We have a neighborhood knitting group we call the "knit-wits" and we meet monthly at one of our homes. This month was my turn to host the group. We meet after lunch and the hostess serves tea, coffee, and a dessert. Today few people brought any knitting but most did bring a finished product to show the others. So the rest of the time was spent in talking, and talking, and talking. You would think we never see one another they way we carry on. We also use this occasion to exchange books we have borrowed from one another and sometimes we more closely resemble a book club than a knitting group.
I almost always make desserts from scratch and never use any "boxed" ingredients. But while I was browsing through my favorite recipes, one jumped out at me. I decided to forsake the "scratch" cake precedent and make this one from a mix because it is so good and seems perfect for a spring gathering.
I cannot even remember where I got this recipe. It is that old. It is often called a "mandarin orange cake" but I learned it as a "pig pickin' cake." Pig pickin' is a term used primarily in eastern NC for occasions when a whole pig is slow-roasted over charcoal and then mopped with a vinegar based barbecue sauce. It's a two day process with the first day burning the hickory wood to make the charcoal. Then the charcoal is lit and the whole pig placed on the grill where it cooks for ten hours or more. Neighbors gather for the feast, bringing side dishes and desserts. There is always a "pig pickin' cake" among them.
I save out three segments of mandarin orange for garnish.
Three yummy layers
Whenever I serve this cake, everyone wants the recipe. I'm always a bit embarrassed to tell them how easy this cake is to make. It looks and tastes like a labor intensive cake and is anything but. It is best made the day before serving and must be stored in air-tight container in refrigerator. (Hence the Tupperware cake taker rather a fancy cake plate.)
Pig Pickin' Cake
1 box of your favorite yellow cake mix
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 can (11oz) mandarin orange segments (drained with 1/3 cup liquid reserved) If desired, reserve three segments for garnish.
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1 can (20oz) crushed pineapple, undrained
1 box (4-serving size) vanilla INSTANT pudding mix
1 tsp grated orange zest
1 tub (16 oz) thawed whipped topping
Grease and flour three 9-inch cake pans OR a 13x9 pan
Preheat oven to 350
In large bowl beat cake mix with oil, orange segments, reserved 1/3 cup orange liquid. Beat in eggs one at a time. Add walnuts. Mix at low speed for 30 seconds and then on medium speed for 2 minutes. Pour into prepared pan(s).
Bake 20-25 minutes for three layers or 35-40 minutes for 13x9 until toothpick in center comes out clean. If baking three layers, cool 10 minutes in pans then turn out on racks to completely cool. If using 13x9, allow cake to thoroughly cool. [Keep in mind the "frosting" is whipped topping. If the cake isn't absolutely cool, the topping will run.]
To make frosting: Stir together pineapple, dry pudding mix and orange zest. Stir in the whipped topping. Spread frosting between layers and on top and sides of cake. Or if using 13x9, spread frosting all over cake. Decorate with reserved orange sections and additional grated orange zest.
Try it. I think you will agree that it is delicious.
Post script: My husband just turned on the television and we learned about the tragedy at the Boston Marathon. Whatever your deity may be, please send up your thoughts for those affected.