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This classic Pig Pickin’ Cake is a traditional Southern dessert that starts with a box of yellow cake mix and a can of mandarin oranges. The moist, citrus-flavored cake is topped with a fluffy whipped pineapple frosting. It’s perfect for a pig roast, a cookout with friends, or your family’s next Sunday supper. So delicious, refreshing, and easy to whip up!

A single slice of Pig Pickin' Cake, garnished with a mandarin orange slice and colorful sprinkles. A silver fork rests on the small plate holding a bite of cake.
Table of Contents
  1. What is Pig Pickin’ Cake?
  2. Why Is It Called Pig Pickin’ Cake?
  3. Traditional Pig Pickin’ Cake Ingredients
  4. How to Make a Pig Pickin’ Cake
  5. How to Store Leftover Pig Pickin’ Cake
  6. Pig Pickin’ Cake Recipe Variations
  7. Tips for Making the Best Pig Pickin’ Cake Recipe
  8. Pig Pickin’ Cake Recipe

What is Pig Pickin’ Cake?

If you’ve never heard of this funny-sounding dessert, allow me to introduce you to the best Pig Pickin’ Cake recipe ever! I originally received the recipe from my friend Jackie, and shortly thereafter, my 101-year-old Great Aunt Bee sent me her cake recipe from North Carolina. Guess what? They were the same recipe, so I instantly knew it was a classic.

Pig Pickin’ Cake is an easy dessert that starts with a box of yellow cake mix. The cake is prepared with a can of mandarin oranges in syrup, so it has tiny bits of orange throughout and is infused with a bright citrus flavor. The cake stays incredibly moist thanks to the orange-flavored syrup and plenty of oil!

The traditional cake is typically finished with a whipped pineapple frosting, which is a simple combination of Cool Whip, canned crushed pineapple, and instant vanilla pudding mix. It’s light, fluffy, and so delicious! You just can’t beat the combination of orange, pineapple, and vanilla in every bite.

A single slice of Pig Pickin' Cake served on a plate, with a silver fork holding a a single bite.

Why Is It Called Pig Pickin’ Cake?

You might be wondering what in the world this mandarin orange cake has to do with a pig?! Well, it’s very simple: this dessert is commonly served at a Southern barbecue — also known as a “pig pickin’” — where guests “pick” the tender meat off of the whole roasted pig. Other common dishes served at pig roasts include coleslaw, mac and cheese, macaroni salad, baked beans, and potato salad.

The Pig Pickin’ Cake definitely originated in the American South. Many folks cite North Carolina as the home of this orange pineapple cake. The American South is defined by large whole pig barbecues with endless sides and decadent desserts, so it only makes sense that this fruity cake could be one of the South’s favorite cakes (right alongside Hummingbird cake and caramel cake). You may have also heard it called “sunshine cake” or “pea pickin’ cake” as well.

An overhead image of a dessert table with two servings of Pig Pickin' Cake on small white plates, garnished with mandarin orange slices and colorful sprinkles.

Traditional Pig Pickin’ Cake Ingredients

This is a quick overview of the ingredients that you’ll need for a mandarin orange pig pickin’ cake. As always, specific measurements and full instructions are included in the printable recipe card at the bottom of the post.

  • Yellow cake mix: I always use the Duncan Hines brand, but any similar boxed cake mix will work.
  • Eggs: give the cake structure.
  • Vegetable oil: keeps the cake super moist. You can substitute it with another neutral oil, like canola.
  • Mandarin oranges in syrup: don’t drain the oranges. The liquid from the can adds flavor and moisture to the cake.
  • Frozen whipped topping: such as Cool Whip. Make sure that it thaws in the refrigerator before stirring together the frosting.
  • Vanilla instant pudding mix: just one small (4-serving) box. Do not prepare the pudding according to package instructions — you only need the dry mix.
  • Crushed pineapple: make sure the pineapple juice is well-drained so that it doesn’t water down the frosting.
Key ingredients for a Pig Pickin' Cake recipe, laid out on a white table -- a box of yellow cake mix, a can of mandarin oranges, four eggs in a bowl, and a measuring cup of vegetable oil.

