Mandarin Orange Cake from Scratch

Mandarin Orange Cake

Mandarin Orange Cake (aka “Pig Pickin’ Cake) is an unusual treat to serve with coffee, or as a fresh after-dinner dessert. Normally, you see Mandarin Orange Cake made with artificial whipped topping and a box cake mix, but this version is entirely from scratch, and comes in both regular and high-altitude versions. 

Why Mandarin Orange Cake?

Dwaine and I both love those Cuties you can buy at the store – the little Mandarin oranges in a mesh bag. Click here to learn how to select the best mandarins or clementines. Sometimes we can plow through a bag in a few days, but sometimes they sit in the crisper until I’m thinking they need to go away. And you all know how I hate waste.

After a bit of research, I found several ways to use them in baked goods. Of course, like strawberries, the problem in using oranges in baking is the excessive juice they produce. Too much liquid in baking causes all sorts of problems! But after putting my not-quite-a-chef’s-hat on, I found a solution.

Mandarin Orange Cake

I really wanted to try a cake, but of all the things you can make with oranges or mandarins, this is the most difficult. Plenty of recipes call for orange zest – the thin, aromatic orange layer of the fruit. But incorporating the actual orange itself proved problematic. That is, until I stumbled across a fruitcake recipe in my mom’s old Searchlight cookbook. Basically, their solution was to “embrace the moisture!” 

This Mandarin Orange Cake is a very moist cake, packed with fruit, and full of citrus “zing”, with the rather dense texture of a fruitcake. And after working out the proportions and the process, I found it quite easy to bake. There are just some changes to the way you need to check for doneness. 

Tips and Tricks to the Mandarin Orange Cake

This cake calls for crushed Mandarins – to about 1 1/3 cups. For me, that was about 8-10 peeled and sectioned oranges. Thankfully, mandarins peel so easily, that part was simple. Crushing them was another matter. At first I thought I could use a potato masher, but that proved to be a squirty mess! I switched to using my fingers, which proved tedious. So instead of crushing, I simply sliced them into small pieces with a chef’s knife. You want the sections broken apart into smaller chunks, but not totally shredded. 

Because of all the liquid that’s going to be released from the orange bits, this cake needs to be overleavened, and you’ll need to develop a bit of gluten by using at least 1/2 all-purpose flour versus 100% cake flour. The gluten will hold the cake’s shape upon baking. You certainly don’t want too much, so we will minimize the beating once the flour is added.

Baking the Mandarin Orange Cake

Normally, once a cake goes into the oven, you’ll see the top begin to dry and rise into a slight dome shape. You won’t see that with this cake. It will rise to about double, yes, but the top will appear moist throughout the baking cycle, so you need to pay attention once you hit the 20-minute mark. A toothpick test will not work – you need to use a finger test in order to check for doneness. And even though the cake still looks “wet” on top, it’s just the juice turning to a light syrup with the sugar. 

Serving the Mandarin Orange Cake

I frosted the cake with a light cream cheese frosting, mixed with leftover orange bits from the cake. But in the future, I would use an even lighter orange glaze to top the cake. For a traditional “Pig Pickin’ Cake” you need a whipped cream topping with pineapple, but the regular recipe requires the addition of frozen whipped “topping” and instant pudding mix, with all of that artificial nonsense, so I said “No, thanks.” 

My neighbors all enjoyed it very much, and I think you will, too.

Mandarin Orange Cake
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5 from 1 vote

Mandarin Orange Cake – Under 3,000 ft Altitude

Mandarin Orange Cake is an unusual treat to serve with coffee, or as a fresh after-dinner dessert. Normally, you see Mandarin Orange Cake made with artificial whipped topping and a box cake mix, but this version is entirely from scratch, and comes in both regular and high-altitude versions. 
Prep Time20 mins
Cook Time25 mins
Course: Cakes, Dessert
Cuisine: American
Keyword: Mandarin Orange Cake, Orange Cake
Servings: 12 Servings
Calories: 370kcal
Author: Don Herman

Ingredients

  • 1 cup Cake Flour optional. You may use 100% all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup All-Purpose Flour
  • 2 ¼ tsp Baking Powder
  • ½ tsp Salt
  • 1 cup Butter softened
  • 1 ½ cup Sugar
  • 5 lg Eggs 4 whole eggs and 1 egg yolk
  • 1 ⅓ cup Mandarin Oranges crushed
  • 1 ½ tsp Vanilla Extract

