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Orange Spice Cake with Cheesecake Filling

December 28, 2010

Here we are on the other side. I hope all you lovelies managed without me. I would’ve come back sooner but I don’t think we’ve stopped eating for long enough to sit down and write a post. My apologies! I hope your festivities were as delicious as ours.

Despite the fact that we’ve just been through four straight days of nonstop eating and drinking, we woke up this morning a bit peckish. Francesco thinks our stomachs have stretched. I think it’s the memories of the glorious Christmas lunch we were lucky enough to attend, where everything – from the turkey to the nutmeat in brioche – was memorable. (To become envious and peckish yourself, see The Standard of Taste‘s mouthwatering rundown of the meal.) Wait, what? Nutmeat in brioche?! I’d never heard of it either but I assure you that it is incredible. Hopefully there will be a recipe up soon – hint, hint – so I can stop being tormented by dreams where I’m chasing a half loaf of nutmeat in brioche, squeezing between massive candlesticks, wading through the salt dish, and tight-roping around the edge of the gravy dish – but woe! – it always escapes me.

Since I’m supposed to use this space to tell you about what I‘ve been cooking, and to convince you to cook the same, I won’t wax poetic about the exquisite brined, stuffed turkey or the perfect rice pudding (or the fact that I found the almond in my pudding and so won the marzipan pig; for more on that – or just to visit a great food blog – go here.) I will, however, tell you about my humble contribution to Christmas lunch – one of my favorite layer cakes, something I cooked up one day on a whim (most of my whims involve cream cheese frosting) which has remained steadfastly in my rotation ever since. Something that, despite it’s being, in my unscientific opinion, almost perfect, was given a definite run for its money by this year’s Christmas spread.

In fact, the only problem with this cake is that I hate sharing it. It took all the tact and poise I hope to possess not to run off after lunch with the cake plate in hand, my shoes in the other. Mmmm, what I should have done is run off with that nutmeat in brioche. Actually, now that I think of it, I was so full I probably couldn’t have run anywhere. Maybe I could have stuffed the nutmeat in brioche into my bag. Ooh, but I didn’t bring a bag. Maybe I could have just sat there, washing it down with hibiscus flower spiked champagne, until I polished it off. Yes, we had hibiscus flower spiked champagne. Jealous yet?

But I digress. This cake (which is up there with carrot and actually squash [see the connection?] in my Top 3) is a sandwich of two layers of spice cake with a baked cheesecake in the middle, all of which is covered in cream cheese frosting. The cake and cheesecake are made separately but in the same pan so everything stacks up perfectly. You can bake and freeze the cake up to a week in advance, then, within a day or two of assembling the cake, you make the cheesecake. The frosting takes about 5 minutes to whip up and there it is: a cake that looks and tastes complicated, but, with a little forward thinking, can be made in that almost non-existent length of time between Christmas Eve dinner and Christmas Day lunch in which you are not either passed out on the couch or passed out in bed.

Sometimes I halve the cake recipe (as in the first photo in this post) so that the four layers – frosting-cake-cheesecake-cake – are more or less the same size. On special occasions or when feeding lots of people, I make the entire spice cake recipe. Either way, it’s just delicious. The spice cake itself is so good it’s practically begging you to make it on its own, though I think the cheesecake adds that certain little something. It’s light and tangy, and, even better, your guests won’t be expecting it. Kind of like finding the almond in your rice pudding. Only there’s no marzipan pig. Just a perfectly balanced, perfectly beautiful layer cake. I see no problem at all.


This is definitely one of my favorite cakes. If you’re wondering why you’ve never heard of it before the answer is simple: I like to keep it close. I wouldn’t want some pesky neighbors stopping by for a piece now would I? You can follow either the halved or full cake recipe depending on how much cake you want. I understand some of you have New Year’s Resolutions to keep.

If you’re not feeling up to making the cheesecake, just double the frosting recipe and use as a filler. You can even just leave well enough alone and serve with a plop of cream or – gasp! – a dusting of icing sugar. And though my lifemate has hammered into my head that simpler is better, I still think that the whole shabang – orange spice cake with cheesecake filling and cream cheese frosting – can’t be beat. Sorry, simple. Maybe another day.

Whole Cake Recipe serves 12 – 15 / Half Cake Recipe serves 8 – 10


1 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
pinch of salt

3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup (110 grams) butter, room temperature
1 tablespoon orange zest
2 eggs

1/2 cup sour cream
1/4 cup milk

WHOLE CAKE MEASUREMENTS (I know you can do this yourself; I’m just humoring you):

2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
pinch of salt

1 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup (225 grams) butter, room temperature
2 tablespoons orange zest

1 cup sour cream (or similar such as thick plain Greek yogurt)
1/2 cup milk


250 grams (8 oz.) cream cheese
1-2 tbls (40 grams) butter
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 egg
orange blossom essence (optional)

CREAM CHEESE FROSTING: (double if you’re skipping the cheesecake filling)

250 grams (8 oz.) cream cheese, chunked & cold
1 chunk butter, room temperature
2/3 cup icing sugar
some milk or cream to thin

Make Orange Spice Cake:
Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C). Grease an 8″ or 9″ springform pan. If you have two of the same size, use two.
Sift the first 8 ingredients (the flour, the leavening agents and all the spices) in a medium bowl. In a large bowl, beat the sugar, butter and orange zest until fluffy. Beat in the eggs 1 at a time; beat until uniform. In a third bowl, whisk the sour cream and milk together.

Stir the flour mixture into the butter mixture alternately with the sour cream mixture. Don’t overmix. Pour the batter into your prepared pan(s).
Bake until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 25 – 35 minutes. Transfer to racks and cool completely. Can be made a few days ahead or a few weeks ahead and frozen. (To freeze, cool completely then wrap in plastic wrap. Defrost completely before assembling cake.)

Make Cheesecake:
Preheat oven to 325°F (160°C). Grease the same pan you used to make the spice cake (a 8″ or 9″ springform).
In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese and sugar until smooth. This may be tricky, just keep poking through the beaters until it starts softening out. Add the cream, egg, and essence; beat until smooth. Pour into prepared pan, bake for 45 minutes or until set in the middle. Cool completely before removing from pan. Can be made a day in advance, wrapped in plastic wrap.

Make Frosting: In a large bowl, beat cream cheese and butter until smooth. Like with the cheesecake, just keep poking through the beaters until the cheese starts to soften. Slowly add the icing sugar until desired sweetness and consistency. If too thick to spread, add some cream, milk, sour cream, yogurt or mascarpone.

To Assemble:
If you baked one orange cake, carefully slice it horizontally to form two discs. Place one disk on a serving plate, top with cheesecake, and place the second half of the spice cake on top. Frost liberally with cream cheese frosting. Decorate with fresh flowers, blueberries or candied orange peel. Hide from neighbors, friends and loved ones. I would say that it keeps up to a week at room temperature, though this has never, ever been tested.

8 Comments leave one →
  1. August 21, 2015 6:16 pm

    I have made this many, many times now. It is so wonderful! Some advice which I found very useful (especially if you make an even bigger version) is to freeze the cheesecake layer before assembling. This makes it much easier to move without breaking, when you are placing it between layers.

    • August 25, 2015 4:10 am

      Hey Cressida! I’m so glad this has become a favorite and a classic 🙂 Thanks for the tip, I’ll be sure to use that next time I make this wonderful cake.

      • October 14, 2017 11:33 pm

        Making this next weekend for another wedding cake! (Doing the cheesecake layers this weekend and sticking them in the freezer.) That is the fourth wedding cake made to this recipe by a member of our family! ❤


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