Pig Pickin' Cake (Mandarin Orange Cake With Pineapple Whipped Cream Frosting) Recipe

For this Southern picnic classic, yellow cake is flavored with citrus and frosted with a rich mixture of vanilla pudding, crushed pineapple, and whipped cream.

A slice of pig pickin' cake, served on white dessert plate.

Serious Eats / Alexandra Penfold

Why This Recipe Works

  • A balance of homemade and ready-made components results in a luxe version that stays true to the recipe's origin.
  • Whole mandarin orange segments and orange zest are beaten into the batter, which gives the cake a nice, tart orange flavor.

I love cakes with whimsical names. The kind of names that make you think you should probably have a slice or two. Or three. Orange kiss me cake. Tunnel of fudge cake. Pig pickin' cake. I developed this recipe just before Memorial Day weekend and with barbecue season about to commence, it seemed like an ideal time to try out a Southern picnic classic.

The traditional recipe for pig pickin' cake is one of those super cinchy things you can just throw together using a box, a can, a box, a can, and a tub (respectively that's yellow cake mix, mandarin oranges, instant vanilla pudding, crushed pineapple, and Cool Whip). Orange cake with whipped pineapple frosting sounded like a winning combo to me, but I wanted to cut down on some of the cake's pre-fab-ness without driving myself nutty.

There were certain ingredients that had to stay; in a world of infinite time for dessert-making, I might consider skinning dozens of mandarin orange sections, but alas, I don't live in that world. Instead of making everything from scratch, I decided to focus on the two biggies: the cake and the whipped cream.

The yellow cake here has the lightness and wonderfully familiar party cake flavor without any of the preservatives or food coloring present in store-bought mixes. The addition of the oranges makes the cake super moist and tender while the pineapple whipped cream frosting lends a bright tropical vibe. This is the kind of cake you'll need to trim every time you walk by and one well worth trotting out for summertime feasting, pig or no pig.

May 2012

Recipe Details

Pig Pickin' Cake (Mandarin Orange Cake With Pineapple Whipped Cream Frosting) Recipe

Active 30 mins
Total 90 mins
Serves 12 servings

For this Southern picnic classic, yellow cake is flavored with citrus and frosted with a rich mixture of vanilla pudding, crushed pineapple, and whipped cream.


For the Cake

  • 11 1/2 ounces (about 2 1/4 cups) all-purpose flour, plus more for flouring pans

  • 1 tablespoon baking powder

  • 1/2 tablespoon salt

  • 11 1/2 ounces (about 1 2/3 cups) sugar

  • 2 sticks (16 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened and cut into 1 inch pieces, plus more for greasing pans

  • 4 eggs, room temperature

  • 2 yolks, room temperature

  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract

  • 1 1/4 cups whole milk, room temperature

  • 1 (11-ouncecan mandarin oranges, drained

  • 2 tablespoons zest from one orange

For the Whipped Cream Frosting

  • 2 cups heavy cream

  • 1 tablespoon sugar

  • 1 (3.4 ounce) box of instant vanilla pudding

  • 2/3 cup crushed pineapple, drained of all its liquid


  1. Set oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 350°F (175°C). Grease and flour 3 cake pans and set aside. In a medium bowl whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt, and set aside.

  2. In bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream butter and sugar together on high speed until light and fluffy (about 5 minutes). Reduce mixer speed to medium and add eggs and yolks, one at a time, mixing well between each addition until incorporated and scraping down sides with a rubber spatula as needed. Once eggs have been added, mix in vanilla. Alternate adding dry ingredients and milk a third at a time on low speed, mixing until just incorporated. Add mandarin oranges and zest. Beat on high speed until oranges are crushed and well incorporated, 1 to 2 minutes.

  3. Divide batter equally among 3 cake pans and bake until golden brown and springy to the touch and cake tester inserted into center comes out clean, 25-27 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through. Cool cakes in the pan for 15 minutes then carefully release from the pan onto cooling racks to cool completely. Do not assemble cake until it has completely cooled.

  4. For the Frosting: Pour cream into the bowl of a stand mixer. Turn mixer to high and begin beating. Add sugar while mixer is running. Once soft peaks form, turn mixer to low and add vanilla pudding mix. Mix pudding for 1-2 minutes then stop mixer, scrape down the sides and gently stir to incorporate any remaining pudding powder.

  5. Fold in pineapple and frost cake adding a thin layer of frosting between the layers to leave enough to cover the top and sides of the cake completely. Store covered in the refrigerator.

Special Equipment

Stand mixer, three 8-inch cake pans

Make-Ahead and Storage

The cooled cakes can be tightly wrapped in plastic wrap and stored in the freezer for up to 1 week. Thaw at room temperature, still wrapped tightly in plastic wrap.

Use the frosting the day you make it, or cover and store in the refrigerator for up to 1 day, then bring to room temperature and paddle again for a few minutes until smooth before using.

The cake can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 days.

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Nutrition Facts (per serving)
592 Calories
35g Fat
63g Carbs
8g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 12
Amount per serving
Calories 592
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 35g 45%
Saturated Fat 21g 104%
Cholesterol 183mg 61%
Sodium 487mg 21%
Total Carbohydrate 63g 23%
Dietary Fiber 1g 5%
Total Sugars 37g
Protein 8g
Vitamin C 12mg 61%
Calcium 163mg 13%
Iron 2mg 11%
Potassium 212mg 5%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)