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Mandarin Orange Cake

May 6, 2011

If you want a super-easy cake that people will rave about, Mandarin Orange Cake is the recipe for you! This is the cake to make when you’re in charge of taking a dessert to a potluck event. It’s easy to make, it travels well, and everyone is crazy about it!

Mandarin Orange Cake will not be the most beautiful cake at the party, but its homely looks are quickly forgotten as soon as people taste it. It really is that good! The mandarin oranges are the “secret” ingredient…they are not detectable in the finished cake.

I think my family got the recipe from the The Arboretum Restaurant in Chaska, MN. My mom enjoyed having lunch there in the ‘70s; she either got the recipe from the restaurant, or it may have been published in the Minneapolis paper.

Last weekend I made half of the recipe for Laura’s birthday and I baked it in a 9-inch round cake pan. An 8×8-inch square pan would have worked equally well. The full recipe is baked in a 9×13-inch pan.

Mandarin Orange Cake

(Adapted from a recipe from The Arboretum Restaurant in Chaska, MN)


(print the recipe)


Makes a 9×13-inch cake (cut the ingredients in half to make a 9-inch round or an 8×8-inch square cake)


For a 9×13-inch cake:

2 cups flour (240 g)

2 eggs

2 teaspoons baking soda

2 cups sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla

1 teaspoon salt

2 cups drained mandarin oranges (two 11-oz cans)


1. Preheat oven to 350˚ and grease the cake pan.

2. Combine all of the cake ingredients in a bowl and beat with a mixer until well blended, about 3 or 4 minutes. Pour into a greased 9×13-inch pan.



 Half of the recipe in a 9-inch round pan


3. Bake for 35 minutes. When the cake is almost done, make the glaze.


For the Glaze: (This is for a 9×13 inch cake; cut in half for a 9-inch round or an 8×8-inch square cake)

1½ cups brown sugar

6 tablespoons butter

6 tablespoons milk


Combine the glaze ingredients in a saucepan and boil for 3 minutes. Poke holes in the hot cake and ladle the hot glaze onto it until all of the glaze has been used.


Hot brown sugar and butter glaze


Pouring the hot glaze over the hot cake


Ready to eat!


glazed cake - Copy


89 Comments leave one →
  1. May 6, 2011 6:55 pm

    This looks really good! That fork almost looks like I can pick it up to get a taste of the cake 🙂

  2. May 7, 2011 7:44 am

    It actually looks quite pretty to me and you could dress it up with whipped cream and a mint sprig and no one who know that it wasn’t gorgeous! I can just imagine how delicious this is! Thanks.

    • May 8, 2011 11:22 am

      A bit of whipped cream and a sprig of mint would fancy it up a bit! 😉

  3. May 7, 2011 11:41 am

    Sure is gorgeous for a homely little cake! I wonder how the recipe will fare with fresh oranges, I have a crisper drawer full of them right now.

    • May 8, 2011 11:24 am

      Why, thank you, Sarah!

      I don’t know how fresh oranges would work. It might work if they are really juicy oranges. The canned mandarin oranges give the cake a lot of moisture.

  4. May 7, 2011 5:06 pm

    Mmmmmm. It certainly sounds good. Pretty doesn’t always mean

  5. Laura permalink
    May 7, 2011 10:03 pm

    I still can’t believe this is a one-bowl cake recipe. I have NEVER came across a one-bowl cake recipe. But this really is! And SO GOOD!

  6. May 8, 2011 10:47 am

    Kath, this looks fabulous. You say it will not be the most beautiful cake at the party but it certainly looks as though it could hold a decent conversation with my tastebuds! Simple and delicious!

    • May 8, 2011 11:27 am

      Hester, I think the cake and your taste buds would get along great! 😀 Thanks for your comment!

  7. May 9, 2011 9:30 am

    This sounds fabulous. I’ve never flavored a cake this way but it looks delicious. I hope you have a great day. Blessings…Mary

  8. May 9, 2011 4:42 pm

    The cake looks great.

  9. May 10, 2011 6:44 am

    I love a cake with a brown sugar and butter glaze poured over it! Your cake looks absolutely delicious! I can’t wait to try it myself.

  10. May 10, 2011 6:36 pm

    Amazing cake. I so want a slice.

  11. May 11, 2011 8:58 am

    This cake looks so yummy, especially with the “secret” mandarin oranges. Then you add the warm glaze on top and it must be heaven. This would be good for summer potlucks. Thanks for sharing!

  12. May 12, 2011 6:13 pm

    This cake sounds amazing!!!!

