This pig pickin' cake is an authentic southern dessert that is the perfect accompaniment to your Juneteenth celebration! Traditionally the sweet mandarin orange cake starts with a box of yellow cake mix, but this one is made from scratch and finished with homemade whipped topping sweetened with pineapple.
What is Juneteenth?
Join me in celebrating Juneteenth with 18 other Black culinary creators. This year, we are honoring 19 Black American cookbook authors by recreating their recipes, amplifying their work, and sharing our connections to Freedom Day. Juneteenth marks our country's second independence day, the final emancipation of those enslaved in the US announced in 1865.
Share these recipes with your family and help us continue the legacy of celebrating progress. Additionally, you can easily follow each participant by using the hashtag #JuneteenthCookout2022 on Instagram.
This collaboration is brought to you by Eat the Culture.
Why you'll love this recipe
There are so many reasons to serve this cake at your Juneteenth celebration!
- A delicious dessert that is a nostalgic southern favorite.
- A bake-from-scratch cake uses all homemade ingredients.
- A super moist cake packed with citrus and fruit flavors of summer.
This dessert is also known as mandarin orange cake, sunshine cake, or celestial snow cake.
Key ingredients and why we use them
This refreshing cake has pineapple, mandarin oranges, and toasted coconut—a delicious blend of summer flavors!
Mandarin Oranges: Do not drain the mandarin oranges when combining them in the cake batter. You want to include all the juices to achieve the perfect cake texture and flavor.
Orange Zest: The simple addition of orange zest gives this cake a burst of citrus flavor, perfect for summer. If you don't have orange zest on hand, try one of these simple substitutes.
Crushed Pineapple: Crushed pineapple adds excellent flavor and sweetness to the whipped topping. Make sure you drain the pineapple before mixing in the whipped cream.
Vanilla Extract: Use pure vanilla extract in this recipe. It gives the cake a perfect balance of flavor when combined with mandarin oranges. Consider these substitutes if you don't have vanilla extract in your kitchen.
A love letter to Cheryl Day
I fell in love with Cheryl Day's Treasury of Southern Baking, the moment I read the dedication page. Day writes, "This book would not have been possible without the millions of enslaved laborers who worked in the fields, plantations, and kitchens of the United States."
With more than 200 recipes, The Treasury of Southern Baking is a timeless treasure that brings delicious desserts and black history into your kitchen. This cookbook has everything you need for your Juneteenth celebration, from decadent cakes to flaky biscuits.
But don't be mistaken. This cookbook has more than delicious recipes. The narratives and stories elevate this cookbook to an oral history of southern baking. I felt like I was sitting in Day's kitchen as she effortlessly creamed butter and sugar together while sharing her life journey.
After reading her cookbook, I left with more than amazing recipes. I felt proud of the rich traditions of southern baking embedded in African American culture.
Thank you—Cheryl Day—for inspiring future generations of black bakers.
Frequently asked questions
This cake is a dessert that shows up on tables at barbecues, picnics, and other communal gatherings- especially in North Carolina, and especially when a whole hog is on the pit waiting to be "picked." This mandarin orange cake became a regular at these picnics; hence the name stuck! Don't worry, there is no actual pig in this pig pickin' cake!
Use powdered gelatin to stabilize your whipped toppings. This is a must if you are serving a cake with whipped topping at a picnic or BBQ where the temperatures will be hot. In addition, make sure your cake is sitting in the shade out of direct sunlight.
Many of the flavors in these two cakes are the same. However, hummingbird cake features pineapples, bananas, and pecans in the cake batter itself. In addition, it is topped with a cream cheese topping, as opposed to a whipped topping.
HEATHER'S HELPFUL HINT
When using fresh pineapple, use a food processor to pulse larger chunks. Make sure you fully drain the pineapple before adding it to the frosting. Then, you can reserve the juice for a delicious drink!
You can bake this cake in two 9-inch round pans or one 9x13-inch rectangular pan. I've listed the cooking times below depending on what you choose.
- Two 9-inch round pans: cook for 25-35 minutes. Check at 25 minutes and every 5 minutes after that.
- One 9x13-inch rectangular pan: cook for 35-45 minutes. Check at 35 minutes and every 5 minutes after that.
Making this pig pickin' cake for your next summer picnic or BBQ is simple!
First, cream the butter, sugar, and orange zest together. Next, add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Finally, add the flour in thirds, alternating with the milk.
Using a rubber spatula, incorporate any ingredients hiding at the bottom of the bowl, making sure the batter is thoroughly mixed. Fold in one can of mandarin oranges with their juice.
Smooth your batter into your pan (or two pans if using 9-inch round pans). Gently smooth the tops with a spatula. Tap the pans firmly on the counter to remove any air bubbles from the batter. Bake for the specified time, depending on your pan size.
Gently mix pineapple, vanilla pudding mix (optional), and whipped topping together in a bowl for the frosting.
Smooth whipped topping over cake using a short offset spatula.
Drain the remaining can of mandarin oranges and decorate the top of the cake with orange slices, pineapple, and coconut (if desired). Refrigerate until ready to serve. Enjoy!
Make ahead and storage tips
Storage: It's essential to store this cake in the refrigerator because of the whipped topping. You can also keep the cake itself in the freezer for up to three months.
