Orange Marmalade Cake

So there is a backstory to this cake. Molly introduced me to “The Great British Baking Show” and we got bitten by the baking bug. One day she mentioned to me that one of her favorite cakes as a child was the orange marmalade cake from the Mitford book series. I knew exactly what cake she meant because it was one of MY favorite cakes to bake as a teenager. In the book series, there is a character named Esther who is famous for her orange marmalade cake. It is the most desired baked good at all of the local functions and potlucks, and the recipe is Esther’s best kept secret. Thankfully Jan Karon developed and released the recipe, and the cake actually lives up to its wildly popular fiction reputation.

So, one afternoon Molly gathered all of the ingredients and started baking. The timing was perfect, because I had just gotten a new apron from my *favorite* Etsy store, Linenfox. If you love linen, this is your new resource. I have gotten a few items from their shop and I love them all! Their linen is soft and durable and comes in the most beautiful earthy colors. Isn’t “earthy” a great word?

When I saw that they make criss cross backed aprons, I was done for. I’ve always had a weak spot for this style of apron.

Ok, well, back to the cake. Molly was sweet enough to not only make the cake, but to take pictures of me pretending to make it, in my apron. So, there. I didn’t actually bake this one, but I did help eat it, and I have made this recipe many times in the past! This cake is truly perfect. It’s light and creamy and moist and citrusy, and just the thing to share with a good friend on a warm summer evening. Oh, and it does great in the fridge. Honestly, I like it even better the second day after it has chilled!

The frosting has sour cream in it, so it has a tartness that is perfect with the sweetness of the cake. ​

Would you think we were dorks if I told you we took turns wearing the apron, just because it is that lovely?

​Never mind.

I hope these have inspired you to do a bit of your own baking! The recipe is below for you to try.

Esther’s Orange Marmalade Cake


1 cup unsalted butter, softened, more for greasing the pans
3 1/4 cups cake flour, more for dusting the pans
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 2/3 cups granulated sugar
5 large eggs, at room temperature
4 large egg yolks, at room temperature
2/3 cup vegetable oil
1 tablespoon grated orange zest
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk, at room temperature

Orange syrup:
1 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1/4 cup granulated sugar

1 (12-ounce) jar orange marmalade

1 cup heavy cream, chilled
4 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 cup sour cream, chilled

​Cake: Sift flour, baking powder, & salt twice in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, beat butter on MEDIUM (~4 minutes). Add sugar steadily with mixer running; beat until light & fluffy. Add eggs & yolks, one at a time, beating well after each addition; scrape down sides at least once. After eggs are added, continue to beat on MEDIUM for 2 minutes; add oil & beat for 1 minute on LOW. In a third bowl, combine orange zest, vanilla, & buttermilk. Using a rubber spatula, fold in half of dry ingredients. Scrape down sides of bowl, add half of the buttermilk mixture – repeat. Pour batter in pans, smooth surface, rap on counter, & place in oven. Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into center comes out clean. Let cakes cool in pans on racks for 20 minutes. Orange syrup: In small bowl, stir together orange juice & sugar until dissolved. While cakes are still in pans, use a toothpick or skewer to poke holes at 1/2-inch intervals in the cake layers. Spoon syrup over each layer, allowing syrup to be completely absorbed before adding the remainder. Let layers cool completely in pans. Filling: Heat marmalade in a small saucepan over medium heat until just melted. Let cool for 5 minutes. Frosting: In a chilled mixing bowl, whisk heavy cream with sugar until stiff peaks form. Add sour cream SLOWLY & whisk until mixture is a spreadable consistency. Cake assembly: Invert one layer on a cake plate & peel off parchment. Spread 1/3 of marmalade over top, smoothing into an even layer; repeat with second layer. Place third cake layer on top, remove parchment, & spoon remaining marmalade onto the center, leaving a 1.25-inch border around the edges. Frost sides & top border, leaving the marmalade on top of the cake exposed. Or, frost entire cake first, adding the marmalade as a garnish on top. Chill for at least 2 hours before serving.

*Recipe borrowed from Epicurious.

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