My Most Popular Recipe. For a Very Good Reason.
This cake is where my cooking blog journey began. I had made many many orange cakes throughout the years, but never had I made one that I felt was “it”. There was always something not quite right. I decided to come up with one myself, seeing as I was the only person who knew what I was trying to achieve.
First and foremost, I wanted it to be a simple cake, but good enough to be worthy of a celebration. And it had to be truly bursting with orange flavor. Thinking about my beloved chocolate buttermilk sheet cake, I thought why not try making an orange version? After several tries, I got exactly what I’d always dreamed my ideal orange cake should be.
It’s made in a half sheet pan and comes together quickly. You’ll notice I’ve called for an entire orange and half a lemon in the batter. Yep, that’s the whole orange – peel and all, minus the seeds. The same goes for the lemon. This packs a flavor punch that delivers a fully rounded flavor profile. The little bit of bitterness from the peel offsets the sweetness of the rest of the cake.
I call for adding a few tablespoons of buttermilk to the blender when pulverizing the orange and lemon, as it adds the liquid needed to enable the fruit to puree.
I then add even more buttermilk to the cake because it tenderizes the crumb and the tangy flavor is also welcome. It’s important to be careful and not over bake the cake. It only needs 18 to 20 minutes in the oven. Pull it out as soon as a toothpick comes out clean and it’s pulled away from the sides of the pan. In this way, you’re guaranteed a very moist cake.
The icing has more buttermilk, orange juice, lemon juice, melted butter and powdered sugar. I use a small amount of orange oil* in both the cake and the icing. It only serves to reinforce the orange flavor. I don’t recommend orange extract. The flavor isn’t good and tastes fake. The orange oil isn’t essential. The cake will still be delicious without it.
The cake is only cooled for 5 to 10 minutes and the second you’ve mixed the icing it needs to be poured onto the still warm cake. Some of the icing will melt into the cake which makes it even more delicious.
I chose to garnish the cake with slivers of candied orange peel, but again, this isn’t necessary. It just adds an extra hit of orange.
When I first put this recipe out there I could only hope that others would like it, too. As it turned out, many people made it and loved it as much as I did. This gave me the confidence to start developing more and more of my own original recipes. I was then lucky enough to have my cake recipe, along with two other original recipes featured in the Spring/Summer issue of Raised Southern Magazine. My blog was a natural progression and it has become one of the joys of my life. I love hearing from all of you and sharing what I’ve been cooking. I get the greatest pleasure when you let me know you’ve made one of my recipes and liked it. There’s nothing better. Please know I appreciate it enormously and thank each and every one of you.
Finally getting around to making this, and question – orange oil? I have some wild orange essential oil that is food safe – is this the same thing?
Hi there, Amy! I think you’ll be good with your oil – as long as you’re certain it is food safe. As you see, I don’t use a lot of it, only enough to boost the orange flavor a little. I hope you enjoy the cake. Please let me know how you like it!
Hi Renee, I want to make this cake the day before Easter. Do you recommend that I store it in the fridge or leave at room temp until the next day? Thanks so much!
Hi, Paula. I’m so happy to hear you’re making my Orange Buttermilk Sheet Cake for Easter! You should leave it sitting out at room temperature. No need at all for refrigeration. I so hope you enjoy it. Happy Easter!
I have seen this recipe on the Milk Street page, and most recently someone made it in a bundt pan. Brilliant! I’m going to try this for Easter dessert!
Hi, Chris! Yes, this is my most popular recipe. It seems to be loved by everyone who makes it and nothing could make me happier because I love it, too. I hope you enjoy it for Easter. I’ve never made it in a bundt pan because of the ratio of cake to icing that I worked out when I developed the recipe.The icing must be poured over the cake when both the cake and the icing are warm. That won’t work in a bundt pan. It would run right off the cake. And the icing isn’t the kind you can spread. It needs to be poured. So, I’ve no doubt the cake is good in a bundt pan, but it’s not even remotely the same cake. If you’re wanting to make a bundt cake, I highly recommend my recipe for “The Cake”. That’s what we call it in my home. I think it’s the best bundt cake I’ve ever tasted and have been making it for many many years. In fact, I’m making it for Easter. Whichever cake you make, I hope you enjoy it and have a Happy Easter!
