Blood Orange Cake

Blood orange season only comes around once a year, take advantage of it with this blood orange infused cake topped with candied blood orange slices! 

Blood Orange Cake |

Now that my move is over and the boxes are (mostly) unpacked, I’m finally getting settled in my new apartment and starting to think about decorating! The fun part about moving into a new home! We pretty much doubled the size of our last home and while some new furniture has been purchased there’s still empty spaces to fill and a lot of blank walls to cover.  Sadly even doubling the square footage though didn’t mean upgrading my refrigerator space, this is Brooklyn after all. While out and about running errands I just happened to run across a retro compact fridge for my office.  We always joked about getting one and now I have the space in my office but my husband has generally been good about not eating work related food.  That is until one day I caught him snacking on a blood orange like it was any old common piece of citrus. I nearly flipped my lid but kept calm and told him to stop touching the oranges in the fruit bin!  He complied, thought I was a little weird and wondered why the orange was so strange to begin with and once again proves my argument for my own refrigerator!

Blood Orange Cake |

I get a little nutty when it comes to blood orange season.  Blood orange season is short, unlike other seasonal fruits where you can find them in stores year round.  They may not taste as great as they do at their peak growing season but if you need fresh strawberries for a recipe you can find some.  Blood oranges are a different story, they only come around for a few months out of the year and once they are gone they are gone until the next season.  Not every store carries them either so when you find them you hoard them and then you do everything under the sun with them.

I have in no way exhausted my blood orange ideas but this year called for cake.  When does an occasion not call for cake really?

This isn’t an anniversary to celebrate, an upcoming holiday or birthday cake.  It’s blood orange season is here and I’m going to make a cake type of cake.

Blood Orange Cake |

If you still haven’t been lucky enough to try blood oranges they look the same as navel or juice oranges on the outside but some varieties have slightly tinted rinds of red or looked blushed and the inside is a vibrant blood color.  Hence the name, they are a little sweeter, less acidic and at times a little more bitter.

This blood orange cake uses every part of the fruit from the zest to the juice to the candied slices decorating the top.  The cake itself is a simple three layer blood orange scented yellow cake frosted with a tinted zesty buttercream.  The real star is what’s on top – the candied blood orange slices.  It takes about to a day to complete but the work is minimal so make sure to plan ahead when making the cake.  You’ll be left with a good amount of leftover blood orange simply syrup from the process of making the orange slices be sure to keep it after, not only to give a little extra zip to the cake but for cocktail making in the future.

Blood Orange Cake |

Blood Orange Cake |

Blood Orange Cake
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    For the candied blood orange:
  • 2 medium blood oranges
  • 2 cups cane sugar
  • 2 cups water
  • For the cake:
  • 3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups cane sugar
  • 4 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1/4 cup blood orange juice (from about 2 medium blood oranges) + zest from the oranges
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 cup whole milk
  • For the buttercream:
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 4 cups confectioners sugar
  • 2 tablespoons blood orange juice (from 1 small blood orange)
  • 1 teaspoon lemon extract
  • 3 tablespoons heavy cream
  • optional: red/pink/orange gel food coloring


  1. To make the candied blood orange:
  2. Thinly slice the blood oranges to about 1/4 inch thickness with a sharp knife or mandoline slicer, bring a pot of water to boil and blanch the blood orange slices for 1 minute then drain and cool in a bowl with ice water.
  3. In a large, shallow but high sided pan over medium heat add the sugar and water and bring to a boil until the sugar has dissolved. In batches, add the sliced blood oranges so that they lay in the pan in a single layer and reduce the heat so the sugar syrup is a simmer cook the slices for about 40-45 minutes or until the rind and pitch of the orange is translucent. If you have thinner slices it may take less time. Remove the slices with a slotted spoon and set over a cooling rack on top of a rimmed baking sheet. Repeat the process with the remaining blood orange slices. Let the candied blood orange slices set for at least 6-8 hours or overnight, if necessary you can cover lightly with foil. Once cooled pour the remaining sugar syrup in a jar and set aside.
  4. To make the cake: Heat your oven to 350 degrees F. and grease and flour three 8x2 inch cake pans.
  5. In a medium bowl combine the flour, baking powder and salt.
  6. In the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment cream the butter and sugar on medium until light and airy about 3-4 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl, then the blood orange juice and zest and vanilla extract.
  7. Mix in 1/3 of the flour mix, 1/3 of the milk and repeat until everything is incorporated.
  8. Using a kitchen scale evenly distribute the batter between the three cake pans.
  9. Bake for 15-17 minutes or until a toothpick insert comes out clean. Cool for about 10 minutes in the cake pans, then invert out onto a cooling rack to cool completely. Cakes can be made 1-2 days ahead of time and wrapped before finishing the cake.
  10. Finishing the cake:
  11. In the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the whip attachment cream the butter on medium speed and add the confectioners sugar 1-2 cups at a time. Add in the blood orange juice, lemon extract and heavy cream and whip on high for about 5-7 minutes until the buttercream is light and airy.
  12. If desired you can tint the cake, I used a combination of about 1 drop of pink gel food coloring 2 drops of orange and 2 drops of red. Whip until you the color is combined.
  13. To build the cake, dab a small amount of buttercream on a cake board and place the first layer down. Take some of the reserved simple syrup from the candied oranges and brush about 1 tablespoon on top of the cake. Then pipe or using an offset spatula add a layer of buttercream, add the next layer and repeat.
  14. Using an offset spatula frost the top and sides of the cake, for a smooth look use a bench scrape along the sides to scrape off excess cake. Place in the refrigerator to chill for about 10-15 minutes before removing and finishing off frosting the cake. Once again use the bench scraper for a smooth look.
  15. Top the cake with the candied blood orange slices.
  16. Store the cake at room temperature covered for about 3-4 days.
  17. Leftover simple syrup should be stored in the refrigerator for about up to 1 month.

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