Sunset's Whole Orange Cake

January 17, 2018

Test Kitchen-Approved

Author Notes: In this spunky citrus cake, you chuck fresh chunks of orange—skin, pith, and juicy flesh—right in the food processor and blitz till only tiny flecks of skin remain. After mixing this 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. And for those who don’t, the glaze is a good distraction. Recipe adapted from Sunset Magazine and Stephanie Spencer.Genius Recipes

Serves: 12
Prep time: 30 min
Cook time: 1 hrs

Ingredients

  • 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
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder (see note)
  • 1 1/2 cups (185g) confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon freshly squeezed orange juice, from half an orange
In This Recipe

Directions

  1. Heat the oven to 325°F (165°C) with a rack positioned in the center. Butter a 10-cup (2.37L) Bundt pan very well. For extra insurance, dust the pan with flour or dry breadcrumbs. In a large bowl with an electric mixer on medium speed, beat the butter and sugar until fluffy. Beat in the eggs one by one.

  2. Pulse orange chunks in a food processor until mostly smooth but not completely puréed. Spoon out 1 1/2 cups (355ml) of the pulpy orange mixture and add to the batter, then beat until blended. Add the flour, salt, baking soda, and baking powder and beat just until smooth. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top.
  3. Bake until the cake is risen and firm to the touch, and a toothpick stuck in the middle comes out with just crumbs clinging, about 55 minutes. Cool the pan on a rack set over a rimmed baking sheet for 10 minutes, then invert the cake onto the rack and let cool completely.

  4. Whisk together powdered sugar and orange juice in a small bowl, then taste and adjust the consistency to taste (if you'd like it thicker, add more powdered sugar; thinner, add more orange juice). Once the cake is cool, spoon the glaze over the top. Let the glaze set, then slice cake and serve. Store any leftovers airtight at room temperature.
  5. Note: This recipe was originally published and tested in Sunset magazine and on Food52 with 1/2 teaspoon baking powder, but after consulting with an editor at Sunset, we upped the baking powder to 2 teaspoons for a more consistently lighter cake.

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Reviews (77) Questions (1)

77 Reviews

jennifer P. March 7, 2019
I made this in the fall and did not like it. I made it again today with the following adjustments: I used coconut oil instead of butter. I zested four oranges, removed the pith from three, and then finely diced them all instead of using the food processor. I threw the zest in with the sugar and fat and made everything super duper fluffy. In the end I ended up with an extra half orange, and used it as the juice in the glaze. I also tossed in an extra teaspoon of lime zest...just to punch up the citrus. The finished cake was so wonderful. The diced oranges give some more texture. I also used the coconut oil to grease the bunt pan, and the outer shell has a nice crunch. I also only used one cup of sugar for the glaze, and didn't use all that I made. Very pleased with this cake now. The coconut oil really adds to this.... Super yum
 
Elizabeth H. February 10, 2019
Excellent flavor, but quite dense. I added a bit of orange extract the second time I made it for even more intense orange flavor. Instead of an orange glaze, I made a simple chocolate glaze with cocoa and it was fabulous. Everyone loved it! I will try making muffins with this batter next. Thank you for sharing this genius recipe :)
 
Amy February 11, 2019
Chocolate glaze on this great cake...! I'm on my way back to the kitchen for another date with this wonderful recipe!
 
Bonnie B. February 3, 2019
For those who found the cake bitter, using less white pith sounds like a good idea. But weirdly enough, ACID is the answer. Some extra SALT is probably the answer. Salt counteracts bitterness much better than added sugar. Or lemon juice. It's science...
 
Jody January 27, 2019
I baked this cake last Sunday. I happened to be at Trader Joe's and they had Cara Cara oranges, which I had never tried. I used them for this cake and it was great! I always bake and take things to work so was a little hesitant about this one, so I baked it in two fancy bundt loaf pans so I could test it before taking to work and I was pleasantly surprised. For my first taste, I was a little on the fence, but the cake grew on me, and my coworkers and myself LOVED it!!! It was gone in 30 minutes and there are only 4 of us. Will definitely be baking this a lot.
 
Courtney January 20, 2019
Easy for a new cook but sophisticated flavor and presentation - made me look like a professional! Delish.
 
Paul M. January 14, 2019
Kristen, this ROCKS...
It even inspired me to add orange zest to my gingerbread snack cake... it Works too. Now, to make this without refined sugar; there's the next challenge!
 
Kristen M. January 15, 2019
Woo-hoo! Thanks, Paul—glad to hear it.
 
Carina January 12, 2019
Made this cake for a dinner party and it got rave reviews from all in attendance. I used blood oranges instead of navel oranges.
 
Jess H. January 18, 2019
I was thinking of doing the same! How many blood oranges did you use?
 
Bonnie B. February 3, 2019
I'd use the same "cup and a half".
 
junewl January 10, 2019
Made the cake today with oranges from my backyard navel orange tree. Went together beautifully and was easy to unmold after spraying/dusting pan with flour. Cake tasted flat, my oranges aren't bitter but no significant flavor. I'll review comments once more and decide whether to try it again.
 
Kristen M. January 13, 2019
Hi junewl, this is probably coming too late, but the flavor (and moisture) can come out more after a day, so I hope you liked it more after first tasting.
 
Bonnie B. February 3, 2019
Please see my comment above. I added as much as an additional TSP of salt (1/4 tsp at a time) and an additional TSP of lemon juice (1/4 tsp at a time). The oranges SANG. And you must TASTE the batter before baking, a finger-tip full won't hurt you. There's just no other way to know how sweet or acid your oranges are, unless you TASTE.
 
