Mandarin Orange Cake

Mandarin Orange Cake-1-29

Mandarin oranges always remind me of Christmas. When we still lived in Belarus, my parents always gave us mandarins for Christmas and New Years’ (which is a BIG DEAL holiday in all the former Soviet countries). It turns out that my husband’s family always had mandarins for those holidays too. Even though mandarins were expensive and hardly ever available any other time of year, Christmas and New Years’ were special, so mandarins were as traditional as the Christmas tree, Father Frost and the presents.

When we came to America, we continued having mandarins for Christmas. Of course, now I know that citrus is in season during the winter – which I can especially confirm since I live in Florida. Don’t be jealous, but I have an orange tree right outside my bedroom window. I plan on adding a mandarin and a lemon tree to our backyard too. My husband and I both love mandarins and as soon as they are in season and cheap, we buy them by the boxes. It’s our go-to snack while we watch some of our favorite TV shows. I often snack on them while I’m editing a blog post too.

What could be better than a tender, juicy cake filled with mandarins and every layer of it soaked in citrusy flavor? I created this cake with Sergi and myself in mind. Citrus zest is really aromatic and I added it to everything. The sponge cake layers have the mandarin zest, then the layers are soaked in a mandarin syrup that not only has the mandarin zest, but also orange liqueur. If you can find mandarin liqueur, use that. The zest and liqueur flavor the cream cheese frosting too. Of course, there are lots of mandarin oranges in between each cake layer. Stunning and elegant, this is the perfect cake for the holidays. 

Ingredients:

Cake:

8  eggs, separated, room temperature

1 cup granulated sugar, divided

1/2 cup milk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2-1 teaspoon mandarin or orange zest

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

Frosting:

3 (8 0z.) packages cream cheese, room temperature

1 1/2 cups powdered sugar (more or less to taste)

2 Tablespoons orange or mandarin liqueur

1 teaspoon orange or mandarin zest

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 1/2 cups heavy cream, chilled

Syrup:

2-3 (15 oz each) cans mandarin oranges (1 cup syrup saved)

4 Tablespoons orange or mandarin liqueur

1/2 Tablespoon orange or mandarin zest

Instructions:

Cake:

Mandarin Orange Cake-1-52

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line the bottom of 2 round (9 inch) springform pans with parchment paper and spray the sides and the bottom with oil or baking spray.

Separate the eggs, putting the whites in one bowl and the yolks in another.

Beat the whites using a whisk attachment on a standing mixer or a hand held mixer until foamy. Gradually pour in 1/4 cup of sugar. Mix the whites on high speed until stiff peaks form. Set aside. Mandarin Orange Cake-1-51In the other bowl with the yolks, add the remaining 3/4 cup sugar and use the same whisk attachment to beat the yolks until they are pale and fluffy. Bonus Tip: Whenever I do a recipe that includes beating the egg yolks separately from the egg whites, I always mix the egg whites FIRST and then use the same whisk attachment to mix the egg yolks. Egg whites will not whip properly if there is a speck of yolk in the mixture, so you have to start with a clean bowl and clean whisk attachment. Egg yolks, on the other hand, are not that fussy and will whip up with no problem if you use the whisk attachment with egg whites on it. This way, I save myself from having to wash the whisk attachment.Mandarin Orange Cake-1-50Add the milk, vanilla extract and orange or mandarin zest, mixing just until combined.

Adding mandarin zest will perfume the cake with incredible flavor. I love to use orange or lemon zest in all kinds of cakes, pastries and desserts. Mandarin Orange Cake-1-49

Mandarin Orange Cake-1-48Sift the flour, baking powder and salt into the egg yolk mixture and fold gently to combine. Mandarin Orange Cake-1-47

Mandarin Orange Cake-1-46Add 1/4 of the whipped egg whites into the cake batter, folding it gently to combine. Add the remaining egg whites and continue folding gently to combine, being careful not to deflate the batter as much as you can. Mandarin Orange Cake-1-45Divide the cake batter into the two prepared baking pans. Mandarin Orange Cake-1-44Bake in the preheated oven until they are golden and a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, 20-25 minutes. Mandarin Orange Cake-1-43Cool the cakes 5-10 minutes. Run a thin knife or spatula around the edges of the cake layers, then take them out of the cake pans, remove the parchment paper and cool completely. Mandarin Orange Cake-1-42When the cake layers have cooled, cut each cake in half horizontally.

