This two layer orange creamsicle cake is bursting with citrus and vanilla flavors! Moist, fluffy vanilla layer cake is made with orange juice and orange zest then frosted in a orange vanilla buttercream frosting.
Growing up I’ll be honest I wasn’t a fan of creamsicles. You know the frozen treat on a stick? I was more of a fudgesicle kind of girl. Or those chocolate crunchy ice-cream bars (you know the ones). Who knows maybe I could taste the artificialness going on.
But put real orange and vanilla flavors inside a cake, and I’m on board. And I love baking with citrus in the wintertime. Citrus is in season in the winter months, so why not embrace it!
Yes this cake was a tough one to not sneak bites of when walking by. “I’ll just take one more bite” I kept saying. Mmhmm, I think you can all guess how that battle ended.
Cake – 1, Me – O. Oh well, moving on. Let me wave the white flat while I take another bite.
Ingredients For This Orange Creamsicle Cake
For the cake:
- Cake Flour – Cake flour has a lower protein content than regular AP flour, so you end up with a lighter, fluffier cake in the end. Lower protein = less gluten formed. And gluten is the protein that gives a cake structure. So less structure means a fluffy cake for you! If you don’t have cake flour on hand, you can make a DIY cake flour version. It won’t be exactly the same but will do in a pinch!
- Baking powder – This is what will leaven your cake, or help it to rise. It’s not the same as baking soda! It will not react the same, so don’t mix them up. You can read more here about Baking Powder vs. Baking Soda. Be sure your baking powder is fresh, and hasn’t expired. To check it, put a teaspoon of it in a small bowl of warm water. If it bubbles, you’re all set! If not, throw it out and get a new container.
- Salt – You always need some salt to help balance the sweetness in your recipes. But that isn’t the only job! Read more here about The Role Of Salt In Baking. I use kosher salt in all of my baking, because it has no additives and a more pure salt taste. Table salt has smaller granule size than kosher salt so use less.
- Unsalted butter – You will need to cream softened butter with your sugar in this recipe, so make sure it’s softened! Here are How To Soften Butter Fast (3 ways!). I also always recommend unsalted butter vs salted butter. Different brands will use varying amounts of salt in their salted butter, so it’s best to use unsalted butter so you can control the amount of salt. Butter will be needed for the cake and the frosting.
- Oil – I add some oil to this cake to help keep it moist. You want to use a neutral-tasting oil such as vegetable or canola oil.
- Granulated sugar – This is key to not only sweeten your cake, but also to tenderize it as well. Sugar is important in helping to leaven the cake as well, during the creaming method process. Sugar basically punches holes into the butter, creating pockets of air. Those pockets then will fill up with carbon dioxide gas let off by the baking powder and these bubbles then expand helping your cake to rise.
- Orange zest – The cake has fresh orange zest grated into it to give it maximum flavor. I add the orange zest to the sugar, so it can really be worked in and have the orange oils release. You will use this in the cake and the frosting.
- Eggs – You want room temperature large eggs. Room temperature eggs will bind and emulsify better than cold ones. And room temperature eggs will also create more volume as well. If you add cold eggs it will also seize up the butter in the bowl as well. I place my eggs into a bowl of warm water for 10 minutes before using.
- Vanilla extract – Pure vanilla extract is best for the optimal flavor in this cake and the frosting.
- Orange juice – Save those oranges you zested and squeeze some fresh orange juice into this cake! You will also need some fresh orange juice for your frosting too.
- Buttermilk – This helps to moisten the cake and give it great flavor. If you don’t have buttermilk on hand, you can make a DIY buttermilk instead. Your results won’t be exactly the same, but it will come close.
For the orange creamsicle frosting:
- Confectioners sugar – You need confectioners sugar (or powdered sugar) for the buttercream frosting.
- Heavy cream (or milk) – This is needed to achieve the creamy smooth consistency of the buttercream frosting.
- Unsalted butter – You will need to cream softened butter for the frosting as well.
- Orange juice – You will also need some fresh orange juice for your frosting too.
- Orange zest – You will also need some orange zest for the cake.
How To Make This Orange Creamsicle Cake
You wan to start by preheating your oven to 350°F. I recommend greasing your cake pans and lining the bottoms with parchment paper. I love using Baker’s Joy spray that has flour in it for the best release. I like to spray the pans, then line the bottom with parchment paper, then give it another spray. Here is a tutorial on How To Prepare Cake Pans (in 4 easy steps!)
And then combine your dry ingredients. In a mixing bowl, whisk together your cake flour, baking powder, and salt.
For the best results I always recommend measuring your ingredients, especially your flour, by weight using a digital kitchen scale. This always ensures you get the correct amount and don’t end up with too much flour in your bowl which can greatly affect the overall texture of your cake.
