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This Super-Simple Orange Cake has a Kooky, Genius Secret Ingredient

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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.

Sunset's Whole Orange Cake
Sunset's Whole Orange Cake

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.)

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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.

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.

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Sunset's Whole Orange Cake

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Serves 12
  • 2 sticks (225g) unsalted butter, softened, plus more for the pan
  • 1 1/4 cups (250g) sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 oranges (about 1 pound/450g), ends trimmed, then cut into chunks and seeds removed
  • 2 1/2 cups (315g) all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 1/2 cups (185g) confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon freshly squeezed orange juice, from half an orange
Go to Recipe

Photos by Bobbi Lin

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!