Frosting:

Mandarin Orange Cake-1-26In a large bowl of a standing mixer with a whisk attachment, or using a hand mixer, mix the cream cheese, powdered sugar, liqueur, zest and vanilla extract until smooth and evenly combined. Mandarin Orange Cake-1-41Add the chilled heavy cream and mix, starting on low speed and then increasing to high speed until the frosting is thick and fluffy.

Mandarin Orange Cake-1-40Syrup:

Drain the canned mandarins from the syrup and save 1 cup of the syrup. Set aside the drained mandarins to be used in between the cake layers.

You can use as much or as little of the canned mandarins as you like. I used 2 cans in this cake, which is a balanced amount, I think. However, if you like A LOT of mandarins and wants to taste mandarins in every bite, you will need to use 3 cans. (Which I actually would:), but I know for most people that would be too much.)

Combine the reserved mandarin syrup, the liqueur and zest in a bowl.

Mandarin Orange Cake-1-37Assembling the Cake:

You can make this cake it all year long, since you’re using canned mandarin oranges in between the cake layers, and you can use orange zest when mandarins are hard to find, or even lemon zest when oranges aren’t available. 

Line the edges of your serving plate with aluminum foil. This will keep the sides of the plate clean while you’re working with drippy frosting. 

Place a dollop of frosting onto the center of the plate and put the first cake layer on top of it. This helps to “glue” the cake to the plate and prevents it from sliding around the plate.

Mandarin Orange Cake-1-36Brush the top and bottom of each cake layer with the syrup. Mandarin Orange Cake-1-35Generously spread each cake layer with frosting, all the way to the edges. Mandarin Orange Cake-1-34

Place the mandarin orange slices on top of the frosting.

Mandarin Orange Cake-1-33

Place each cake layer on top of the frosting and mandarin oranges. Mandarin Orange Cake-1-32Spread the frosting on the top and sides of the cake, smoothing it out. You may need to let the cake stand in the refrigerator for a little while, so that it’s easier to decorate.

Using the palms of your hands, a stiff piece of paper or a bench scraper, coat the sides of the cake with crumbs, nuts or coconut flakes. (I happened to have some extra scraps from another cake I was making, and used those to make crumbs. You can make crumbs from vanilla wafers or other cookies. Coconut flakes or nuts work really well for this cake too.

Carefully pull out the aluminum foil from underneath the edges of the cake and discard. Mandarin Orange Cake-1-31To decorate the top of the cake, I thinly sliced some mandarin oranges and arranged them slightly overlapping on top of the cake, placing them around the edge of the cake. Then, I put a few slices of mandarin in the center of the cake and sprinkled the center of the cake with coconut flakes. Mandarin Orange Cake-1-30The cake should be chilled in the refrigerator for at least 2-4 hours before serving, or overnight. The cake can be made 2 days in advance, completely assembled and stored in the refrigerator, covered.

