Williamsburg Orange-Sherry Cake

A moist layer cake flavored with a nice combination of orange zest, pecans, and golden raisins soaked in sherry; paired well with a traditional butter frosting flavored with Cointreau  and orange zest. Not too rich and looks beautiful.
From The Silver Palate Good Times Cookbook, Julee Rosso & Sheila Lukins, 1985, Workman Publishing, NY.
Prep Time45 mins
Cook Time35 mins
Frosting30 mins
Total Time1 hr 20 mins
Course: Desserts - Cakes
Servings: 12 servings
Author: Catherine Christiano



  • 1 cup golden raisins
  • 1/2 cup dry sherry
  • 2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter room temperature
  • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
  • finely grated zest of one orange
  • 1 1/2 cups buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans


  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter room temperature
  • 3 3/4 cup confectioner's sugar (1 lb) sifted
  • 5 tablespoons Cointreau, Grand Marnier, or other orange liquer
  • 2 tablespoons finely grated orange zest from about 4 medium oranges

FROSTING (scaled up for extra to decorate)

  • 5/8 cup unsalted butter room temperature
  • 4 2/3 cup confectioner's sugar sifted
  • 6 tablespoons +1 tsp Cointreau, Grand Marnier, or other orange liqueur
  • 2.5 tablespoons finely grated orange zest from about 5 medium oranges


  • Orange slices cut in half (about 1 orange)
  • Pecan halves



  • The night before the cake is to be baked, combine the raisins and sherry, cover and soak overnight.
  • Place the oven rack in the middle position and preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter two 9 inch cake pans and dust with flour.
  • In a medium bowl, sift the flour, baking soda, and salt together; set aside.
  • Place the butter and sugars in the bowl of a stand mixer; mix until uniformly creamy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating to combine after each addition. Stir in the vanilla and orange zest.
  • Alternate adding the flour and buttermilk a portion at a time and beating well after each addition. Stir in the pecans and raisins with sherry until just completely incorporated.
  • Distribute the batter equally into the prepared pans. Bake 35 - 40 minutes, rotating the pans half way. The cake should be golden, begin to pull away from the edge of the pan, and springs back when lightly touched in the center.
  • Cool 10 minutes before inverting onto wire racks. Cool completely before frosting.


  • In the bowl of a stand mixer add the butter and sugar; beat until combined. Gradually add the liqueur until the mixture remains stiff enough to hold a shape yet is easily spreadable. Beat in the orange zest.
  • Place first layer on serving plate, protect the edges of the plate with strips of wax paper, and spread top of layer evenly some frosting. Top with second layer, frost the top and sides of the cake, reserving a portion of frosting if decorating the edges with a pastry bag is desired. Decorate with orange slices and pecan halves.


Start by soaking the raisins the night before baking the cake. Bake the cake either the night before or early in the day.