Orange Party Cake with Whipped Orange Frosting

Orange Party Cake via Sweetapolita

Hello from the land of orange cake! I’m finally getting a chance to share this happy-happy orange cake with you guys. Let’s just say since my last post, where lavender & strawberry made a summery debut, it’s been all about orange (and a whole lot of book recipe testing!). I made orange layer cake exactly 5 times in one week, and this was the one I was truly pleased with. Why did it take me 5 tries, you ask? Well, it was one-part cake fail, one-part inferior butter (we’ll talk more about that), one-part aesthetic let-down, one-part perfectionism, and two-parts me being completely Willy Wonky at (most) times. 

But alas, I really love this cake! It’s a moist yellow cake infused with fresh orange juice and zest, filled with an orange vanilla whipped cream, and frosted with an orange frosting tinted in a few sherbet shades using one of my favourite decorating techniques, the super-simple but strangely rewarding Pastel Swirl style. It’s a really neat (and quick) way to tell a story of the flavours inside the cake (much like the Vanilla Blackberry-Mascarpone Cake  I shared recently), or simply to add an artistic flair to any layer cake. Just remember that, although the colour combinations are virtually endless, I find this works best when the colours really blend together (but not over-blended or they’ll become one colour), so I’ve discovered that sticking to three (or so) colours that actually look nice when combined is ideal, not just colours that look nice beside each other. So in this case, since orange and pink make coral, I was able to blend them together to achieve a pretty new colour. I added some un-tinted frosting in there too, so that it would create pastel versions of the same colour scheme.

I made a little batch of sugar flowers (which would be super cute on the cupcake version of this cake, which I will likely do with the extra flowers from this post!), and ended up using a single little blossom and some pink and white sanding sugar to give the cake a little bit of a tropical feel. Real flowers would be so lovely on this style as well, and I can see a tropical shower cake, birthday cake, or even wedding cake a few tiers high becoming a total showstopper.

So I’m lucky enough to have you as a regular reader, you’ll likely notice that the filling and frosting recipes are variations on those found in many of my cake recipes. See, I don’t think you always have to start from “scratch,” but rather can make a few modifications on your favourite existing recipes to make a whole new cake. In this case, I simply added orange zest/juice to my favourite vanilla recipes, and it completely changes the experience. I absolutely love working with oranges in dessert, as I think they offer so much flavour and instantly make most desserts so much more interesting. And they literally fragrance the entire house one you start zesting away. It’s truly a lovely baking experience.

I typically use Valencia oranges when baking/juicing, because they’re so, well, juicy! I also find them even more fragrant than Navel oranges, offering even more orangey-ness to recipes. I did experiment with Pure Orange Extract while making this, but in the end I took it out of the recipe–it just gave it a medicinal quality that wasn’t so happy-happy. One option would be to experiment with Orange Blossom Water to the frosting, as that would give it a unique orange flavour as well (as with these cookies I made last Easter), but I find the juice and zest of the Valencia oranges worked well.

So, remember way up there when I mentioned that I had an inferior butter experience? Well, I’m actually glad I did, even though it meant 3 layers of cake in the garbage. And this feels important enough to make a separate post about butter in itself, but for now let me touch on what happened. So, as you know, I’m working on my first book (hooray!), which means I’m currently living in a sea of bags of sugar and flour that weigh more than my children, and have had to forgo buying groceries so I can make room in our fridge for the endless pounds of butter (kidding .  . . sort of), I decided that maybe I need to experiment with the less pricey butter variety, to see if it really makes a difference, or if it’s at least good enough for everyday baking. I decided that I’d buy my favourite butter, Lactancia My Country Unsalted Butter, for frostings and buttercreams, and try the Great Value butter for the actual cakes, etc. I made the cake back-to-back using each butter, while keeping every single step and ingredient the same, but the Great Value version was so dense and greasy. I tried it, and it tasted like cornbread–it was honestly, inedible, in my opinion. When I made it right then again with the Lactancia, it was just as it should be: light, tender and orange-y. I can assume that the Lactancia has a higher fat content, but it’s hard to know . . .