Here is the link to the recipe, if you should be interested:
We have made my mother’s orange cookies for forty yrs, our favorite so this sounds like a cake everyone here will enjoy.
Oh, I’d love to her more about your mother’s orange cookies!! I sure do hope my cake lives up to your expectations!
This recipe’s reputation on facebook is well deserved. It did not disappoint! I pureed the orange and lemon in my food processor. I served some after dinner on the last night of my MIL’s two week visit and took the rest to the office the next day. Rave reviews all around. Thanks so much!
I can’t tell you how much I love hearing this!! It really does make my day to think about how many people have enjoyed this cake. Thank you so much for letting me know. I greatly appreciate it!
I have never made a sheet pan cake before, or puréed whole fruit into the batter either. Having heard about this cake on MSC for years, my expectations were high and this did not disappoint! My friends and neighbors are raving about it and I can’t wait for spring and summer to make the other flavors. I am also planning to try it with gf flour for some other friends. I happened to have Meyer lemons, so got to use them here. Thank you for this spectacular recipe, Renée!
You are so very welcome, Lisa! I’ll bet the Meyer lemon was great in this. I have a bag of them in my fridge right now and am mulling over what all I’m going to be making with them. I’ll keep you posted! Thanks so much for your review!
This cake is delicious! I took it to a dinner party and it was a big hit! Several people asked to take a piece home.
I can’t tell you how happy this makes me!! I love the thought of people from all over making and eating my cake. I’m just thrilled that it was a hit! Thank you so much for letting me know.
Thank you, Martha! I hope you try it!
Can I make this will all lemon? Oddly enough my daughter is allergic to orange
Hi, Maura! I want to work on an all lemon version soon. There may be a couple of things that will need tinkering. In the meantime, I have a raspberry and lemon version here on my blog that’s sensational. Perhaps you could try this one. https://thesaltedpotato.com/raspberry-and-lemon-buttermilk-sheet-cake/
I made both! 2 orange and 1 raspberry… stacked with lemon curd between layers! It was amazing! Thank you for the recipes!
How wonderful, Britt!! I’m so happy you liked them. Thanks so much for letting me know! You’re very welcome!
Sounds great ! Please sign me up for newsletter
Thank you so much, Charlotte! Will do!
Thank you, Renee. Even though I bake a lot, I have no experience with sheet cakes. It’s citrus season here in Phoenix, so I have oranges and lemons coming out my ears. I loved your method of blending the entire fruit. Citrus peel contains all of those lovely essential oils and completely edible. The cake cake out of the oven looking perfect. It has been iced and will be this evening’s dessert. I already know it’s delicious. I’ve been reading reviews since you first posted the recipe!
Thank you so much, Elizabeth!!! I’m thrilled you made it and hope you enjoy it. It’s at the top of my list for all time favorite recipes. 😋
Delicious cake, as most everyone agrees!
I melted the butter for the icing, then got busy mixing the other icing ingredients. I guess I got distracted by something because, about an hour after I had iced the cake, my husband went to heat something in the microwave and said, “there is something in here.” THE BUTTER FOR THE ICING! I FORGOT TO ADD IT IN! However, I don’t think it could have been any better, so I think next time, I’ll just leave it out. On purpose.
Oh, how funny!! I’m so happy to hear you liked it. But I do hope you’ll give it a try with the butter in the icing. It changes the texture a lot and also adds another dimension of flavor. It cuts through the sweet. But then again, if you love it as is, I say, Go for it!! Thanks so much for letting me know. I greatly appreciate it.😊