Portuguese Orange Cake

4.50 from 8 votes
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This Portuguese Orange Cake is moist and fragrant, with the most alluring bright orange flavour.

Portuguese Orange Cake

This Portuguese Orange Cake recipe is authentic + SO GOOD

This beloved orange cake recipe was shared with my by my friend Cherie who is married to a Portuguese man with a major penchant for the orange cake of his country.

This simple Portuguese orange cake recipe is moist and fragrant, with the most alluring bright orange flavour. Both the zest and juice of three oranges are involved, so it is wonderfully orange-y.

It’s definitely one of the best cake recipes I’ve got.

Moist Orange Cake

Why The Internet Is Obsessed with this Orange Cake

This moist orange cake recipe has been a fan favorite on the Foodess blog since I posted it a decade ago, and for good reason.

It’s a sponge cake of sorts, with egg whites folded in at the last minute to lighten the batter, but with more moisture than the airy sponge cakes you may have had.

Both the zest and juice of three oranges are involved, so it is wonderfully orange-y and citrus-y.

It leans slightly more toward bitterness than the tartness you might expect from citrus desserts – this is owing to the lashings of zest beaten into the batter.

Don’t worry, it’s not bitter-bitter, just enough to be intriguing.

Bottom line? You get a moist orange cake and a fluffy, airy sponge cake vibe all in one gorgeously orange-packed bite.

whip egg whites until stiff peaks form

Here’s What You Need to Make Fluffy, Moist Orange Cake

For this Portuguese Orange Cake recipe, it’s all about simple ingredients that pack a big flavor. Let’s break down what you’ll need.

Mixing the meringue and batter for the Portuguese Orange Cake

Orange Cake Ingredients

I’ve got a pretty straightforward list here. Each ingredient plays a key role in making this cake as delightful as it is.

  • Butter: Gives the cake a rich flavor and tender crumb.
  • Granulated Sugar: Sweetens the cake, balancing the zestiness of the oranges.
  • Large Eggs: Bind the ingredients together, with yolks adding richness and whites providing lift.
  • Orange: The stars of the show. Zest adds a punch of flavor, while orange juice keeps everything moist. It’s a double whammy of flavor.
  • All-purpose Flour: Provides structure for the cake, making it sturdy yet soft.
  • Baking Powder: Acts as a leavening agent, helping the cake rise beautifully.
  • Confectioners’ Sugar: Optional for dusting, adds a sweet finish and looks pretty.

Make sure to bring all of your ingredients to room temperature before you bake – cold eggs or oranges will cause the butter to seize up. Here’s how to quickly bring ingredients to room temperature.

Variations and Substitutions

Feel free to mix things up with these ideas. Each one can help tailor the cake to your liking.

  • Swap Oranges for Lemons: For a twist, lemons can replace oranges, offering a tangier flavor.
  • Dairy-Free Butter: If you’re avoiding dairy, use your favorite plant-based butter.
  • Gluten-Free Flour: Swap in a gluten-free all-purpose blend to make this cake accessible to everyone.
  • Add Nuts: Fold in some chopped almonds or walnuts for added texture and nuttiness.

Grab These Tools

A few basic tools and you’re on your way to baking bliss. Here’s what to gather.

  • 8×8″ Baking Dish: The perfect size for this cake, ensuring even cooking.
  • Electric Mixer: Makes creaming butter and sugar, as well as whipping egg whites, a breeze.
  • Mixing Bowls: You’ll need a few, one for dry ingredients, one for the butter mixture, and one for egg whites.
  • Whisk and Spatula: For combining ingredients smoothly and folding in those egg whites gently.
  • Zester and Juicer: Essential for getting all that flavorful orange zest and juice.

You’ll also need a wire rack for cooling, and a toothpick or meat thermometer to check doneness.

Other Sized Pans

  • For a 9-inch round pan, the batter amount should be just about right for a single layer.
  • I don’t recommend loaf pans for this cake. It’s too much batter for a single pan and not enough for 2 fluffy loaf cakes.
  • For a layer cake, you could try:
  • Dividing the batter evenly between two 8-inch round cake pans.
  • This will reduce the baking time, so start checking around 20-25 minutes.
  • Fluffy vanilla frosting, cream cheese frosting or simple whipped cream would be nice to fill and ice the cake.

Always keep an eye on the oven, and use the toothpick test (or better yet, check for 190ºF on a meat thermometer) to check if the cake is ready.

Adding in the egg yolks and orange zest to the batter

How to Serve this Portuguese Orange Cake

  • Room Temperature is Best: For both flavor and texture and texture.
  • Dusting with Sugar: Right before serving, dust with confectioners’ sugar for a sweet touch and a beautiful look.
  • Cream on the Side: Offer whipped cream or a dollop of mascarpone. Their richness contrasts beautifully with the cake’s moisture.

