Williamsburg Orange Cake

Williamsburg Orange Cake

Williamsburg orange cake

The spring and summer of 1973 brimmed with vitality for me; I had taken the quarter off from college “to find myself.”  However, I forgot my mother’s birthday in the midst of my prosperity.  My heart broke when I soon realized my mistake.  To make amends I baked and delivered a glorious cake; I drove it 200 miles across Montana’s Big Sky country, from Missoula to East Glacier Park.  My benevolent mother graciously welcomed both me and the confection!

This beloved parent learned the powerful lesson of forgiveness in her youth; she is always eager and ready to forgive as a result of this.  Mom taught me precious wisdom, which exempts us from much disruption when mistakes are made: immediately we amend all with our Father in heaven; next, we seek compassion from those we have hurt in our wrongdoing; finally, we lavishly forgive others and ourselves. This spells freedom for our emotions and minds!

Me, my brother Paul, mother Pat, sister Maureen

me, my brother Paul, mother Pat, sister Maureen-June 2016

That was Mom’s 50th birthday and the first time I made this outstanding Williamsburg orange cake.  I went home to Montana to celebrate her 93rd birthday this past June. We had a repeat of this treasured sweet!

The recipe calls for zesting oranges.  I like to equip my sister’s kitchen with gadgets which I find helpful in cooking.  This year I blessed her with a GoodGrip zester and thus insured my ease in making this cake. GoodGrip is high quality and economical.  A large array of this brand’s useful gadgets is available at our local Winco.  This particular zester is most efficient; it makes a difficult job super easy.

My recipe appears lengthy.  It is actually very simple, for I have included many baker’s tips. Don’t be daunted by looks!

Williamsburg Orange Cake  Yields: 2-9 inch round layers, 3-8 inch rounds, or 2-9 x 5 inch loaves.  Total prep time: 3 hr/  inactive prep time-to freeze cakes for easy frosting: 1 hr/ active prep time: 1 1/2 hr/  baking time: 30 min.

2 1/2 cups flour  (Bob’s Red Mill  organic unbleached white flour is best; better yet grind 1 2/3 cup organic, soft white winter wheat berries to make 2 1/2 cups of flour.)

1 cup raisins, soaked in boiling water  (Organic raisins are available inexpensively at Trader Joe’s.)

1 1/2 cup milk or cream, soured with lemon juice from a squeeze ball

1 1/2 tsp baking soda

3/4 tsp salt  (Real salt is best; available in health section at local supermarket.)

1/2 cup butter, softened

1/4 cup Crisco  (Butter may be substituted, but this 1970’s cake calls for the then popular Crisco.)

1 1/2 cup sugar  (May use sucanat, which is evaporated cane juice; if using sugar, organic cane sugar is premium; best buy at Costco; also available at Trader Joe’s in a 2 pound bag.)

3 large eggs, room temperature

1 1/2 tsp vanilla

3 oranges  (It is important to use organic, as the zest of regular oranges taste of pesticides.)

1 cup pecan pieces

Spray oil  (Pam coconut oil is best.)

Flour for dusting pans

Williamsburg Orange Frosting  (This is for 2-9 x 5 inch loaf pans or 2-9 inch round layers; 1 1/2 recipes will be needed if making 3-8 inch round layers.)

1/2 cup butter, softened

4 cups powdered sugar  (Organic is available at Trader Joe’s.)

1 1/2 tbsp orange zest

3/8 cup orange juice, freshly squeezed

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1/4 tsp salt

10 narrow slices of orange rind, cut lengthwise on surface of orange (see photo).


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. If using fresh ground flour, begin grinding now.
  3. Cover raisins with water in a small saucepan, bring to a boil, remove from heat, set aside.
  4. Place milk or cream in a large bowl (cream needs to be shallow, as it sits in bowl, with a lot of surface exposed); sour with 8 large squirts of lemon juice from ball; let sit until curdled; measure 1 1/2 cups again before using.
  5. Stir together flour, salt, and baking soda in a medium/large bowl with a fork.
  6. In a large bowl, beat butter and Crisco until light and fluffy, add sugar, beating thoroughly.  Add 1 egg at a time, beating well with each addition.
  7. Mix in vanilla.
  8. Preferably with an electric mixer, add 1/2 the flour mixture to butter mixture, blending until all is incorporated; then, add 1/2 the soured milk, mixing well. Repeat these steps to use all the flour and milk, beat extra well.
  9. Wash and dry oranges.  Zest 2 oranges, set aside.  Save these oranges, two for juice for frosting, and the third unpeeled one for decorative strips.
  10. Drain the raisins, which have been become plump in the hot water. Blend the raisins, l tbsp of zest, and nuts into the cake batter.
  11. Spray pans with oil and dust with flour lightly. (Rinse nozzle on can with hot water, for easy spraying in future.)  Pour batter in the prepared cake pans.
  12. Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean.  Cake should respond, bounce back, when pressed with your finger.  Do not over bake!
  13. Cool in pan for 5 minutes to facilitate removal; then, freeze cakes on separate paper plates for at least 1 hour; freezing prevents cake from crumbling while frosting.

Frosting  (Make 1 1/2 recipes for 3-8 inch round layers.)

  1. In a medium/large bowl, beat butter until light and fluffy, preferably with an electric mixer.
  2. If desired for decorating, cut 10 narrow slices of rind from third orange: use a sharp knife and cut just below rind from top to bottom of orange, gently peel stripes off orange, set aside (see photo for decorated cake).
  3. Squeeze oranges to extract 3/8 cup juice; use extra oranges for eating later.  Set aside.
  4. Beat butter until light and fluffy with an electric hand mixer.
  5. Mix in 2 cups of powdered sugar.
  6. Beat in 1/4 cup of orange juice, 1 1/2 tbsp zest, vanilla, and salt.  Add remaining sugar, 1 cup at a time, blending well; set aside.  (Save extra orange juice.)
  7. Frost frozen cake layers or loafs.  Only if frosting is too stiff to spread easily, add more orange juice, 1 tbsp at a time.  Optional: decorate with slices of orange rind while frosting is still wet, arranging narrow slices back-to-back on top of cake (see top photo).
  8. If making the loaf cakes, to keep in freezer for unexpected company, be sure to freeze the frosting on cake, before sealing in gallon-size freezer bags.  Keeps well.
  9. Enjoy this delightful cake!

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