Learn how to make pea pickin’ cake the easy way with simple ingredients from the pantry. This moist, delicious cake is refreshing and best served chilled. It’s the perfect dessert to enjoy for an afternoon tea party on a warm summer day. It’s also a fabulous baby shower cake or part of a potluck dessert table. I’ve often served this festive cake as part of an Easter celebration. What does pea pickin’ cake taste like? The light citrus flavors of mandarin oranges and pineapple combine with yellow cake mix to make a wondrous taste explosion. The light, whipped topping adds just the right touch. I’ve been serving this family favorite for years from a recipe handed down to me by my dear late mother-in-law. She was an amazing cook. Just one taste of this delicious cake and you will be a devoted fan for life. Ready to get the step-by-step instructions for scrumptious pea pickin’ cake? Read on to learn how to make this marvelous dessert!
Table of Contents
My Pea Pickin’ Cake Backstory
Here is the history of my pea pickin’ cake experience. When I married into my husband’s family, I became the beneficiary of many wonderful family recipes. My father-in-law grew up in the south, so old-fashioned southern recipes were often served. Pea pickin’ cake is one of my favorites. Why do they call it pea pickin’ cake? I’m not sure where the name came from. At some point it may have been adapted from the name “pig pickin’ cake” because it was served during dinners when families got together and celebrated the butchering of hogs. There are so many variations of the story, I’m not able to quote just one source as the reliable truth. One thing the tales all have in common is that pea pickin’ cake originated in the American South. What I know for sure is that it’s easy, tasty, and never lasts long around our house when I make it. Let’s get started!
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In Praise of Cake Mixes
Before proceeding to the recipe, I would like to put in a good word for cake mixes. They are versatile, inexpensive, and many amazing things may be made from them. An essential ingredient in pea pickin’ cake is a yellow cake mix. However, cake mixes are not just for making cake. One of my favorite recipe books gives some incredible ideas about baking with cake mixes. If you feel like trying some delicious cake mix experiments, this book is for you!
Equipment Needed for Easy Pea Pickin’ Cake
In order to make pea pickin’ cake, you will need some basic kitchen items. When I first made this cake, I tried to mix it by hand. For this recipe, that does not work. The mandarin oranges do not get broken up as they should. Although mixing my hand works for many recipes, this is one where you definitely need a hand mixer. A stand mixer is not necessary, but you could use a stand mixer if that is all you have. I have a little hand mixer that my grandmother used to use. Yes, it still works! Cleanup is super easy since the beaters eject and can be put into the dishwasher. Although the model I use is no longer available (I think it must be at least 40 years old), here is one that is similar, and it even has a handy storage area for the beaters.
Other items you will need include a bowl for mixing the batter, and a 9 by 13-inch baking pan. My favorite pan for baking pea pickin’ cake is one like this, because it has a cover.
Since this cake is best served chilled, I like to cover it after frosting and store it in the refrigerator for a few hours before serving.
Ingredients for the Easy Pea Pickin’ Cake
What is pea pickin’ or pig pickin’ cake made of? The good news is you might already have all of the ingredients you need. Take a look and see if you have the following simple ingredients:
1 package yellow cake mix
1 cup vegetable oil
1 20-ounce can mandarin oranges (or 2 11-ounce cans, if you only have the small size)
Ingredients for the Pea Pickin’ Cake Topping
1 20-ounce can crushed pineapple, minus 1 cup of juice
1 package (3.4-ounce) instant vanilla pudding
12-ounces whipped topping (I rarely can find a 12-ounce tub, so I often have to use 1 whole 8-ounce tub and half of another 8-ounce tub.)
Directions for the Easy Pea Pickin’ Cake Recipe
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9 by 13 inch cake pan. Instead of adding the liquid called for on the cake mix box, combine all of the above cake ingredients (save the topping ingredients for later).
Mix the ingredients with a hand mixer for a few minutes on medium speed until the mandarin orange pieces get broken up. The batter should look like this.
Pour batter into prepared pan and bake according to the directions on the box. In a 9 by 13-inch pan, the pea pickin’ cake should be finished baking in about 25-30 minutes. Check for doneness by poking the cake in the center with a toothpick. If it comes out clean, the cake is ready.
Directions for the Frosting
After removing the cake from the oven, allow it to cool completely. In a large mixing bowl, combine the crushed pineapple (minus 1 cup of juice) with the pudding mix. Fold in the whipped topping.
Gently spread the frosting over the cooled cake. Here’s the finished product.
Serving the Pea Pickin Cake
Although the cake may be served immediately after frosting, this easy cake recipe is best served chilled. Store the finished cake in the refrigerator. This easy cake recipe is ideal for warm spring or summer gatherings. The delicious, cool citrus flavors will cause taste buds to celebrate.
Pea Pickin’ Cake
- 1 hand mixer
- 1 mixing bowl
- 1 9 by 13-inch baking pan
- 1 box yellow cake mix
- 4 eggs
- 1 cup vegetable oil
- 1 20-ounce can mandarin oranges or 2 11-ounce cans, if you only have the small size
- 1 20-ounce can crushed pineapple minus 1 cup of juice
- 1 3.4-ounce box instant vanilla pudding
- 12 ounces whipped topping I rarely can find a 12-ounce tub, so I often have to use 1 whole 8-ounce tub and half of another 8-ounce tub.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
- Grease a 9 by 13 inch cake pan.
- Instead of adding the liquid called for on the cake mix box, combine all of the above cake ingredients (save the topping ingredients for later).
- Mix the ingredients with a hand mixer for a few minutes on medium speed until the mandarin orange pieces get broken up.
- Pour batter into prepared pan and bake according to the directions on the box. In a 9 by 13-inch pan, the pea pickin’ cake should be finished baking in about 25-30 minutes.
- Check for doneness by poking the cake in the center with a toothpick. If it comes out clean, the cake is ready.
- After removing the cake from the oven, allow it to cool completely.
Making the Topping
- In a large mixing bowl, combine the crushed pineapple (minus 1 cup of juice) with the pudding mix. Fold in the whipped topping.
- Gently spread the frosting over the cooled cake.
- You could serve the pea-pickin' cake at this point if you are very eager, but it's best to let the frosted cake chill for a couple of hours in the refrigerator, covered.
What Goes Well with Pea Pickin’ Cake?
Since pea pickin’ cake was traditionally served as part of a pig butchering celebration, it definitely goes well with ham. That’s one reason why I often serve this amazing dessert as part of an Easter meal. Since it’s best served chilled, it goes well with grilled summertime foods like orange-glazed smoked pork chops. This dessert would also go well with other ham dishes, such as crock pot ham and potatoes. If you are serving a light summer lunch, ham and pea salad would be a great main dish to serve before enjoying some pea-pickin’ cake. There are many yummy possibilities!
More Food Inspiration
Thinking of working this pea pickin’ cake recipe into your recipe rotation? It’s always nice to have a plan when it comes to meals. If you’re looking for a way to get more organized with your meal planning efforts, I’ve got something for you. Free, editable meal planners! The templates can be used over and over, as often as you need them. You can make as many duplicates as you like, and you’ll be able to save old meal plans for future reference. I hope it simplifies things for you.
I hope you enjoy making pea-pickin’ cake. May all of your baking endeavors meet with great success!
Lisa Mitchell is a wife, mom, and school librarian who likes to create and share recipes, often using fresh ingredients from her family’s small Pacific Northwest farm. To learn more about what this website has to offer, click on over to the Welcome page.