Old Fashioned Orange Cake

This easy old fashioned Orange Cake is made with orange juice and cake mix, and topped with an orange cream cheese frosting and shredded coconut. It’s a delicious combination that everyone will love!

slice of orange layer cake with coconut frosting on a plate next to a whole cake.

Orange and coconut—it’s not the most common combination, but WOW is it good!

This old fashioned Orange Cake recipe is made using orange juice and orange zest for lots of orange flavor. Then, it’s topped with an orange cream cheese frosting (homemade!) and sweetened, shredded coconut.

Thanks to the boxed cake mix, it’s easy to make, too!

The topping reminds me of coconut topped donuts. So if you like those, you have to try this cake (or check out Coconut Poke Cake—another dessert for coconut lovers).

The idea for this cake came from my grandma. She made it in the 80s and 90s using an orange boxed cake mix and orange juice. Sadly, orange cake mix is really hard to find now.

So, I improvised by using both orange juice and orange zest to add lots of citrus flavor to both the cake and the cream cheese frosting.

The end result is a moist, tender cake with a hint of orange flavor, topped with a fluffy hint-of-orange frosting, and then lots of coconut.

cross section of an orange layer cake topped with coconut and an orange garnish.

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Top tips

  • The orange juice makes the cake quite tender. Use a sharp knife to cut the cake, or use a sawing motion with a serrated knife.
  • The cake can be made up to 2 days ahead and stored in the refrigerator (due to the cream cheese frosting). Bring it to room temperature before serving it.

Cake ingredients

ingredients for orange cake on a white table.
  • You’ll be following the directions on the back of a package of white cake mix for this recipe.
  • The cake mix that I used called for 3 eggs, ½ cup of oil, and 1 cup of water. I replaced the water with ½ cup fresh orange juice and ½ cup water.
  • The zest of one orange really amps up the orange flavor!

Frosting ingredients

ingredients for orange cream cheese icing on a white table.
  • Cream cheese and butter make the base of the frosting
  • The zest of two oranges and a splash of orange juice lends lots of citrus flavor
  • Powdered sugar whips it into a sweet, fluffy frosting
  • Sweetened coconut flakes are pressed over the top of the frosted cake

How to make an easy old fashioned orange cake

Start with a box of white cake mix, and prepare it according to package directions, with two exceptions:

  1. Instead of water, use half orange juice and half water.
  2. Add the zest of one orange to the batter. I used a microplane for zesting the orange.

In the case of the Pillsbury white cake mix that I used, it called for one cup of water. So I used one half cup of orange juice and one half cup of water instead.

Pour the cake batter into two greased 9-inch cake pans, and bake according to package directions.

two unfrosted orange cakes in 9 inch cake pans.

Let the cakes cool for 15 minutes, then run a knife around the edges. Invert the cakes onto a wire rack to finish cooling.

If desired, run a serrated knife over the top of each cake to create a flat surface. If you don’t care that your cakes are perfectly flat before frosting, just skip this step!

How to make cream cheese frosting

Cream cheese frosting takes this orange juice cake from delicious to over-the-top-delicious.

The key to light and fluffy cream cheese frosting is to soften the butter and the cream cheese first. Leave both the butter and cream cheese at room temperature for two hours, or follow these instructions for speeding the process along (the microwave and cube methods work for cream cheese, too).

Place the softened cream cheese and butter in a large bowl, then mix with a hand mixer until light and fluffy, about two minutes.

butter and cream cheese beaten together in a glass bowl.

Add the orange zest and orange juice, and beat until combined.

Then, add the powdered sugar, 1 cup at a time, beating in between each addition. The frosting should be light and fluffy.

cream cheese frosting in a glass bowl with a spatula.

Assembling the cake

Place one of the cooled cake layers on a plate or serving platter. Place ¾ cup of the frosting on top, and spread until it’s in an even layer. I like using an offset spatula to make this easier.

one layer of orange cake on a gray plate, topped with cream cheese frosting.

Place the other layer of cake on top, and frost the tops and sides with the remaining icing. You can stop there and have a really delicious orange juice cake, or keep going and add the coconut!

To add the coconut, scoop a handful into your hand, and gently press it over the sides of the cake, repeating the process as you rotate the cake. Sprinkle coconut over the top of the cake, too.

coconut topped cake, topped with a twisted orange slice with a bowl of coconut and a halved orange for garnish.

How to make an orange garnish

To make an orange garnish, place a navel orange on its side on a cutting board. Cut the orange into thin (⅛ inch) slices.

Cut a slit halfway through each orange slice. Pick up the slice and twist it gently into a swirl.

slices of orange on a cutting board showing how to make an orange garnish.

Place the garnish on top of the cake, and serve!

Can I make old fashioned orange cake ahead?

You can make this cake up to 2 days in advance of serving it. Cover the cake and place it in the refrigerator. Bring it to room temperature before serving so the cream cheese frosting is nice and creamy.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I use yellow cake mix instead of white cake mix?

Yes! Either yellow cake mix or white cake mix work well here. I tested the recipe with white cake mix, which is why the recipe calls for it specifically.