I can see this is a topic that likely requires extensive research, because aside from experimenting with every brand of butter out there in the same cake recipe, it would be impossible to know from simply looking at the butter packages at the store. The nutritional info on the packages are typically all the same, but that doesn’t mean that butter is made up of the same fat/water ratios. I would love to spend more time really figuring this out, because this is the first time in my life I’ve tasted a cake that tasted like cornbread, yet in this previous post from the Fluffy Vanilla Cake, some people have mentioned that they thought it tasted that way. I was perplexed! Especially since out of over 450 reader comments on that post, hundreds of people seem to share my love for how fluffy and light that cake is. Very mysterious . . .

Now I’m also wondering about those who have had separation issues with their Swiss Meringue Buttercream–again, something that’s never happened to me, and not because I don’t have epic baking fails, but maybe because I’ve only used higher-priced butter. It does kind of all make sense . . .

So that being said, it seems that in some cases, you might “get what you pay for” when it comes to butter for baking cakes and making meringue buttercream. I can’t say that every fancy brand is perfect for baking, and every inexpensive brand is terrible, but between these two brands for my cakes it was night and day. Something to think about! And if you have any experience with this, feel free to share your story in in the comments. Let’s get to the bottom of this.

In the meantime, here’s the recipe for this happy-happy orange party cake:

Orange Party Cake with Whipped Orange Frosting


    For the Orange Cake:
  • 4 whole eggs, room temperature
  • 2 egg yolks, room temperature
  • 1 cup (240 ml) whole milk, at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice, strained (I like Valencia oranges)
  • 3 cups (345 g) cake flour, sifted
  • 2 cups (400 g) sugar
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon (19 g) baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon (4 g) salt
  • 3/4 cup (170 g) unsalted butter, cold and cut into small even pieces
  • Zest from 2 medium oranges
  • For the Orange-Vanilla Whipped Cream Filling:
  • 2 tablespoons (30 ml) cold water
  • 2 teaspoons (10 ml) unflavoured gelatin (such as Knox brand)
  • 2 cups (500 ml) whipping cream (35-37% fat), cold
  • 1/4 cup (30 g) icing/confectioners' sugar
  • 1 teaspoon (5 ml) pure vanilla extract
  • Zest from 1 medium orange
  • Pinch of salt
  • For the Whipped Orange Frosting:
  • 2 cups (454 g) unsalted butter, softened and cut into cubes
  • 4-1/2 cups (565 g) confectioners’ sugar, sifted
  • 1/4 cup (59 ml) freshly squeezed orange juice, strained
  • Pinch of salt