How to Make Portuguese Orange Cake: An Easy Guide

Baking a Portuguese Orange Cake is a breeze with the right approach. Here’s a step-by-step guide to making this moist and flavorful cake.

Prep Work

Before anything else, let’s set the stage for baking. This initial prep makes everything else smoother.

  • Preheat the Oven: Start by heating your oven to 350ºF (180ºC). This ensures it’s at the right temperature when your cake is ready to go in.
  • Prepare the Baking Dish: Grease an 8×8″ dish or line it with parchment paper. This helps the cake come out easily after baking.

Mixing the Batter

The batter is where the magic happens. It’s all about combining flavors and textures.

  • Cream Butter and Sugar: Use your electric mixer to beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. This takes about 2 minutes.
  • Add Egg Yolks and Orange: Incorporate the egg yolks one at a time, then mix in the orange zest and juice. Don’t worry if it looks curdled at first.
  • Combine Dry Ingredients: Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture and beat until just incorporated. Avoid overmixing to keep the cake light.

Folding in Egg Whites

Egg whites add airiness to the cake, giving it a wonderful texture.

  • Whip the Egg Whites: In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites to stiff peaks. This introduces air, making the cake fluffy.
  • Fold into Batter: Gently fold a third of the egg whites into the batter to lighten it. Then, carefully fold in the rest, keeping as much air as possible.

Baking and Cooling

Now, into the oven it goes. The waiting is the hardest part!

  • Bake the Cake: Pour the batter into your prepared dish and bake. Check after 35 minutes, but it may need up to 45. The cake should feel springy to the touch.
  • Cool and Slice: Let the cake cool in the pan on a cooling rack before dusting with confectioners’ sugar, if using. Use a sharp knife to cut into 9 pieces.
The batter prior to baking

Make Ahead and Storage

Here’s how to keep your Portuguese Orange Cake tasting great, whether you’re prepping ahead or enjoying leftovers.

  • Make Ahead: You can prepare the batter up to a day in advance. Store it covered in the fridge, then let it come to room temperature before baking.
  • Room Temperature Storage: Keep the cooled cake in an airtight container. It stays fresh for up to 3 days on your counter.
  • Should I refrigerate? I don’t recommend storing this cake in the refrigerator. Read my article on how long cake lasts in the fridge to find out why.
  • Freezing: This cake freezes well. Wrap it tightly in plastic wrap and then in foil. Enjoy it within 3 months for the best flavor.
  • Thawing: Thaw overnight in the fridge or for a few hours on the counter. This keeps the texture nice and moist.

With these tips, you can enjoy your Portuguese Orange Cake at its best, anytime you like.

Other Citrusy Recipes You’ll Love

Start with this collection of drool-worthy orange dessert recipes.

Of course, can’t forget orange bundt cake. This recipe for orange pound cake with orange glaze is baked up in a pretty bundt pan.

Orange Cake FAQs

Just skimming through? Here are some quick answers to the commonly-asked questions.

What is orange cake made of?

Orange cake is made of butter, sugar, eggs, oranges (both zest and juice), flour, and baking powder.

How do you intensify orange flavor in a cake?

To intensify the orange flavor in a cake, use fresh orange zest and juice. You can also add orange extract or a bit of orange liqueur to the batter.

What spices enhance orange?

Cinnamon, cardamom, and clove are spices that enhance the flavor of orange in cakes and desserts. They add warmth and depth.

What flavor complements orange?

Chocolate, vanilla, and almond flavors complement orange beautifully.

Can this cake be made gluten-free?

Yes, you can make this cake gluten-free by substituting the all-purpose flour with a gluten-free flour blend. Make sure to check the blend is suitable for baking.

Is there a dairy-free option for this cake?

For a dairy-free version, replace the butter with a plant-based butter alternative. Ensure it’s one that can be used for baking.

Can I use bottled orange juice?

While fresh orange juice is preferred for its flavor, you can use bottled orange juice in a pinch. Make sure it’s 100% juice without added sugars.

How long does this cake stay fresh?

Stored in an airtight container at room temperature, the cake stays fresh for up to 3 days. In the fridge, it can last up to a week.

Can this cake be frozen?

Yes, this cake freezes well. Wrap it tightly in plastic wrap and then in foil. It keeps for up to 3 months in the freezer.

How can I ensure the cake comes out moist?

To ensure the cake comes out moist, don’t overbake it. Keep a close eye on it after the 35-minute mark and test for doneness.

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4.50 from 8 votes

Portuguese Orange Cake Recipe (Moist + Fluffy!)