In a second bowl you are going to cream the softened butter and sugar. Again it’s important to make sure your butter is softened (but not at all melted!) so it can be properly creamed with the sugar to help leaven the cake properly.
I recommend creaming for about 2-3 minutes on medium speed. If you cream on a too high of a speed it could incorporate too much air into your cake which can then cause it to collapse after baking.
You will combine the butter, oil, sugar and zest together until light and fluffy, about 1 to 2 minutes. Your mixture may slightly curdled looking at this point due to the oil. Don’t worry this is normal!
I love adding the orange zest to the bowl at this point so the zest can be worked into the sugar and help it to release its oil. This makes for maximum orange flavor!
Once the butter is properly creamed, you can add the eggs and vanilla. Make sure to add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. You want each egg properly incorporated before adding the next. You may need to scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl after each addition. Sometimes ingredients will stay unincorporated at the bottom. Then go ahead and add in the vanilla extract.
Now it’s time alternate the dry ingredients with buttermilk. You want to alternate adding the flour mixture with the buttermilk and orange juice, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Alternating the ingredients will help reduce the amount of time you need to mix everything together to get a smooth batter, so this will ensure a tender cake in the end.
Then it’s time to bake! You want to divide the cake batter between your two pans, smooth the tops and bake in the center of your oven. I always test the center of the cake with a toothpick to ensure there’s no wet batter before removing the pan. Then I let the cakes cool in the pan for 5-10 minutes on a cooling rack before removing from the pan to cool further.
While the cake is cooling, I like to make the frosting. In a mixing bowl with an electric mixer, combine the butter and confectioners sugar. You want to mix on low speed at first so you don’t end up with sugar all over your kitchen! Then increase the speed to medium until combined.
Once the sugar is incorporated, add the heavy cream, vanilla, orange juice, and zest. I mix my frosting for a very long time – for 7-8 minutes until light and cream. It might seem excessive but I will ensure you get the fluffiest and best frosting ever. And then the cake is cooledfrost the cake and serve.
Tips For Making This Orange Creamsicle Cake Recipe
- Prep Your Pans The Right Way. I recommend greasing your cake pans and lining the bottoms with parchment paper. I love using Baker’s Joy spray that has flour in it for the best release. I like to spray the pans, then line the bottom with parchment paper, then give it another spray. Here is a tutorial on How To Prepare Cake Pans (in 4 easy steps!)
- Measure Your Flour Accurately. I do recommend using a digital kitchen scale for best accuracy. But if you don’t own one yet, then fluff up your flour first. Spoon it into your cup and the level it off. Don’t pack it down! Here is a tutorial onw How To Measure Flour.
- Careful when zesting. When zesting the citrus, make sure to go only down to the white pith layer. The white pith layer is bitter so you want to make sure to not zest this layer, just the outer layer.
- Soften Your Butter. You want properly softened butter so that you can cream mixture properly. The sugar punches holes into the butter creating air pockets, which helps to aerate and help the cake to rise. Here are 3 quick ways to soften your butter.
- Don’t Overcream! – Cream the butter and sugar together on medium speed for about 2-3 minutes. If you cream for too long and too high of a speed you will end up incorporating too much air and softening the butter too much.
- Bring your eggs to room temperature. You don’t want cold eggs being added to your creamed butter mixture. It will seize up the butter. So place your eggs in a bowl of warm water for 10 minutes before using them.
Storing This Cake
When it comes to cakes I highly recommend making them ahead of time. There’s a lot of work that goes into them so it’s great to make them ahead! You can store the cake layers, unfrosted and then frost them later. You can also store the cake layers, or the whole cake at room temperature.
You can also freeze the cake layers too if you need to!
Cake Layers only:
- At room temperature: You can make the cake layers 2-3 days ahead of time. Leave them unfrosted, and wrap in plastic wrap or tin-foil. Just make sure they are completely cool before doing so.
- Freezing: You can also wrap the cooled cake layers and freeze for up to 3 months if you don’t plan to use the layers in a few days. I let them thaw at room temperature before icing them.
- At room temperature: If you have frosted the cake, then be sure to cover it properly. I like to store the cake in a plastic cake container, like this one. It will be fine at room temperature for about 2 days. The frosting will lock the moisture in.
- Freezing: Yes you can freeze a frosted cake! You can freeze a whole cake, or slices. I recommend freezing the cake (or slices) first unwrapped until frozen solid, about 4 hours. Then wrap carefully in plastic wrap (a few layers) and a final layer of aluminum foil. When ready to enjoy, just thaw at room temperature.
Orange Creamsicle Cake Recipe FAQ’s
Do I have to use orange zest?
You definitely don’t. This cake would be delicious with any type of zest!
Why is my cake not done in the middle?
This can happen if it cooks too fast, creating a crust on the outside leaving the middle uncooked. This could mean your oven temperature is too high. Do yourself a favor and get an oven thermometer to double check the accuracy of your oven.