Mandarin Orange Cake-1-28

Mandarin Orange Cake-1-27

Mandarin Orange Cake
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Author:
Recipe type: Sweets
Serves: 1 (9 inch) round cake
Ingredients
Cake:
  • 8 eggs, separated, room temperature
  • 1 cup granulated sugar, divided
  • ½ cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½-1 teaspoon mandarin or orange zest
  • 1½ cups all purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
Frosting:
  • 3 (8 0z.) packages cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1½ cups powdered sugar (more or less to taste)
  • 2 Tablespoons orange or mandarin liqueur
  • 1 teaspoon orange or mandarin zest
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1½ cups heavy cream, chilled
Syrup:
  • 2-3 (15 oz each) cans mandarin oranges (1 cup syrup saved)
  • 4 Tablespoons orange or mandarin liqueur
  • ½ Tablespoon orange or mandarin zest
Instructions
Cake:
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line the bottom of 2 round (9 inch) springform pans with parchment paper and spray the sides and the bottom with oil or baking spray.
  2. Separate the eggs, putting the whites in one bowl and the yolks in another.
  3. Beat the whites using a whisk attachment on a standing mixer or a hand held mixer until foamy. Gradually pour in ¼ cup of sugar. Mix the whites on high speed until stiff peaks form. Set aside.
  4. In the other bowl with the yolks, add the remaining ¾ cup sugar and use the same whisk attachment to beat the yolks until they are pale and fluffy.
  5. Add the milk, vanilla extract and orange or mandarin zest, mixing just until combined.
  6. Sift the flour, baking powder and salt into the egg yolk mixture and fold gently to combine.
  7. Add ¼ of the whipped egg whites into the cake batter, folding it gently to combine. Add the remaining egg whites and continue folding gently to combine, being careful not to deflate the batter as much as you can.
  8. Divide the cake batter into the two prepared baking pans.
  9. Bake in the preheated oven until they are golden and a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, 20-25 minutes.
  10. Cool the cakes 5-10 minutes. Run a thin knife or spatula around the edges of the cake layers, then take them out of the cake pans, remove the parchment paper and cool completely. When the cake layers have cooled, cut each cake in half horizontally.
Frosting:
  1. In a large bowl of a standing mixer with a whisk attachment, or using a hand mixer, mix the cream cheese, powdered sugar, liqueur, zest and vanilla extract until smooth and evenly combined.
  2. Add the chilled heavy cream and mix, starting on low speed and then increasing to high speed until the frosting is thick and fluffy.
Syrup:
  1. Drain the canned mandarins from the syrup and save 1 cup of the syrup. Set aside the drained mandarins to be used in between the cake layers.
  2. You can use as much or as little of the canned mandarins as you like. I used 2 cans in this cake, which is a balanced amount, I think. However, if you like A LOT of mandarins and wants to taste mandarins in every bite, you will need to use 3 cans. (Which I actually would:), but I know for most people that would be too much.)
  3. Combine the reserved mandarin syrup, the liqueur and zest in a bowl.
Assembling the Cake:
  1. Line the edges of your serving plate with aluminum foil. This will keep the sides of the plate clean while you’re working with drippy frosting. Place a dollop of frosting onto the center of the plate and put the first cake layer on top of it. This helps to "glue" the cake to the plate and prevents it from sliding around the plate.
  2. Brush the top and bottom of each cake layer with the syrup.
  3. Generously spread each cake layer with frosting, all the way to the edges.
  4. Place the canned mandarin orange slices on top of the frosting.
  5. Place each cake layer on top of the frosting and mandarin oranges.
  6. Spread the frosting on the top and sides of the cake, smoothing it out. You may need to let the cake stand in the refrigerator for a little while, so that it’s easier to decorate.
  7. Using the palms of your hands, a stiff piece of paper or a bench scraper, coat the sides of the cake with crumbs, nuts or coconut flakes. (I happened to have some extra scraps from another cake I was making, and used those to make crumbs. You can make crumbs from vanilla wafers or other cookies. Coconut flakes or nuts work really well for this cake too.
  8. Carefully pull out the aluminum foil from underneath the edges of the cake and discard.
To decorate the top of the cake:
  1. I thinly sliced some mandarin oranges and arranged them slightly overlapping on top of the cake, placing them around the edge of the cake. Then, I put a few slices of mandarin in the center of the cake and sprinkled the center of the cake with coconut flakes.
  2. The cake should be chilled in the refrigerator for at least 2-4 hours before serving, or overnight. The cake can be made 2 days in advance, completely assembled and stored in the refrigerator, covered.

34 Comments

  • Yelena B

    I thought I knew exactly what I was baking for Christmas (your Ricotta Cheesecake and a Pomegranate cake) But now I am rethinking everything…Ah this one looks amazing! I love the very last picture, it does a good job of showing how light the cake layers are.

