Orange Loaf

You hate to say things like this too soon, but it has been a remarkably easy winter in Chicago. I have done a minimal amount of complaining about the weather, which has been pretty mild. In fact, I have been thoroughly enjoying this winter and the food that goes along with it, I’m not even tired of citrus fruits yet. For the first time in a while, I am okay with winter sticking around a bit longer. I still have a bunch of cold-weather recipes I want to tackle, and I have been enjoying the excuse to embrace my homebodiness.

Oranges and their kin are popular in our house—usually eaten out of hand, or juiced, but occasionally they make their way into a recipe. Of all the citrus, oranges get the least amount of attention from bakers. I often wonder why, they are definitely my favorite. I jump at recipes that feature oranges in all their bright citrus glory, like this relatively simple tea cake. It ain’t joking, with the zest of three oranges it packs a real flavor punch. I added some Cointreau because I could, but it isn’t necessary.

Bake this cake and celebrate the remaining weeks of winter, good or bad. Soon it will be spring and we’ll be taking another season for granted!

This is another recipe from the wonderful Piece of Cake by David Muniz and David Lesniak which is quickly becoming one of my favorite baking books. The recipe calls for a 9×5 inch loaf pan. If you only have smaller, fill your pan just shy of 3/4 full and bake the remaining batter in a mini loaf pan or other small tin. The smaller tin will bake more quickly, so pay attention! Also, because you are using both the juice and zest of oranges, it makes sense to zest first and then squeeze oranges.

Orange Loaf (adapted slightly from Piece of Cake by David Muniz and David Lesniak)

  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3/4 cup sour cream
  • 1 tablespoon cointreau (optional)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup fresh orange juice
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 tablespoons orange zest (from about 3 oranges)
  • 3/4 cup (6 ounces) unsalted butter, softened
  • 3 large eggs

For glaze:

  • 1 1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 tablespoons fresh orange juice

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan, line the 2 long sides and bottom with one piece of parchment, and dust with flour.

Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl. Combine the sour cream, vanilla, Cointreau (if using), and orange juice in a large measuring cup. Set both aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fit with the paddle attachment, combine the sugar and orange zest on low speed until fragrant. Drop in the butter 2 tablespoons at a time until it is all added. Increase the speed to medium-high and cream the mixture until it is light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. On low speed, add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Scrape the sides and bottom of bowl as you go. Alternately add the flour and sour cream mixtures, beginning and ending with the flour, and mixing only until just combined. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top with a spatula.

Bake the loaf for 45 to 60 minutes, or until a cake tester emerges clean. Let the cake cool for about 10 minutes before releasing it from the pan. To prepare the glaze, combine the confectioners’ sugar and orange juice in a small pan and bring to a boil, stirring once or twice. Simmer for 2 minutes, then remove from the heat and brush/pour over the warm cake. Let the cake cool completely before serving. Use a serrated knife to slice cake, as the glaze will be hard.

47 comments to “Orange Loaf”

  1. This looks amazing! Such great color and flavor. :)

  2. Yum. I love orange baked goods and this looks like breakfast. I’ll definitely be baking this one.

  3. I have thoroughly enjoyed our winter, AND I am ready for spring! we have had a few glimpses around here already…

    I can imagine the wonderful flavors of this bread already… I love citrus in baking, my go to is generally grapefruit but I love orange as well!

  4. Just finished eating a slice of my orange olive-oil loaf for breakfast. Amazing!

  5. Oh my god, I bought a bag of Cara Cara oranges two weeks ago that I cannot seem to get to the bottom of (not that I want to, because Cara Caras are delicious). This recipe should help!

  6. This is so good, love the drizzle top and orange is my favourite of the citrus fruits. I have been enjoying blood oranges too recently. They are amazing and would make a wonderful cake I bet too!

  7. I’m with you, Tim, on two fronts:1. Anything orange is wonderful. 2. This winter just hasn’t been the usual pain here in the Northwest either. I am bracing myself for all the nasty cold rain to make a late debut and last into July so that I don’t end up dejected and sad. This cake will help no matter how long it goes on. I am tempted to try it with a melange of Meyer lemon (I was just gifted dozens from my Cali sister-in-law’s tree,) lime and orange, and indulge in a real citrus explosion.

  8. Hi Tim – I’ve been lurking lately. :) But had to comment on this recipe, it looks really wonderful! Plus, I’m a sucker for any kind of glazed pound-cake-ish sweet loaf. Thanks for sharing another winner. xo

  9. Nice recipe. I too love citrus and it’s falling off the trees in California. I kind of think this would be also be really good with (a little) lemon and olive oil…or 50/50 with butter.

  10. I crave citrus in the winter. Actually, I probably crave it all the time. This looks like just what the craving ordered. A cake that is moist and citrus is perfect. Thanks.

