Do you ever get inspired by yourself? Because I think it happened to me for the first time a couple weeks ago when I hopped back into the cake world and whipped up this carrot cake for a coworker’s husband. Like I mentioned in that post, and here and also here, I’m not sure that I’ll ever be sharing my beloved carrot cake recipe, but I will gladly bake it for anyone who ever wants to try it!
Some things just need to stay secrets… 😏
Anyway, the self-spiration. It came from that picture. I really wish I had the photography skills I have now back when I was baking cakes, because some of those pictures taken in my poorly-lit living room apartment with my phone or a point-and-shoot digital camera (yikes and more yikes) are not good, people. Thanks for still asking me to make cakes even though I was really bad at photographing them.
Moving right along…
After that, I knew I needed to make another cake for the blog. It’s been too long! I made a cookie cake for my 30th birthday last year, but it was over a year before that that I brought you my first layer cake, my tried and true chocolate cake. Does a sheet cake count? Even if it does, it was time for another layer cake. For sure.
I wanted to make something spring-y for Easter, and I knew I had some leftover orange marmalade from these fancy little things, so it was settled: some kind of orange cake. Bring on the sunshine!
Remember when I made cupcakes for my BIL’s wedding? And then talked about how some of those cupcakes were blueberry lemon, but I totally failed at blueberry buttercream for a summer blog post? Yeah. That cupcake recipe needs to make it on the blog STAT. But until it does, this cake is almost identical to that cupcake base (obviously without blueberries) with just a couple tweaks to involve plenty of orange and lots and lots of crannies (not these kinds of crannies) for orange zest.
This cake is really, really easy. No fancy ingredients, nothing you can’t handle, and plenty of flavor and impressability (is that a word?) to turn you into a fabulous cake baker. So let’s break it down:
You’ll start by creaming together butter, sugar, and some orange marmalade. Butter + sugar is a pretty standard start to a cake, but I add in the orange marmalade here to help bring out ultra orange flavor. All that creaming with the orange zest really does something fancy to that base!
Next up, 4 large eggs, at room temperature. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it a million times again: room temperature eggs are always the better choice when working with room temperature butter. They incorporate much more easily into your batter. Don’t have time to let them come to room temp? No problem. Stick them in a bowl of warm water for about 10-15 minutes. They’ll be ready in no time!
You’ll add each egg in separately and beat it into the creamed butter/sugar/marmalade. A hefty dose of vanilla extract and some additional orange zest are added to the party to really amp up the creamsicle flavor.
Lastly, you’re going to add your flour/baking powder/salt mixture and a milk/orange juice combo. The most important step here is to alternate additions of each. You’ll start by adding about half of the flour mixture then about half of the liquid. Repeat again until everything has been added.
Why do we do this?
Great question! Nerd alert:
Since the base of this cake is quite buttery and also contains marmalade and a whole 4 eggs, it’s quite wet. You can only add so much more liquid to this mixture before it just can’t absorb any more. It’s likely to separate if there’s too much liquid introduced into this wet base before there’s anything there to help absorb it. If we start with a little bit of flour, we have a bit more of a vehicle for adding more liquid. I have made this cake (and into cupcakes) several ways, and I always find the lightest crumb with my alternating additions method. This isn’t always the method when it comes to making a cake, but the ratios in this batter benefit from it.
Nerd alert over! Did I lose ya? Let’s get back to less nerdy cake business.
Your cakes will only take about 25ish minutes in the oven. Not long at all! And while we’re talking about baking those beautiful layers, I have to give a little shoutout to one of my favorite cake baking products to ever exist: Wilton’s Cake Release.
I have been using this from day 2 of scratch cake baking. Day 1? I greased and floured. I just do not love that method. I swear by this cake release, and I urge you to try it. Your cakes will literally fall out of your pans, leaving behind little to no crumbs. Easy peasy removal + no chunks of cake missing? Pshh, yes please! You may have no problem with the grease and flour method, and in that case, please… Carry on! Just know that this is my tried and true.
After the cake comes the creamiest, orangiest, heavenliest cream cheese frosting that ever existed. Ohhhhh my goodness, friends. I had to stop myself from eating all of the leftover frosting. And by “stop myself,” I mean I had to throw it away, because I was on my way to eating it with a spoon. Seriously. That’s not even a #pregnantproblem. That’s just a #frostingtoogoodproblem.
Nothing too crazy here either: a stick of butter, a block of cream cheese, some powdered sugar, orange zest, a touch of vanilla, and a little splash of orange juice. If you’re not so much into all that extra orange flavor (you cray!), feel free to leave out the added zest and/or replace the orange juice with milk or cream. Whatever your tastebuds are feeling works just fine.
Once your cakes are completely cool, you’re ready to assemble. If you’ve never assembled a layer cake before, please do not be intimidated. It’s not as daunting as it may seem.