  13. May 20, 2011 9:18 am

    This may be out of left field but that kind of mandarin orange makes me think about my childhood. GREG

  14. Lindsey @ Gingerbread Bagels permalink
    May 23, 2011 3:16 pm

    Oh my goodness does this cake look incredible. I love mandarin oranges and especially love them in desserts. 🙂

  15. June 11, 2011 8:50 pm

    one bowl cake , love it!! thanks for sharing!


  16. Tacy permalink
    June 20, 2011 7:53 pm

    This was absolutely delicious! I made it for a Father’s Day treat last night and it was a huge hit. When it was fresh it reminded me a lot of sticky toffee pudding (delicious, but extremely rich), but the flavors mellowed out overnight and I think that it’s even better today. I cant wait to have an occasion to make it again!

    • June 21, 2011 1:06 pm

      I’m so glad you and your family liked it, Tacy! It’s been a favorite in my family for many years. Thanks for pointing out that it keeps well….it is very good the next day! 🙂

  17. June 24, 2011 5:31 am

    thanks for stopping by blog, and for your sweet words. I certainly appreciate them.

    • September 12, 2013 4:09 am

      This is an absolutely to die for cake. One of our local restaurants serves it with vanilla ice cream. Best dessert I’ve ever eaten!!!!

      • September 12, 2013 5:27 am

        Thanks for your comment, Bettye! It is so good and so easy to make! Definitely one of my favorites. 🙂

  18. Debbie permalink
    July 25, 2011 8:10 am

    I made this cake frequnetly many years ago. Today my son wants it for his birthday and he remembered that I used to drizzle it with something. Usually I serve with vanila icecream or whipped cream. I haven’t done the drizzle part of the cake for quite a while, but he reminded me of it. When I looked at my recipe, I no longer had that part of the recipe, so I did a search and found your blog. Thanks so much!! My son will be pleased.

    One thing I realized after a few years of making the cake … without the glaze it’s 0 fat. Yes, there’s calories with sugar, etc, but for someone watching their fat intake it’s super.

  19. Erin permalink
    August 24, 2011 3:44 pm

    My mother has made this cake all my life- it is absolutely fabulous! I’ve seen an old english recipe for toffee cake using dates that is very similar- we add a small amount of raisins & walnuts to ours with home made lightly sweetened whip cream on the side- just our families taste- this cake is super easy and tastes like an old hand me down recipe- a must try!!!
    TIP- make sure your cake is still hot or atleast warm when pouring over topping-

    • August 24, 2011 3:57 pm

      Thanks for your comment! It is a great cake. And you’re so right about pouring the topping over the hot cake. I do it as soon as I take it out of the oven.

  20. Mary permalink
    September 6, 2011 1:17 pm

    This is my favorite childhood cake. My neighbor, Mrs. Irwin, made it for our neighborhood gatherings in the 60’s and 70″s.
    My sister and I have sent the recipe to a few local cookbooks and still love it to this day.
    We top with real whipped cream and extra mandarin oranges.

  21. October 7, 2011 11:56 am

    I am so excited about finding this recipe, a lady at church use to make this cake for my husband in the 70s and he still talk about how good it was. Thank you for sharing will be making this real soon

    • October 8, 2011 1:11 pm

      I’m so glad to be able to share the recipe, Shirley. It’s really a fantastic cake recipe! Thanks for your comment!

  22. Lilred permalink
    November 1, 2011 5:12 pm

    Thank you soooo much!! I had this recipe years ago and lost it when moving…’s an amazing cake and I am thrilled that you had it on your blog!!!! I’m making it right now! 🙂

    • November 1, 2011 5:20 pm

      It is a wonderful cake! Thanks so much for your comment; I’m glad you’re able to make it again! 🙂

  23. Nina permalink
    January 14, 2012 1:12 pm

    Ive enjoyed making this cake!! for the first time, come from a family of Islanders, very different for them but it clearly was a hit as there was no left overs!!! Great to find a easy recipe to follow and quick!! Oh and the glaze just devine!!! thanks!!


  24. Charlene Bergan permalink
    February 5, 2012 12:49 pm

    My family and now my children love this cake. It brings back so many memories of my dad’s cousin. She made this for us when we visited. My parents were always dropping in on them and she could make this really fast. This cake is always a treat.

    Now we were justed asked to come over for a super bowl party and to bring a dessert. Guess what I am bringing!

  25. February 6, 2012 12:43 pm

    That looks so moist and wonderful. Can’t wait to try it. thank you so very much for sharing.

  26. Jennifer permalink
    May 27, 2012 10:10 am

    I grew up on this cake….it is delicious!!!! One of my favorites.

