Orange Upside-Down Sheet Cake

February 18, 2019
7 Ratings
Photo by Julia Gartland
  • Prep time 25 minutes
  • Cook time 40 minutes
  • Makes one 9x13-inch cake
Author Notes

I love making upside-down cakes—they’re ripe for riffing on (pun fully intended). You can really make them all year long, tweaking with the seasons, which is how this orange sheet cake version came about. Citrus fruits are particularly versatile in this application. You can remove the peel and pith, or use the whole fruit. You can slice, or segment, or chop the fruit to achieve different results. When citrus is in season, I’m always so impressed with the color spectrum, so I used quartered pieces of peeled oranges: tangerines, mandarins, cara cara, blood oranges, clementines—they all work on their own, or in any combination. Using different-colored pieces makes a sort of mosaic effect when the cake is unmolded that’s as beautiful as it is delicious. —Erin Jeanne McDowell

Test Kitchen Notes

Featured in: A Citrus Upside-Down Sheet Cake for the Final Days of Winter. —The Editors

What You'll Need
  • Preparing the pan
  • 4 to 5 (about 450g) oranges (I used a combination of tangerines, cara cara oranges, and blood oranges)
  • 6 tablespoons (85g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup (109g) light brown sugar
  • Cake
  • 12 tablespoons (170g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup (150g) granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup (71g) light brown sugar
  • 3 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 cups (241g) all-purpose flour
  • 1 3/4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 cup (240g) plain yogurt
  • Whipped cream, for serving
  1. Prepare the pan: Use a knife to cut around the fruit to remove the peel and pith of the oranges. Slice all of the fruits into 1/2-inch thick slices. Cut each slice into quarters.
  2. Use the butter to generously grease a 9x13-inch baking pan—be especially generous with the bottom and corners of the pan. (It may feel like a lot of butter—even too much—but trust in the goodness of butter! It plays an important role here.) Sprinkle the brown sugar evenly over the base of the pan. Arrange the fruit in an even layer on top of the sugar—pack it quite tightly so that the whole base is evenly covered.
  3. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Make the cake batter: in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter, sugar, and brown sugar until light and fluffy, 4 to 5 minutes.
  4. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing until well incorporated, and scraping the bowl after each addition. Add the vanilla extract and mix to combine.
  5. In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together to combine. Add about half of the mixture to the mixer and mix to incorporate. Add half of the yogurt, and mix to combine. Repeat until all of the flour mixture and the yogurt are incorporated.
  6. Dollop the batter all over the pan, and use a small offset spatula to spread into an even layer—it should be pretty easy, but take care not to disturb the oranges underneath.
  7. Bake the cake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes. Let the cake cool for 15 minutes inside the pan, then run a small offset spatula around the outside edge. Flip the cake onto a cooling rack set on top of a baking sheet (it may have some excess juices that run off). Cool completely, then serve with whipped cream.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Ann Quinn
    Ann Quinn
  • Erin Jeanne McDowell
    Erin Jeanne McDowell
  • lisa
  • Sarah
I always have three kinds of hot sauce in my purse. I have a soft spot for making people their favorite dessert, especially if it's wrapped in a pastry crust. My newest cookbook, Savory Baking, came out in Fall of 2022 - is full of recipes to translate a love of baking into recipes for breakfast, dinner, and everything in between!

6 Reviews

lisa March 22, 2019
Do you think it would be fine to add some grapefruit? It is so good this season.
Sarah March 3, 2019
I looove citrus cakes and this looks stunning! Would the it bake ok if I add orange zest and orange segments to the batter?
Ann Q. March 5, 2019
OK, I haven't made the cake yet, but YES! If you love orange zest like I do! Orange segments are a little more fringe and seem superfluous with all the orange underneath--I would save that for an experiment, like in banana bread.
Sarah March 7, 2019
Thanks for the feedback Ann! I’ll start off with just adding zest. I’m not usually a dessert person, but this recipe really grabbed my interest.
Ann @. February 22, 2019
I would love to see a photo of this cake when plated. I'm assuming that the oranges are sliced across the sections, and then quartered. Do you use the all the end pieces or when arranging do you go for a uniform patterned look? It's not clear to me how orange slices will bake up under batter. Thanks!
Erin J. February 25, 2019
Hi Ann - now that the article is live, we’ve uploaded photos - hope they help!