Here’s a little behind the scenes secret: when I was trying to create this watercolor cake tutorial, I actually started with an all-orange color palette and it did not turn out the way I wanted. The flowers didn’t go with it, so I thought I’d start over with a different color scheme. It was a happy accident though, because the cake reminded me of an Orange Creamsicle and I thought, hey, that would make an amazing cake flavor. And I considered it perfect timing because Summer is in full swing and what’s more Summer than an Orange Creamsicle anyway?
After picking up some Orange Creamsicles from the store for inspiration, I got to work in the kitchen. I started with an Orange flavored cake and played around with the ratios of ingredients until the flavor was perfect and the texture was oh so soft and moist. The results actually made me want to revisit more of my already-soft cake recipes to make them even softer! I flavored the cake with a little vanilla, some fresh orange juice and lots of orange zest, which is where the majority of the flavor is found. It turned out so delicious, refreshing, and just a joy to eat!
Vanilla buttercream ended up being the perfect pairing to turn this orange cake into an Orange Creamsicle cake. The flavor is spot on. It’s an American buttercream that I use for most everything I do, and I’ve tweaked the recipe to use less sugar so it’s not too sweet and just the right consistency for filling and frosting the cake, plus piping on the top.
To decorate, I followed this watercolor cake tutorial with an orange and white color palette. Using AmeriColor Orange in different intensities, I created a light peachy-colored orange and a darker orange with my Vanilla Buttercream, then blended them all together with plain white to round out the Orange Creamsicle inspired color palette. I think the watercolor finish turned out so pretty!
To top it all, I created a half drip with my white chocolate ganache recipe (tinted orange with more AmeriColor Orange), then piped a simple border around the top edge with Wilton tip 6B and the lighter orange colored buttercream. However you choose to decorate, one thing is for sure – this cake is downright delicious and just perfect for a Summer celebration (or just because)! If you’re looking for an easy cake recipe with an exciting flavor profile, this is the one for you. Enjoy!
Orange Creamsicle Cake
- 1/4 Cup (60ml) fresh squeezed orange juice from about 1 large orange
- 1/2 Cup (120ml) whole milk, room temperature
- 2 1/2 Cups (260g) cake flour, sifted before measuring
- 2 1/4 tsp baking powder
- 1/4 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 3/4 Cup (170g) unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1 1/4 Cup (260g) granulated white sugar
- 3 large eggs, room temperature
- 1 Tbsp orange zest from about 1/2 large orange
- 1/3 Cup (75g) sour cream, room temperature
- 1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
- 2 drops orange food coloring (optional)
- 2 Cups (452g) unsalted butter, room temperature
- 7 Cups (840g) powdered sugar
- 2 Tbsp whole milk, room temperature
- 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
- 1/4 tsp salt
Make the Orange Cake
- Preheat the oven to 350ºF and prepare three 6-inch cake pans by spraying the sides with cooking spray and placing a wax or parchment paper circle into the bottom of each one. Mix together the orange juice and whole milk and set aside. Measure the cake flour by spooning into your measuring cup and leveling it. Place it into a medium sized bowl and add the baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Whisk together and set aside.
- In the bowl of your stand mixer (a handheld mixer works fine too!), cream the butter on high for two minutes until it's light and fluffy. Add in white granulated sugar and continue to mix on medium-high for another two minutes, scraping down the bowl and paddle as needed. Add the eggs one at a time. Add the orange zest, sour cream, vanilla, and orange food coloring (if using) and mix for one minute on medium-high, scraping down the bowl and paddle once more. It will look curdled at this point, but that is ok!
- With the mixer on low speed, add in the dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Add the whole milk and orange juice mixture in a steady stream and mix until just incorporated. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl and give it a few stirs to make sure there are no lumps.
- Pour batter evenly between the cake pans and bake for 25-30 minutes, until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool the cakes in the pan for ten minutes before removing and continuing to cool on a wire rack or flat surface.
Make the Vanilla Buttercream
- With a hand mixer or paddle attachment on your stand mixer, cream the butter on medium-high until creamy and light (almost white) in color. About 7 minutes.
- With the mixer on low, add the powdered sugar a few cups at a time, scraping down after each addition and making sure each addition is fully incorporated before adding the next one.
- Add the whole milk, vanilla, and salt and mix on low for another minute or two until fully incorporated.
- After the cakes have cooled completely, torte each layer to the desired height, then fill and crumb coat the cake with vanilla buttercream. To create the look pictured, use this watercolor cake tutorial with orange food coloring to create a watercolor finish, then top with a white chocolate ganache half drip and pipe a simple border on top with Wilton Tip 6B.
- The Orange Cake can be made ahead and stored at room temperature, covered tightly in plastic wrap, for up to two days. Alternatively, you can cover with plastic wrap and store in the freezer for up to two months before thawing to room temperature.