    For the Orange Cake:
  1. Preheat the oven to 350° F. Butter the bottoms and sides of three 8-inch round cake pans, line bottoms with parchment round and dust sides with flour.
  2. In a medium measuring cup with a spout, lightly break up the eggs and yolks. In a separate measuring cup, combine the orange juice and milk.
  3. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. With the mixer set to low speed, add the cold butter one piece at a time, about 10 seconds apart. (You can keep half in the fridge while you add the first half of butter.) Continue mixing on low speed until all of the butter has been blended and there are no clumps. Mixture should have a fine crumbly, cornmeal-like texture.
  4. Gradually add the milk/orange juice mixture to these dry ingredients, and mix on medium speed for 4 minutes. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl to ensure all of the ingredients are well incorporated. Reduce the speed to low and gradually add the egg mixture; once the mixture has been added, increase speed to medium and beat for 1 minute, but no more. Gently fold in the zest.
  5. Divide batter evenly among the 3 prepared pans (use a kitchen scale to ensure 3 even layers--cakes should weight ~460 g each). Place two of the cake pans on a baking sheet and bake until a cake tester or wooden toothpick inserted into the center comes out with a few crumbs but no batter, about 23 minutes. Repeat with the final layer. Let the layers cool in the pans for 15 minutes, then loosen sides with thin metal spatula or knife, and carefully turn out onto wire racks, peel of the paper liners, and let cool completely.
  6. For the Vanilla Bean Whipped Cream Filling:
  7. In a small stainless steel bowl, place the cold water and sprinkle with the gelatin. Let sit for at least 10 minutes. In a small saucepan, bring 1/3 cup of the cream just to a simmer, then stir into the gelatin mixture until the gelatin has dissolved. Refrigerate, stirring frequently, until cool but not set, about 8 minutes. (Be careful to keep your eye on it, or you'll end up with Panna Cotta!)
  8. In a chilled stainless steel mixer bowl with a chilled whisk attachment, beat the remaining whipping cream, icing/confectioners' sugar, vanillla and salt until it thickens just slightly and soft peaks begin to form, about 1 minute. Very gradually add the gelatin mixture and continue beating until medium-firm peaks form (should be thick enough to spread). Fold in zest. Keep covered and chilled until ready to use.
  9. For the Whipped Orange Frosting:
  10. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, whip butter for 8 minutes on medium speed (I use “4″ on my KitchenAid). Butter will become very pale & creamy.
  11. Add sifted icing sugar, orange juice and salt, and mix on low speed for 1 minute, then on medium for 6 minutes. Frosting will be very light, creamy and fluffy.
  12. Assembly of the Orange Party Cake:
  13. Trim any dark edges or crust from cake layers with a very sharp serrated knife. Place your first cake layer, face-up, onto a cake stand, plate or 8-inch round foil cake board. Fill your pastry bag with about 1-1/2 cups of the Whipped Orange Frosting and pipe a dam around the perimeter of the cake layer (this will keep our Orange-Vanilla Whipped Cream Filling in place). Place about 1 cup of the cream filling on top of the cake layer, inside of the dam. Gently spread the filling using a small offset spatula.
  14. Repeat until you come to your final cake layer, which you will place face-down. If you find the cake too soft and unstable, put in refrigerator for a few moments to firm it up, then resume. Use your clean offset spatula to carefully smooth the frosting so it's flat against the cake.
  15. Cover the entire cake gently with plastic wrap (I like Press n' Seal), and then, once covered, use your hands to carefully ensure the cake is lined up straight and flattening any lumps or bumps of frosting. Chill for at least 30 minutes.
  16. Once cake is stable and chilled, apply an even layer of frosting to the entire cake, to seal in crumbs. Chill again until frosting is firm, about 30 minutes.
  17. Place cake plate/board with cake onto a turntable, if possible. Be sure your remaining frosting is smooth and fluffy, working it with a rubber spatula for a few moments. You can even warm in microwave for a few seconds to soften it up.
  18. Divide frosting into 4 separate small bowls. Tint 3 of them: 1 orange, 1 bright pink, 1 bright coral (pink + orange). Leave the remaining frosting un-tinted. Place cake on a turntable, if possible.
  19. Using a small offset spatula, spread the orange frosting on the top of the cake, letting it extend about 1/2" over the edge. Using a straight medium spatula, spread a thick layer of bright pink frosting along the bottom third of the entire cake, followed by the un-tinted frosting on the middle of the cake, and the coral on the upper third of the cake. Clean your medium straight spatula and then smooth the sides of cake, slowly turning the cake turntable while holding the spatula steady. Use your small offset spatula to smooth top of cake. Top with sanding sugar and sugar blossom, if desired.
  20. Keep cake refrigerated for up to 2 days, but serve at room temperature.
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Sweetapolita’s Notes:

  • Here’s my video tutorial on this frosting technique. 
  • For this sherbet colour scheme, I used the following gel colours: Electric Pink for the bright pink, Electric Yellow Red Red for the orange, and combined the two colours for the coral. Just a note that you’ll want to get your pink super bright, as it will fade a bit after applying to the cake. The reason I use “electric” colours when tinting frosting with an ivory tone (so pretty much anything with butter), is because I feel that the electric colours cut through the yellow better than regular colours. You just have to be careful that you don’t end up with neon frosting (however, that might not be a bad thing in some cases!).
  • For all of my cake decorating, I use a cake turntable–it’s definitely a must-have. I have a homemade version, but have recently started using the Ateco Revolving Cake Stand, and I love it.
  • I always use a Small Offset Spatula and Medium Straight Spatula when frosting a cake.
  • For the blossoms, I used 5-Petal Flower Cutter set, and simply cut them from thinly-rolled Gum Paste , shaping them by letting them dry in a egg carton (or you can always buy flower formers, but I have a designated egg carton for this kind of thing). Once dry I brushed on a little pink petal dust into the centre, and attached sugar pearls in the centre using a tiny dab of Clear Piping Gel.

Good luck & enjoy!

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Zingy Orange Ginger Carrot Cake with White Chocolate Icing

Carrot Ginger Cake via Sweetapolita

Happy Good Friday!

Well, it happened. Trust me, I know this is going to sound trite, but this cake is the the most delicious dessert I have ever eaten. Ever. As in not just the best cake, but the best dessert experience (borderline religious) of my entire existence. True, there are a few many desserts that I am very enthusiastic about, and such a bold statement isn’t intended to take any glory away from those fabulous sweets, but this one is it for me. The best part? I didn’t see it coming. Not even a microscopic inkling, but I suppose that’s what is special about it — it looks simple, fuss-free, and, dare I say, boring, but I have never experienced so many incredible flavours simultaneously before, and isn’t that what it’s all about?

Friends, this Zingy Orange Ginger Carrot Cake with White Chocolate Icing is the most unbelievably moist (literally — you will not believe it) nut-free carrot orange crystallized ginger cake filled with the fluffiest white chocolate butter frosting (no cream cheese,  not that cream cheese frosting doesn’t rock)with a hint of almond. Laaaaa! Let us rejoice.

Carrot Ginger Cake via Sweetapolita

If you don’t live in Ontario, the home of the LCBO Food & Drink Magazine, you may want to consider relocating, or well, at least frequenting their website with all of the fabulous recipes archived. I don’t normally do two of the same type of cake back-to-back on the blog, and I definitely don’t often make two carrot cakes in one day (it was almost 3, and I’m not even joking!), but I really couldn’t help myself. Basically, here’s the sequence of events that lead to two carrot cakes: 1. I adore everything about carrot cake. 2. I love new & fresh takes on carrot cake. 3. A bunch of readers asked me to blog a delicious carrot cake recipe. 4. I got the new LCBO Food & Drink Spring 2011 magazine with an entire feature on carrot cakes, including 6 gourmet variations. 5.

I bought a shiny new food processor Tuesday (which was when I chose to do as many as I could fit into the following 48-hours). As much as I could have kept shredding carrots in pure bliss (my food blogger friends warned me of the food processor’s unrelenting and addictive powers, and they were right.), I decided to stop at 2 cakes and strongly encourage you to go pick up this magazine (complimentary in all LCBO {Liquor Control Board of Ontario} locations) to see all of the incredible recipes for yourself, or, if you’re not from Ontario, bribe someone to send you one, or, wait until they post the recipes from this issue on their website. If you happened to read my recent post, Mascarpone Meringue Cake, you’ll recall that I love every recipe the folks at this magazine feature.

Carrot Ginger Cake via Sweetapolita

Again, not the most interesting looking cake, which is maybe why I didn’t see it coming, but wow.

Carrot Ginger Cake via Sweetapolita

Yes, I ate this piece. Carrot Ginger Cake via Sweetapolita

And, heck yes, I ate this one too then squealed in delight. One of  my favourite parts: the zingy and unexpected (well, it would have been unexpected had I not actually made the cake myself) chunks of crystallized ginger; I was so happy to find another recipe to use these beauties. I think I’ll make this photo my screensaver indefinitely so I can reminisce.

