Vegan Citrus Cake with Blood Orange Frosting

Flatlay of a sheet cake covered in pink frosting and slices of blood oranges, the background littered with orange rinds

This easy vegan cake is tender and moist with bright fresh citrus flavor. The silky smooth whipped frosting gets its pretty pink color naturally from blood orange juice!

To celebrate the return of citrus season, I wanted to create a simple blood orange cake. It had to be easy for most home bakers to tackle without any special equipment like turn tables, piping gear, or the need to layer. I settled on the humble sheet cake because it bakes up quickly and pairs so effortlessly with a smattering of pink frosting. Top it all off with some gorgeous blood orange slices, and we have ourselves a glorious vegan snacking cake!

A sheet cake lies on a white cutting board beside a bowl of pink frosting, surrounded by cut blood oranges and rind

How to Make a Vegan Citrus Cake with Blood Orange Ermine Frosting

Here’s how to make this easy vegan cake with vegan ermine frosting:

  1. sift and blend the dry ingredients
  2. whisk the wet ingredients
  3. add the wet ingredients to the dry
  4. bake the cake in a prepared 9″ x 13″ pan & cool
  5. while the cake bakes, make the blood orange pudding base for the frosting & cool it
  6. whip the vegan butter & add in the cooled blood orange base for the fluffy frosting
  7. spread frosting on cake & decorate with blood orange slices if desired
  8. enjoy!
A sheet cake lies on a white cutting board with the first dollop of pink frosting applied and the spatula left on top. Beside it is a bowl of pink frosting and sliced blood oranges

What Are Blood Oranges?

If you have never had a blood orange, you’re in for a treat! They are very similar to regular navel oranges in terms of having thick citrus rinds and fruit broken into segments. The rind is usually orange with some reddish blush on one side. They get their name from their deep maroon colored flesh and juice. And not all blood oranges are identical! There’s a range in intensity and hue inside these unique citrus. Many of them have a gorgeous ombre coloring as you slice through them ranging from pinkish orange all the way to deep blood red or purple!

What Do Blood Oranges Taste Like?

Blood oranges taste like regular oranges although they have a raspberry flavored undertone and are a bit sweeter. They’re sometimes referred to as raspberry oranges. While they taste good, it’s their gorgeous color that really sets them apart from other oranges.

Flatlay of a sheet cake o sheets of wax paper, covered in pink frosting and blood orange slices

Troubleshooting: Why Did My Cake Turn Green or Blue?

Blood oranges get their beautiful deep reddish purple color from a type of pigment called anthocyanins. Anthocyanins are a type of antioxidant which are abundant in other fruits and vegetables like blueberries and purple cabbage. Anthocyanins are sensitive to alkaline pH and will react to it by changing to a blueish-greenish color.

For the cake portion of this recipe, use regular orange juice. Blood orange juice does not work in some cake recipes including this one. There’s one full cup of juice which introduces way too much of the anthocyanin pigments which will react with the baking soda (alkaline). The batter will look so pretty and pink, but once it’s baked and then cooled, you’ll notice that the cake will have become a greenish blue color. While it does not affect the flavor or safety of the cake at all, it might not be the look you’re after! So play it safe, and use regular orange juice. We’ll save the pretty purplish pink colored blood orange juice for the frosting on top!

Close up of blood orange slices which are lying in pink frosting

What is Ermine Frosting?

Ermine frosting is an old-school icing which has a fluffy texture similar to whipped cream. Sometimes called cooked frosting, boiled milk frosting, flour frosting, or Magic Frosting, ermine it’s much less sweet than traditional American buttercream. If I had to compare it to something, I’d say it’s most similar to Swiss Meringue Buttercream. If you’ve never tried ermine frosting, be prepared for a new frosting obsession!

Ermine frosting is made by making a pudding base from milk and flour which is then cooled to room temperature and then beaten with sugar and butter. I chose to omit the plant-based milk altogether for this recipe. Instead, I used one cup of juice to really highlight and maximize the unique flavor of the blood orange. This actually worked out perfectly, the color is as bright as possible!American buttercream would only be able to handle a few tablespoons at most of the blood orange juice before becoming too thin.

If you’d like to try more ermine frosting flavors, you should try my Vegan Banana Cupcakes with Cinnamon Ermine Frosting!

Angled side view of a sheet cake covered in pink frosting, slices of blood oranges and a serving knife

Substitution for Blood Orange Juice?

If blood oranges aren’t available where you live, you can use regular naval oranges in the cake and the frosting. You can use lemon juice and lemon zest in the cake, but I have not tested a lemon ermine frosting yet. I suspect that using all lemon juice would make it too tart with the amount of sugar called for in this recipe. But if you try it, let me know what you think! Grapefruit might not be a good substitute in either the cake or the frosting as it’s much more bitter than oranges.

