Italian Orange Cake

Sometimes I hang on to a cookbook just because there’s one perfect recipe in it. And this is one of those recipes, although fortunately, there are plenty of other recipes in this cookbook that I love. But I’d keep the book just for this cake. Here’s the book, by Patricia Wells, published in 1993:

I never really wanted to like Patricia Wells, probably because her life is so enviable. She never owned a restaurant or worked as a chef. In fact, she started out as a food journalist, but fell in love with the foods of France, then Italy, and then wrote about them. It’s not like she’s a Hubert Keller or Eric Ripert, but boy has she published a lot of cookbooks. And I have to say, all of the ones I own are pretty fabulous.

I heard her speak at a demonstration at an Aspen Food and Wine festival many moons ago. (The day OJ Simpson killed two people.) She seemed really snobby. I think she’s been living in France too long, with homes in both Paris and Provence.

One of Ms. Wells’ cookbooks that I own is about her home in Provence. I really didn’t want to like this book, because it showed off her beautiful 18th century stone farmhouse, and to-die-for kitchen with a wood-fired oven. It will make you so jealous that you don’t have a farmhouse in Provence. Unless you do.


And then there’s this book she wrote featuring Joel Rebouchon and his recipes. It’s another beautiful cookbook that I refer to often.


Then there’s her Bistro book, which is essentially the French version of the Trattoria cookbook, focusing on regional food prepared at neighborhood restaurants throughout France.


I love her Trattoria cookbook because it’s about simple Italian fare; the recipes aren’t pretentious. It’s all about “healthy, simple, robust fare inspired by the small family restaurants of Italy.” Thus, the title.

Some of the recipes in Trattoria might not be terribly inspiring to those expertly familiar with Italian cuisine, but the book certainly has its place, especially to home cooks like myself. There are many recipes in it to which I still use, like this cake, which is Tuscan in origin. Plus, the cake is quite rustic, which suits my baking abilities to a T!

Here’s her website, in case you want to check her out. She’s really quite accomplished. I’m just a little jealous of her life!

Fragrant Orange and Lemon Cake
Torta di Arancio e Limone

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
Grated zest and juice of 1 orange
Grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
3/4 cup whole milk
16 tablespoons, or 8 ounces unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups white sugar
5 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Evenly coat the interior of a 9″ springform pan with butter. Dust lightly with flour, shaking out the excess flour. Set aside.

Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt into a large bowl.


Measure out the milk and place it in a small bowl. Add the orange juice and zest as well as the lemon juice and zest. Give it a little stir and set aside to “sour.”


Place the softened butter and sugar in a large bowl. Using an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about two minutes.

Crack each egg individually and place in a small bowl to avoid shells. Add the vanilla extract to the eggs. While beating, add one egg at a time, beating well after each addition. Continue until the eggs are all gone.

Then beat in about 1/3 of curdled milk mixture and then 1/3 of the sifted dry ingredients, alternating and just beating until smooth. The batter will be nice and smooth at this point.

Pour the batter into the prepared springform pan. Bake for approximately 50 minutes; a cake tester should come out clean when inserted in the middle of the cake.

Remove the side of the pan, and let the cake cool for about 30 minutes. Then remove the bottom of the springform pan using a long knife held parallel to the bottom.


Slice the cake in wedges when still warm, or at room temperature.


I served mine with raspberries and slightly sweetened whipped cream.

I also served this cake with Quady Red Electra, which is a red Moscato. It’s wonderful with desserts, as would ice wine, an Auslese, a port, sherry……


This recipe has been posted before. I should have made the cake again and re-done the photos, but they’re good enough!

By Published On: August 14th, 202391 Comments on Italian Orange Cake

About the Author: Chef Mimi

As a self-taught home cook, with many years in the culinary profession, I am passionate about all things food-related. Especially eating!


  1. Bam's Kitchen March 28, 2014 at 8:12 AM - Reply

    Beautiful cake! I am so jealous of your assortment of cookbooks. Could you fill up a library case? I love love love looking over cookbooks and learning about different cuisines. I have many favorite cook books that are worn and these are always of experts in one specific cuisine.

