Satsuma Layer Cake

satsuma layer cake, from above

So listen, should you ever find yourself in possession of 15 pounds of satsumas, say because of a killer sale last Friday at Whole Foods, a sale you’d been anticipating for days, Googling recipes and wondering about things like satsuma ice cream or satsuma salad or satsuma marmalade or jam, and you’d teamed up with your brother-in-law’s one box in order to bring your combined total up to three, knowing the store gives a fourth box free, and so you’d wandered out Friday night, box and box and box of tiny oranges in your cart, here is what you should do:


To start, give some away. After all, it’s Christmastime, the season of celebrating what is the Greatest Gift, so why not extend the December 25 presents all month long? It will make you feel happy and joyful, in the same way that celebrating your first Christmas with your new husband tends to do, and, combined with your every-other-day Advent calendar and newly purchased Fraser fir and bright red pillows on the sofa, this small act of giving unexpected gifts, even little ones like boxes of oranges, will feel like this special tradition, this special Christmas memory between the two of you.

satsuma layer cake, baked cake layers
satsuma cake, layers on table

Then, with the box you have leftover, come home, set your oranges on the counter, and eat them, remembering how much you love their easy peels and sweet, sweet mandarin flavor. Have a satsuma when you get up in the morning or before bed at night. Take some in the car or in your lunch each day.

But before they’re all gone, and trust me, you’ll be glad you did this, save three or four and bake.

Bake this satsuma layer cake.

satsuma cake, up close

The idea for this cake came from a picture I saw on Flickr, one I cannot find today, of a tall cake, made up of three or four layers of white or yellow cake, sandwiched around thick, white frosting, with round rows of orange pieces all over the top. There was no recipe and no link for more info, but the image stuck with me: before we left for Whole Foods Friday night, I told Tim, I want to make a satsuma layer cake!

satsuma cake, finished cake in stand

So Saturday afternoon, while Tim was building a buffet for our living room, using that mental image of the satsuma cake I’d seen, I set to work: I took round layers of moist yellow cake, made for my first time with a blend of unusual ingredients like white spelt flour and olive oil and yogurt, and I layered them with a simple, thinned-out cream cheese frosting infused with satsuma zest. Individual pieces of satsumas decorated the middle layer, and neat, round rows of them piled up on top.

satsuma cake, on iPhone

When the cake was first finished, the layer with oranges looked like it had space between it, as if the fat slices of satsumas were holding up the cake. But within a few hours, everything cemented together, beautifully, perfectly, like a fancy bakery cake that was just the right sweetness and texture, with bursts of juicy orange in every bite.

We ate some Saturday night, after celebrating this Christmas month with a free showing of It’s a Wonderful Life put on by Nashville’s Wonderful Life Foundation, and Tim looked at me, and I kid you not, told me this was the best thing I’d made him in a while.

So if you don’t take my word on it, take his.

And then prepare to wish satsumas were on sale every week.

Satsuma Layer Cake
Makes one (3-layered, 9″) round cake

1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
1/2 cup olive oil
3/4 cup Sucanat (alternate: brown sugar), ground in a food processor
3/4 cup palm sugar (alternate: white sugar), ground in a food processor
4 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 3/4 cups white spelt flour (alternate: all-purpose flour)
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
1/2 cup yogurt
1/4 cup water

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease and flour three 9″ round cake pans. (Confession: I still have my cake pans in Illinois, so I used two glass baking dishes that were round, and I sliced one cake in half horizontally to create three layers. Three cake pans would be ideal.)

In a large bowl, cream the butter, olive oil and sugars (i.e., Sucanat and palm sugar) together. Note that I ground my unprocessed sugars in a food processor ahead of time, just to get them a little more fine for the sake of the cake texture. Beat in the four eggs and vanilla.

In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt.

In a small bowl, combine milk, yogurt and water.

Add the flour mixture and the milk mixture alternately to the butter-sugar mix. Mix well. Pour batter into prepared pans.

Bake cakes for 30 to 40 minutes, until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool before slicing.

When ready, spread cream cheese frosting between layers, adding satsuma pieces to the second layer. Top the cake with satsumas all the way around.

Cream Cheese Frosting
I was eyballing the sugar, flour and milk here, so my amounts aren’t exact–however, that may still be helpful as you can adjust to your tastes. Oh, and don’t panic if the mixture starts to look a little like cottage cheese, by the way. Mine did, but it was delicious.

8 ounces cream cheese
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
The zest of one satsuma orange
Organic powdered sugar, to taste
Milk, to desired consistency

Combine ingredients in a bowl, adjusting sugar and milk until frosting is desired taste and consistency. You may also add a little water if you want to thin it out more.


  1. says

    seriously, this cake just screams afternoon tea, or breakfast with coffee. and quite honestly, i know you’re talking about christmas and december, so by extension, winter but with the addition of the satsumas, it reminds me of spring and warm sunshine.

    • says

      I know it’s only December 6, but I already love the sound of spring and warm sunshine! Glad this cake made you think of those favorite things. : )

  2. says

    I’d never had satsumas until this sale — sometimes my office keeps clementines in the kitchen, and I’ve been eating those like crazy, so when I saw the Tweet about the Whole Foods sale I definitely knew I wanted to try the satsumas. So good! There are two on my desk right now, as I type. Your cake is gorgeous! And I see you got your DSLR back? Yay! :)

    • says

      I did! It actually came back ($200 later) from repairs just before the wedding, and I’m so glad. Also so glad you nabbed some satsumas–smart thinking! : )

  3. says

    Isn’t it wonderful? The power of a picture to inspire us. I love citrus and think your cake is fantastic! I agree with Lan that it’s perfect for afternoon tea.

  4. Vicki says

    Are satsumas the same as clementines? I agree eating clementines is so much easier than naval oranges. Your cake looks beautiful. So does the dish you served it on too!

    • says

      Satsumas and clementines are related, and to me satsumas seems a little sweeter, but I read somewhere that most people can’t tell the difference. : ) You could definitely do this same cake with clementines.

  5. says

    Our friends went out-of-town this week and gave us their CSA, FULL of Satsumas. This recipe is definitely being added to the want-to-make-right-now-with-my-unexpected-citrus list

  6. says

    oh! satsumas remind me of when i used to live in santa barbara, ca – eternal sunshine and warm weather! love how you use rapadura and spelt and yogurt and milk and olive oil, good work! its nice to see someone sporting delicious attractive alternatives to the norm, beautiful! another citrus favorite of mine is orange infused olive oil bundt cake, i have a post of it at happy new year!

    • says

      I like hearing someone call sucanat rapadura because it shows you’re familiar with this sweetener! Thanks for your comment, Ruby. There are wonderful ingredients in this cake, indeed. : )


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