Fresh California Orange Cake

orange cake

Several years ago when my mother was doing some cleaning out, she gave me a little spiral bound cookbook of recipes from a women she had known years ago -Marilyn Martell.  Marilyn was an amazing cook and baker.  Her little cookbook is full of county fair prize winning recipes.  Marilyn has won numerous Sweepstake and Best of Show Awards and one year won 77 ribbons!!!  In total she has won over 300 ribbons at various county and state fairs!  This woman knew how to bake!

Marilyn’s husband was also my mom’s dentist.  Well, small world that it is, years after my mother knew Marilyn in California, Jim and I ended up in the same church/ward as Marilyn’s son Bob.  In fact it was Bob’s wife April that introduced me to this amazing recipe of Marilyn’s – Strawberry Cream Pie.

One of Marilyn’s recipes that I have been wanting to try is her Fresh California Orange Cake.

orange cake

Any cake that wins the blue ribbon at the fair has to be good !  This one definitely is even though I had a bit of a challenge making it – all the challenges were my own fault though!  There is nothing wrong with the recipe – it’s me!

In the description of the  Fresh California Orange Cake Marilyn says that this cake was awarded a Blue Ribbon and she had to bake it three times at home before leaving for the fairground.

orange cake

Well, I took Marilyn literally.  I too baked it three times!!

The first time I made it I realized, after I had put it in the oven, that I had forgotten to add the orange juice.  I yanked it out, mixed in the orange juice and put it back in, not a good idea.  The cake fell in the middle but tasted delicious.

orange cake

I was determined to get it right so the next morning I tried it a second time.  Remind me to wear my glasses next time I bake a cake!  Instead of adding 1/3 cup of butter and shortening I added 1/2 cup of each!  Well, if you didn’t know this, cakes fall big time when there is too much fat in them!!

I figured the third time was the charm and Marilyn had to make it 3 times so why shouldn’t I.  I was not going to be beat!  I did everything right.  I sifted the cake flour first and then measured it.  I even sifted my powdered sugar for the frosting like Marilyn said to!

So 12 oranges later I found success and boy was it worth it. (The cake does fall slightly in the middle, even when done right.)

This cake is light and delicious.  The fresh orange taste is lovely and reminds me of the orange groves in California I would smell as we drove to my grandparents home in San Gabriel.

orange cake

Wear your glasses and pay attention to the recipe so you don’t have to make it three times!

I took part of the cake over to Bob’s to see if he thought it was as good as his mothers!  What did you think Bob??

orange cake - Page 474

Fresh California Orange Cake
  • ⅓ C butter
  • ⅓ C shortening
  • 2 tsp grated orange rind
  • 1½ C sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 2½ C sifted cake flour
  • 2½ tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 C fresh orange juice less 2 Tbsp
  • 2 Tbsp orange juice concentrate
Creamy Orange Frosting
  • ½ C butter
  • 1 3 oz. pkg cream cheese
  • 1 pound powdered sugar, sifted
  • ¼ C fresh orange juice
  • 2 tsp grated orange rind
  • dash salt
  • orange food coloring (I didn't use)
Tinted Orange Coconut
  • 1 C flaked coconut
  • 1 tsp orange juice
  • 1 or 2 drops orange food coloring
  1. Cream together butter, shortening and rind
  2. Very gradually add sugar, creaming until light
  3. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each
  4. Continue beating 5 minutes
  5. Sift together dry ingredients and add alternately with orange juice to creamed mixture
  6. Add in orange juice concentrate
  7. Beat only until smooth after each addition
  8. Bake in 2 greased and floured 9 inch round pans at 350 for 25-30 minutes
  9. Cool 10 minutes on rack and then remove from pans and cool
  10. Fill and frost with Creamy Orange Frosting
  11. Marilyn decorated hers with tinted orange coconut (I don't like coconut so just used a slice of orange)
Creamy Orange Frosting
  1. Cream butter and cream cheese
  2. Gradually beat in sugar alternately with orange juice beating until smooth
  3. Stir in orange rind and salt
  4. Add a drop or two of orange food coloring to tint a light orange
  5. Beat until creamy
Tinted Orange Coconut
  1. Combine coconut, orange juice and food color
  2. Shake or stir with a fork
  3. Coconut should be lightly colored to match frosting
Leigh Anne
Hi – I’m Leigh Anne! I have been a homebased mom for 30 years since my first baby boy was born! I love working with women and helping to inspire them to achieve their goals and dreams while still maintaining motherhood and family as their number one priority. I blog about everything I enjoy – creating treats and meals in my kitchen, spending time in my garden, entertaining and party planning, reading, self improvement and tips and ideas on style and fashion.
Leigh Anne
Leigh Anne

Latest posts by Leigh Anne (see all)


  1. says

    My next cake project is your lemon crumb cake, but I must say that orange cake with cream cheese frosting sounds amazing! Too many cakes, so little time :)

  2. Mary Kathryn says

    This looks like a great summer cake… we are having a family get together this summer and this just may have to make an appearance. Thanks!