    • chef mimi March 28, 2014 at 8:51 AM - Reply

      I won’t count the number of cookbooks I own. It’s a disease.

  2. apuginthekitchen March 28, 2014 at 8:32 AM - Reply

    The cake looks wonderful and I love Patricia Wells! Citrus scented cakes are so delicious and so versatile.

  3. thesinglegourmetandtraveller March 28, 2014 at 8:44 AM - Reply

    Gorgeous cake!

    • chef mimi March 28, 2014 at 8:50 AM - Reply

      Thanks! It tastes better than it looks!

  4. anyone4curryandotherthings March 28, 2014 at 9:15 AM - Reply

    Mimi – I think I can smell your cake, aaaaaaah :) … and the Vino. I also agree with you, collecting cookbooks is a sort of ‘disease’ – hard to find the ‘cure’. Btw, my P.W. is a lady called Valentina Harris (an Italian living and teaching in London) – I just love her. Carina

    • chef mimi March 28, 2014 at 9:16 AM - Reply

      There is no cure, sadly. And once I started blogging, I discovered a whole new world of bloggers’ cookbooks, which are so unique. I’ll look into Valentina Harris. I go to London often because one of my daughters lives there!!! Thanks!

      • anyone4curryandotherthings March 30, 2014 at 9:02 AM

        Mimi, V.H. has a wonderful cooking school in Italy where she spends a lot of her time. In fact, I have to find out where she is right now, since I need to talk with her. She is such a nice easy cook – I just love her recipe.

  5. My Kitchen Witch March 28, 2014 at 9:25 AM - Reply

    I love Patricia Wells and this recipe (I have many of her cookbooks, including the Italian Trattoria one). Your rendition of it looks scrumptious!

    • chef mimi March 28, 2014 at 9:40 AM - Reply

      I didn’t like her last book, “Vegetable Harvest,” but all of the others are wonderful.

  6. Shanna Koenigsdorf Ward March 28, 2014 at 10:15 AM - Reply

    This looks like one amazing cake, and your opening photo is off the hook! :-)

    • chef mimi March 28, 2014 at 11:20 AM - Reply

      Thank you! Are you feeling okay?

      • Shanna Koenigsdorf Ward March 28, 2014 at 2:36 PM

        I am feeling tired and nauseous, alternating with tired and hungry, and maybe a touch grouchy! :-) I always laugh when television and magazines makes pregnancy seem so amazing and fun. Anyway, now you’ve got me craving a moist, Italian orange cake…

      • chef mimi March 28, 2014 at 4:56 PM

        oh, sorry. my daughter is just a little pregnant for the first time and not doing great. I wasn’t sick for one second with either of mine, but I also gained 70 pounds with both of them. All healthy food, but I couldn’t stop eating! I remember wishing for some nausea. But no, I was lucky. Hope it’s over soon for you.

      • Shanna Koenigsdorf Ward March 28, 2014 at 7:06 PM

        It’s funny how every pregnancy is different – and every pregnant women has a completely different experience. My thoughts are with your daughter; I know that when it’s hard, it’s hard. She will have a beautiful child (and you a grandchild!) before she knows it.

  7. sallybr March 28, 2014 at 10:34 AM - Reply

    I was going to ask about buttermilk, and you read my mind (didn’t you?) and answered that already!

    I love this type of cake, so I’m pinning – to me, icing is overkill, which is a major difference between me and hubby. A cake without icing is not a cake for him. Oh, well. Vive la difference!

    • chef mimi March 28, 2014 at 11:20 AM - Reply

      Agreed. I guess a triple layer chocolate cake with icing has its place, but this style is more preferable to me as well!

  8. March 28, 2014 at 10:47 AM - Reply

    I love a citrus flavored cake and when I saw this was an Italian one I must say I was surprised to see it doesn’t have olive oil! I love that this has both lemon and orange zest and juice and I’m going to give it a try, and then I think you’ve inspired me to put my Orange Olive Oil cake on my blog….so thanks!

  9. mycookinglifebypatty March 28, 2014 at 10:59 AM - Reply

    All I can say is “YUMMMM!”