  27. Cathy permalink
    October 8, 2012 8:26 am

    I’ve made the cake in both glass and metal and I find the middle does not set. Other that that, it Delicious

  28. Aimee permalink
    January 23, 2013 3:52 pm

    Im a little behind here (by a couple years) but this was soooo good

  29. Michelle permalink
    February 12, 2013 6:53 am

    Hey ! I would like to share 🙂 I baked the cake today and used fresh mandarin oranges (since it’s chinese new year I have loads of them in my fridge). I had to remove the stringy white bits from the orange leaving only the pulp. The cake turned out incredibly moist and almost pudding/kueh-like and sticky. I brought it to my chinese new year reunion dinner and my relatives LOVED it, even my grandma who doesn’t have a sweet tooth. I think it worked really well and they would have preferred this to a normal cake. Thanks for the wonderful recipe !!

    • February 12, 2013 8:58 am

      I love hearing that you can use fresh mandarin oranges, Michelle! I will have to try that some time. Thanks so much for your comment. (And Happy New Year to you and your family!)

  30. March 15, 2013 3:23 pm

    I have had this recipe for many years and it is the favorite of my now adult sons on their birthdays. So, tomorrow evening I am having a dinner for my family and my boys will be here for the birthday celebration. So, of course, I have to make this cake as promised! And…where is my recipe??? I have looked everywhere…for hours… to no avail. I thought surely someone on Pinterest has made it and my heart stopped beating (well, maybe not quite) when there it was, in all its glory, with your recipes! I am now breathing much easier and am about to make the cake because it’s so much better made the day before when the sauce permeates every inch and it’s moist and wonderful! I have had grown men beg me to make this and my coffee ladies remember when I made it the last time and beg for it again! Truly, I kid you not! Make this cake!!!

    • March 15, 2013 3:33 pm

      Barbara, it makes me so happy that I was able to help you find the recipe! It is incredible, isn’t it? Like you, I would have searched in a panic for it if I had lost it. Enjoy the birthday celebration with your family!

  31. Nancy permalink
    May 29, 2013 7:47 pm

    Thank you so much for this recipe. My Mom made this cake when I was growing up, and it was hands down my favorite cake. I lost the recipe years ago, but now have found it again!

    • May 29, 2013 9:42 pm

      I’m so glad to be able to provide it to you again. It’s a great cake, and one I remember growing up with, too. 🙂

  32. Terri Cabrera permalink
    October 26, 2013 5:29 am

    I just made this cake!! And love it! big hit here!

    • October 26, 2013 6:10 am

      I’m so glad to hear that, Terri! Thanks for letting me know!

  33. Stacey M. permalink
    November 11, 2013 3:49 pm

    I recently went to an “Amish” buffet and one of the desserts was this Mandarin Cake. This cake was served just as you have the recipe but also with a vanilla homemade icing. Hands down this was the best cake I’ve ever had in my life! I’m going to try your recipe with the homemade icing to see if I can come close to what I had….I’ll post again later to let you know how it came out…
    🙂 Thank you for the recipe!!

    • November 11, 2013 4:16 pm

      How interesting! The cake, as it is, is really sweet. Please do let me know how it turns out when you make it. It certainly would be “better looking” with the icing. 😉

  34. Chris permalink
    November 26, 2013 10:12 am

    DO NOT DRAIN THE ORANGES…. Just made this and there isn’t enough liquid when you drain the oranges.

    • November 26, 2013 10:19 am

      This may be true if you don’t blend the oranges into the batter enough.

      The recipe calls for using an electric mixer and beating for 3 or 4 minutes. That essentially turns the orange sections into juice, as if you had put them in a juicer. I’ve been making it for more than 40 years and I have always drained the oranges.

  35. February 13, 2014 2:27 pm

    Made this today! I didnt have enough mandarin segments so mixed a couple of pineapple segments in aswell. Gorgeous! Heres the results 🙂 Thanks!

  36. Betty permalink
    April 16, 2014 5:35 pm

    My neighbor made this cake at a neighborhood barbecue and we all love it! My sons and I have been trying to get the recipe but she won’t give it to us. I’ve been asking around at work and finally an old friend of mine knew where to find it! So happy I found this recipe. Can’t wait to try.

    • April 16, 2014 7:43 pm

      Thanks so much for your comment, Betty! This is one of my favorite recipes. I don’t really understand people who won’t share recipes. I’m glad you found it here. Enjoy!

    • April 17, 2014 9:19 am

      I’m so glad you were able to find it here, Betty! Enjoy! 🙂

  37. Lindsay N. permalink
    September 28, 2014 7:28 pm

    I made this awhile ago, and Patrick has been asking for it ever since. Nice to hear it keeps well, but it certainly didn’t last long for us 🙂

    • September 28, 2014 8:43 pm

      It’s always been one of my favorite cakes! It’s so easy – you should make it for Patrick again! 😉

  38. Nic permalink
    November 15, 2014 8:24 am

    Just want to confirm that it’s baking soda and not baking powder???