Instructions

  • Crush oranges until broken into small pieces, but not completely shredded. Measure 1 ⅓ cups and set aside.
    Crushed Mandarin Oranges
  • Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour 2 8" round pans, or one 13" X 9" baking pan
  • In a large bowl, whisk together the flour(s), baking powder and salt until thoroughly blended. Set aside.
  • In a mixing bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until fluffy. This is very important! Give it about 4 minutes on medium.
  • Beat in the eggs, oranges and vanilla, just until blended. Scrape the bowl and beater well.
  • Add the flour mixture to the wet mixture slowly, beating just until blended well. Scrape down the sides frequently.
  • Pour batter into baking pans and bake for 25-30 minutes. The tops will appear moist throughout baking, so use the finger test to check for doneness at about 23 minutes. The cake should feel firm and spring back to the touch, without leaving an indention.
  • Remove from oven and cool in pan for 20-30 minutes. Run a knife around the edge and invert to remove. Cool completely.
    Baked Mandarin Orange Cakes Cooling on Rack

Here is the high-altitude version:

Mandarin Orange Cake
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5 from 1 vote

Mandarin Orange Cake – 5,000-6,600 ft Altitude

Mandarin Orange Cake is an unusual treat to serve with coffee, or as a fresh after-dinner dessert. Normally, you see Mandarin Orange Cake made with artificial whipped topping and a box cake mix, but this version is entirely from scratch, and comes in both regular and high-altitude versions.
Prep Time20 mins
Cook Time25 mins
Course: Cakes, Dessert
Cuisine: American
Keyword: Mandarin Orange Cake, Orange Cake
Servings: 12 Servings
Calories: 370kcal
Author: Don Herman

Ingredients

  • 1 cup Cake Flour PLUS 2 tbsp optional. You may use 2 cups all-purpose flour.
  • 1 cup All-Purpose Flour
  • 1 ¼ tsp Baking Powder
  • ½ tsp Salt
  • 1 cup Butter softened
  • 1 ½ cup Sugar LESS 2 tbsp
  • 5 lg Eggs 4 whole eggs and 1 yolk
  • 1 ⅓ cup Mandarin Oranges crushed
  • 1 ½ tsp Vanilla Extract

Instructions

  • Crush oranges until broken into small pieces, but not completely shredded. Measure 1 ⅓ cups and set aside.
    Crushed Mandarin Oranges
  • Preheat oven to 365°F. Grease and flour 2 8" round pans, or one 13" X 9" baking pan
  • In a large bowl, whisk together the flour(s), baking powder and salt until thoroughly blended. Set aside.
  • In a mixing bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until fluffy. This is very important! Give it about 4 minutes on medium.
  • Beat in the eggs, oranges and vanilla, just until blended. Scrape the bowl and beater well.
  • Add the flour mixture to the wet mixture slowly, beating just until blended well. Scrape down the sides frequently.
  • Pour batter into baking pans and bake for 25-30 minutes. The tops will appear moist throughout baking, so use the finger test to check for doneness at about 23 minutes. The cake should feel firm and spring back to the touch, without leaving an indention.
  • Remove from oven and cool in pan for 20-30 minutes. Run a knife around the edge and invert to remove. Cool completely.
    Baked Mandarin Orange Cakes Cooling on Rack

I frosted my cake with a simple cream cheese frosting with some of the leftover orange bits added. You may want to try a simple orange glaze instead. Here are the recipes for both.

Print Recipe
5 from 1 vote

Mandarin Cream Cheese Frosting

Basic Cream Cheese Frosting
Prep Time15 mins
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Keyword: Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting
Servings: 12 Servings
Calories: 200kcal
Author: Don Herman

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup Butter Softened
  • 8 oz Cream Cheese Softened
  • 3 cups Powdered Sugar
  • 1 tsp Vanilla Extract
  • 2 tbsp Orange Pieces Crushed (optional)

Instructions

  • Beat together cream cheese and butter until blended, scraping sides of the bowl.
  • Add the powdered sugar, one cup at a time and beat until blended.
  • Add vanilla (and orange bits, optional). Beat until blended. If the mixture is too think for spreading, add cream or milk, just 1/2 tsp at a time.
Orange Glazed Bundt Cake
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5 from 1 vote

Simple Orange Glaze

A simple, quick orange glaze for cakes or cookies
Prep Time15 mins
Course: Cakes, Dessert
Cuisine: American
Keyword: Orange Glaze
Servings: 12 Servings
Calories: 60kcal
Author: Don Herman

Ingredients

  • 1 cup Powdered Sugar
  • 1/4 tsp Orange zest Grated from mandarins or oranges
  • 1 tbsp Orange juice

Instructions

  • Whisk together all ingredients until well-blended.

Leave a note and let me know how your cake turned out. I’d love to hear from you.

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2 Comments

  1. 5 stars


    Amazing site! Great recipes, tips and baking supplies! Highly recommended! 5 stars!
    1. Wow, thanks so much! Have a great day.

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