This homemade, bake-from-scratch orange cake recipe is one of my best recipes. It is adapted from my pound cake recipe and has a refreshingly rich, citrus flavor from fresh orange juice and grated orange zest.
This orange cake has a moist and firm texture, making it most suitable for stacking and even carving. It is perfect for birthdays and weddings!
A true and tried homemade recipe, I have baked this moist orange cake so many times and have perfected the recipe for various cake tin sizes. All you need to do is just follow the cake tin guides in my recipe card below to bake the best orange cake everyone is going to rave about!
Seen on this page is the image of the cake baked into a layer cake, filled and frosted with orange buttercream frosting and decorated with homemade candied orange peel.
How to make the orange cake
- Self raising flour + baking powder + salt
- Castor sugar
- Butter (at room temperature)
- Eggs (at room temperature)
- Freshly squeezed orange juice + orange zest
Frosting & decoration
Step by step method
Start by grating the zest of the oranges and setting it aside. And then cut the oranges and squeeze the juice into a measuring cup. Set aside.
- Place butter and sugar in a medium-sized bowl. Beat both until they turn light and fluffy. This should take a good 2 minutes (scrape the sides of the bowl at least twice).
- Next, add the eggs. These should be added one at a time, making sure they are well incorporated before adding more. Scrape the sides of the bowl.
- Sift the flour, baking powder and salt into a bowl. Fold in the flour into the creamed mixture in 3 batches.
- Alternate each batch with the orange juice, staring and ending with flour.
- And finally, fold in the grated orange zest..
- Pour the orange cake batter into 2 well greased and lined cake tins. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the centers come out without any wet batter sticking to it. A few moist crumbs is fine. Remove the cakes from the oven and cool completely before frosting.
Frosting the moist orange cake
This moist orange layer cake goes very well with buttercream frosting or cream cheese frosting. It will also match perfectly with any chocolate-based icings like chocolate ganache or chocolate icing. I chose to frost mine with orange zest buttercream made entirely with shortening (instead of butter). This is why you can see that the buttercream is white instead of the normal pale yellow color of buttercream. The shortening can always be substituted with butter. See my buttercream recipe here.
I decorated the orange cake with a simple buttercream design and homemade candied orange peels.
Decorating the cake with simple palette knife design
- To start the orange cake decoration, prepare your buttercream. Sandwich the cake layers with buttercream and give the stacked cake layers a crumb coat. Refrigerate until firm, about 15 minutes.
- Apply a second layer of buttercream, this time a thicker coating. At this stage, the buttercream layer does not have to be entirely smooth on the cake. Suffice if it is generally well coated as shown above.
- To make the horizontal lines on the cake, I used a palette knife. You can also use a jam knife that has a rounded end. Place the cake on a turntable and start by placing your knife at the base of the cake. The knife should be touching the buttercream but only lightly.
- The next step requires you to use both hands. One to turn the turntable while the other hand to hold the knife and gently move it up the sides of the cake, marking the horizontal lines pattern on the sides of the cake as you turn the turntable. You don't have to lift the knife. Just continue moving the knife in a slightly slanted horizontal position as you move it up the sides of the cake. In marking the lines, make sure they are close to one another. They should not be overlapping and not too far apart that there is a gap between each line. The lines look the best when the width is consistent all around.
- Also, when marking the lines, there could be bulges of icing that are formed along the horizontal lines as shown above.
- To remove them, use your knife to gently scrape them off. Redo the horizontal line if necessary.
- Next is the cake top. Make similar lines in a circular pattern on the cake top, starting from the sides to the center.
- Once that is done, clean the sides of your cake board of any icing marks.
Adding the candied orange peels decoration
- Prepare the candied orange peels in advance.
- Arrange them on top of the cake as shown. Press them down lightly with the back of a spoon so that they get attached to the icing.
- For the cake border, arrange a single layer of the candied fruit peel all around the base. Press them lightly into the icing so that they remain in place.
- And that's pretty much how I decorated the orange layer cake with orange flavored buttercream and homemade candied peels. A simple orange cake design for birthdays and even weddings.
Make sure your cake tins are well greased and lined
- This may sound unimportant, but trust me, nothing is more frustrating than having a beautifully baked cake stuck to the cake tin. I normally prepare my cake tins by applying a layer of shortening and then dusting with flour.
