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Williamsburg Orange Cake


For the cake

Butter (or shortening) and flour for prepping the pans

½ cup unsalted butter at room temperature

½ cup vegetable shortening

1½ cups granulated sugar

4 large eggs

3½ cups cake flour

2 teaspoons baking soda

½ teaspoon salt

1½ cups buttermilk

1 medium orange

For the garnish

1 cup raisins

¼ cup sherry*

1 cup finely chopped pecans, toasted

1 strip orange zest, cut into 3 or 4 matchstick pieces

*Use an Amontillado (medium) or cream (sweet) sherry

For the frosting

½ cup unsalted butter

3 cups powdered sugar

¼ cup store-bought or freshly squeezed from approximately 2 medium oranges

1 teaspoon grated orange zest (optional)

Dash salt


  1. Make the cake: Place a rack in center of oven, and preheat to 350 degrees. Lightly grease and flour three 8-inch round cake pans and set aside.
  2. Place butter and shortening in a large mixing bowl and beat with an electric mixer on low speed until creamy. Add sugar and beat on medium-low until fluffy, about 30 seconds to 1 minute. Scrape down sides of bowl. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until just combined. Set aside.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt. Beginning and ending with flour mixture, alternate adding flour mixture and buttermilk to butter mixture. Set aside.
  4. Grate 2 teaspoons of orange zest and fold into batter. Squeeze 2 tablespoons of orange juice and stir into batter until well-combined. Pour batter into prepared pans, dividing it equally. Smooth tops with a spatula and place in oven.
  5. Bake until golden brown and the top springs back when lightly pressed with your finger, about 22 to 27 minutes. Remove pans to a wire rack to cool 15 minutes. Run a knife around edges of pan and loosen cake with gentle shakes. Invert cake once and then again onto a rack to cool completely, right side up, about 30 minutes.
  6. Make the garnish: While cake cools, place raisins in a glass measuring cup and pour sherry over them. Heat cup in a microwave on high power for 20 seconds or until sherry has warmed. (Alternately, warm raisins and sherry in a small saucepan on stovetop over medium heat, about 5 minutes). Toss raisins and sherry with a fork to coat all the raisins. Set aside. With the oven at 350 degrees, gently toast pecans for 5 minutes. Remove and cool.
  7. Make the frosting: Place butter in a large mixing bowl and beat on low speed with an electric mixer until soft. Add 1 cup of powdered sugar and blend. Add half of orange juice, zest, and salt and beat until combined, 15 seconds. Add 1 cup more powdered sugar and beat until combined. Scrape sides of bowl with a rubber spatula, and add remaining cup powdered sugar. Beat on low until combined, then increase mixer speed to medium and beat until fluffy, 1 minute.
  8. To assemble: Place one cake layer on a stand and spread with ¾ cup frosting. Stack second layer on top and spread with ¾ cup frosting. Add top layer. Spread frosting in a thin layer around sides of cake to create a nearly bare-sided look. Pile remaining frosting on top of cake. Strain raisins from sherry and pile in middle of top layer. Scatter chopped pecans in a ring around edges of top layer. Garnish with orange zest, if desired.
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