How to Make a Pig Pickin’ Cake

Since the recipe starts with a cake mix, this mandarin orange Pig Pickin’ Cake is an easy dessert for every cookout, picnic, or party on your calendar!

  • Beat together the cake mix, eggs, and oil on low speed for about 30 seconds. Beat on medium speed for 2 minutes.
  • Add the mandarin oranges (with their syrup) and mix on low speed for about 30 seconds or until completely combined.
  • Bake the cake in a 350° F oven for about 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow the cake to cool completely before frosting.
  • Fold together the whipped topping, dry pudding mix, and crushed pineapple.
  • Spread the “frosting” on the cooled cake.
  • Refrigerate until ready to slice and serve!
An overhead image of the mandarin orange cake batter in a silver bowl.

I don’t like boxed cake mixes — can I use a homemade cake batter for pig pickin’ cake?

Sure! If you’re not a fan of box cake mix, try it out with your favorite homemade cake recipe. As long as it’s a moist yellow cake (or even a white cake mix), the recipe should work. Try a classic homemade vanilla cake or a rich and decadent vanilla buttermilk cake. Just remember that the recipe calls for the addition of canned mandarin orange juice along with the orange slices, which will add extra liquid to the cake batter and might change the texture. 

An overhead image of the fluffy pineapple whipped topping for the Pig Pickin' Cake in a white bowl, mixed with a blue spatula.

Can I use homemade whipped cream instead of Cool Whip for the cake frosting?

The advantage to using Cool Whip is the stability of the whipped topping — it holds up better and longer (especially at room temperature) than homemade whipped cream. If you’re serving pig pickin’ cake indoors (and not in excessively warm weather), homemade whipped cream could work well as a frosting alternative. 

An overhead image of a completed Pig Pickin' Cake, topped with fluffy pineapple frosting and multicolored sprinkles.

Can I make a layered pig pickin’ cake instead of a sheet cake?

Yes, it would be easy to turn this recipe into a layer cake. Bake the cake in two round cake pans or 2-3 smaller sheet pans and stack them to make cake layers. You might need a little bit more frosting for the layers, sides of the cake, and top of the cake, but the frosting recipe can easily be adjusted.

A single slice of semi-homemade mandarin orange Pig Pickin' Cake, topped with whipped frosting, sprinkles, and a mandarin orange slice.

How to Store Leftover Pig Pickin’ Cake

Cover tightly and store the cake in the refrigerator for 1-2 days. It will stay fresh for up to 3-4 days, but the frosting tends to get a bit watery as it sits. You can also freeze this cake with or without the frosting for up to 3 months.

Pig Pickin’ Cake Recipe Variations

  • Sweeten the whipped frosting with powdered sugar, or add shredded coconut, coconut cream, or coconut extract for extra flavor that perfectly complements the citrus in this delicious cake.
  • Add a splash of vanilla extract to the cake mix for an extra layer of flavor.
  • Add walnuts or pecans to the batter or garnish the top of the cake with the chopped nuts. Sprinkles, maraschino cherries, or toasted shredded coconut are also great garnishes for the fluffy pineapple frosting.
Slices of delicious Pig Pickin' Cake -- a mandarin orange cake topped with fluffy pineapple frosting and mandarin orange slices, served on small white dessert plates.