  39. June 25, 2015 2:09 pm

    This looks delicious!! We love mandarin oranges, so we will have to try it for sure!

  40. jayne permalink
    December 31, 2015 10:10 am

    This cake is sooooooooooooooooo good!. A friend made it and gave us all the recipe, which we couldn’t believe how easy it was. It does look a little bland compared to a frosting cake but the taste outdoes it all. You could use ice cream, or whip cream with the warmed up cake. So good, thanks for sharing.

    • December 31, 2015 11:28 am

      Thanks so much for your comment, Jayne! It really is a tasty cake, isn’t it? 🙂

  41. February 28, 2016 2:06 pm

    My mom made this cake many times when I was growing up. She passed a few years ago and I just stumbled upon this recipe and it reminded me of her and how delicious this cake is. I’m not a “cake” person but this one is amazing!

    • February 28, 2016 2:42 pm

      This cake is amazing, Jen! I always think of my mom when I make it, too. Thanks so much for your comment!

  42. March 25, 2016 1:14 pm

    My mom used to make this all of the time, she passed a few years ago and I was happy to stumble upon this recipe. I’ll be making it for Easter in her memory!

  43. Sarah Pavett permalink
    June 16, 2016 2:34 am

    I made this cake the other day for a group of people and everyone enjoyed it so I’m making it again! I let the cake and topping cool before we ate it and had it with hot custard. It Was delicious! So easy to make!

    • June 16, 2016 6:30 am

      I’m so glad to hear that you and your guests enjoyed the cake, Sarah! It’s just the easiest cake to make for entertaining. Thanks so much for your comment! 🙂

  44. Sheila permalink
    November 3, 2016 2:37 pm

    Greetings from Cape Cod, MA! Make this cake often…wonderful…Thank You for sharing…just made it with fresh Cape Cod cranberries and bottled cranberry juice cooked together to equal a cup….cooked until the berries “burst”…smells great…will let you know…

    • November 3, 2016 5:44 pm

      Thanks so much for your comment, Sheila. I’m so glad you enjoy the cake! Your cranberry version sounds great! 🙂

  45. Helen permalink
    January 9, 2017 12:08 pm

    Looks lovely… there’s is no fat in the cake recipe is this right?

    • January 9, 2017 12:56 pm

      That’s right, Helen. There’s no fat added to the cake. There is butter in the glaze, though, and the glaze is essential.

  46. Lauren permalink
    March 10, 2017 9:15 am

    Just made this cake and it looked amazing in the oven until the 30 minute mark, then the entire cake sank in the middle! Never opened the oven door so no clue how this happened. It still tastes amazing but I would love to know what happened or if I did something wrong.

    • March 10, 2017 10:06 am

      Hi Lauren,
      Assuming you followed the recipe exactly, I’m not sure what would have caused that. Perhaps your baking soda is old? Once you open a box of baking soda, it’s probably good for 6 months to a year. You can test it by putting a half teaspoon in a few tablespoons of vinegar. If it’s still good it will bubble up furiously. Once the batter is mixed, you want to get it into the pan and the oven quickly because the baking soda starts reacting as soon as it is mixed with the liquid parts.
      Did you take it out at 30 minutes? I bake mine for 35 minutes.
      Other than that, maybe your oven temperature is off, but you would have noticed that baking other things.
      Sorry I can’t give you a definitive answer.

  47. February 9, 2018 9:36 am

    I have been making this cake for many years. It is a favorite of ours. We do use other canned fruit, crushed pineapple, peaches… Thank you for pinning this Recipe.

    • February 9, 2018 10:17 am

      I had never thought of using other fruit. What a great idea! Thanks so much for your comment, Kathie! 🙂

  48. Naomi permalink
    March 6, 2018 3:49 am

    Made this just now, using fresh Mandarin oranges! The brown sugar syrup made it sweet, which balanced off the cake nicely. I did reduce the amount of sugar slightly in the cake, thinking it might be too sweet. But it wasn’t at all! Fantastic recipe and so easy and delicious. Thank you 🙂

    • March 6, 2018 5:01 am

      I’m so glad to hear it worked well with fresh Mandarin oranges! Thanks so much for your comment, Naomi! 🙂

  49. Deb permalink
    December 14, 2018 7:17 pm

    I was so thrilled to find this recipe, since like so many of you, it brings back many memories of earlier years. The topping I use is different from the comments I’ve read here.
    Cream cheese icing:
    1 1/2 c. icing sugar
    4 oz. cream cheese
    1/2 c. softened butter
    1 t. vanilla extract
    Super yummy!

    • December 15, 2018 7:00 am

      Your cream cheese icing would be great on the cake. I’d use it instead of the brown sugar/butter glaze.

  50. June 5, 2022 4:16 pm

    Thank you for sharing


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