This beautiful made-from-scratch Mandarin Orange Cake is easy to make, especially with the help of little hands. It’s a fresh twist on an old classic – Mandarin Cake made without Cool Whip or boxed cake mix.

The Southern version of this mandarin cake recipe is often referred to as a pig pickin’ cake. Whatever you want to call it, it’s just a fresh, flavorful, beautiful cake.

Sliced mandarin oranges and rosemary sprigs on top of a mandarin orange cake on a cake stand.

Luckily, girls enjoy holiday baking just as much as I did growing up. My sister, Isla and I recently made this beautiful mandarin orange cake to celebrate the holidays together.

It’s a fresh twist on an old favorite, because it’s made from “scratch”.

My mom always made mandarin orange cake with yellow cake mix, Cool Whip, pudding and canned pineapple. I’m convinced that’s simply because 80’s advertising made everyone feel like they couldn’t do it on their own.

Don’t Skip These:  If you love old-fashioned cakes, don’t miss my homemade butterscotch cake and this fabulous peanut butter cake, too.

This recipe is truly quick and easy and worth the extra steps for fresh flavor. With just a couple additional (staple) ingredients, you can whip up this amazing cake on a whim!

Sliced mandarin oranges and rosemary sprigs on top of a mandarin orange cake.

Mandarin Orange Cake

Let’s skip the boxed cake mix and Cool Whip and give this easy recipe a whirl!

Why You’ll Love this Mandarin Orange Cake

  • So Easy – It’s foolproof and will make you wonder why you’ve ever bought a mix. Fresh oranges make the cake so moist!
  • Fast – It comes together in just 25 minutes and is so easy to decorate. Don’t be intimidated making a layer cake, it’s truly so simple and gives a nice cake to frosting ratio!
  • Fresh, Vibrant Flavor – It’s the perfect dessert to wow your guests for any occasion, any season of the year.

What is Pig Pickin’ Cake?

It’s a funny name for a delicious cake!

Mandarin or Pig Pickin’?

Mandarin Orange Cake is also known as Pig Pickin’ Cake… a Southern classic that’s been served for generations. It’s often called that because it is frequently served at pig roasts. The name refers to picking the tender meat off the pig. (But trust me, there’s no pork in this cake!)

While it’s typically deemed as a summer dessert, I feel oranges lend themselves well to fall and winter, too. It’s a delicious dessert any time of the year!

It’s moist, dense and oh-so-delicious!

A mandarin orange cake on a cake stand, slice removed to a plate in front.

Ingredients and Substitutions

  • Butter – Salted or unsalted, your preference.
  • Sugar– white granulated
  • Egg yolks– add a rich binding agent to this cake.
  • Mandarin orangesFresh, peeled, crushed. Don’t replace the fresh mandarins with canned, as the cake won’t have the same moisture and texture.
  • Vanilla – you can make your own vanilla extract or of course, use any store bought brand.
  • Milk – I like whole milk here, but anything you have on hand will work.
  • Cake flour – Cake flour is significantly different than regular flour. Be sure to use cake flour instead of traditional in this recipe.
  • Baking powder – this helps the cake rise! 
  • Salt – it’s needed to balance the sweet citrusy flavors of this cake.

Variations

  • Try almond extract instead of vanilla.
  • If you use salted butter, skip the additional salt.

Frosting (+ Filling)

  • Fresh Pineapple – crushed, you can substitute canned pineapple if you prefer.
  • Heavy cream – required to create the rich, creamy frosting that is the star of this cake! 
  • Powdered sugar – creates the smoothest frosting imaginable! 
  • Vanilla pudding mix – instant is best! 

Variations

  • You can even add a little cream cheese or coconut to the filling if you’d like!
  • If you’re not a big frosting fan, you can always cover it in my orange glaze, but this pineapple topping can’t be beat!
A slice of mandarin orange cake on a white plate.
A little girl peeling mandarin oranges with a cake on a cake stand nearby.

How to Make Mandarin Orange Cake

  1. Prep – Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and grease and flour two cake pans.
  2. Cream – In a large bowl or mixer, cream butter and sugar until fluffy. Beat in egg yolks, mandarin oranges and vanilla. A child's hands peeling a mandarin orange.
  3. Combine Dry Ingredients – In a separate bowl, sift cake flour, baking powder and salt together.
  4. Make Batter – Gradually incorporate into wet mixture alternating with milk until just incorporated.
  5. Bake – Pour into baking pans. Bake 25-28 minutes or until the cake springs back after being touched or a toothpick in the center comes out clean. Place on a wire rack to cool completely (approximately 20 minutes) before turning onto rack or pedestal.

How to Make Filling and Assemble

Let’s be honest, the filling in this cake is everything! Fortunately, it’s quick and easy, even when making it fresh!

I make Mandarin Orange Cake filling with homemade whipped cream.

  1. Make Topping – Beat heavy cream until stiff (if you must, you can substitute whipped topping). Add powdered sugar, vanilla pudding mix and crushed pineapple. 
  2. Assemble – Place one layer of cake onto your serving dish and fill with icing before placing the second layer on top.  A round cake on a cake stand in the process of being frosted.
  3. Ice – Ice the top and sides until the cake is completely covered.
  4. Garnish – Garnish and refrigerate until ready to serve.
Sliced mandarin oranges and rosemary sprigs on top of a mandarin orange cake.

