This Williamsburg Orange Cake dates back to the mid-twentieth century. Personally, 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 this 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 this exquisite 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 this precious wisdom, which exempts us from much disruption when mistakes are made: immediately we amend all with our Father in heaven; next, we lavishly forgive others and ourselves; finally as needed, we seek compassion from those we have hurt in our wrongdoing. This spells freedom for our emotions and minds!
That was Mom’s 50th birthday and the first time I made this 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 deceptive looks!
Williamsburg Orange Cake Yields: 2-9 inch round layers, 3-8 inch rounds, or 2-9 x 5 inch loaves. Total prep time: 2 hr, plus 1 hr to freeze cakes for easy frosting/ active prep time: 1 1/2 hr/ baking time: 30 min.
2 1/2 c flour (Bob’s Red Mill organic unbleached white flour is of high quality; better yet grind 1 2/3 c organic soft white wheat berries to make 2 1/2 c of flour.)
1 c raisins, soaked in boiling water (Organic raisins are available inexpensively at Trader Joe’s.)
1 1/2 c milk or cream, soured
lemon juice from a squeeze ball for souring
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt (Himalayan, pink, or Real salt is critical for optimum health; an inexpensive, fine grind Himalayan salt is available at Costco.)
3/4 c butter, softened (This 1970’s cake called for a mixture of butter and the then popular Crisco; see Ozark Honey-Oatmeal Cookies, 2017/10/30, for history of Crisco.)
1 1/2 c sugar (May use coconut sugar, or sucanat, which is evaporated cane juice; if using sugar, organic cane sugar is premium.)
3 lg eggs, at 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 c pecan pieces
Spray oil (Coconut spray 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 c butter, softened
4 c powdered sugar (Organic is available at Trader Joe’s.)
1 1/2 tbsp orange zest
3/8 c orange juice, freshly squeezed from above oranges
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp salt
10 narrow slices of orange rind, cut lengthwise on surface of orange (see top photo).
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- If using freshly ground flour, begin grinding now.
- Cover raisins with water in a small saucepan, bring to a boil, remove from heat, and set aside.
- Place milk or cream in a medium bowl; sour with about 6 squirts of lemon juice from ball; let sit.
- Stir together flour, salt, and baking soda in a med/large bowl with a fork.
- In a large bowl, beat 3/4 c butter until light and fluffy, mix in sugar gradually, beating thoroughly. Add 1 egg at a time, mixing well with each addition. Blend in vanilla.
- Add 1/2 the flour to butter mixture, beating only until all is incorporated; then, mix in 1/2 the soured milk. Repeat these steps to use all the flour and milk; do not over-beat, as this toughens cakes and cookies.
- Wash and dry oranges. Zest 2 oranges and set zest aside; save these two oranges for juice for frosting. The third unpeeled one will be used for optional decorative strips.
- 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.
- Spray pans with coconut 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.
- 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!
- Cool in pan for 5 minutes to facilitate removal; slide knife around edges to gently remove; then, freeze cakes on separate paper plates for about an hour-this prevents cake from crumbling while frosting.
Frosting (Note: make 1 1/2 recipes for 3-8 inch round layers.)
- Cut 10 narrow slices of rind, lengthwise on surface of third orange for optional decoration: using a sharp knife, cut just below rind from top to bottom of orange, gently peel stripes off orange, set aside (see top photo of decorated cake).
- Squeeze oranges to extract 3/8 c juice, set aside.
- In a med/large bowl, beat 1/2 c butter until light and fluffy, preferably with an electric hand mixer.
- Mix in 2 c of powdered sugar.
- Beat in 1/4 c of orange juice, 1 1/2 tbsp zest, vanilla, and salt. Add remaining sugar, 1 c at a time, blending well; set aside. (Save extra orange juice.)
- Frost frozen cake layers or loafs. (Add the extra orange juice 1 tbsp at a time, only if frosting is too stiff to spread easily.) 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).
- 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 bag.
- Enjoy this delightful cake!
I’m going to make your cake this weekend in Wichita, Kansas for my daughter and all of us there. I’ve had the recipe for many years but haven’t yet made it and now that I want to, I’ve misplaced the recipe. Like you, I was “finding myself” in 1973 in Missoula, Montana, (lived there 42 years; family still there). Displaced 1961 MSU (should-have-been) graduate; did graduate 1971. I like your blog, the presentation and food history. I will bookmark it and check back, maybe comment or ask questions again some time. I put out my own cookbook (Who’s Home Cookin’?) in 1978 privately printed, sold several hundred copies of it though Good Food Store would not take it. Anyway, thanks. I’ll check back again. — (Just noticed filling out my email and name: Your third line is auto-populating http://gravatar.com/skygirl04. I’m not sure where that comes from skygirl04 is not any part of my current profiles anywhere. Hope it doesn’t mess up anything.)
Thanks for your comment, Joann.
Sorry, I take that back….skygirl04 is my NEW user name for my NEW WordPress account. I didn’t remember that.
What a great post! incredible accumulation of knowledge and the recipe, and it’s modernization, are perfect in my view
I came for Williamsburg Orange Cake but stayed for the history