How do I make an orange garnish for a cake?

Turn a navel orange on its side, and cut into ⅛ inch slices. Place one slice flat on a cutting board, and cut a slit halfway into the slice. Twist the slice and place on top of the cake.

Can I use unsweetened coconut for the topping?

I don’t recommend using unsweetened coconut for this recipe. The cream cheese frosting is a little tangy (thanks to the cream cheese, of course) and the sweetened coconut flakes complement it perfectly.

slice of orange layer cake on a blue and white plate next to a whole orange cake with orange peel garnish on a gray plate.

Storage & freezing tips

Store any remaining cake in a covered dish in the refrigerator. It is best enjoyed within 2–3 days.

To freeze the cake, wrap the baked cake layers in plastic wrap, then place them in a large resealable freezer bag. Freeze for up to 1 month.

Defrost the cake layers on a countertop overnight, then make the cream cheese frosting and frost before serving the cake.

Serving suggestions

You’ll get at least 12 slices from this old fashioned Orange Cake.

Use a sharp knife to cut the cake gently, and avoid smashing the cake as you cut it (it’s a very tender cake).

I love serving it with coffee and tea for a post-dinner treat.

slice of orange cake standing upright on a china plate, with the whole cake in the background.

More old fashioned cakes

If you love old fashioned cakes, don’t miss these—the first three are topped with cream cheese frosting, too!

Have you tried this recipe? Please leave a ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ rating and/or comment below!

📖 Recipe

slice of orange cake with coconut on a blue and white plate.

Easy Old Fashioned Orange Cake

Published by Kate
This orange layer cake with orange cream cheese frosting is coated with coconut—the combination of orange and coconut is irresistible. And, a boxed cake mix makes it extra easy.
4.82 from 27 votes
Prep Time 25 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Total Time 50 minutes
Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Servings 16 servings
Calories 295 kcal


For the cake:

  • 1 package white cake mix, prepared according to package directions (see instructions and notes for adding orange juice)
  • ½ cup orange juice
  • Zest of 1 orange

For the cream cheese frosting & coconut topping:

  • 1 (8 oz) block cream cheese, softened
  • ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • Zest of 2 oranges
  • 3 tablespoons orange juice
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • cups sweetened coconut flakes


For the cake:

  • Prepare cake mix according to package directions with TWO changes: 1) add the zest of one orange to the batter before mixing AND 2) replace half of the water with orange juice. For example, if the directions call for 1 cup of water, use ½ cup of orange juice and ½ cup of water in place of 1 cup of water.
  • Bake the cakes according to package directions for two 9-inch cake pans and let cool. Run a knife along the edges of the pans, and remove the cakes from the pans.

For the cream cheese frosting:

  • Place the softened cream cheese and softened butter in a large bowl. Mix on medium with a hand mixer until light and fluffy (about 2 minutes).
  • Mix in the orange zest and orange juice.
  • Add 1 cup of powdered sugar, mix until combined, and repeat with the remaining powdered sugar.
  • Place one cooled cake layer on a cake plate or serving platter. Top with approximately three-quarters cup of frosting and spread evenly across the cake.
  • Place the other cooled cake layer on top, and cover the top and sides with the remaining frosting.
  • Sprinkle the coconut over the top and sides of the cake, using your palm to help the coconut adhere to the sides of the cake.
  • Cut cake into slices and serve. Refrigerate any remaining cake in a covered container.


I used Pillsbury white cake mix, which called for 3 eggs, one half cup of oil, and 1 cup of water to make the cake. I substituted one-half cup of orange juice and one-half cup of water for the water. 


Calories: 295kcalCarbohydrates: 47gProtein: 2gFat: 12gSaturated Fat: 7gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 15mgSodium: 247mgPotassium: 142mgFiber: 1gSugar: 36gVitamin A: 201IUVitamin C: 5mgCalcium: 45mgIron: 1mg
Keyword orange cake
Did You Make This Recipe?Please leave a star rating and comment below!

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  1. 5 stars
    Made this for a birthday cake. Combined this recipe with one found in comments above and created a flavorful and moist cake. Added my own twist with chocolate frosting–reminiscent of orange cream chocolates received at Christmas since birthday girl doesn’t like coconut. Have to try it with coconut cream cheese frosting soon.

  2. If I want to eliminate the coconut flakes, but still have the flavor, what can I do? I hate the texture of coconut.
    Thank you!

    1. You could try adding one-quarter teaspoon of coconut extract to the cream cheese frosting. Taste it before frosting the cake, and if you’d like more coconut flavor, add another splash of the extract. Hope that helps!

  3. I’ve used a yellow Duncan Hines cake mix, small box orange jello, 4 eggs, 1/2 cup oil. 1 &1/2 cup water for a wonderful orange flavor dense moist cake. 325° till fondue pick just comes clean.

    1. I’ve seen that recipe but haven’t tried it myself. It sounds like it would make a very tasty cake!

    1. You can definitely use a can of cream cheese icing. However, I wouldn’t add the orange juice since I think it would make it too runny. But you could add the orange zest and that would create a nice orange flavor.

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