Tips for Making the Best Pig Pickin’ Cake Recipe

  • Thaw the Cool Whip in the refrigerator overnight before stirring together the frosting. Do not thaw the Cool Whip on the counter at room temperature, or it will lose its fluffy texture.
  • Let the cake cool completely before frosting, or the icing will “melt” right off.
  • Garnish each slice with a mandarin orange slice, sprinkles, coconut, or chopped pecans or walnuts.
  • Using a hand mixer or stand mixer is best for breaking up and evenly distributing the mandarin oranges throughout the cake batter, but if you don’t have an electric mixer, a whisk will work — just make sure to mix the cake batter well.
  • Keep the cake refrigerated until ready to serve.
Slices of Pig Pickin' Cake served on a table next to a large square cake pan filled with the sweet pineapple orange cake.
Square side shot of pig pickin cake on a plate

Pig Pickin’ Cake

4.60 from 5 votes
Prep: 10 minutes
Cook: 30 minutes
Cooling Time 2 hours
Total: 40 minutes
Servings 16 slices
Calories 330 kcal
This classic Southern dessert is an easy, semi-homemade recipe with boxed cake mix, mandarin oranges, and a fluffy pineapple frosting.

Ingredients
  

  • 1 (15.25 oz) box yellow cake mix
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 (15 oz) can mandarin oranges in syrup, NOT drained (plus extra for garnish, if desired)
  • 1 (8 oz) container frozen whipped topping, thawed (such as Cool Whip)
  • 1 (3.4 oz) box vanilla instant pudding mix (just the dry mix…do not prepare the pudding)
  • 1 (20 oz) can crushed pineapple, well drained

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 350° F. Spray a 13 x 9-inch cake pan (or two 8-inch round cake pans) with cooking spray and set aside.
  • In a large bowl, beat together cake mix, eggs, and oil on low speed for about 30 seconds. Beat at medium speed for 2 minutes. Add mandarin oranges (with their syrup) and mix on low speed for about 30 seconds, or until completely combined.
    1 (15.25 oz) box yellow cake mix, 4 eggs, 1 cup vegetable oil, 1 (15 oz) can mandarin oranges in syrup, NOT drained
  • Bake cake for about 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  • Allow cake to cool completely.
  • In a separate large bowl, gently fold together whipped topping, dry pudding mix, and drained crushed pineapple. Spread “frosting” on cooled cake.
    1 (8 oz) container frozen whipped topping, thawed, 1 (3.4 oz) box vanilla instant pudding mix (just the dry mix…do not prepare the pudding), 1 (20 oz) can crushed pineapple, well drained
  • Refrigerate until ready to slice and serve!

Notes

  • Sweeten the whipped frosting with powdered sugar, or add shredded coconut, coconut cream, or coconut extract for extra flavor that perfectly complements the citrus in this delicious cake.
  • Add a splash of vanilla extract to the cake mix for an extra layer of flavor.
  • Add walnuts or pecans to the batter or garnish the top of the cake with the chopped nuts. Sprinkles, maraschino cherries, or toasted shredded coconut are also great garnishes for the fluffy pineapple frosting.
  • Thaw the Cool Whip in the refrigerator overnight before stirring together the frosting. Do not thaw the Cool Whip on the counter at room temperature, or it will lose its fluffy texture.
  • Let the cake cool completely before frosting, or the icing will “melt” right off.
  • Garnish each slice with a mandarin orange slice, sprinkles, coconut, or chopped pecans or walnuts.
  • Using a hand mixer or stand mixer is best for breaking up and evenly distributing the mandarin oranges throughout the cake batter, but if you don’t have an electric mixer, a whisk will work — just make sure to mix the cake batter well.
  • Keep the cake refrigerated until ready to serve.
  •  

Nutrition

Serving: 1sliceCalories: 330kcalCarbohydrates: 37.3gProtein: 3.2gFat: 19.6gSaturated Fat: 12.7gPolyunsaturated Fat: 0.6gMonounsaturated Fat: 2.1gCholesterol: 46.5mgSodium: 284.9mgFiber: 0.6gSugar: 21.7g
Keyword: mandarin orange cake, orange cake, pig pickin cake, pineapple cake
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Author: Blair Lonergan
blair

Hey, I’m Blair!

Welcome to my farmhouse kitchen in the foothills of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains. Inspired by local traditions and seasonal fare, you’ll find plenty of easy, comforting recipes that bring your family together around the table. It’s down-home, country-style cooking!