Actually, I should mention that I mimicked one of the the magazine’s incredible photos of this cake in this photo above — I never do that, but I couldn’t resist. The photos in the magazine were shot by my latest photographer crush, Rob Fiocca. If you’re interested in food photography, you must check out his portfolio; it is awe-inspiring. I really wanted to take the extreme close-up of this slice because it really showcases its textural deliciousness. I feel the need to share with you that those are engineered crumbs–I had to try several times to  them to the plate from another piece because the cake was so moist that I could not get crumbs to fall naturally. Oh my.

Please make this and tell me I’m not the only one who feels this way?

Have a wonderful Easter from all of us here in Sweetapolita-land!

Zingy Orange Ginger Carrot Cake with White Chocolate Icing        {click here for printable recipe}


5 cups (1.25 L) grated carrots

1/2 cup (125 mL) finely chopped crystallized ginger or stem ginger in syrup

1 orange

2 1/2 cups (625 mL) all-purpose flour

1 tbsp (15 mL) baking powder

1 tsp (5 mL) baking soda

1 tsp (5 mL) salt

1 tsp (5 mL) ground ginger

1 cup (250 mL) butter, at room temperature

1 1/2 cups (375 mL) granulated sugar

4 eggs

2 tsp (10 mL) vanilla

2/3 cup (150 mL) milk

White Chocolate Icing

1 cup (250 mL) butter, at room temperature

6 squares (6 oz/175 g) white chocolate

1 tsp (5 mL) vanilla

3/4 tsp (4 mL) almond extract

Generous pinch of salt

3 cups(750 mL) sifted icing sugar


Chopped crystallized ginger


1. Preheat oven to 350° F (180° C). Spray or lightly oil two 9-inch (1.5-L) round cake pans.

2. Grate carrots using a food processor. Measure out 5 cups (1.25 L). Finely chop ginger. Grate peel from orange. Set aside separately. Place flour in a medium bowl. Sprinkle with baking powder, baking soda, salt, and ginger. Stir until blended. Sprinkle in orange peel while stirring.

3. Place butter in a large mixing bowl and beat with an electric mixer until creamy. Gradually beat in sugar, then beat on medium for 3 minutes. Beat in eggs, then vanilla. Don’t worry if it seems curdled. Beating on low, gradually add about a third of the flour mixture. Beat until just mixed, followed by half the milk. Repeat additions, ending with flour. Sprinkle chopped ginger and stir to distribute. Stir in carrots.

4. Divide batter between pans. Spread as evenly as possible to sides of pan. To remove air pockets, bang pans on counter 5 to 6 times. Bake until centres seem set when lightly tapped, 30 to 35 minutes. Place on a baking rack to cool. After about 15 minutes, turn cakes out of pans and cool completely on racks. It’s best to bake cakes a day ahead of icing and leave at room temperature overnight.

5. To make icing, beat butter in a bowl with an electric mixer until very creamy. Place chocolate in a small microwave bowl. Microwave on medium for 1 1/2 minutes. Stir, then microwave on medium for another minute. Stir until smooth. Or on stovetop heat chocoolate in a bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Stir, often. Gradually beat into butter. Add vanilla, almond extract, and salt. Gradually beat in icing sugar.

6. To assemble, palce 1 cake, flat-side up, on a platter.Generously spread with icing, leaving a narrow border of cake around the edge. Top  with the second cake, flat-side down, and gently press down. Smoothly spread icing over the sides of the cake, then the top. Garnish top of cake with chopped  crystallized ginger. It’s best to refrigerate several hours or overnight before serving.

Sweetapolita’s Notes:

1. I added about 2 tablespoons (30 mL) of water to the mixed icing and then beat on high speed for about another minute.

2. I weigh the cake pans filled with batter to ensure they are exactly the same, then use a small offset palette knife to spread the batter evenly in pans.

3. I refrigerate cakes for about an hour before frosting, then do a crumb coat, followed by a final topping of icing.

Recipe Source: LCBO Food & Drink Magazine, Spring 2011

Good luck & enjoy!

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