Mini Orange Marmalade Cakes

An homage to Esther Bolick’s signature dessert in the treasured Mitford series, our Mini Orange Marmalade Cakes feature ribbons of marmalade between layers of fluffy cake crowned with creamy vanilla frosting and fresh begonias.

Mini Orange Marmalade Cakes
Makes 8
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons packed orange zest
  • 4 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1½ teaspoons baking powder
  • ¾ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¾ teaspoon ground ginger
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1¼ cups whole buttermilk, room temperature
  • ½ cup prepared orange marmalade
  • Creamy Vanilla Frosting (recipe follows)
  • Garnish: fresh organic begonia flowers
  1. Preheat oven to 350º. Spray a 17½x17½-inch rimmed baking sheet with baking spray with flour; line bottom of pan with parchment paper.
  2. In a large bowl, beat butter, sugar, and orange zest with a mixer at medium speed until fluffy, about 3 minutes, stopping occasionally to scrape down sides of bowl. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla bean paste.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, ginger, and baking soda. Add flour mixture to butter mixture, alternately with buttermilk, beginning and ending with flour mixture, beating until well combined.
  4. Spoon batter onto prepared pan, smoothing top into an even layer. Vigorously tap pan on counter several times to evenly spread batter and get rid of as many air bubbles as possible.
  5. Bake until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean, 18 to 20 minutes. Let cool completely in pan on a wire rack.
  6. Freeze cake layer until firm, about 1 hour.
  7. Invert frozen cake onto a large, parchment-lined cutting board, and gently remove from pan. Remove and discard top parchment layer. Using a serrated knife, trim away uneven edges to create a 10-inch square in center of cake; reserve trimmings for another use.
  8. Using a 2¼-inch round cutter, cut cake into 16 circles; place on a serving platter. Spread marmalade evenly over half of cake circles (approximately 1 tablespoon each); top with remaining cake circles.
  9. Spoon Creamy Vanilla Frosting into a large pastry bag fitted with a medium open-star decorating tip*. Pipe Frosting over tops of cakes. Garnish with begonias, if desired. Serve immediately.
*We used a Wilton 1M decorating tip.

Creamy Vanilla Frosting
Makes approximately 1½ cups
  • ½ cup unsalted butter, softened
  • ⅛ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 cups confectioners’ sugar (approximately 8½ ounces)
  • 2 tablespoons whole buttermilk
  • ¾ teaspoon vanilla bean paste
  1. In a large bowl, beat butter and salt with a mixer at medium speed until creamy, about 1 minute, stopping to scrape down sides of bowl. With mixer at low speed, gradually add confectioners’ sugar to butter mixture, alternately with buttermilk, beginning and ending with confectioners’ sugar, beating just until combined. Beat in vanilla bean paste until smooth. Increase speed to medium; beat until fluffy, about 2 minutes. Use immediately.

Text Melissa Lester and Leslie Bennett Smith
Photography John O’Hagan
Styling Sidney Bragiel
Recipe Development Tricia Manzanero and Taylor Franklin Wann
Food Styling Kathleen Kanen

For more literature–inspired recipes, see “Gathering the Book Club” in the January/February 2021 issue, available on newsstands and at


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