  3. Melissa says

    WOW that sounds so good..thanks for sharing that recipe…my mom and dad always make orange oatmeal cookies, wont they be excited when i bring that Fresh California Orange Cake over..YUMMY.

    Thank you so much for sharing.

    Melissa from Naches, WA

  4. Valerie H. says

    Ohhh! This sounds so good! It cracks me up to think that she made all these sweet baked goods and her husband was the dentist to fill cavities from the sugar. :-) I’m running out of printer ink copying your recipes! They all are so great! Thanks!

  5. Joan says

    LOL…my aunt who taught me to bake always insisted flour should be sifted before measuring for baked goods. I still do even though cooking show hosts don’t seem to think it’s important. I notice that Test Kitchen still does it…I’m careful to watch recipe…2 1/2 cups sifted flour or 2 1/2 cups flour, sifted…makes a difference.

    Your lemon curd recipe yesterday reminded me of a dessert I used to make a lot for bridge, etc…. add lemon curd to whipped cream that has been well whipped. Not important to have it well blended…kind of want little chunks of curd. Pour into layer of crushed vanilla wafers. Top with some vanilla wafers. Freeze well. Frozen lemon pie!

  6. Colleen says

    That looks divine! Sounds like a perfect dessert for summertime! Will definitely try this recipe out as the temps start rising…

  7. says

    What I wouldn’t give to reach into the computer for a slice of this! Maybe we’ll have to rethink our dessert idea for our Empty Nester’s party this weekend and switch to this! Then I’d have two of your recipes on the menu (rice pilaf!).

  8. Kaitlyn says

    Help! I made this cake tonight and the frosting was runny. In the recipe it says “1/4 fresh orange juice” and I assumed it meant 1/4 C. Is that right? I can’t think what else I would have done wrong. Was yours runny at first? Did you refrigerate it before frosting the cake? Thanks!

  9. Barbara says

    Leigh Ann, made this cake today, shared it with all my neighbors, it really turned out pretty, and love the orange flavors, I am with orange like you are with lemon, love it. Thanks for the wonderful recipes.
    I also found an article on Blooming Cupcakes for Mother’s Day, they are floral topiaries, using regular and mini size cupcakes and putting them together with bamboo skewers. It’s in the May issue of Ladies Home Journal.

  10. Beth says

    I made this cake this weekend. I was pleasantly surprised that it didn’t collapse at all on me. There they were…two perfect level cakes. Woo Hoo. Anyhow, what a great treat. It’s a fantastic spring/summer cake. Thanks.

    I added a little orange oil to the cake to enhance the orange flavor even more. Now I need to make one of those cute cake plates that you have in your tutorial.

    I think I need to stop eating cake now. It’s not helping the figure. Thanks for the great recipes. I would love to spend a week with Marilyn and collect some of her wonderful recipes. What a treasure.

    • says

      Your butter wrapper should have markings on it for measuring – 1/4 cup, 1/3 cup, 1/2 cup. It also usually lists Tablespoons or you could just fill your 1/3 C measuring cup with butter.

  11. Nancy says

    Have you ever made this as cupcakes? My daughter has to do a homeschool presentation on the state of California and likes the idea of an orange cake or cookie. Thanks!

    • says

      I have not made them as cupcakes. I might be a bit leery just because it is a light, somewhat fragile cake and I have had it fall a bit in the middle. That is easy to cover with a cake but not so much with a cupcake. It is yummy though!!!

  12. Jules says

    I just made this cake and it is very bitter. 2 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder seems like way too much for this cake but I used it anyway because when I bake a new recipe I like to do as directed the first time. The orange flavor isn’t very strong either. I had to alter the icing to try and make up for the bitter cake and nonexistent orange flavor. Not sure if it’s even edible at this point.

    • says

      Wondering if maybe your oranges weren’t sweet enough. The cake does not have a strong orange flavor, more of the flavor comes from the orange in the frosting.


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