I always start by leveling my cakes. You can do this with a serrated knife (not my favorite way) or a cake leveler. I have used this cake leveler since I began baking cakes. It is adjustable, durable, and it doesn’t take up a lot of space. And it’s super inexpensive. It makes leveling cakes a cinch, and I prefer it to a knife a million times over.
Once you’re leveled, place one layer on a cake stand or serving plate, spread a decent amount of frosting evenly on top, place the second level (cut side down) on top of that, and refrigerate for about 10 minutes. I like to chill the whole cake before I frost the entire thing because it sturdies everything up a bit. Otherwise, I find that things can start to slide and then it’s all kinds of messy. Feel free to refrigerate for longer, especially if you have the time!
Spread the remaining frosting on the top and all around the sides, pop in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes to allow everything to set, and you are ready to serve up the most delightful little orange creamsicle cake your tastebuds ever laid tastes on (what?).
I made this cake twice during Easter week: once for Easter brunch and another one later in the week because I just needed to try a couple tweaks. I took a small 6″ cake into work one day, left it in the kitchen, and it was gone within an hour. And of course, I was asked for the recipe from a handful of people that day who just could not wait for the recipe to be up on the blog!
Each bite of this orange creamsicle cake is filled with a burst of orange flavor, a soft, moist crumb, and surrounded by luscious cream cheese frosting that adds just the perfect amount of additional orange flavor to categorize this cake as “dreamy.”
Not too fancy, not too difficult, and sure to dazzle anyone who tries it! It’s perfect for spring or summer, but let’s be honest, there’s never a bad time for orange, especially when it comes in the form of cake that reminds you of that childhood popsicle you could never get enough of.
Give it a try! I can almost guarantee you’ll be impressing yourself (and your friends) in no time!
- 3 cups all-purpose flour (measured properly)
- 4 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
- 1 and ¼ cup granulated sugar
- ½ cup orange marmalade
- 4 large eggs, room temperature*
- 3 teaspoons vanilla extract
- Zest and juice of 2 large navel oranges (reserve ½ Tablespoon juice for frosting)**
- ¾ cup milk
- ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
- 8 ounces (1 block) cream cheese***
- 2 cups powdered sugar
- Zest of ½ a large navel orange
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Grease and flour (or use Wilton's Cake Release) two 8" round baking pans. Set aside.
- In a medium size bowl, toss together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
- In a large bowl with a handheld mixer or the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter, sugar, and orange marmalade on medium-high speed until light and fluffy (about 3 minutes). Add each egg, one at a time, beating on medium-high speed until fully incorporated, scraping down the sides as necessary. Add the vanilla extract and orange zest and beat again until combined.
- Stir the orange juice into the milk. Scrape down the sides of the mixer bowl and turn the mixer speed to low. Add the flour in 2 additions, alternating with the milk/orange juice. Remove bowl from mixer and stir with a spatula until everything is completely combined.
- Spoon batter evenly into prepared pans and bake 23-26 minutes or until lightly browned on top and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely before assembling.
- In a medium size bowl with a handheld mixer or in the bowl of stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter and cream cheese on medium speed until no lumps remain (about 3 minutes).
- Decrease mixer speed to low. Add powdered sugar, orange zest, vanilla extract, and reserved orange juice. Increase mixer speed to to high and beat until completely combined (approximately 2-3 minutes).
- Trim cooled cake layers to create a flat surface. You can do this with a large serrated knife or a cake leveler. Place one layer on a plate or cake stand and cover the top with cream cheese frosting. Spread evenly with an offset spatula.
- Place second layer on top, cut surface down. For a sturdier cake, refrigerate at this point for about 10 minutes. When cake is slightly chilled, remove from refrigerator and spread more frosting on the top and around the sides. Refrigerate frosted cake at least 30 minutes before cutting so cake and frosting can set completely. Leftovers stay fresh, covered tightly, at room temperature up to 3 days and in the refrigerator up to 5 days.
- Make ahead: prepare cakes and frosting up to 1 day in advance. Cover cakes tightly and keep at room temperature or in the refrigerator until ready to assemble. Refrigerate prepared frosting in an airtight container until ready to use. Unfrosted cake layers may be frozen, wrapped tightly, up to 2 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator before assembling. Frosted cake can be frozen, wrapped tightly, up to 2 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator and bring to room temperature before serving.
**Approximately ¼ cup juice from each orange, for a total of about ½ cup for the entire cake batter recipe.
***Full-fat cream cheese is best.
This recipe also fits in a bundt pan. Bake time is approximately 40 minutes. Top with a simple glaze or half the recipe of the orange cream cheese buttercream.
Can’t get enough orange? Try my Orange Poppy Seed Scones next!