Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Back to Basics - Orange Butter Cake

After two hectic months of work, it is finally time for a short break. While I recharge myself physically and emotionally so that I may be all ready to take on any challenges or pressures at work, it is also time to revisit my pantry and say Hi to my baking books once again. 

Looking at the few blocks of Président French butter tucked away quietly in my refrigerator, I felt that it was time to whip up a butter cake; something simple yet able to satisfy my sweet palate at the same time.   

Referring to the Sicilian Orange Cake recipe from Almost Bourdain, a fuss free recipe that uses but a few easy to obtain ingredients, the end result was a fluffy and tender butter cake with bursts of bright citrusy flavour from the orange zests used.

I particularly loved the proportion of butter, sugar and eggs formulated in this recipe. When doing most butter cakes, the amount of eggs used is often too much for the volume of creamed butter to hold. This often results in a somewhat curdled mixture which is said to affect the fluffiness of the resulting cake or may cause the cake to be oily.

When I was adding eggs (170g) to the creamed butter ( 250g), the eggs and butter emulsified beautifully without a single trace of separation, making the mixing process a reassuring one. I strongly believe this might be the tipping point before the butter-egg mixture separates should any more eggs be added to the mixture. I will be discussing further on this hypothesis in my upcoming post on banana butter cake.

Orange Butter Cake (recipe slightly adapted from Almost Bourdain)
Serving size: 9 x 5 inch loaf cake, serves about 10 slices.
Taste and texture: Citrusy, fluffy and tender with the right amount of moisture.
Equipment and materials:
  • 9 x 5 inch loaf tin
  • Handheld electric mixer/ Stand electric mixer
  • Spatula
  • Grater
  • Mixing bowls
  • Wire rack
  • flour sieve
  • Weighing scale
  • Baking/ parchment paper
  • Pastry brush for oiling pan

  • 250g good quality unsalted butter, softened
  • 185g castor sugar
  • 170g whole eggs, at room temperature 
  • 100ml freshly squeezed orange juice
  • finely grated zests of 2 oranges (see instructions below)
  • 250g self raising flour

Making the cake:

Preheat Oven and preparing baking tin - Preheat oven to 180 degrees C. Line a 9 x 5 loaf tin with baking paper.

Rubbing orange zests and sugar - Grate orange zests over castor sugar to catch the orange oil. Using your hands, rub the orange zests and the castor sugar until the flavour is infused into the sugar. The castor sugar will be pale orange in colour. 

Creaming the butter - In a large mixing bowl, cream butter and orange-infused sugar on medium high speed for about 5 minutes until pale and fluffy (as mentioned in how to cream butter).

Adding eggs to creamed butter - Add beaten eggs to creamed butter in 6 additions and mix on medium speed, ensuring each addition is well incorporated before adding the next addition. The batter will become wet as more eggs is added but will slowly firm up when the last portion of eggs are mixed in.

Adding flour mixture and orange juice - Sieve 1/3 of the self raising flour to the egg-butter mixture. Mix on low speed until the last bit of flour is absorbed. Next, add in half the orange juice and continue mixing until the orange juice is incorporated. Repeat the mixing process by sifting another 1/3 portion of self raising flour, followed by the remaining half of the orange juice, lastly followed by sifting in the remaining 1/3 of the self raising flour. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl with a spatula to incorporate loose ingredients.

Baking the cake - Pour batter into lined 9 x 5 loaf tin. Bake the batter for 50-60 mins at 180 degrees C. Allow cake to cool in loaf tin for 10 minutes before removing cake from loaf tin. Allow cake to cool completely on a wire rack before storing.

Instagram link: http://instagram.com/bakertanbakes


  1. WoW! Welcome back! I can almost taste the orangey flavour of the cake! Good texture!
    Baking is therapeutic when you have had a hard day at work! It's even better when the baking results are good!

    1. Hey Judy,

      Thanks! It is superbly orangey cos i rubbed the zests with the sugar! Yeah, I always look forward to baking when I have a good break. Nothing beats baking and cakes and treats to eat afterwards!

  2. Nothing beats having a good quality butter in butter cake.

  3. Wow! This uses so much orange juice! Must be full of orange fragrance! Love the way this butter cake is made!

    1. Hey Jane,

      Actually it is not a lot of orange juice. The amount is just nice to prevent the cake from drying out during baking.

