Orange Gumdrop Cake

In December and January I feel I must eat as many California oranges as I can. I can picture them; sweet, juicy orbs hanging from the California trees, absorbing the vitality of the sunshine in which they bask. Hey, in the middle of a Minnesota winter, I’ll take California sunshine anyway I can get it, even baked into a cake.


This cake is one of those baking stories where I tempted fate and dared myself to succeed in an arena where winging it almost always leads to failure. Succeed I did according to my nephew who exuberantly declared this to be, “The best cake I have ever had,” my son who asked for a second piece, and my daughter who knowing the story behind the cake confidently whispered, “It’s good mom.”
I told the tale of my baking adventure and my one of a kind, possibly impossible to duplicate cake before I served it. Later my niece told me that as she was eating each bite she was hoping I could remember how to make it again, but was savoring it as if I never would. Don’t I have a poetic type of a family? Maybe it’s just the way my mind filters memories.

The cake idea started with a trip to Trader Joes several months ago where they were sampling their vanilla bean cake mix, baked with only one can of clementine lime soda and topped with sweetened whipped cream. Then we took a trip to CA over Christmas and ate big bags of local oranges.  Fast forward to this weekend.  Having consumed several more bags of California oranges I decided to give that Trader Joes’ cake a try upping the flavor by frosting it with orange scented frosting.

The cake part went relatively well. I added about 3/4 of the can of soda to the cake mix and poured it into a greased and floured 9 inch pan. I thought it might overflow all over the oven floor, but it didn’t. That was my first success.

By the way, have you made this cake release stuff yet? It works!

Next, I made a filling by mixing one package of instant vanilla pudding with one cup of orange juice and some drops of orange essential oil. It wasn’t quite thick enough, so I set it aside until I could figure out what to do about that.

I got to work on the frosting. I was going to use a version of my whipped cream frosting, so I started whipping the heavy cream. It was almost completely whipped which is when I usually add the sweetened cream cheese, but I didn’t have any cream cheese. No problem, I had some orange buttercream in the fridge that I thought would make a good substitute. I mixed them together and it worked great.  Success number two.

I decided to add some of my orange filling little by little to my frosting for flavor and to give me enough product to frost and fill the cake. Then it happened. I got distracted. I lost my nerve. I added too much filling to the frosting and it turned into a juicy, separated, puddly mess. Adding powdered sugar and beating it longer made matters sweeter not better.


A quick trip to the store for some cream cheese and cool whip and I decided to try again. I beat the cream cheese and added 1/2 the carton of cool whip. The texture was thick and gummy, and the taste was chemical. Ewe.

I decided to pull out the puddly pudding mixture and add it slowly to the new frosting. Add 1/4 cup, whip, add 1/4 cup, whip, and so on until I had the flavor and texture I was looking for.  I had made it to my third success.

I still had quite a bit of the failed frosting left so I decided to cook it over medium heat and hopefully reduce it down enough to create a glaze or orange curd type thing. I heated and stirred until it simmered and all at once it smoothed out, thickened up and got a nice glossy sheen to it. Ha, ha! It tasted great, too, and a fourth success was mine.

So, cake, glaze, frosting, cake, frosting, glaze. The finished cake went together beautifully, but I had not tasted the final product yet. That was an honor I reserved for my unsuspecting family. All of my insecurities were unwarranted. They said the texture was like banana cake, but the flavor was 100% sunny California, and then they smiled and licked their lips, enjoying the story behind the cake as much as the cake itself.

Orange Gumdrop Cake at

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