This easy 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!
Orange and coconut—it’s not the most common combination, but WOW is it good! This 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.
The topping reminds me of coconut topped donuts. So if you like those, you have to try this cake!
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.
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Using orange juice in a cake
This recipe calls for substituting orange juice for water in a cake mix. The substitution adds citrus flavor, and it also makes the cake more tender.
As a result, the cake will be a little bit softer than usual, and not dense at all. This is a very good thing if you like light and fluffy cake!
It can also make the cake a little difficult to slice, since it is so tender. Make sure to use a sharp knife to cut it, or use a sawing motion with a serrated knife.
I’ve also found that the cake is quite easy to cut after an hour in the refrigerator.
- 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!
- 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 orange cake
Start with a box of white cake mix, and prepare it according to package directions, with two exceptions:
- Instead of water, use half orange juice and half water.
- 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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
You can also see the step-by-step instructions in slide format here!
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.
Place the garnish on top of the cake, and serve!
Orange Cake: Frequently Asked Questions
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.
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.
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.
You’ll get at least 12 slices from this 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.
Store any remaining cake in a covered dish in the refrigerator.
Have you tried this recipe? Please leave a ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ rating and/or comment below!
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
- 1½ 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.