  4. Hello Bakertan,

    I am one of the silent readers of your blog. I don't remember how I came across your blog originally but have been following it for more than a year. I always look forward to your posts and a new recipe by you makes my day, even if I don't bake it, just to look at it.

    I am a very very novice baker and so am yet to attempt many of your recipes. I have tried your carrot cupcakes, chocolate chip cookies and a cheese cake. All were really good. This Orange butter cake looks amazing and simple too. I am definitely going to try this and report back.


    1. Hi Poornima,

      Thank you very much for reading my blog. I am sure with some practice, you will become a better baker =].

      This is quite a simple recipe that requires few ingredients and the results are good. Look forward to hearing from you on your orange butter cake. Have fun!

  5. 170 whole eggs?!!? I know you mean 170gm but roughly how many eggs is that?
    I always thought that it was the cold eggs that made it curdle, coz there are times when I am just adding the first (cold) egg and my mixture curdles. Please share. Thanks.

    1. Hi stay-at-home mum,

      Oops sorry for the typo. I have edited it. There is a reason why I stated 170g of eggs instead of the 4 medium eggs used stated on the original recipe. Eggs vary in size from 50g to as much as 75g per egg (with shell on). Therefore, weighing eggs is the most accurate (even more so for chiffon cakes). Furthermore, medium size eggs in singapore may not be the same weight as that in another county, hence there is some ambiguity.

      Yes, you are right. It is mentioned in many sources that temperature difference between the butter and eggs will cause the eggs to curdle. Therefore, adding cold eggs will cause the egg butter mixture to curdle. However, there is a limit to how much the butter can hold a certain amount of eggs too. Any further increase in the amount of eggs beyond a certain point and the butter-egg mixture will start to curdle.

      You may want to place your eggs with their shells on in warm water. They should be ready to use in about 5 minutes. (I usually get warm water straight from my water heater used for showering, without the need to boil any water.)

    2. Thanks Bakertan!! Will keep in mind your tip on how to get my eggs to room temperature. Just wondering then how my friends who make kueh lapis manage it, cos they tell me its something like 30 eggs for one cake? Any experience with that?

    3. Hi,

      My recipe for kueh lapis uses 18 egg yolks and 6 egg whites. Best way is to get one whole pack of 30 eggs from the supermarket. No need to worry about them being cold.

  6. first time here ... glad to follow you ..very yummy and spongy cake ...visit my blog

  7. Dear Bakertan,

    As promised, here I am to report back. I did make the cake today and it tasted awesome, not too sweet, not too tangy. Just the right mix of flavors, lovely really.

    However, I did not get the lovely light yellow color that your cake shows. Also, the top did not crack like yours so it became a bit sticky after a while. Initially when I took it out of the oven, the top was not brown at all, almost white though I could see that it was baked (also toothpick came out clean). However, I wanted the lovely brown crust like yours and I had taken it out after 50 mins so I figured it needed more time and stuck it back in for another 10 mins. After that, the top did brown but did not crack and when I cut the cake, it was more white-ish in color. Not sure what I did wrong. Would you have any idea? What causes the top to crack and the cake to get that lovely yellow, buttercup color?

    I want to make this again on sunday because the taste was so good that only a small piece was left for my sister and she really loved it. She was disappointed I saved only a piece for her. Thank you so much for the wonderful recipe, this is the first time my cake was consumed completely within the same day of baking:)


    1. the reason why my cake turned out pale yellow is because of the french butter I used and it tends to be paler in colour than normal butter. as for the browning on top, you may want to bake the cake in the middle rack or slightly higher in position compared to when you baked your first cake. this should help the cake brown better. to get the slit, simply use a knife or spatula to cut lengthwise on the top of the batter before the pan is sent into the oven. as long as it tastes good, you need not worry somuch about the appearance.

  8. Hi bakertan,

    Thank you for sharing your great recipe! This is only my second time baking and your orange butter cake called out to me! The taste was fantastic but I had a problem with the texture. It rose and browned very nicely in the oven but after cooling it sank quite considerably. The base was also quite dense, not fluffy at all and looked a little wet. Wonder if you may give some insights abt it. Is it coz it wasn't baked long enough? I baked for 50mins and the toothpick came out clean. Or was it the whisking that wasn't done properly?
    Thank you!

    1. Hi Wen,

      I discovered this recipe all thanks to other bloggers. So credit goes out to them.