Tips

  • Grease your pan so that the cake doesn’t stick. This is the best baking spray.
  • Make it ahead or bake and enjoy right away.
  • Baking Pan Sizes and Conversions
  • Use the Toothpick Test – Insert a toothpick in the center. When it comes out clean, it’s done.

Make More (or Less!)

Scaling up, down or substituting? You’ll love this printable Measurement Conversion Chart!

A slice of mandarin orange cake on a white plate.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is there a difference between mandarins and clementines?

Mandarin oranges are a little flatter on both ends, and are much easier to peel. Mandarin oranges are traditionally a winter fruit here in the States, because they are generally available between November and March.

Are mandarin oranges less healthy than regular oranges?

They are nutritionally very similar, though mandarins are significantly smaller. Ounce for ounce, navel oranges do contain a little more fiber, calcium and vitamin C.

Serving Suggestions

I couldn’t decide how to decorate the cake – to use mandarins whole, quartered, sliced or peeled. The options are endless!

  • Add the fresh mandarin slices in any shape you’d like! We decided we loved them shaped to create a star.
  • Garnishing it with rosemary to makes the Mandarin Orange Cake feel festive for the holidays.

Make Ahead

You can make this mandarin orange cake up to 24 hours in advance. Store in an airtight container to retain moisture.

A mandarin orange cake on a cake stand, slice removed to a plate in front.

How to Store

  • At Room Temperature – This can be left out on the counter for up to two hours.
  • Refrigerate – Cover and store refrigerated, ensuring any exposed cake is covered in plastic wrap to prevent it from drying out.
  • Freeze – You can also freeze Mandarin Orange Cake for up to 30 days covered. Bring to room temperature to enjoy.

Dietary Considerations

  • Vegetarian
  • Nut Free
Sliced mandarin oranges and rosemary sprigs on top of a mandarin orange cake.
A mandarin orange cake on a cake stand, slice removed.
4.99 from 99 votes

Mandarin Orange Cake

A fresh twist on an old classic – Mandarin orange cake made without Cool Whip or boxed cake mix. Just fresh, flavorful, beautiful cake.
Prep: 25 minutes
Cook: 25 minutes
Total: 50 minutes
Servings: 18
Pin Rate Print

Ingredients  

  • 1 cup butter room temperature, softened, unsalted
  • cups white granulated sugar
  • 8 egg yolks
  • 1⅓ cups mandarin oranges FRESH, crushed
  • teaspoons vanilla
  • ¾ cup milk
  • 2 cups cake flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt

Frosting

  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • ½ cup powdered sugar
  • 16 ounces pineapple fresh, crushed

Optional

  • 3.4 ounces vanilla pudding mix (One 3.4 ounce box of instant pudding)

Instructions 

  • Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour 2 8" round pans and set aside.
  • Crush oranges with food processor or blender.
  • In a large bowl/mixer, cream butter and sugar until fluffy. Beat in egg yolks, crushed mandarin oranges and vanilla.
  • In a separate bowl, sift cake flour, baking powder and salt together.
  • Gradually incorporate into wet mixture, alternating with milk until just incorporated.
  • Pour into baking pans and bake 25-28 minutes when cake springs back after being touched. Allow to cool 20 minutes before turning onto rack or pedestal.

Frosting + Filling

  • Crush fresh pineapple in food processor or blender. Set aside.
  • In a stand mixer, beat heavy whipping cream until stiff. Gradually add powdered sugar, crushed pineapple and optional vanilla pudding mix. 
  • Place one layer of cake onto your serving dish and fill with icing before placing the second layer on top. Ice, garnish and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Tips

Substitutions

  • Fresh Pineapple – Substitute canned pineapple, strained
  • Salted Butter – Eliminate salt if using salted butter

To Garnish

  • Add orange slices to the top
  • Add rosemary for Christmas

To Store

Cover and store refrigerated, ensuring any exposed cake is covered in plastic wrap to prevent it from drying out. You can also freeze Mandarin Orange Cake for up to 30 days covered. Bring to room temperature to enjoy.
 

Video

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Calories: 383kcal | Carbohydrates: 42g | Protein: 4g | Fat: 23g | Saturated Fat: 14g | Cholesterol: 151mg | Sodium: 208mg | Potassium: 166mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 29g | Vitamin A: 950IU | Vitamin C: 16.1mg | Calcium: 77mg | Iron: 0.5mg

Estimated nutrition information is provided as a courtesy and is not guaranteed.

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128 Comments

  1. Have you ever made the cake layers ahead and frozen them? I’d like to serve this on Christmas, but if it’s freezable it’ll save time on Christmas Eve.

  2. What a gorgeous cake! I have never thought to use cuties for baking, probably because they are usually gone within a day of buying them in our house!

    1. Hi Julie! To amp up the Mandarin flavour, do you think I could replace the pineapple with mandarin?

      1. Hello!
        While I haven’t tested that, I think you could sure try it. Please be sure to report back!
        Enjoy,
        Julie