Make-Ahead: Chill the cake before serving it at your BBQ. It works excellently to refrigerate the cake overnight, giving it time to firm up. It also makes slicing easier! You can bake the cake 1-2 days before serving. Then whip up the frosting on the day of your party.
While you're waiting, relax and enjoy a similar tropical-flavored drink like my mango smoothie!
This pig pickin' cake is incredibly versatile, and you can make many additions and substitutions to the recipe.
- Use vanilla cake mix for the batter if you're short on time. Just don't forget to add in the canned mandarin oranges!
- Add shredded sweetened coconut to the frosting for added flavor. This can be mixed into the frosting or used as a garnish.
- You can also add toasted and chopped pecans to the cake batter for additional flavor and texture.
Try these other summer recipes
Be sure to check out some more of our delicious summer dessert recipes below!
Pig Pickin' Cake
- 2½ cups cake flour not self-rising
- 2½ teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon sea salt fine
- ½ cup whole milk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 sticks unsalted butter at room temperature
- 1½ cups granulated sugar
- 2 tablespoons orange zest grated from 2 oranges
- 4 large eggs at room temperature
- 1 can mandarin oranges in light syrup 11 ounce can or 312 g
- 1 teaspoon unflavored powdered gelatin
- 4 teaspoons cold water
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 2 tablespoons confectioners' sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 cup chopped fresh pineapple or one 8-ounce can crushed pineapple, drained
- 1 package instant vanilla pudding mix optional
Optional Garnish Ingredients
- 1 can mandarin oranges in light syrup drained, 11 ounce can or 312 g
- ½ cup pineapple tidbits drained
- ½ cup sweetened coconut flakes toasted
Bake the Cake
- Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter two 9-by-2-inch round cake pans, then line the bottoms with parchment and butter it as well. Lightly dust the pans with flour, tapping the pans on the counter to shake out the excess.
- Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt into a large mixing bowl. Set aside. In a large measuring cup or small bowl, stir together the milk and vanilla. Set aside.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or in a large mixing bowl, using a handheld mixer), cream the butter, sugar, and orange zest together on medium high speed until light and fluffy, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping down the sides and bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula as necessary. On low speed, add the flour mixture in thirds, alternating with the milk mixture and beginning and ending with the flour, mixing until just combined.
- Remove the bowl from the mixer stand (if using) and, using the rubber spatula, incorporate any ingredients hiding at the bottom of the bowl, making sure the batter is completely mixed. Fold in one can (312 g) of the mandarin oranges, with their juice.
- Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans and gently smooth the tops with a spatula. Tap the pans firmly on the counter to remove any air bubbles from the batter.
- Bake for 25 to 35 minutes, until a cake tester inserted in the center of a cake, comes out clean. Let the cakes cool in the pans on a wire rack for 15 minutes, remove from the pans, peel off the parchment, and let cool completely on the rack.
Make the Frosting
- In a small saucepan, whisk together the gelatin and water and let stand for about 5 minutes to soften the gelatin.
- Place the saucepan over low heat and heat the mixture, stirring occasionally, until the gelatin has dissolved, about 2 minutes. Let cool for 2 to 3 minutes, but do not let stand until the gelatin starts to set; it still needs to be pourable.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment (or in a large mixing bowl, using a handheld mixer), beat the cream on low speed, gradually increasing the speed to medium as it thickens slightly. Beat in the confectioners' sugar and vanilla. With the mixer running, slowly pour in the gelatin mixture and beat until the topping has reached stiff peaks, about 2 minutes; scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula as necessary.
- Fold in the pineapple and instant vanilla pudding mix, if using. Cover and refrigerate until ready to frost the cake.
Assemble the Cake
- Level the top of one of the layers with a serrated knife so it is flat. Place it cut side down on a serving plate (you can keep the edges of the plate clean by sliding strips of parchment under the cake while you frost it). Using an offset spatula or a butter knife, spread a large dollop of the whipped topping over the top of the layer. Place the second cake layer on top, right side up, and frost the top and sides with the remaining whipped topping.
- Drain the remaining can (312 g) of mandarin oranges and decorate the top of the cake with orange slices, pineapple, and coconut (if desired). Refrigerate until ready to serve. The cake can be stored, loosely covered, In the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
Notes and Tips
- Pan Sizes: You can bake this cake in two 9-inch round pans, or one 9x13-inch rectangular pan. For one 9x13-inch rectangular pan, cook for 35-45 minutes.
- Pineapple: When using fresh pineapple, use a food processor to pulse larger chunks. Make sure you fully drain the pineapple before adding it to the frosting. You can reserve the juice for a delicious drink!
- Storage: Chill the cake before serving it at your BBQ. It actually works great to refrigerate the cake overnight, giving it time to firm up. It also makes slicing easier!
- Whipped Topping: you can substitute Cool Whip for homemade whipped topping if you want in this recipe. Make sure you defrost the Cool Whip before adding the pineapple.
- Instant Vanilla Pudding Mix: You can use vanilla pudding mix in this recipe, but it's not required. I like the subtle flavor it adds to the topping.
Cook and share the inspiring recipes by checking out the list of participants below. Follow each participant and continue the discussion with us on social media using the hashtag #JuneteenthCookout2022.
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