Orange Upside Down Cake

Slice of vintage orange upside down cake with honey orange soak on worn wood by bake this cake

This World War II era cake is made with fresh orange slices baked in a brown sugar and butter glaze. After the cake is flipped upside down like a pineapple upside down cake, it soaks in a warm orange-honey sauce. Talk about tender and moist and zestfully flavorful! You can even spike it with brandy and serve it with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream if you like. But any way you do it up, you’ll have a charming retro cake hit on your hands.

Summer sunshine in a slice. You’ll only need one medium orange for this small, retro-sized cake, or perhaps 2 smaller clementine oranges – unless you’d like to double (or quadruple) this recipe for a potluck casserole cake.  So grab up an orange, get this thing going and, while the cake is baking, you can watch The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (where a Clementine Cake is cast in a supporting role).

A slice of history with your cake. Because this cake recipe comes to us from 1944, you know that it was read and baked and shared with family at a time when the world was at war. A time when folks could use a little sunshine on their plates. This simple, old-fashioned comfort dessert in the form of a sweet little homemade cake would be just the ticket.

World War II was the deadliest conflict in human history. It brought pain and sorrow to the world. But it also brought us heroes. Among that courageous lot was a brave and dedicated group of women, with a spotlight on their efforts mostly in retrospect (sadly, after most of them have passed). These super smart women shared their professional skills with total dedication to care for our wounded servicemen as Flight Nurses of the U. S. Army Air Corp and U. S. Air Force and the U.S. Navy.

Honey Orange Upside Down Cake vintage recipe by bake this cake


Ingredients for Vintage Orange Upside Down Cake:
3 Tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup golden brown sugar (firmly packed)
1 large orange (for zest, slices)
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 cup unsalted butter (half cube)
1/2 cup sugar
1 large egg
1/4 cup milk (we used 2%)

Ingredients for Orange-Honey Soaker Sauce:
1/3 cup honey
1/3 cup fresh-squeezed orange juice (strained of seeds and pulp)

1. Prep the bottom of the baking dish:

Prepare a small round baking dish (we used an 8″ glass baking dish but you may also use an 8″ iron skillet or even an 8″ glass pie plate) with the following ingredients, smoothed in the plate with a spoon for even coverage over the bottom of the dish:

3 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted (microwave works here)
4 Tablespoons hard-packed and lump-free golden brown sugar

Tip: You can warm the brown sugar for a few seconds in the microwave if it’s hard and then press it through with a fork to be sure there are no lumps.

2. Prep the orange, and set aside:

Zest an orange with a zesting tool to achieve:
1 teaspoon finely zested (or finely minced) orange peel, somewhat packed into the spoon.

Peel the zested orange by cutting away all the skin and white parts.

Slice the zested orange into about 5 slices, removing any white parts that are showing.

Arrange the orange slices on the bottom of the dish over the brown sugar and butter.

Preparing orange for orange upside down cake by bake this cake

3. Prep the dry ingredients, and set aside:

In a large bowl, whisk (or sift):
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder

Whisking Dry Ingredients for Orange Upside Down Cake by bake this cake

4. Prep the butter, sugar and eggs:

In a small to medium-sized bowl (or frosting bowl), use an electric mixer to beat on high-speed for about 2 minutes:
1/4 cup unsalted butter (half cube)

Beat into the creamed butter on high-speed for about 2 minutes:
1/2 cup sugar (we increased the amount of sugar from the original recipe)

Beat into the creamed butter-sugar on high-speed for about 2 minutes:
1 large egg

Creaming Butter Sugar and Egg for Orange Upside Down Cake by bake this cake

5. Mix it all up:

In the large mixing bowl with dry ingredients, add and beat on low-speed for about 1 minute until just thoroughly incorporated:
the prepared butter-sugar-egg mixture
1/4 cup milk (we used 2%)
the prepare orange zest

Mixing Batter for Orange Upside Down Cake by bake this cake

6. Spread the batter over the brown-sugar, butter and orange slices.

Using a spatula, spread the thick batter carefully over the orange slices. Pretend like you’re frosting a cake and try not to get any “crumbs” of brown sugar into the batter.

Batter over oranges for orange upside down cake by bake this cake

7. Bake it up:

Place the baking dish on the center rack of your oven that has been pre-heated to 375 degrees and bake for about 25 to 30 minutes. The cake will be done when it is golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Hot Homemade Orange Upside Down Cake by bake this cake

8. Prepare a warm honey orange soaking sauce:

This sauce should be ready to pour over the cake as soon as the cake comes out of the oven so I suggest preparing it a few minutes before the cake is done.

In a small sauce pot, heat on low (simmer) for about 5 minutes:
1/3 cup honey
1/3 cup fresh-squeezed orange juice (strained of seeds and pulp)

orange honey cake sauce collage by bake this cake

8. Remove and flip it while it’s hot:

When the cake is hot from the oven, use a knife to cut around the rim of the cake to loosen the edges. Use oven mittens to carefully flip the cake onto your chosen serving dish being careful not to splash any hot bubbling sugar. I used a large 10-1/2″ shallow ceramic tart pan to hold the soaker sauce.

Vintage Orange Upside Down Cake overhead shot bake this cake

9. Pour warm soaker sauce over the cake:

Drizzle the warm sauce over the cake and let the soaking magic happen. You might poke some holes in the cake, though it seems soft enough to soak on its own. It can soak for 10 minutes or overnight.

Orange Upside Down Cake recipe in orange honey soaker sauce by bake this cake

10. Serving suggestions:

You could go the extra mile and add brandy to the soaker sauce or even lightly broil the tops of the orange slices as a final flourish. I also like the idea of serving it with a dollop of chantilly (fruit sweetened whipped cream) or a small scoop of homemade vanilla ice cream.

I hope this charming little vintage cake will bring some delicious American history home to your own special kitchen.

Slice of homemade vintage orange upside down cake by bake this cake


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