- This helps release the cakes very quickly from the tins, but it is important for every nook and corner of the cake tin to be well greased or there is a high chance for parts of the cake to be stuck to the tin at the not-so-well greased parts. You can also line your tins with parchment paper, the choice is up to you so long as your cake tins are well prepared. You can see the many ways of lining cake tins in my post here.
Measure your ingredients accurately
- It is always important that all the ingredients in the recipe are measured accurately for consistent results every time. My recipes are all provided in imperial measurements instead of metrics measurement. I personally find it hard to measure accurately with cups and so prefer to use a kitchen scale.
Use good quality ingredients and fresh oranges
- The main ingredients for this orange layer cake are self-raising flour, sugar, butter, eggs, and orange. To these, I add baking powder and orange juice to help with the texture and size of the cake. This orange cake uses my pound cake as the basis and as with any butter cakes, the quality of butter used plays an important role in the final taste of the cake. It is therefore really worth the cost to use good quality butter in making this cake.
- I use the salted in the recipe and in fact, use salted butter for all my other recipes as well. This is why you will notice that the amount of salt added separately in the recipe is rather little. If you prefer to use the unsalted, it is perfectly alright too, but you would need to increase the amount of salt you add separately to the cake batter.
Use unwaxed oranges
- The other most important ingredient in this cake is off course the oranges. Use fresh, un-waxed oranges. Fresh oranges give better citrus flavor to the cake and un-waxed ones are very important as you don’t want waxed orange rind in your cakes! Orange rind is basically the thin orange layer on the skin of an orange. When taking the rind, you can use a grater to grate only the orange part of the skin. The white layer underneath the orange layer is bitter and you would definitely want to avoid grating that into your cake.
- If you don’t have a grater, use a sharp knife to slice the orange skin layer of the fruit (carefully avoiding the white layer underneath) and then chop it up into tiny bits with a knife. As for the orange juice in the recipe, always use freshly squeezed orange juice. You can add the pulps in as well but be sure to avoid the seeds! It's always easier to grate an orange before squeezing out its juice, so be sure to process your oranges in this order.
Cream the butter and sugar well and fold in the flour
- When creaming the butter and sugar at the start of making this orange layer cake, it is important that these 2 ingredients are well beaten. For the recipe measurement given in my recipe card below, you should cream these for at least 2 minutes in order for them to reach the right level of ‘light and fluffiness’. Larger cakes would require a longer creaming time and you would need to adjust the timing accordingly.
Add the flour and liquid alternately
- The other point to pay attention to is the process of adding the flour and liquids to your cake. Always fold in the flour into the batter rather than beating it in. And do it in small portions. For smaller cakes, I portion my flour into 3 and the orange juice into 2. I start with one portion of flour, fold it into the creamed mixture, and then add the first portion of the juice. Once well combined, I add in the second portion of the flour followed by the last portion of the juice and complete the process with the 3rd and last portion of flour.
- For larger cakes, I portion my flour and juice into more parts so that the ingredients are well combined every time I add them to the cake batter. It may not be practical to fold the flour by hand for large cakes, and if you prefer to use a cake mixer, make sure it is at its utmost minimum speed and you do not mix the batter too long. Suffice if the flour and liquids are incorporated.
Constantly scrap the sides of your mixing bowl
- When mixing the batter, right from the point where you cream your butter and sugar, always scrap the sides of your bowl frequently. This will ensure the ingredients are well mixed and your cake batter is all smooth and even.
Butter and eggs should be at room temperature
- Always make sure your butter and eggs are at room temperature. Sometimes, the creamed butter and sugar mixture tend to curdle with the addition of eggs. If either the eggs or the butter is cold, your cake batter will tend to curdle. If both are of the same temperature, this is unlikely to happen, however, since butter needs to be softened at room temperature to cream it properly, curdling will tend to happen when the eggs are cold.
- To prevent this, make sure your eggs are also at room temperature. If at all your cake batter still curdles, do not worry. Add some flour and mix until it is no longer curdled and bake your cake as usual.
If you wish to double or triple this easy orange cake recipe, follow the tin size guide I have provided in the recipe card
- Each calculated recipe produces 2 layers of orange cake that measure approximately 2 inches high each. It is advisable to not bake all the batter in one cake tin as the cake would take much longer to bake in the middle causing the sides to be dry.