Related post: Baking 101: Getting To Know Your Oven
Why does my cake sink in the middle?
This usually means the cake is not done. Again, do yourself a favor and check that oven temperature. And be sure to not peek during the baking process! Keep that oven door closed.
How can I tell when my cake is finished baking?
To test when my ake is done, I like to use a long wooden skewer to insert into the cake and see if there are moist crumbs that cling to it. My biggest worry is overbaking it. So making sure my oven temperature is running correctly, I can then set my timer and check it with the skewer to ensure it’s done properly and not overbaked.
Can I bake this cake in a different pan?
Bake 35-40 minutes for a 9″ x 13″ pan; 24-27 minutes for 8″ layers, or 23 to 25 minutes for cupcakes. The cake is done when it’s golden brown around the edges and toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove cake from the oven and allow it to cool for 5 minutes, then turn it out onto a rack (unless in a 9×13 pan) to cool completely.
More Citrus Recipes To Enjoy
- Grapefruit Pound Cake
- Lemon Raspberry Bundt Cake Recipe
- Gluten Free Clementine Cake
- Easy Lemon Bars (+Video!)
- Lemon Sour Cream Pound Cake Recipe
- The BEST Homemade Lemon Bread
More Cake Recipes
- Chocolate Coconut Cake
- Fresh Strawberry Pound Cake (with strawberry glaze!)
- The BEST carrot layer cake
- Vanilla Sponge Cake
- Momofuku Milk Bar Cake
- Chocolate Guinness Cake
- Peanut Butter Cake
- Hummingbird Cake
- Coconut Cake
Tools Needed To Make This Orange Creamsicle Cake
If you want to become a better baker then be sure to check out my now Ultimate Baking Bootcamp online class!
Orange Creamsicle Cake
- For the cake:
- 3 ¼ cups (390 g) cake flour
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ cup (1 stick, 113 g) unsalted butter, softened
- ½ cup (120 mL) vegetable oil
- 2 cups (396 g) granulated white sugar
- 2 Tablespoons orange zest
- 4 large eggs room temperature
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 1 ¼ cups (300 mL) buttermilk
- ¼ cup (60 mL) orange juice
- For the frosting:
- 3 ¾ sticks (423 g) unsalted butter softened
- 3 ¾ cups (453 g) confectioner sugar
- 3 Tablespoons heavy cream or milk
- 1 ½ Tablespoons vanilla extract
- ¼ cup (60 mL) orange juice
- zest of 1 orange (about 1 tablespoon)
To make the cake:
- Preheat and prepare pan. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour two 9-inch cake pans. Set aside.
- Combine dry ingredients. In a mixing bowl, whisk together cake flour, baking powder, and salt.
- Cream butter and sugar. In a second mixing bowl with an electric mixer on medium speed, cream butter, oil, sugar and zest together until light and fluffy, about 1 to 2 minutes.
- Add eggs and vanilla. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl after each addition. Add vanilla extract.
- Alternate dry ingredients with buttermilk. Alternate adding the flour mixture with the buttermilk and orange juice, beginning and ending with the flour mixture.
- Bake. Bake 30-35 minutes (for 9” layers).
To make the frosting:
- Mix butter and sugar. In a mixing bowl with an electric mixer, combine the butter and confectioners sugar. Mix on low speed at first, then increase the speed to medium until combined.
- Add heavy cream, vanilla, orange juice, and zest. Add in your heavy cream, vanilla extract,juice, and mix on medium to high speed for 7-8 minutes until light and cream. When cake is cooled frost cake and serve.
- Different Pans: Bake 35-40 minutes for a 9" x 13" pan; 24-27 minutes for 8" layers, or 23 to 25 minutes for cupcakes. The cake is done when it's golden brown around the edges and toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove cake from the oven and allow it to cool for 5 minutes, then turn it out onto a rack (unless in a 9x13 pan) to cool completely.
- Cake Layers - At room temperature: You can make the cake layers 2-3 days ahead of time. Leave them unfrosted, and wrap in plastic wrap or tin-foil. Just make sure they are completely cool before doing so.
- Freezing - Cake Layers: You can also wrap the cooled cake layers and freeze for up to 3 months if you don't plan to use the layers in a few days. I let them thaw at room temperature before icing them.
- Frosted Cake (at room temperature) If you have frosted the cake, then be sure to cover it properly. I like to store the cake in a plastic cake container. It will be fine at room temperature for about 2 days. The frosting will lock the moisture in.
- Freezing Frosted Cake: Yes you can freeze a frosted cake! You can freeze a whole cake, or slices. I recommend freezing the cake (or slices) first unwrapped until frozen solid, about 4 hours. Then wrap carefully in plastic wrap (a few layers) and a final layer of aluminum foil. When ready to enjoy, just thaw at room temperature.