  10. Natalie @ Tastes Lovely March 28, 2014 at 11:18 AM - Reply

    That orange cake sounds delicious! I love citrus in the spring : )

  11. cindy knoke March 28, 2014 at 1:15 PM - Reply

    Oh it looks divine! I must try it! Thanks for posting~

  12. ladyredspecs March 28, 2014 at 5:20 PM - Reply

    Delicious cake, anything citrusy appeals. I have Patricia Wells Bistro book, but have never cooked from it. I should have another look……. Congrats on coming grandmotherhood, much more fun than being a parent!!!!!

    • chef mimi March 29, 2014 at 9:53 AM - Reply

      That’s what I hear!!! It’s exciting.

  13. Jody and Ken March 29, 2014 at 12:37 AM - Reply

    Don’t we all have Patricia Welles envy? Just looking at the photos of her cookbooks brought back so many memories of cooking fashions, of the evolution of American diner knowledge, and of things that were once new and are now either old friends or borderline cliches, depending on your perspective. I like most of her stuff, but you’re right about Trattoria–simple, good food. Great recipe. My kind of cake. Ken

    • chef mimi March 29, 2014 at 9:51 AM - Reply

      I’m glad I didn’t get a lot of grief from people who love her. I’m seriously not jealous of her, but definitely envious. And she’s so prolific. The only book I didn’t like was Vegetable Harvest. Thanks for your nice comment.

      • Jody and Ken March 29, 2014 at 9:53 AM

        Actually I think that’s the only one we don’t have either. I suspect you have a cookbook collection to rival Jody’s.

  14. DellaCucinaPovera March 29, 2014 at 2:27 AM - Reply

    You did me proud Mimi! This looks delicious. These kinds of cakes dont get enough good rep since they are a bit ‘bland’ but the idea is scoop on some cream and sip a (strong) coffee with it. looks delicious.

    • chef mimi March 29, 2014 at 9:57 AM - Reply

      Thank you! That’s exactly how I served it the next day!

  15. emmabarrett1508 March 29, 2014 at 2:57 AM - Reply

    It is as though you read my mind. I have been looking for an orange cake recipe and I love lemon so this is perfect. Congratulations to your daughter. Sorry she is so sick but it will all be worth it in the end. I would love to spend some time with your collection of cookbooks. Emma xx

    • chef mimi March 29, 2014 at 9:59 AM - Reply

      I am sure you would love this cake. It is mild, but definitely has the citrus flavors. And the texture is divine. Thank you for your concern.

  16. StefanGourmet March 29, 2014 at 1:52 PM - Reply

    Nice cake, Mimi! The recipe seems to be Americanized a bit, as Italian recipes only use baking powder. It does make sense though with the citrus juice to use part baking soda.

    • chef mimi March 30, 2014 at 12:40 PM - Reply

      Well, take it up with Patricia Wells, because it’s her book! She lives full time in France.

      • StefanGourmet April 1, 2014 at 4:18 PM

        It wasn’t a criticism, just a curiousity as I’ve always found it intriguing that American recipes use a mix a baking powder and baking soda, whereas European recipes only use baking powder or in many cases selfraising flour (which is flour with baking powder premixed). I’ve never been able to figure out how much baking soda versus baking powder to use, as the amounts seem to vary. I wonder if one could notice the difference in either taste or texture.

      • chef mimi April 1, 2014 at 6:33 PM

        I understand! It’s just that the book is Italian recipes, from Italy.

  17. saucygander March 29, 2014 at 3:29 PM - Reply

    It was funny reading this post, as I also refused to buy Patricia Wells’ book about her life in France.. But it sounds like the Italian trattoria book is worth considering. The cake looks beautiful, just the kind of simple but flavoursome cake I like to make, and share at work. Thank you sharing the recipe.

    • chef mimi March 30, 2014 at 12:39 PM - Reply

      You are so welcome! Trattoria really has wonderful recipes. I’ve made a lot of them, in spite of my love-hate relationship with her!

  18. eliotthecat March 30, 2014 at 9:45 AM - Reply

    I have that love/hate relationship with a few authors and bloggers. ). We love citrus so I must make this cake as soon as berry season is here (for the beautiful garnish).

