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Mandarin Orange Cake

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This refined sugar free mandarin orange cake features two 6-inch layers of light, sweet orange cake and a large helping of silky, naturally sweetened vanilla bean swiss meringue buttercream. A wonderful centrepiece for any celebration from Christmas to birthdays!

man in a black shirt holding mandarin orange cake topped with fresh fruit and rosemary sprigs

This month’s refined sugar free cake recipe is super special because it’s celebrating my 29th birthday. That’s right. Next week I’ll start the final year of my twenties. I’m both excited and terrified of entering this stage of my life.

I don’t want to reminisce too much (I’ll save that for next year), but even in the last 5 years alone, my life has taken so many unexpected turns. I became a child of divorce, and I emigrated to a new country. I tragically broke someone’s heart, and I found a man I want to spend the rest of my life with. I started a career and then careened into entrepreneurship. And I started recovery from long and painful eating and mental disorders.

This last decade has taught me a lot about who I am and who I want to be. I know it sounds cheesy, but I feel as if my twenties – while traumatic and exhilarating all at once – have made me into a more empathetic, unique person. Someone who I understand much more now than I did at 19; a woman who I’m excited to continue to learn more about.

But enough sappiness. I’m sure you didn’t come here to read a reflective journal entry – let’s talk about this Mandarin Orange Cake!

a slice of two layer mandarin orange cake being lifted up with oranges and a brown board in the background.

How to make mandarin orange cake from scratch

Making orange cake from scratch is easy if you have a well-written and tested recipe, and I promise the recipe I’m giving you for this Mandarin Orange Cake is both! All you have to do is:

  1. Read the recipe through completely and carefully. I can’t recommend this enough, especially if you’re just starting out on your baking journey. If you don’t read the recipe thoroughly, you could forget ingredients or miss crucial steps.
  2. Grease your cake tins well and line the bottoms with non-stick paper. This will ensure the cakes don’t stick to the tins and turn out easily once baked.
  3. Preheat the oven. It’s essential when baking cake that your oven is at the right temperature; otherwise, the cakes won’t cook properly. You could end up with raw middles or a burnt, crumbly mess. I would recommend also using an oven thermometer as all ovens are different.
  4. Make sure you’re using mandarins (or satsumas here in the UK) for the zest and juice. Because mandarins are so much sweeter than regular oranges, you don’t need to use as much other sugars to sweeten the cake. Also, it wouldn’t really be a Mandarin Orange Cake without them, would it?
  5. Follow the recipe’s instructions to mix together the batter and bake the cakes!
refined sugar free cake served on blue plates with fresh fruit on top of a marble background

What makes this cake refined sugar free

Because we use only mandarin juice and coconut sugar to sweeten the cake and naturally sweeten the frosting with agave nectar, this Mandarin Orange Cake is completely refined sugar free!

I first made this cake for Christmas 2016 and published it on The Cinnamon Scrolls. It was delicious, but also used raw cane sugar as the sweetener.

Now, I don’t have any issue using raw sugar occasionally, especially for cakes that require a light and pale crumb. (You really can’t make a refined sugar free cake white without it.) But I wanted to test it out using other natural sweeteners.

This time around, I tested both honey and coconut sugar. The honey made the Mandarin Orange Cake a lovely pale colour, which I loved about the original, but alas, it also made the cake dense and reacted really poorly with the orange juice and baking powder. I tried so many times, but as much as I wanted the honey to work out, it just wouldn’t produce the same texture as raw sugar or coconut sugar did.

In the end, I forwent my desire for the cake to be a light colour and opted to use coconut sugar. But don’t worry – it’s amazingly delicious too! The coconut sugar actually works so well with the mandarin flavour. It lends a light undertone of caramel, but doesn’t completely overpower the mandarin, so you still know this is an orange cake.

A slice of naturally sweetened mandarin orange cake with a bite taken out with a fork on top of a greyish blue napkin

The best frostings to pair with orange cake

Aside from vanilla bean, other frosting flavours that pair extraordinarily well with orange cake are:

  • Milk, Dark, or White Chocolate (think Terry’s chocolate oranges)
  • Cinnamon
  • Ginger
  • Chai
  • Brown Sugar (or coconut sugar to keep it refined sugar free!)
  • All kinds of berries (my favourites are blackberry and cranberry)
  • Cherry
  • Pineapple
  • Coffee (seriously, try it)

Back in 2016, I chose to pair this orange cake with a vanilla bean buttercream and I’ve done the same here. If it ain’t broke, why fix it, right?!

