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My Mother-in-Law’s Favorite Cake

October 14, 2011

I spent a good portion of the day today with my mother-in-law and doing so inspired me to share her favorite cake recipe. My handsome half and I moved away from his home town a few years ago and when we went back to celebrate her birthday the year after we left, one of her granddaughters had brought a purchased cake. My mother-in-law looked at the table and whispered to me, “I thought you’d bring the Mandarin orange cake for my birthday – I was really looking forward to it.”  I promised her that I’d bring one to her our next trip and I did. I’ve never missed bringing one to her since.

In fact, making someone’s favorite cake for their birthday – homemade and in most instances “from scratch”– is usually my gift for family and close friends’ birthdays.  Particularly for the women in my life who are usually the ones who organize birthdays, special treats, etc. for their families but often get overlooked when their special day rolls around.  Not that they get forgotten, it’s just that I found that no one seems to remember to make the favorite cake for them.  So, I try and do that for them. I’ve made some new friends recently who also do this for each other – so the idea isn’t original to me – and I encourage you to do the same for your circle of friends and family if you can bake.

This particular recipe is delicious, relatively easy to make and is a crowd pleaser. I know this because our family recently held an 88th birthday party for my mother-in-law. Over 100 people attended and to handle those numbers, we had 2 cakes: a large red velvet, commercially made, beautifully decorated red velvet cake and a homemade Mandarin orange cake. Folks were getting pieces of the red velvet cake that was the official cake for the party. Then, they’d find out about the Mandarin orange cake from my mother-in-law and ask for a piece of that. She finally realized that she was directing too many people to “her” cake and made it clear that she wanted enough left for her to enjoy later.  We made sure that happened.


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare 3 – 8 inch round cake pans by greasing and flouring. 

Cake Ingredients:

1 package of butter flavored cake mix

4 eggs

1 cup of canola cooking oil

1 11 ounce can of mandarin oranges (undrained)

Combine cake mix, eggs, cooking oil and 1 can of undrained mandarin oranges. Mix well
with a wire whisk.  Spoon mixture evenly in the 3 prepared cake pans and bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.  Cakes will be done when a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove from oven and allow cakes to stand for 5 – 10 minutes before removing them and placing on either 3 sheets of waxed paper or wire cooling racks.  Cool cakes completely before frosting.

Frosting ingredients:

1 12 ounce tub of  extra creamy frozen dessert topping – divided use

1 3 ounce package of instant French vanilla pudding mix

1 20 ounce can of crushed pineapple (undrained)

1 11 ounce can of mandarin oranges (drained) – to be used for decoration

Using 2/3 of the 12 ounce tub, combine the frozen dessert topping with the instant pudding mix and undrained can of crushed pineapple.  Mix well with a wire whisk. Place one of the cake layers on a serving dish and frost the top with 1/3 of the frosting mix. Repeat with the second and third layers. Only the tops of the 3 cake layers will be frosted with the frosting mix.  Frost the sides of the cake with the other 1/3 of the frozen dessert topping mix. Garnish and/or make a design with the drained mandarin orange slices on the top of the cake.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.

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