  11. How lovely. It’s like a classic lemon drizzle loaf cake but with orange and a cheeky splash of Cointreau – nice idea!

  12. This looks so tempting… And yes, oranges are by far the best. Oranges + your cake? Irresistible

  13. I made this last night, and it is amazing! The citrus smell that hits the air when you mix the zest and the sugar is to die for. It didn’t smell as orange-y while it baked, but it was/is delicious!

  14. Thank you; I have a last bit of precious blood orange juice in the freezer with this written all over it.

  15. I am a citrus addict and this will fit beautifully into my collection. Thank you so much, Tim!

    Soaking the cake with a mixture of OJ and cointreau after it cooks works well, too (from experience), but you need to flip the cake and do it from the bottom if you choose to add the extra orange punch!

    Hope your winter stays mild; ours hasn’t been bad in NC, either.

  16. This is totally my kind of cake. I have a little lemon loaf that I love that looks much like this one, without sour cream and with a bit of almond flour but with a very similar glaze. Yours will definitely go on my list of citrus cakes to try! Also, this is my first full winter living away from my native Michigan’s chill, and in California no less(!), but I promise I still remember how it feels… That said, I’m very glad to hear your spirits are staying up this wintertime!

  17. Just imagining the citrus smell is making me smile–and helping me ignore the snow flurries outside my window. One question…my family always picks off glaze, so do you think a cointreau syrup and a streusal topping would be too heavy and overpower the cake?

    P.S. A friend just recently turned me on to your site and I’ve been happily cooking my way through your past posts this winter. My whole family thanks you!

  18. Hi Lori- Taste is so subjective, it is hard to say. The cake is really moist as is, so I would not be interested in a syrup addition, myself. I think the cake is pretty perfect as it is. I think the more important question is: who are these people who pick off glaze?! ; )

  19. Perfection! I made this yesterday and, even with overfilling the pan and taking the cake in and out of the oven multiple times during baking, it turned out wonderfully. Make this!

  20. Mmm. looks lovely! im always looking for excuses to embrace homebodiness too. Wondering how this would fare with whole wheat pastry flour. ?

  21. Sal- I’m generally not into using whole grains as replacements in recipes. I think they’re usually more successful when they’re used in recipes created to highlight them. This is so bright and light, that I’m not sure it will jive. But if you give it a try, let us know.

  22. This looks great. We have an orange tree in our yard, so I think I will try this cake tomorrow. I’ll let you know how it turns out. Can yogurt be used as a substitute or with the sour cream in = proportions?

  23. Yum…this looks delicious and I don’t even like orange-flavored desserts! I love the glaze on top.

  24. I am on a sweet breakfast kick lately, so this post is such perfect timing! The glaze really seems to complete the loaf. Looking forward to more of your winter weather posts – while we still have some winter!

  25. I hope you didn’t totally jinx your weather with this post. :-)

  26. Hi Tim, I came to your site via Saveur, and have read backwards through your posts – it’s an amazing thing, kind of like reading a book backwards, but it still makes sense somehow. I have enjoyed getting to know you and Brian! Anyway, I was a bit sad when I got to the end (start?) – your beautiful site has had me occupied and inspired for some time now! I have started my own blog, I am a total rookie, but am enjoying a new project. Thanks for the inspiration!

  27. First of all, I love Chicago and would live there if I could! Secondly, a cleansing snowfall is so good for the soul. Finally, I am so happy you featured this recipe. Orange zest, cointreau and sour cream. Now this is a perfect date for a cup of joe. Thanks a heap for bringing it to our attention.

  28. I discovered your site through Small Measure’s What I’m Digging Friday post. I’m preparing to make this cake right now and I’m guessing it’s 2 1/4 teaspoons of baking powder versus 2 1/14 teaspoons. Lovely site, can’t wait to peruse your other recipes.

  29. Hello Tim! I’m from Orange County, CA and I just moved to the east coast so this is my first real winter. I love this recipe! The citrus reminds me of home but it’s in a warm tea cake that goes perfectly with my oolong tea. A bit of both, perfect!

  30. Love the blog! I’m in the midst of making this and was wondering if “2 1/14 teaspoons baking powder” was a typo. I’m thinking it should be 2 1/4 teaspoons. Just finished zesting 3 Cara Cara oranges and house smells terrific. BTW, the 3 oranges yielded 4 tablespoons of zest and 3/4 cup of orange juice.

  31. Amount of baking powder corrected to 2 1/4 t. Though, 2 1/14t would work, too!

  32. You had me at the glaze. It looks SO delicious – I wonder if I could pull this recipe off.

    I’m wondering if I could get up early enough to make it for breakfast tomorrow.

  33. I made this cake/loaf today, with Cara Cara oranges, and it is absolutely astounding. It’s everything Tim said it would be, and more. Yum!

