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Renée's Orange Buttermilk Sheet Cake

Renée’s Orange Buttermilk Sheet Cake

Renée Robinson

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. 

Icing Ingredients for Blending
Orange and lemon before adding the buttermilk to the blender

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. 

Blended Icing
Fully blended orange, lemon and buttermilk

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. 

Baked Orange Cake
Cake right out of the oven

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. 

Pouring Icing
Pouring the warm icing over the warm cake

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.

Renée's Orange Cake

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.

*Disclosure: I only recommend products I use myself and all opinions expressed here are my own. This post may contain affiliate links that, at no additional cost to you, may pay me a small commission and help support the costs of this website. Read full privacy policy here.

Renée's Orange Buttermilk Sheet Cake

Recipe by Renée Robinson



The best and easiest orange cake you'll ever taste. There is a whole orange, peel and all, in it, along with half a lemon. Buttermilk is in both the cake and the melt-in-your-mouth icing. And it's made in a sheet pan which will serve a crowd.

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  • 1 small orange, seeded if necessary, cut into quarters, rind and all

  • 1/2 lemon, seeded, cut in half, rind and all

  • Buttermilk - Approximately 3/4 cup

  • 2 sticks /226g salted butter

  • 2 large eggs, room temperature

  • 1 3/4 cups granulated sugar/350g

  • 2 cups all purpose flour/278g

  • 1 teaspoon baking soda

  • 1/8 teaspoon table salt

  • 1/2 teaspoon orange oil *, optional

  • Thinly slivered candied orange peel, optional for garnish

  • Icing
  • 1 stick /113g salted butter

  • 2 tablespoons fresh orange juice, at room temperature

  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice, at room temperature

  • 3 tablespoons buttermilk, at room temperature

  • 1 pound /454g powdered sugar, sifted

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons freshly grated orange zest

  • 1/2 teaspoon orange oil , optional


  • Preheat oven to 350° with a rack placed in the center.
  • Combine the orange and lemon in a blender (I use my Vitamix), add a few tablespoons of buttermilk to enable the mixture to puree. You want it as smooth as possible. Remove from the blender and put into a glass measuring cup. Add enough buttermilk to the mixture to equal 1 1/2 cups.
  • Melt the butter in a large bowl in the microwave. Whisk in the buttermilk/orange mixture, eggs, and sugar. Add the flour and baking soda and either whisk until completely combined or use a hand held electric mixer on low speed. I add 1/2 teaspoon of orange oil, but it’s not essential.
  • Pour the batter into a half sheet pan (18” x 13”), which has been lightly sprayed with cooking oil. Spread evenly and bake for 18-20 minutes. Test the center with a toothpick and be careful to not over bake. Remove from the oven and allow it to cool for only 5 to 10 minutes, at which time you will pour on the icing.
  • Icing
  • Melt the butter in a medium sized bowl in the microwave. Add citrus juices, buttermilk and powdered sugar. Beat with an electric beater until smooth. Add the orange zest and 1/2 teaspoon orange oil. Again, I don’t think the orange oil is essential, but it does pump up the orange flavor. Mix until combined.
  • Immediately pour the warm icing over the cake and spread evenly.
  • Optional - Garnish with very thinly sliced candied orange peel. Let cool before slicing. This cake will keep for several days at room temperature. Enjoy!


  • Half Sheet Pan - 18 inches x 13 inches
  • Blender

36 Responses

  1. Have made this more than once and it is wonderful each time. Strong orange flavor, which is a treat since most sweet things have weak flavors.

    1. You’re right about it being strongly flavored with orange. As I saw it, what is the point otherwise, right? Thank you so much!!

  2. Sublime orange cake, unbelievably simple recipe. It’s what I’ve been looking for years! Reminiscent of Cointreau liqueur, the soul of an orange.

    1. Thank you so much, Janet! Isn’t it the easiest recipe? Absolutely on of my very favorite desserts of all time. I’m so happy you enjoyed it, too!

  3. Oh, Renee… how I love your dedication to good cake. I made this for the second time 2 days ago. When I made it before, I made it in a bundt pan as some had discussed on the MS fb page. it was good, but not great. But I am increasingly thrilled with everything orange, and you and others raved so much, I decided to try again.

    I was going to make a half recipe, spend a long time measuring my pan and doing multiplication and trying to figure out how to block off a part of the pan. Then, after all that, I ended up making a full recipe and poured it into the half pan. Well, it worked ok and didn’t go over. Close but not over.

    We had a celebration last night but the hubs was too full of the shrimp scampi and didn’t have it, so we had it just now.

    The hubs is a super taster….his tastebuds are very sensitive and he tastes stuff I can’t. He took a bite and said, oh, wow. And so, now we have our own, The Cake.

    Thank you again!!


    1. Karen, I’ve never read a comment I enjoy more than this one. I am thrilled you made it in a sheet pan. I know that many people have turned this cake into a bundt cake, but that was never my intention. It isn’t the same at all. The ratio of icing to cake was well thought out and there is no way that works in a bundt pan. In fact, the icing is meant to be poured over the cake when they are both warm. That is not possible for a bundt cake and you won’t end up with the same cake. At all. I could not be happier to hear that you and your husband love it!!! Thanks so much for letting me know. I really do appreciate it.

    1. Hi, An! No, I wouldn’t recommend halving it and baking it in a 13 x 9 dish. The reason is because with only half the recipe, you will end up with a very thin cake. Granted, this cake isn’t thick to begin with, but when it’s baked in a sheet pan which only has a 1 inch high side, it’s fine being thin, but a 13 x 9 dish will have at least 2 inch high sides and you’ll be looking at a pitiful cake. Lol!! Now, then again, you may have a 13 x 9 sheet pan with one inch high sides, and if that’s the case, yes, you could halve the recipe and be fine. But I would carefully watch the baking time. As soon as this cake begins to pull away from the sides of the pan it is ready. You don’t want to over bake it. If your 13 x 9 dish does have 2 inch or higher sides, I would just use the full recipe and bake it longer. Please let me know what you end up doing and how you like it. Thank you!

  4. I would like to make this amazing sounding cake. Where could I get orange oil? Could I use Grand Marnier instead?

    1. Hi, Paula! I order my orange oil online. As long as it is food grade orange oil, you should be good. And while I love Grand Marnier, I wouldn’t recommend it in this cake. The flavors of this are bright and Grand Marnier would add deep flavors that just aren’t what you want here. But you can also completely eliminate the orange oil and still end up with a delicious cake. Many people have made it without the oil and have been very happy. Please let me know how you like it!!

  5. 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?

    1. 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!

  6. 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!

    1. 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!

  7. 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!

    1. 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:

      The Cake, as It’s Known in My Home

    1. Oh, I’d love to her more about your mother’s orange cookies!! I sure do hope my cake lives up to your expectations!

  8. 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!

    1. 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!

  9. 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!

    1. 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!

  10. 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.

    1. 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.

      1. I made both! 2 orange and 1 raspberry… stacked with lemon curd between layers! It was amazing! Thank you for the recipes!

  11. 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!

    1. 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. 😋

  12. 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.

    1. 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.😊

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