- The Vanilla Buttercream can be made ahead and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. When you’re ready to use it, bring it back to room temperature and mix it together on low for about 30 seconds to bring it back to frosting consistency.
Did you make this cake recipe? I want to know how it went! Leave me a comment below and feel free to tag @sugarandsparrowco on Instagram to show me. I love to see what you create!
Hi, I’m going to bake my daughter’s bday cake using this recipe and had two questions. 1 – can I use 2 or 3 9 inch pans instead of 6? Also, the buttercream frosting recipe with the cake recipe appears to be more then the link to the separate buttercream frosting. Should I follow the frosting recipe that’s in the cake recipe? Thank you so much.
Yay! Excited for you to make this cake! To answer your questions: 1) You could use two 9 inch pans, but if you want to make a third layer I would make 1.5x the recipe. You’ll need to monitor the baking time because it might be different than the 6 inch pans would take to bake. Keep the oven temp the same, but check the cakes at 30 minutes and add more time from there if needed. 2) the buttercream recipe in this post is double the amount of the linked recipe (to make enough for filling and frosting a triple layer cake). Follow the buttercream recipe here vs. the linked recipe. Hope that helps!
Hey there, another question to this question about 9 inch pans. I will likely do 3 9 inch pans but would you change how much icing you need?
Hi Kaylyn! For a triple layer 9-inch cake, I would make 1.5x the buttercream recipe to make sure you have enough. Enjoy!
Effler Debbie says
Can I frost my chocolate cake with your buttercream recipe and leave it out overnight?
I have more recipes to make the next morning.
Hi Effler! You can definitely do that. I like to refrigerate my cakes after frosting them to preserve all the details but you can certainly leave it at room temp as an alternative.
I want to try this cake out soon for a family friend I wanted to ask if you could use orange extract instead of vanilla or does it make it overly orange ? So basically can I use the fresh orange ingredients and then also use the orange extract subbed for vanilla ? I hope my question make sense
Hi Nautica! This cake is really orange-flavored as-is (the zest is what really gives it the flavor). If you want to use orange extract too, I would try subbing half of the vanilla with orange extract instead of all of the vanilla. Enjoy!
Hello! First of all, I just found your blog and am completely mesmerized by your tutorials. Thank you so much for making those and for being a blogger. 🙂 Your recipes look and sound amazing. I did have a technical question… can cream cheese frosting replace a buttercream frosting? I know there are some similarities and some differences but what is your opinion? I do absolutely want to make this cake with the buttercream but have some family members who prefer cream cheese frosting. Thank you! I’m looking forward to diving into your recipes.
Thanks so much for the kind words, Jennifer! To answer your questions: 1) yes, you can use cream cheese frosting in place of buttercream frosting. 2) Cream cheese buttercream is more soft and sticky than regular buttercream, which makes it a tiny bit harder to work with but it tastes amazing.
That makes perfect sense. Thank you! Sorry one more question… I saw that you mentioned you doubled the buttercream recipe here so that there would be enough to fill and frost the cake. I noticed that the butter and sugar were doubled, but the milk, vanilla and salt were the same. Do we need to double those as well from your regular recipe? Thank you!
Great cake! To do 3 8inch layers that are 2 inches in height, I would double the recipe next time.
Yay, Kelly! So happy this recipe was a hit!
I am super excited making this cake. I have a question. I am flopping on making cakes. I’m not sure if it’s bc of the pans, the ingredients or maybe over mixing. So I can me to your recipe…and I’m going to give it a try. I have( 2) 9 in rounds so will I double the recipe? I notice other responses you said 1.5x ….can you give an example what that would be? I’m new to baking and have been flopping …it makes me sad a little…
Hi there! I’m excited for you to try this recipe! You can certainly make this cake in two 9 inch pans and I would 1.5x the recipe, meaning multiply each ingredient by 1.5. To make it even easier, you can use a recipe scale calculator (I love this one: https://www.inchcalculator.com/recipe-scale-conversion-calculator/) to scale the recipe for you. That will make it so you have enough batter to fill those pans 2/3 full. Let me know how it goes!
Heather McLaughlin says
I made it for our Summer Birthday Shabbat celebration at my Synagogue last night. It was delicious and everyone loved it and ate it up.
It was my first time trying a watercolor effect and my colors blended too much, bit it still turned out really pretty. I added an orange curd filling and made a single recipe with two 8″ layers and it worked great. I did make a batch and a quarter of the frosting.
I used a half cup reconstited buttermilk powder mixed with a tablespoonof heavy cream and Kosher margarine in the cake and whipping cream instead of milk and half salted butter and half shortening in the frosting and it worked great.
Yay, Heather! I’m so happy to hear that this cake was such a hit! The orange curd filling sounds delightful. I’m going to have to try that!