    One warning about the glaze (and I should note, up front, that I needed to use a brand of powdered sugar with which I’m unfamiliar): using the proportions and process described above resulted in a glaze that was so thick that it hardened as it was being poured out of the saucepan. So hard, in fact, that I couldn’t spread it on the cake — upon landing on the cake, it instantly created a thick shell that was so hard and was so fused to the top that later, when I tried to cut the cake after it cooled down, it literally tore off the top of the cake. No knife was sharp enough or serrated enough to do the trick without tearing the thing to pieces.

    I noticed, when I combined the sugar and orange juice, that the texture was extraordinarily stiff. I added another half tablespoon of juice, so that I had 2-1/2 Tbl. combined with the 1-1/2 c. of confectioner’s sugar. The blend was still pretty stiff, but it loosened up during the two-minute simmer, so I ignored my instincts and experience, didn’t add more liquid, and hoped that there was something to the recipe and procedure that I’d missed.

    That said, I’ll definitely, absolutely make this cake for guests who are arriving next week. I’ll just be sure to watch the consistency of the glaze, pre-boil, more closely, and would advise folks to err on the side of a thinner glaze. Of course, that said, today’s ugly version of the cake won’t last long! What it lacks in looks now will be much improved next time — and in the meantime, I can eat it with my eyes closed!

    Oh, two other substitutions I made in today’s cake: I used plain, whole-milk yogurt instead of sour cream (that’s what I had on hand) and swapped out half of the vanilla for a spoonful of spicy dark rum. Oh, and I only had Grand Marnier, no Cointreau. As far as I can tell, the yogurt worked just fine (from a texture perspective), and I’m clearly crazy for the great flavor of the cake.

    Thanks, Tim!

  34. Yum!! This cake is absolutely DELICIOUS–moist and not too sweet. My kitchen smelled like a citrus grove as I mixed the orange zest and sugar!! My husband says this recipe is a winner. Thank you!!

  35. This looks AMAZING. Perfect for the end days of winter–we are almost there! Your type-o made me laugh.

  36. From the University of Chicago — made this cake not once but twice since you posted it!!!

    Thanks for making winter quarter sweeter!

  37. I’ve made tons of recipes from your site and loved them all (don’t even get me started on the Jerusalem Date/Spinach salad that I ate for 3 solid weeks…) – including this cake, loved it! Except for the icing. I always detect a little aftertaste in regular confectioner’s sugar icing, so the “cooked’ aspect appealed to me. I only simmered for 2 minutes and ended up with a horrible syrup that stuck to your teeth as you took a bite. Fortunately we had rain that night, and it absorbed it back in to make it a sort of sticky cake (better than it was). I’ll make it again, but use the standard no cook icing next time. If you have time..or if anyone else has any suggestions, I would love to know what i did wrong. Thanks for your beautiful Blog!

  38. this looks really good! I think it best enjoyed with a cup of hot tea. mmmm.

  39. i love this! Its sooo good. Nice sweetness from the glaze and the cake itself is not too sweet and wonderfully moist! thanks for sharing.

  40. LouLou_ Hmmm. I wish I knew! I’ve made it twice and not had any problems. I wonder if it is the brand of confectioners sugar you are using? I don’t know that much about it, but they do seem to vary quite a bit from brand to brand. Sorry it was frustrating!

  41. I appreciate you responding, especially as it seems you were on the road this last week! Thank you. I used Domino..but who knows, sometimes mysterious things just happen in the kitchen (such as the unpleasantly sticky sugar syrup hydrating back into a perfectly tasty and edible form over night – so it was not a total loss by any means. We somehow, ahem, managed to eat all 24 muffins despite the mishap. I’m going to try again today, cooked icing, why not?! Thanks again for all you do and for taking the time to read and respond. All the best. P.S. Caramel AND Shortbread ?!! Are you trying to kill me?

  42. Oh this is fabulous! plenty of batter to make two 8×3 loaves and a small muffin for me! I was able to (with much restraint) allow 1/2 the muffin to cool, the flavors deepen when cooled. YUM! I think I would like more orange juice in the glaze, make it a little thinner. This plus rhubarb compote, or strawberries, or…

  43. As a Floridian and food photographer I must try this recipe. Thanks for the inspiration!!!


  44. Love this one–I make this as my Vasilopita and put in a lucky coin every January!

  45. Hi Tim! Just a question, would this work with 3/4c olive oil instead of butter? Just curious but loving the recipe! Thanks!

  46. Hi Rohma- I don’t know, I havent tried it. If you do, let us know.

  47. Jacqueline says:

    May 13th, 2013 at 12:00 am

    Made this late last night. (Pregnancy cravings). I realized I was out of butter, so on the oil question: I substituted the 3/4c of butter with a 1/2 of vegetable oil. It turned out great. This cake is amazing!

What do you think?