchment paper. It really makes it easy to get the cake out of the pan, and limits over browning. You could easily use an 8 or 9 inch round cake pan, but you may have to adjust the bake time slightly. This recipe makes one pan, so if you want to stack this cake you will need to double the recipe. Once cool enough to remove from the pan I also flip the cake over and frost what is technically the bottom of the cake.
I waited until the cake was out of the oven and cooling to make the frosting. Buttercream sets up (gets firm) pretty quickly when exposed to air, so I wanted it to be fresh right when I was ready to use it. If you make it while the cake is baking, be sure to cover the container with plastic wrap or a damp cloth to keep it nice and soft. The frosting recipe calls for orange “zest”, which is just some finely ground pieces of the orange peel. I used my citrus zester to do this by simply scraping the peel. If you don’t have one, you can use a fine grater to shave off some small pieces. I also used fresh squeezed orange juice. This isn’t mandatory, but if you have reamer/juicer I recommend it. The only oranges I had when I baked this cake were clementines, which are just mandarin oranges grown in California. They worked fine and I don’t think the type of orange matters that much for the frosting.
The frosting is just spread with a spatula. I used some additional canned mandarin oranges and a maraschino cherry to decorate the top of the cake after I frosted it. I’m not much of a cake decorator (I’m a cookie guy), but the fruit added some color and didn’t require any fancy frosting techniques.
Grandma's Orange Cake with Orange Buttercream Frosting
Delicious orange cake with orange buttercream frosting that uses no artificial colors or flavors, with optional vegan preparation instructions.
- 11 oz can of mandarin oranges, drained
- 1 1/4 Cups Flour (Cake flour is ideal, but all purpose will work)
- 1 Cup sugar
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1 Egg (substitute 1 Tbs Bob’s Red Mill Egg Replacer and 2 Tbsp water to make this vegan)
- 6 Tbsp Butter (substitute margarine to make this vegan)
- 1 tsp orange zest
- 3 Cups sifted powdered sugar
- 1/4 Cup Orange juice
- Preheat oven to 350° F
- Place Flour, sugar, salt, baking soda, egg and oranges in a large bowl.
- Beat with an electric mixer until everything is well combined and you see no large pieces of orange remaining.
- Pour into a greased 9 inch cake pan.
- Bake for 30-35 minutes. Cake is done when a knife or toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean (no batter sticking to it).
- Place cake on wire rack to cool. Cake should be room temperature before you frost it.
- Place butter, orange zest and about 1/4 of the powdered sugar in a medium bowl.
- Beat with the whisk/whip attachment of an electric mixer until well combined.
- Alternate adding small amounts of the remaining sugar and orange juice slowly, mixing in between each addition. Continue until all of the sugar and juice have been added. Continue beating with the mixer until the frosting is light and fluffy.
- Spread the icing over your cake with a spatula or apply with a piping bag.
I used additional orange slices and maraschino cherries to decorate this cake for a bright, fruity dessert.