Satsuma Layer Cake

So, listen: Should you ever find yourself in possession of 15 pounds of satsumas, here is what you should do.

Well, let me backtrack a bit. Maybe you’re wondering why you have said citrus.

Say it’s because of a killer sale at the grocery store, a sale you’d been anticipating for days. These days were spent Googling recipes, dreaming and wondering about things like ice cream or salad or marmalade or jam, formulated specifically to use this special seasonal citrus fruit. And say you’d teamed up with your brother-in-law to order three boxes, since the store was offering a fourth box free. Say you’d wandered out on a Friday night, three boxes of tiny oranges in your cart, nearly exploding with anticipation…

A top view image of a deliciously looking Satsuma layer cake.

To start, give some away.

After all, it’s Christmastime, the season of celebrating, so why not extend the holiday by a few extra weeks? In season November through early January and only grown in California, Louisiana, and parts of Alabama, these fruits are a rare treat. They’re easy to peel, with a concentrated orange flavor.

Sharing will make you feel happy and joyful, in the same way that celebrating your first Christmas with your new husband tends to do. Combined with your newly purchased Fraser fir and bright red pillows on the sofa, the small act of giving unexpected gifts, even little ones like boxes of oranges, will become a special tradition, a cherished Christmas memory.

An image of a box of ripe Satsumas still in its box.

Then, with the boxes you have leftover, here’s what you do next. Come home, set your fruit on the counter, and eat them a few at a time, 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 pack one in your lunch each day. They’re so delicious eaten fresh, all of those daydreams of freezing and canning will all but vanish.

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

An image of 2 cakes in its glass containers.

Bake this satsuma layer cake.

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 orange segments in concentric circles all over the top.

An image of two cakes for layering. freshly baked from the oven.

There was no recipe and no link for more info, but the image stuck with me.

Before we left for Whole Foods on that Friday night I told Tim, “I want to make a satsuma layer cake!” 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, my first foray into experimenting with a blend of unusual ingredients like white spelt flour, olive oil, and yogurt. I layered them with a simple, thinned-out cream cheese frosting infused with satsuma zest.

A close up image of a Satsuma layer cake, looking so delicious.

Individual pieces of satsumas decorated the middle layer, and neat, round rows of them were piled up on top. When the cake was first finished, the layer with oranges had a big gap, since the fat satsuma slices were holding up the cake.

An image of Satsuma layer cake on a cake tray with a small slice on a plate beside it.

But within a few hours, everything cemented together. Beautifully, perfectly, it settled to create a homemade confection that reminded me of a fancy bakery cake, with 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.

An image of a slice of Satsuma layer cake on a small plate with a fork beside it.

So if you don’t take my word on it, take his. And then prepare to wish satsumas were on sale every week, and that the season lasted all year long.

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 (unrefined cane sugar, or substitute light brown sugar), ground in a food processor
3/4 cup palm sugar (or substitute coconut or granulated 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 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.

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About Shanna Mallon

Shanna Mallon is a freelance writer who holds an MA in writing from DePaul University. Her work has been featured in a variety of media outlets, including The Kitchn, Better Homes & Gardens, Taste of Home,, Foodista, Entrepreneur, and Ragan PR. In 2014, she co-authored The Einkorn Cookbook with her husband, Tim. Today, you can find her digging into food topics and celebrating the everyday grace of eating on her blog, Go Eat Your Bread with Joy. Shanna lives in Nashville, Tennessee, with Tim and their two small kids.

22 thoughts on “Satsuma Layer Cake”

  1. 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.

    • 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. 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! 🙂

    • 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. 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. 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!

    • 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. 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. 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!

    • 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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