Old Fashioned Blood Orange Sheet Cake

Bourbon Brown Butter Sauce Turns This Upside Down Cake Into Your Favorite Cocktail

blood orange cake

Lauryn Bodden / The Spruce

Prep: 30 mins
Cook: 25 mins
Total: 55 mins
Servings: 25 slices
Yield: 1 sheet cake

Upside down cakes already bring an instant wow factor, but the combination of peak season citrus and speckled brown butter sauce give wintertime desserts a glow-up that will overcome any cold weather blues. Specifically, blood oranges burst with color and flair that make this tender cake shine at any table.

The brown butter sauce brings nuttiness and notes of caramel that pair perfectly with bourbon and bitters to create a bite truly reminiscent of everyone's favorite nightcap, an Old Fashioned cocktail. The beauty of this sheet cake is minimal bake time and easy portability for instant sharing. Just don't forget to mix yourself a glass while you're at it.

Ingredients

For the Cake:

  • 5 blood oranges, zested

  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted

  • 3/4 cup brown sugar

  • 2 tablespoons bourbon

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

  • 1 teaspoon baking soda

  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature

  • 1 1/3 cups granulated sugar

  • 4 large eggs

  • 1 tablespoon blood orange zest

  • 2 teaspoons almond extract

  • 1 cup buttermilk

For the Bourbon Brown Butter Sauce:

  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter

  • 1/2 cup brown sugar

  • 1/4 cup bourbon

  • 1/4 cup orange juice

  • 1/2 teaspoon blood orange zest

  • Pinch kosher salt

  • 2 dashes orange bitters

Steps to Make It

Make the Cake

  1. Gather the ingredients.

  2. Preheat oven to 350 F. Generously grease a rimmed baking sheet. (See variations for pan size below.)

  3. Thinly slice 4 of the oranges, discarding ends. Lay slices flat and use tip of knife to cut away pith and outer layer, leaving flesh intact. Cut remaining orange in half, then slice and remove the outer layer from one half. Juice the remaining half and set aside for the brown butter sauce.

  4. Stir to combine melted butter, brown sugar, and bourbon in a small bowl. Pour into prepared baking sheet, spreading into a thin layer. Arrange sliced oranges across top in a tight, even layer. Set aside while making cake batter.

  5. Stir to combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl; set aside.

  6. Cream together softened butter and sugar in a large bowl until light and fluffy.

  7. Whisk in eggs one at a time, scraping down sides as you go. Stir in zest and extract.

  8. Alternate stirring in buttermilk and flour mixture until everything is added and flour is just combined.

  9. Dollop batter over top orange slices in prepared baking sheet. Using an offset spatula, gently spread batter into a smooth, even layer. Bake cake for 20 to 25 minutes or until golden brown around edges and a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Let cool for 5 minutes.

Make the Bourbon Brown Butter Sauce

  1. Gather the ingredients.

  2. Heat butter in a small saucepan over medium heat until it begins to foam, then continue to cook until it turns golden brown and smells nutty, about 5 minutes. Stir in sugar, bourbon, reserved orange juice (should be about 1/4 cup), orange zest, and salt. Cook, stirring, until sauce begins to boil and sugar is dissolved, about 1 minute. Turn off heat and stir in bitters.

  3. Run a knife or offset spatula around edges of cake. Place an upside down wire rack over top cake, then invert cake onto it. You can gently slide cake back onto the baking sheet or transfer it to a serving platter.

  4. Use a fork or toothpick to poke holes all over cake. Pour brown butter sauce all over top (you can reserve some for serving, if desired). Serve with a dollop of whipped cream, yogurt, or ice cream.

Recipe Tips

  • When greasing the sheet pan, ensure you get the corners and it is evenly covered. This may seem excessive, but it'll ensure a successful cake inversion!
  • Ensure you zest your oranges before peeling and slicing as you need the zest in the cake and sauce. Any extra zest can be kept in the freezer to easily add to yogurt, marinades, drinks, etc.
  • When arranging your orange slices, fill in the gaps with smaller orange segments.
  • Invert the cake while it is still slightly warm, so the orange topping doesn't stick the the baking sheet. Let it completely cool before attempting to slide it back into the sheet pan or transfer to the platter so that it doesn't fall apart.


Helpful Links

Recipe Variation

Cake Size

  • This cake can easily be converted to different size pans.
  • For a 9-x 13-inch baking pan, the measurements will stay the same, but bake time will increase to 35 to 40 minutes.
  • For an 8-inch round or square cake pan, you can keep the ingredients the same for a tall cake and bake for about 50 minutes or halve the ingredients and bake for 35 to 40.


Citrus

  • Want to use another orange? Go for it! Everything from Cara Cara to grapefruit will work with this cake. You can even use a variety for rainbow of colors.


Buttermilk

  • Buttermilk works to give the cake a soft texture as well as slight tang. You can substitute this for equal parts plain yogurt or mix milk with 1 tablespoon white vinegar.


No Booze, No Problem

  • Feel free to leave the booze out. The topping will work just as well without it, but you can substitute more orange juice or 1 tablespoon of extract for the sauce.