  19. laurasmess March 30, 2014 at 9:49 AM - Reply

    That orange cake looks so divine. Moist and delicious! Love the idea of collecting cookbooks through each stage of life. I live in a tiny apartment so I try to refrain from purchasing more cookbooks, however… argh, they are so appealing!! Beautiful post Mimi x

    • chef mimi March 30, 2014 at 12:36 PM - Reply

      Thank you so much! Yes, they do take up a lot of room, unfortunately!!!

  20. chefjulianna March 30, 2014 at 1:07 PM - Reply

    Great post! So interesting to hear your thoughts on the cookbooks. I too, often hold onto cookbooks for that one perfect recipe! I’m going to check my local library to see if I can find these books, and take a look! Thanks.

    • chef mimi March 30, 2014 at 4:27 PM - Reply

      She’s won at least one James Beard award, and the French have allowed her to be a food critic in Paris (I forget the newspaper), so if they accept her, I guess we should, too!!!

      • chefjulianna March 30, 2014 at 11:48 PM

        Yes, the French are pretty serious about their food! I guess we should accept that as a significant endorsement! :-)

  21. camparigirl March 30, 2014 at 5:35 PM - Reply

    While I am still on an orange kick, I might have to give this a try (although today I veered towards coffee sabayon)

    • chef mimi April 2, 2014 at 8:48 AM - Reply

      well, there’s nothing bad about a sabayon!!!

  22. anna @ annamayeveryday March 31, 2014 at 4:04 AM - Reply

    That looks like an exceptionally delicious cake, fabulous!

  23. Kita (@passthesushi) March 31, 2014 at 7:56 AM - Reply

    I think I own like 93 cookbooks, just for one recipe…. And clearly I am a hoarder ;D This orange cake looks and sounds perfect. I want it for breakfast!

  24. CakePants April 1, 2014 at 10:52 PM - Reply

    This cake sounds delightful – and it looks so fluffy! The raspberries and cream add such a nice touch…I’m getting hungry now!

  25. The Global Garnish Geek May 5, 2014 at 9:04 AM - Reply

    This looks delicious. I love cakes like this – where you can add cream and whatever fruit is on hand.

    • chef mimi May 5, 2014 at 12:51 PM - Reply

      Plus, it’s dense and moist. Not dry and crumbly!

  26. Lili August 26, 2015 at 12:01 PM - Reply

    Lovely looking cake… going to pin it too! And research Patricia Well’s books on Amazon – they look so interesting. Thanks for sharing! :)

  27. Judee August 14, 2023 at 6:39 AM - Reply

    Mimi- I really enjoyed this post and your clever comments about the cookbook author- Patricia Wells. The cake does look delicious and especially the way you plated it with the cream and berries. Yum!

    • Chef Mimi August 14, 2023 at 6:48 AM - Reply

      Thank you so much!

  28. David @ Spiced August 14, 2023 at 7:49 AM - Reply

    I’ve made a similar cake in the past, and I remember really enjoying it. I can totally see why anyone would be envious of Patricia, though – homes in Paris and Provence AND a wood-fired oven!? Yes, please.

    • Chef Mimi August 14, 2023 at 7:55 AM - Reply

      Exactly. I want it all!

  29. Cynthia Woodman August 14, 2023 at 9:11 AM - Reply

    I love Patrick’s Wells! I have a couple of her books! I’d love to have a farmhouse in Provence!

    • Chef Mimi August 14, 2023 at 12:52 PM - Reply

      Yes….. Wouldn’t we all?!!

  30. frugal hausfrau August 14, 2023 at 5:32 PM - Reply

    Thank you Mimi for making me a little jealous of someone I don’t even know and may never had heard of if it wasn’t for you, lol! I think I’ll just have to settle on your gorgeous photos of that cake and live vicariously!! Looks amazing!!


    • Chef Mimi August 14, 2023 at 5:34 PM - Reply

      Hahahahahaha! That’s very funny! Thanks, Mollie. I needed a laugh!

  31. nancyc August 14, 2023 at 7:55 PM - Reply

    The combination of orange and lemon sounds so good—a wonderful citrus flavor!

    • Chef Mimi August 15, 2023 at 7:37 AM - Reply

      I don’t even eat cake, but this one is very moist. I love the rustic nature of it.