Mariah M. January 9, 2019
Made this cake today. Followed the recipe exactly, and it was perfect! Everyone loved it! We ate for dessert, but this cake would be perfect for brunch too!!
 
Areena January 1, 2019
This was horrible and I'm very confused by all the positive ratings. It was easy to put together and smelled divine in the oven, but the final cake was horribly bitter from the pith--that kind of bitter that sticks around in your mouth for a long time. I tried it both fresh and after a day in case the flavors mellowed over time. Then I threw it in the trash. I'll try one of those recipes that uses a whole, boiled orange before giving up on the whole orange concept altogether, but raw orange method was a disaster.
 
Kristen M. January 2, 2019
Hi Areena, I'm so sorry to hear this. Do you happen to remember what kind of orange you used? I haven't heard about such an extreme bitterness before.
 
donna January 13, 2019
The answer may lie in the fact that some people are 'super tasters' and are excessively sensitive to bitter items. If you dislike thinks like arugula, cilantro, tonic water etc this cake may be too much for your taste buds.
 
Bonnie B. February 3, 2019
You really have to taste your batter before baking. There's no other way to predict how sweet or acid your oranges are, without tasting the batter. Mine was bland, so I added additional sale and lemon juice. Go figure...
 
Susan M. December 30, 2018
This reminds me of the Orange Kiss Me Cake, a Pillsbury Bakeoff winner in the early 1950s. My mom always made this for picnics. Now when I make it I use organic Seville orangs.
 
FrugalCat December 29, 2018
Think this would work with a lemon or Key limes?
 
Kristen M. January 2, 2019
Hi FrugalCat—possibly, but you'd need to fiddle with the sugar, and the pith on both tends to be more bitter than on oranges. A couple commenters below used (sweet, not-very-bitter) Meyer lemons and increased the sugar by a couple tablespoons with success. If you decide to go for it, I'd consider a mix of sweet and tart citrus first, do a test run, and taste the puree before adding to try to balance it out.
 
Liz B. December 24, 2018
I made this tonight. It was perfectly light! I used the two teaspoons of baking powder and there were no issues with density. The navel oranges from my tree had really thick skins, so for 95% of my orange puree I used another commenter's suggestion and peeled the outermost layer off, then cut off the pith. This way there was still a hit of bitterness but it wasn't overwhelming. I also loved the suggestion of brushing the bundt pan with a mixture of melted butter and flour (1 tbsp of each); it lifted right out. I added some allspice dram to my glaze, but probably didn't use enough sugar - I thought it looked pretty thick but it just ran right off the cooled cake. Still tasted good though! I think next time I'l add some almond extract and maybe a little more salt; the orange is so intense, I think it needs a little something else.
 
Liz M. December 23, 2018
I liked the idea of this cake, but it was too dense for me. I would have liked it a bit lighter. Maybe I did something wrong:(
 
Kristen M. December 23, 2018
Hi Liz, sorry to hear it—did you make the recipe with 2 teaspoons of baking powder, or the original 1/2 teaspoon? If you did the latter, that's probably the culprit!
 
Liz M. December 23, 2018
I used the 2 teaspoons..
 
Kristen M. January 2, 2019
Ah, well, then that's probably not the culprit (unless your baking powder is losing its oomph and needs to be replaced). It is a little denser than, say, a yellow birthday cake, but the moistness makes up for it (and keeps improving after a day). I'm sorry to hear it disappointed.
 
Ameliorator May 6, 2018
For the record, the original recipe calls for a TABLESPOON of baking powder, and half a teaspoon of soda.
 
Juliebell May 6, 2018
Thank you for pointing that out. I made this cake and loved a lot about it but decided not to repeat due to the dense texture and I am not good with making adjustments to baked recipes. I’m going to make the original recipe and I think I’ll 😍
 
Kristen M. May 6, 2018
Hi Ameliorator, after discussing with an editor at Sunset magazine and retesting myself, I've updated the recipe to give a lighter option using 2 teaspoons baking powder. (I don't want to completely revise it for all the people who've made and liked it with 1/2 teaspoon!)
 
hillarywith2ls December 19, 2018
The original recipe I have from Sunset calls for 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder. Where are you seeing a tablespoon?
 
Ameliorator May 6, 2018
This recipe has roughly half the usual amount of leavening for a bundt cake, and the result definitely showed it--didn't rise much during the bake, and proceeded to collapse on itself as it cooled. No wonder people are saying it's dense. Was the recipe developed for high-altitude and disseminated in its current form by mistake? I like the idea of including the whole orange, and I like the flavor of the cake, but I feel strongly that it needs *at least* a full teaspoon of baking powder and a half teaspoon of soda.
 
Martha J. April 9, 2018
I made the cake this week and everyone thought it was delicious. Very dense texture as people have mentioned but I liked it that way (but I also thought I might have underbaked it slightly.) Very disappointed in the glaze though, it did not look at all as pictured and had a disappointing taste and texture. Has anyone tried it with frosting instead? Maybe cream cheese frosting would be good?
 
tranquility April 3, 2018
Made this today and while the taste was great (and I like using the whole fruit) the cake turned out way too dense for my liking (and I like dense cakes).
 
Liz D. February 25, 2018
Made this yesterday, with Meyer Lemons + 2T sugar in lieu of oranges, in a tube pan. VERY good! Funny thing was, in filing this away, I discovered that I'd torn the recipe out of the Sunset magazine, too. Obviously, it appealed to me!
 
Angela R. February 22, 2018
Would kumquats work. I have several pounds of freshly picked kumquats.