This from scratch, yet simple, Portuguese orange cake recipe is moist and fragrant, with the most unreal bright orange flavour. It's definitely one of the best cake recipes I've got. Similar texture to a sponge cake, but with more moisture than even the best airy cakes you may have had. Both the zest and juice of three oranges are involved, so it is wonderfully orange-y and citrus-y.
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 40 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour
Servings: 9

Ingredients 
 

  • cup butter softened
  • 1 ¼ cups granulated sugar
  • 4 large eggs separated, room temperature
  • 3 large oranges room temperature
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • Confectioners’ sugar for dusting (optional)
Save this recipe!
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Instructions 

  • Preheat oven to 350ºF (180ºC). Grease an 8×8″ baking dish or line with parchment paper.
  • Beat butter and sugar on medium speed of electric mixer until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.
    2/3 cup butter, 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
  • Add egg yolks, one at a time, beating well after each.
    4 large eggs
  • With mixer on low speed, add the zest and juice from all three oranges. The mixture will appear curdled at first – that's ok.
    Increase mixer speed to medium and beat until it comes together, pausing to scrape down sides of bowl as needed.
    3 large oranges
  • In a separate bowl, whisk flour and baking powder. With mixer speed on low, gradually beat into the butter mixture until just incorporated.
    1 tsp baking powder, 2 cups all purpose flour
  • In another bowl, whip egg whites until stiff peaks form. Fold 1/3 of the whites into the cake batter to lighten it up, then gently fold in the rest. (Use a light hand so you don't deflate the whites.)
    4 large eggs
  • Scrape batter into prepared baking pan and bake for 35-45 minutes, until top feels springy when gently pressed and tester inserted in centre comes out clean or with just a few moist crumbs.
    Internal temperature will be 190ºF on a meat thermometer.
    Once cake is cooled, dust with confectioners' sugar, if desired.
    Confectioners’ sugar

Video

Notes

Orange yield: The original recipe was given to me as written, for 3 large oranges, and I’ve made it dozens of time using this quantity without measuring specific quantities of juice. That tells me that the recipe is very forgiving. But as a general guideline: N
  • Zest: From three large oranges, you might get around 3 to 4 tablespoons of zest. 
  • Juice: These oranges should yield about 1 cup of juice. 
Serving: Serve with a dusting of confectioners’ sugar, a fluffy dollop of whipped cream, or a scoop of softened vanilla ice cream.
Make ahead: Store cake at room temperature, not in the fridge. Leftovers freeze well!

Nutrition

Calories: 382kcal | Carbohydrates: 55g | Protein: 6g | Fat: 16g | Saturated Fat: 9g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 4g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 109mg | Sodium: 185mg | Potassium: 141mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 32g | Vitamin A: 631IU | Vitamin C: 23mg | Calcium: 63mg | Iron: 2mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

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33 Comments

  1. Deni says:

    Please add the grams or cups of the three oranges or their juice. The size of oranges varies a lot.

  2. Merrilyn k says:

    5 stars
    Just made this to take out this afternoon.. it’s sooo yummy definitely going to keep making this , it’s a -definitely- to use fresh oranges yum yum

  3. Luis says:

    5 stars
    Excellent recipe – we made it exactly as posted here. A keeper!

  4. Bodhi says:

    Next time you make it, could you measure how much orange juice your oranges provide? My tree has big oranges, and I’d also like to try out making this as a pink grapefruit cake if the orange version works.

    1. Alivia Colleen Conner says:

      that sounds amazing 🙂

    2. Jennifer Pallian BSc, RD says:

      Yes, I absolutely will! And I’m jealous of your tree.

  5. BECKY says:

    5 stars
    This is so so blummin’ tasty!! However, I put it in the oven for the full 45minutes and the top was coloured nicely but when I cut into it, it was under baked. I feel that if I’d left it in much longer, the top would have started to burn 🤔 Any ideas or tips?

  6. Rufus Dufus says:

    3 stars
    The portuguese usually use olive oil for this, not butter. Also, they tend to use a ring cake tin and not a square baking disk.

  7. catanea says:

    This is very similar to the Portuguese Orange Cake in the UNICEF Childrens’ Cookbook which I cannot find, so I was looking for the same recipe online. The difference is, that rather than putting the orange juice & half the sugar into the batter, they are made into a syrup…& after the cake which only contains the zest, is baked, it is pricked all over, & the syrup slowly poured on in small increments…with long pauses. All of it will be absorbed eventually, & the cake will be amazing. Now I’m going to do it.

  8. Zurica says:

    5 stars
    Everyone LOVED the cake. It felt so Christmassy and light at the same time.

  9. Chrys says:

    I’m Portuguese and since my dad really likes orange cake, I am super excited to try out this recipe! 🙂

    1. Jennifer Pallian BSc, RD says:

      Thanks, Chrys! Let us know how it goes.

  10. Kev says:

    5 stars
    Made this soft moist beautifully orangey , will be making again very soon