    While I sit here and ponder my whole life existence (what kind of person would I be if I didn’t make this cake?) I want to take a minute to wish you and your husband a very Merry Christmas!!
    I have made tons of delicious recipe’s from this blog and look forward to many more 🙂

  • Sashaa

    Olechka, Merry Christmas and of course most importantly S Nastupaishim Novym Godom i Novym Schastiem!
    Aint nothing like some mandarinchiki, my American husband watches me eat the Cuties(or Halos) by the box this time a year hahahaha !~~~he is amazed , i always tell him during this season its a MUST to have them around the house and i am always snacking on them when watching tv at night . Love this cake , looks gorgeous !!!

  • Mommy

    I just made your royal cake for the first time. I never made a cake of yours that disappointed me. This is my no.1 food blog that I whole heartedly trust and can make a recipe for the first time and serve to my guest.. Thank you again for your time that you put into this blog. Blessings to you! Have a wonderful Merry Christmas!!

  • Elizabeth S.

    This looks like an amazing flavor combination! I never would have thought of it, but my mother-in-law (Russian) made something similar, and I loved it. I know a lot of people use storebought biskvit though and I’m excited to try your homemade version! Do you think it will be bland without the liqueur?

  • Natalie

    i made it and everyone loved it!!!! Especially my husband who doesn’t care much for cakes requested that I make it again! The only thing that I noticed with it is that the cake needs to stand at least 24 hours for it to хорошо пропитаться. I made it the night before and cut it to it the next day it was still a little dry but the day after it was so nice and moist!!! It’s our new favorite!!!

  • Katrina

    I made this cake for family get together on Christmas and everyone loved it. Even my husband, who is not a big sweets fan,had seconds. Thank you for a great recipe. I was wondering, is the cake part similar to the cannoli cake in taste and texture? I wanted to try making the cannoli cake and using this batter, since it turned out good and I didn’t deflate it.

    • olgak7

      I’m so glad you all enjoyed the cake, Katrina.
      Yes, the cake is similar to the cake that I used for the Cannoli cake. It’s a family favorite:). Enjoy!

      • Katrina

        I made the Cannoli cake with the batter for this mandarin cake last weekend( minus the zest) when my in-laws were over for lunch, and once again, a huge hit! Thanks for yet another wonderful recipe! I’ m actually making another one right now per my husband’s request (let me remind you that he is not big on sweets). My kids also said it’s their new favorite cake. I will be using this sponge cake recipe for all my future cakes. I love how light and fluffy it is, and bakes up nice and tall (I make a 10 inch from this recipe). Thanks again! May God bless you dear, and your family. I find you very inspirational and thoroughly enjoy reading your posts.

  • Victoria Ter

    Olga, I baked this cake for the New Year. Gosh! It came out perfect!!!!
    I followed your instructions to the letter and it came out amazing.
    My family was really impressed.
    Thank you very much!
    (П.С. Желаю всего самого лучшего Вам и вашей семье в новом году)

  • larisa

    Olga,

    I am thinking about making this cake for the family gathering and was wondering if I could use real mandarin segments instead of caned. What do you think, will it work?
    Thank you and have a blessed weekend. Larisa

    • olgak7

      I would not recommend it, Larisa. First of all, it will take a very LONG time to get the mandarin segments out of the membranes. Plus, mandarins are so small, it’s much harder than when you do an orange. (I have a tutorial here:)
      If you want to use fresh mandarin, I would serve the cake the same day that you assemble it. Otherwise, the mandarin pieces will exude a lot of liquid and make the cake too soggy and they will also not taste as fresh if you serve it the next day.

  • Katya

    Olechka, thank you very much for all your recipes! I loved everything I tried so far. Great presentation too! I love mandarin cake. I made it several times. I have a ? Have you try to make cup cakes using this recipe??? Do you think it will work?

    • olgak7

      I’m not sure, Katya. I have never made this cake into cupcakes. If I would make these cupcakes, I would probably use a different type of cake batter.

  • Veronika

    Made this cake for Christmas – loved it! Perfectly moist and just the right amount of sweet and tangy! Followed the recipe to a T! Great recipe Olga!

  • Anju

    We made this today. Made the syrup with fresh oranges (clementines) and it turned out so good!!! 🤗 Thank you! 🍰

  • Anju

    We made this as a birthday cake for my dad. Made the syrup with fresh oranges (clementines) and it turned out so good!!! it was so tasty and fresh! 🤗 Thank you! 🍰

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