      Normally after baking any cakes or cupcakes, the cakes will shrink. The word "considerably" is rather subjective in this case.

      For the dense base, it might be because you did not mix the batter well in the process. Did you scrape the sides and bottom of your bowl every now and then during the creaming of butter, adding of eggs, and adding of flour and orange juice? Finally, after the batter has come together, scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl well and make sure the loose ingredients are incorporated into the batter. (The batter that is at the sides and at the bottom tends to be least mixed, hence the need to scrape often)

      After the cake tester/wooden skewer has come out clean, try baking the cake fr 3-5 minutes more. If the cake is taken out slightly too early, it might be a little undercooked at the base. Personally, I would think a toothpick might not be long enough to test the doneness of the cake. The cake tester/wooden skewer should be inserted all the way into the cake.

      Wet base can also occur if the cake is not brought to cool on a wire rack or left to cool too long in the tin.

      just my two cents worth. Hope it helps.

  9. Hi bakertan,

    Thank you for this little recipe. I am a rookie at baking but the cake still turned out great. I shared it with a few close friends last night and they couldn't have enough of it. The orange/citrus taste wasn't overpowering (not that big a fan of oranges) and the cake was adequately moist and tender. Thought the idea of grating the zest over the sugar was genious as well. Wanted to ask one quick question - did you purchase freshly squeezed orange juice from the store or did you squeeze (or juice) it out manually (DIY)? Was your orange juice "pulpy"?

  10. Hi,

    Glad to hear the cake worked well for you =]. Hope you have greater confidence in your upcoming bakes.

    you may use storebought bottled/packet orange juice if you want. In my case, I used freshly squeezed juice straight from the fruit and I filtered the pulp out. The pulp shouldn't affect the texture much as long as there isn't an excess of it.


  11. I love the basics! This looks so good. Never baked with oranges, but I think I will soon ;)

  12. Hi! I came across your blog and am so enticed by your cake. I am planning to make my daughter's birthday cake next week and is now considering your orange butter cake. Would you consider this cake to be dense enough to support fondant icing and decor? Thanks!

  13. Thanks for the recipe. The cake was delicious and I also had the nice yellow color.

  14. Looking back at your bakes when you first started out, you have grown immensely. Good work!

  15. Looking back at the bakes when you first started out, you have grown immensely. Good work!

  16. hi Rei,

    Thank you for the encouragement. Its been a while since I see your blog post.

  17. Sounds delicious for this recipe! It's make me hungry :) i can't wait to eat this!

  18. The cake turn out very dense. Not fluffy. Was it because I put the cake in the refrigerator?

    Your advise please? Thanks!

  19. Hi

    You should let the cake come to room temperature. Butter cakes can be dense when refrigerated and eaten chilled.

  20. Looks really tempting. Do stop by my blog too -bake-a-mania.blogspot.in

  21. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  22. Hi, I have just started taking an interest in baking and butter cake is my experiment right now. I am very happy to stumble upon your blog as I have yet to find a good butter cake recipe. I use a gas oven (can only bake with bottom fire) at home and my butter cake always turns out a bit greasy at the bottom. I'd love to try out your recipe. Do you think it'd be OK to substitute the 100ml orange juice with milk? I am trying to get a traditional butter pound cake right. Thanks in advance!

  23. Hi, I have been looking for a perfect butter cake recipe! Have tried out many but none is perfect so far. Can't wait to try yours! I'm using a gas oven (with only bottom fire) at home and I constantly have greasy bottom problem with my butter cake (although texture of the cake is fine, incl the bottom). Could I substitute the orange juice with 100ml of milk in your recipe? I'm trying to get a traditional pound cake recipe perfectly right ! Thanks very much in advance for your help!

  24. Hi, Bakertan, I baked your orange butter cake this morning. It tasted so good, soft and fluffy! However, my cake has grease looking patches around the bottom half, although the texture has absolutely no problem - uniformly soft and fluffy, including the bottom half. I'm puzzled by the grease patches and have been trying to figure out the cause of it. Could it have anything to do with my gas oven, which allows me to bake using only bottom fire ?? I hope you can enlighten me. THANKS!


Dear readers, thanks for visiting my humble little blog. Feel free to leave a message so that I can learn and be a better baker. Its a great feeling to share our culinary experience and adventures in the kitchen.

Thank you and have a nice day! Cheers =]

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