The only change I made was to use a naturally sweetened Swiss meringue buttercream instead of a classic American buttercream. The Swiss meringue is silky smooth and a dream to use and eat! It’s my favourite kind of frosting, and since this is my birthday cake, I get what I want!

This mandarin orange cake is naturally sweetened with coconut sugar and perfectly fluffy! Paired with a refined sugar free vanilla bean swiss meringue buttercream. Get the recipe on naturallysweetkitchen.com #orangecake #refinedsugarfree #cakerecipe #baking

Looking for more refined sugar free cake recipes?

If you make this recipe, let me know by snapping a picture and tagging me on Instagram @naturallysweet_kitchen. I love seeing your creations and sharing them in my Stories. Or let me know you love this refined sugar free Mandarin Orange Cake by leaving a comment and rating below!

Swathes of sugar free swiss meringue buttercream covering a six inch layer orange layer cake
5 from 1 vote
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Mandarin Orange Cake (Refined Sugar Free)

This refined sugar free mandarin orange cake features two 6-inch layers of light, sweet orange cake and a large helping of silky, naturally sweetened vanilla bean swiss meringue buttercream.

Category Cake
Cuisine American
Keyword mandarin orange cake, orange cake
Prep Time 45 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 5 minutes
Serves 6
Author Amanda | Naturally Sweet Kitchen

Ingredients

Mandarin Orange Cake

  • 125 g unbleached plain flour
  • 1 ½ tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp fine sea salt
  • 120 ml cold-pressed rapeseed oil
  • 130 g coconut sugar
  • 1 large egg room temperature
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • Zest of 4 mandarin oranges
  • 120 ml mandarin orange juice about 3 mandarins

Vanilla Bean Swiss Meringue Buttercream

  • 170 ml agave nectar
  • 3 large egg whites
  • 226 g unsalted butter room temperature
  • 1 ½ tsp vanilla bean paste

Method

Mandarin Orange Cake

  1. Preheat the oven to 180ºC (350ºF) and lightly grease two 15 cm (6 inch) round baking tins with butter. Line the bottoms with non-stick paper and set aside.
  2. Tip the flour, baking powder, and sea salt into a medium bowl and whisk to combine. Set aside.
  3. Using a hand mixer, beat together the oil, coconut sugar, egg, and vanilla in a large bowl until emulsified. Add the orange zest and juice and beat well.
  4. Add half of the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and beat just until the flour disappears. Repeat with the remaining flour and mix until smooth.
  5. Divide the batter evenly between the two prepared tins and tap the bases on the counter a few times to release any large air bubbles.
  6. Bake for 20-24 minutes, or until the cakes begin to pull away from the sides and spring back at the touch. Remove from the oven and allow the cakes to cool in the tins for 10 minutes. Turn the cakes out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Vanilla Bean Swiss Meringue Buttercream

  1. Set a small saucepan filled with an inch of water over a hob on high heat. Once the water is boiling, turn it down to a low simmer.
  2. Pour the agave nectar and egg whites into a large, clean bowl and whisk until foamy.
  3. Place the bowl over the simmering saucepan and whisk frequently until the mixture is hot and registers 65-71°C (150-160°F) on a thermometer.
  4. Remove the bowl from the heat and beat the mixture on high using the balloon whisk of a stand mixer until the meringue forms stiff peaks and the bowl is cool.

  5. Swap out the balloon whisk for the paddle attachment and begin adding the cubed butter, one piece at a time, on a medium speed. Do not rush this step.
  6. Once all of the butter has been added, turn the mixer to a high speed and whip the buttercream until light and fluffy, about 2-4 minutes.
  7. Add the vanilla paste and beat on high again until fully combined and fluffy.

Assembly

  1. Once the cakes have cooled completely, level the layers if necessary, then place one layer on a cake stand or serving plate.
  2. Top with ⅓ of the frosting and smooth the edges. Place the second layer on top and thinly crumb coat the cake. Refrigerate for 15-20 minutes. Use the remainder of the frosting to ice the cake completely.
  3. Decorate with the cake with slices of fresh mandarin, rosemary sprigs, or anything else you desire.

Notes

  • This cake will keep sealed in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days. Bring to room temperature before serving.

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4 Comments

  1. Can you adjust it to 8 or 9 in pans? I don’t have 6 in pans and neither do my friends. The cake looks great but I can’t afford more cake pans.

    1. Hi Maureen! I’m so happy you’re going to try this Mandarin Orange Cake. I absolutely love it and I know you will to! I haven’t tried converting this recipe to suit larger cake tins, so I can’t be 100% certain it will work. If you want to try, I would have a read through this post on converting pan sizes. It’s very comprehensive and I’ve used it before with success! Hope that helps. Let me know how you get on! 🙂

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