Read More

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Comments

  1. Gayle @ Pumpkin 'N Spice says:

    Desserts always seem to take the cake at parties and potlucks! 🙂 This fluff cake sounds delicious, Blair! I love the combination of orange and pineapples. Sounds so light and refreshing!

    1. Blair says:

      Totally agree, Gayle! Everyone remembers the cakes!

  2. Kim @ The Baking ChocolaTess says:

    Pinned! Visiting from The Pretty Pintastic Party. Thanks so much for sharing! Looks absolutely divine!

    1. Blair says:

      Thanks for the pin, Kim!!

  3. Gina says:

    Super YUMMY Blair!!!!! Love it!

  4. Debra Vick says:

    all of your recipes look “Oh So Yummy” I can hardly wait to try a few of them. I love the orange fluff cake, it looks, and sounds a lot like the one I make for my hubby every year for his birthday. It’s his favorite and I only make it once a year.
    Your orange creamsicles are next on my list though. I have to go buy some of those cute little popsicle things first.

    1. Blair says:

      Thanks so much, Debra! Enjoy! 🙂

  5. Claire @ A Little Claireification says:

    Oh WOW does that look fantastic! Love that combination of the orange with the pineapple. Pinned!

    1. Blair says:

      Thank you so much, Claire!!

  6. Anna @ Sunny Side Ups says:

    This looks like the perfect summer picnic cake!! Those yummy fruit flavors…and I LOVE the orange EO addition! I bet it really makes the flavors pop! 🙂 Pinned!

    1. Blair says:

      Thanks, Anna! The orange EO is definitely a nice addition. 🙂

  7. Becca Niederkrom says:

    5 stars
    Yummmm!! This looks like it would melt in my mouth. Making this for a Summer treat =)

    1. Blair says:

      Awesome, Becca! So glad that you might try it. 🙂

  8. Chelc | Inside the Fox Den says:

    Wow, does this look yummy! Perfect dessert for a summer party. Thanks for sharing at Merry Monday, hope to see you again next week!

    1. Blair says:

      Thanks so much for stopping by! 🙂

  9. Cindy Brown says:

    5 stars
    Hi Blair ! This cake sounds amazing !! I have family May and June birthdays coming up that we plan on celebrating together and l would love to make this cake ! I don’t seem to see any directions though , just ingredients . It sounds like perfect spring flavours and l was just wondering if you could help me out . Thanks !

  10. FranO says:

    5 stars
    Looked all over for the instructions on Orange pineapple fluff cake. Only ingredients were printed and shown. This recipe sounds really good and I am willing to make it bur need to have instructions.

    1. Blair says:

      Ah, sorry about that, Fran!!! Thanks for letting me know! I just fixed the recipe card so that the instructions appear! Not sure what happened, although my web designer is in the process of switching to new recipe cards, so we’re working through some little kinks. Let me know if you have any questions now. Enjoy! 🙂

  11. Bobbie Howard says:

    This sounds so yummy! I’m going to try them making them in cupcakes for a charity bakesale! Thanks for sharing!

    1. Blair says:

      Perfect! I hope that they sell well and earn the charity a lot of money! 🙂

  12. Connie says:

    Wish people would try recipe first before writing a review! It may look good and sounds delicious but how does it taste?

  13. PHYLLIS CYNTHIA KIRKBY says:

    3 stars
    The cake was good but the frosting” recipe needed adjustment. With just 8 oz of whipped topping the frosting was thick and grainy and not fluffy at all. I added an additional 8 oz of whipped topping and it fixed the problem. I’m not sure if there is a typo in the recipe but other recipes I looked at used more whipped topping. The end result after the adjustment was good.

    1. Blair Lonergan says:

      Thanks for that feedback, Phyllis! We will have to double check the recipe, as we’ve never had that issue before.

  14. christa says:

    5 stars
    I just made this cake today and it’s ABSOLUTELY DELICIOUS! Really easy to make, too. Thank you for another amazing recipe!!

    1. Blair Lonergan says:

      Yay! Thank you, Christa. I’m so glad that you enjoyed it!