Side angled view of a sheet cake covered in pink frosting and blood oranges. One piece has been cut and is sitting on a white plate

If you make this Vegan Citrus Cake with Blood Orange Frosting, please give it a rating in the recipe card and leave a comment below! Follow along on Instagram where you can tag me in your creations using my recipes, I love seeing what you’re cooking! You can also follow me on Pinterest for vegan recipe inspiration and on Facebook. Thank you for reading!

Angled side view of a sheet cake covered in pink frosting and slices of blood oranges

Vegan Citrus Sheet Cake with Blood Orange Frosting

This vegan cake is tender and moist with bright fresh citrus flavor. The silky smooth whipped frosting gets its pretty pink color naturally from blood orange juice!
5 from 3 votes
Print Pin
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Keyword: Vegan Blood Orange Recipe, Vegan Ermine Frosting, Vegan Orange Cake, Vegan Sheet Cake
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 35 minutes
Cooling: 1 hour
Servings: 15 servings from a 9×13″ cake
Calories: 432kcal

Ingredients

For the Vegan Citrus Cake:

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 2/3 cup neutral oil e.g. sunflower, canola, etc
  • 1 cup orange juice*
  • 1 cup plant-based milk I use soy
  • 3 tbsp orange rind, finely grated from 2-3 oranges
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp almond extract

For the Blood Orange Ermine Frosting:

  • 1 cup blood orange juice from 4-6 blood oranges
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 5 tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup vegan butter stick type, not the variety sold in tubs

For Topping (optional):

  • 3-4 blood oranges, sliced 1/4" thick (rind and seeds removed)

Instructions

  • For the Citrus Cake:
  • Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a 9”x13” baking pan with parchment paper, or lightly grease with coking spray.
  • In a large bowl, sift and whisk the flour, granulated sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt together. In a medium bowl or large glass measuring cup, whisk together the orange juice, plant-based milk, sugar, oil, orange rind, vanilla and almond extracts together.
  • Make a well in the dry ingredients and pour in the wet ingredients. Mix with a large spoon until combined, taking care not to over-mix. Pour into the prepared baking pan. Bake in the center of the oven for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean, or with a few baked crumbs. Cool the cake completely before frosting.
  • For the Blood Orange Frosting:
  • Whisk the sugar and flour together in a small bowl. Pour in the orange juice slowly, whisking constantly. Pour through a fine mesh sieve into a small pot and place over medium-low heat, stirring constantly. Once the mixture thickens and is bubbling, cook another 2 minutes stirring constantly. Do not under-cook or the frosting will taste like flour and will not thicken enough.
  • Pour into a bowl and place plastic wrap directly over the surface to prevent a skin from forming. Let cool completely to room temperature.
  • In a stand-mixer with whisk attachment, beat the vegan butter on high for 5 minutes, scraping down the sides as necessary. Beat in the vanilla extract. Reduce the speed to medium, and add the cooled flour mixture a spoonful at a time. Once it’s all added, beat on high for about 5 minutes or until light, fluffy and silky.

To Assemble the Cake:

  • Spread the blood orange frosting over the cooled cake. Decorate with blood orange slices, if desired. The cake wrapped airtight at room temperature – if it's hot where you are, this cake is best kept in an air-tight container in the fridge for up 5-7 days to prevent the frosting from melting and curdling.

Nutrition Info:

Calories: 432kcal | Carbohydrates: 59g | Protein: 4g | Fat: 20g | Saturated Fat: 4g | Sodium: 297mg | Potassium: 210mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 37g | Vitamin A: 714IU | Vitamin C: 21mg | Calcium: 67mg | Iron: 1mg

Notes:

Make Ahead: The cake can be baked ahead of time, cooled to room temperature then wrapped airtight and frozen up to one month. Defrost in the fridge overnight then bring to room  temperature before frosting. The flour mixture for the frosting can be prepared ahead of time. Store in the fridge, and bring to room temperature before making the frosting. If making the frosting ahead, store in the fridge up to 5 days then bring to room temperature and re-whip before spreading on the cake. 
Tips for the Frosting:
If curdling happens, your frosting is too cold. Place the bowl over steaming hot water until the vegan butter just starts to melt. Try whipping again.
If your frosting is too soft and slouching, it is too warm either from over-handling or the kitchen being hot. Place the bowl in the fridge for 10-15 minutes at a time until it firms up.
This frosting can be piped but will not hold up in hot temperatures as the vegan butter will melt causing the entire frosting to soften.
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The Nutrition Information is only an estimate. The accuracy of the Nutrition Information for any recipe on this site cannot be guaranteed.

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