Genius Recipes

A Simple, Citrusy Cake With a Genius Secret Ingredient

Hope you like Vitamin C.

January 17, 2018

For all of us who can't get enough of juicy-sweet citrus season, there is a cake for us. I don't think we could make a brighter, moister, more deliciously-riddled-with-orange cake if we tried.

You might be thinking this is one of the genius breed of cakes made with whole citrus boiled for hours to make a custard-like, gluten-free base. (I included Claudia Roden’s famous three-ingredient Orange & Almond Cake in the original Genius Recipes cookbook, and Nigella Lawson is known for a couple with clementines.)

It’s not! This one doesn’t bother with the boiling at all. Instead, you toss fresh chunks of orange—skin, pith, and juicy flesh—right in the food processor and blitz till only tiny flecks of skin remain. In this way, it has more in common with cult favorite Lazy Mary's Lemon Tart, whose filling comes from a whole Meyer lemon pummeled in a blender. I just never expected a comparatively burly orange to be so forgiving.

I discovered this lovely recipe after following the trail of bread crumbs from Food52er hardlikearmour's winning riff with five spice streusel back to Sunset Magazine and recipe developer Stephanie Spencer. Everyone I've served it to has quickly fallen in love.

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After mixing the pulpy orange slush into the batter, the cake that comes out is incredibly moist (and gets more so by the day), with a flavor that’s marmalade-like but brighter, for people who prefer a bit of bitterness and complexity to straight sweet. For any who don’t, the glaze is a good distraction.

Photos by Bobbi Lin

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Top Comment:
“The technique of adding finely chopped a whole orange to a cake batter dates at least back to the 1950 Pillsbury Bakeoff First Prize for what was called the Orange Kiss Me Cake. The batter also contained chopped walnuts and raisins and was finished off with an orange juice glaze. ”
— Deborah M.

Got a genius recipe to share—from a classic cookbook, an online source, or anywhere, really? Please send it my way (and tell me what's so smart about it) at [email protected]—thank you to Food52er hardlikearmour for showing me the light on this one!

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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Neeta Pradhan
    Neeta Pradhan
  • mary
  • NGS
  • Liz
  • Elizabeth Irwin Harrison
    Elizabeth Irwin Harrison
I'm an ex-economist, lifelong-Californian who moved to New York to work in food media in 2007, before returning to the land of Dutch Crunch bread and tri-tip barbecues in 2020. Dodgy career choices aside, I can't help but apply the rational tendencies of my former life to things like: recipe tweaking, digging up obscure facts about pizza, and deciding how many pastries to put in my purse for "later."


Neeta P. March 30, 2021
Couldn’t agree with you more ! It’s the best recipe and most delicious orange cake I’ve ever tasted. Thanks for sharing
mary February 16, 2019
Made this with two Sumo oranges and it is fabulous. I feared an underlying bitterness but it was just very orangey!
NGS December 20, 2018
How would you adjust to make mini bunts? (In a 6 mini-bunds pan)
Liz December 20, 2018
I have a similar recipe that calls for clementines (The Secret Life of Walter Mitty), but the clems are cooked whole before whirring in the food processor.

For the record, I DO cream by hand. My secret is ambidexterity. ;)
Elizabeth I. January 18, 2018
My favourite muffins are orange date blender muffins (or food processor) where you chop dates and a whole orange into rubble and then make them into muffins. My version is from Canadian Living, but there are others if you search online.
Michelle M. January 17, 2018
Hmmmm...I have a fridge full of grapefruit. Wonder if I could throw a couple of those in instead. Any thoughts on that, internet community?
James P. January 28, 2020
The Brown Derby Restaurant in Hollywood (no longer there), is famous for their grapefruit cake. Their recipe is online.
Dana P. January 17, 2018
Have you ever tried it with dark chocolate chips?
maiolicagirl January 17, 2018
There are lots of recipes out there for Italian style whole orange cake using almond meal or cornmeal instead of flour and olive oil instead of butter. Sometimes I substitute 1of the oranges with a Seville orange for extra butterness.
maiolicagirl January 17, 2018
That would be bitterness not butterness :)
ctgal January 17, 2018
If you have any recipes like that, I'd love to read them. G.f. but managing!
maiolicagirl January 17, 2018
Give me a few days to get it together!
Sally May 24, 2018
try Claudia Roden's orange and almond cake! (if you google it there are a bunch of sites with the recipe, including NY Times and Guardian.) I think it's from her Middle Eastern cooking book. It's almond flour and gluten free.
ctgal June 6, 2018
Thanks! I just pulled it up and will make it soon, I hope.
Rebelo January 17, 2018
This is very similar to a Blood Orange cake in Paul Bertoli's 'Cooking by Hand'. The blood oranges add a great deal to the flavor—and the color is beautiful.
maiolicagirl January 17, 2018
Love that book.
suzanne January 17, 2018
Made this last weekend and LOVED it. My guests did too. Not too sweet, dense yet moist. Refreshing. I used two navel oranges. I pulled the recipe from Sunset magazine a while ago and their recipe page talks about California navel oranges. I could eat this every day.
NancyK January 17, 2018
Gluten free????
Eugenia V. January 17, 2018
Since the type of orange isn't specified, could I use some of the many blood oranges currently hanging on my tree?
Suzanne T. January 17, 2018
I’ve made this cake and I don’t see why blood oranges wouldn’t work. The color would be nice for Valentines Day, too!
kfminga January 17, 2018
I used a very similar recipe on one of my brunch menus years ago, but instead of putting it a bundt cake mold, we put it in tea cake molds so every diner could get an individual little orange cake with breakfast. Awesome with a little butter or double down and throw some marmalade on there!
anna January 17, 2018
I hope you can tweak the recipe to make it gluten-free and dairy-free. Thx.
anna January 17, 2018
I hope you can tweak the recipe to make it gluten-free and dairy-free. Thx.
Deborah M. January 17, 2018
Grace, you won't be disappointed...
Grace D. January 17, 2018
I remember making this cake during the 1980's. The recipe was in the Seattle Post Intelligencer. It was good back then. I think it is time for a revisit!
lisa January 17, 2018
thank you! I am definitely going to make this, kooky ingredient or not!
Deborah M. January 17, 2018
The technique of adding finely chopped a whole orange to a cake batter dates at least back to the 1950 Pillsbury Bakeoff First Prize for what was called the Orange Kiss Me Cake. The batter also contained chopped walnuts and raisins and was finished off with an orange juice glaze.
Valerie R. January 17, 2018
My mom used to make the cake you describe (I'm a child of the 60s)! It is one of my favorites - such good memories. I'll definitely give this recipe a try, too.
Lynn C. January 17, 2018
I remember the Kiss Me Cake very well! It was probably my family's favorite dessert!
lisa January 17, 2018
This sounds amazing. But what's the kooky secret ingredient?
Lea January 17, 2018
The whole orange🤓
Gail R. December 23, 2018
That’s what I wondered! The orange seems like the least kooky ingredient in an orange cake, but that’s just me.