  32. Charlie DeSando August 14, 2023 at 8:56 PM - Reply

    I have that book at our lake house in Michigan. I have used it often

    • Chef Mimi August 15, 2023 at 7:37 AM - Reply

      Most all of her books are very good.

  33. BERNADETTE August 15, 2023 at 5:53 AM - Reply

    I have Patricia Wells Bistro Cookbook because Kitchen Confidential will be reviewing it in September. Anyway, I missed this recipe and I am so happy. you highlighted it because it is just the kind of cake I like to make.

    • Chef Mimi August 15, 2023 at 7:36 AM - Reply

      Well I’m so glad! It’s a good cookbook.

  34. Debra August 15, 2023 at 4:39 PM - Reply

    I think this cake looks fabulous, Mimi. My husband is so particularly drawn to citrus, this would be a refreshing treat. I don’t make a lot of cakes because we eat them. LOL! I save recipes for entertaining, and we aren’t doing a lot of that right now. But I think I’ll make an exception for this one. It looks too good to ignore. L0(

    • Chef Mimi August 17, 2023 at 9:01 AM - Reply

      Yes, I understand exactly!!! I don’t like throwing food away. It’s flavorful, simple, easy, and just not fussy!

  35. Velva August 16, 2023 at 11:51 AM - Reply

    I am not familiar with Patricia Wells. I will definitely check out her website. Appears she lives quite charmed life, with good food to boot (laugh).

    This Italian orange cake. I can see why it would be one of your favorites. It looks amazing.


    • Chef Mimi August 17, 2023 at 9:02 AM - Reply

      A very charmed life. My sister has a house in France and it’s fun to visit someone who actually lives there. Although they don’t have a pool or a wood fire oven!

  36. David Scott Allen August 17, 2023 at 9:20 AM - Reply

    It’s so odd, Mimi — I have quite a few of her books but never consult them, yet I know I love her recipes. I will bring them out for perusing this week. This cake sounds (and looks) amazing. The funny thing is that I have the book and never even noticed this recipe. Ugh.

    • Chef Mimi August 17, 2023 at 10:23 AM - Reply

      Well, that’s why I re-read books, and don’t just look at what I’ve bookmarked. Depends on the time of year, your mood, for whom you’re planning a meal…

  37. Abbe@This is How I Cook August 17, 2023 at 12:52 PM - Reply

    Sometime I fin you grow into cookbooks. I have one of hers from way back that I guess I should check out again. Especially after looking at this cake! (LOL!)

    • Chef Mimi August 18, 2023 at 6:56 AM - Reply

      She definitely has talent!

  38. Thao @ In Good Flavor August 19, 2023 at 5:53 PM - Reply

    I love the simplicity of this cake and the citrus flavor. I think a dollop of whipped cream goes with everything!

    • Chef Mimi August 20, 2023 at 7:33 AM - Reply

      I agree! And I prefer that over icing on a cake.

  39. Valentina August 21, 2023 at 8:18 PM - Reply

    I always love a good orange cake and this one must be excellent. The Simply French book is one of the first sophisticated cookbooks I bought during culinary school.I love it to this day. It sits front and center on a shelf in the kitchen. It’s inspiring, as are so many of the books you mention. Can’t wait to try the cake. :-) ~Valentina

    • Chef Mimi August 22, 2023 at 7:19 AM - Reply

      Oh that’s fascinating!!! And I don’t think I knew you’re an actual chef!!! Amazing. You couldn’t pay me enough to work in a kitchen. Or maybe I’ve watched gorgon Ramsay too much!!!!

  40. Gerlinde de Broekert August 22, 2023 at 6:27 PM - Reply

    I’m familiar with Patricia Wells, but I never owned any of her books. Thanks for the recipe Mimi. I might try it as soon as I get back home and my kitchen.

    • Chef Mimi August 23, 2023 at 10:36 AM - Reply

      Okay! I’m sure you’ll love it.

  41. Sherry Mackay August 23, 2023 at 10:37 PM - Reply

    i love a citrus-y cake and i love cookbooks. I just keep collecting ’em …

    • Chef Mimi August 24, 2023 at 8:33 AM - Reply

      Me, too. Just bought a Christmas one yesterday!

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