- Also, if you intend to make cakes larger than 10 inches in diameter, it is highly advisable to use cake strips or a heating core. These will prevent the sides of the cakes from drying out due to longer baking time for larger cakes. See my post here on how to achieve leveled cakes to learn more about using cake strips and heating cores.
Don’t over bake the cakes
- Baking time is another very important success factor for this orange layer cake recipe. If you want a soft, fluffy, and moist cake, avoid over baking. Place the cake on the 3rd rack in your oven and check if the cake is done at least 5 to 10 minutes before the baking time is up by inserting a long skewer in the center of the cake.
- If the skewer comes out without any wet batter sticking to it, the cake is done and can be removed from the oven. Ideally, there should be soft cake crumbs sticking to your skewer. If the skewer comes out totally clean, the cake could have been over cooked. Also, when the cake is done, the sides will pull away from the tin.
Storing the orange cake
- This moist orange cake can be served on the very same day it is baked, even while it is still warm (without any frosting). It is also equally good when baked in advance and stored in the fridge until it is ready for use, within one week.
- To store the cake in the fridge, wrap it tightly with cling wrap while it is still warm and refrigerate. Wrapping while still warm locks and distributes the moisture in the cake, making in soft and moist after refrigeration. When you need to use it, remove the cake from the fridge and with the cling wrap still intact, let it warm up to room temperature. Remove the wrapping only after the cake has reached room temperature to prevent condensation on the cake which can reduce its shelf life.
- Leftovers of this cake can be stored at room temperature for a good 4 to 5 days provided it is handled without any moisture. The leftovers can last up to one week if refrigerated. If you wish to use this cake for carving, the cake is best left to rest for at least one day after baking for the texture to stabilize for easy carving with fewer crumbs.
Other posts you might want to check out
- Orange Peel Candy - How to Make Candied Peels
- Chocolate Covered Orange - Quick and Easy Treats Idea
- Orange Chocolate Cupcaeks with Candied Ginger
- Orange Popsicles - Refreshing Homemade Treats
- Candied Lemon Peel - How to Make
Orange Cake with Fresh Orange Juice & Zest (the BEST ever!)
- 360 g self raising flour
- 330 g castor sugar
- 360 g butter at room temperature
- 6 eggs at room temperature
- 90 ml freshly squeezed orange juice
- 4 oranges grated rind only
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¾ teaspoon baking powder
- 300 g shortening
- 600 g icing sugar
- 1 teaspoon orange zest grated
- Candied Orange Peel
- Preheat oven to 170 °Celsius.
- Beat butter and sugar till soft and creamy.
- Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
- In a separate bowl, sift flour, baking powder, and salt. Fold in the sifted ingredients into the creamed mixture alternately with orange juice, starting and ending with flour.
- Finally, add in grated orange zest and combine well. Pour batter into two greased and floured cake tins of the same size and bake for 45 to 50 minutes until a skewer inserted in the center of the cakes comes out clean.
- Baking time for larger cakes may be slightly longer than smaller ones. Use a skewer to check that your cakes have cooked completely. Your cakes are also done when they start to separate from the sides of the cake tins and the top of the cakes spring back when lightly pressed with finger.
- Remove cakes from oven and let them cool completely before decorating.
- Baking time may vary slightly for larger cakes.
- To make the buttercream, add shortening into a large bowl. Beat until creamy.
- Add icing sugar in 2 batches. Beat until the buttercream turns fluffy. Add grated orange zest and beat for another 30 seconds until well mixed.
- Fill the cake layers with buttercream and use the remaining to cover the top and sides of the cake.
- Decorate with candied orange peel.
Calculated Tin Sizes9 inches round/ 8 inches square (makes 2 layers of 2 inch high cakes)
- 600 g butter
- 550 g castor sugar
- 600 g self-raising flour
- 10 eggs
- Grated zest of 6 oranges
- 150 freshly squeezed orange juice
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 ¼ teaspoon baking powder
- 840 g butter
- 770 g castor sugar
- 840 g self-raising flour
- 14 eggs
- Grated zest of 9 oranges
- 210 ml freshly squeezed orange juice
- ¾ teaspoon salt
- 1 ¾ teaspoon baking powder
- 1200 g butter
- 1100 g castor sugar
- 1200 g self-raising flour
- 20 eggs
- Grated zest of 13 oranges
- 300 ml freshly squeezed orange juice
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 ½ teaspoon baking powder
And that is pretty much my super easy and super moist orange cake recipe.
Happy baking 🙂