Dreamy Citrus Cake… and a Love Letter to Winters in AZ

Dreamy Citrus Cake… and a Love Letter to Winters in AZ

There’s so much to love about winter in Arizona. This Chicago girl is incredibly happy to have traded blustery wind and black ice for some Southwestern sunshine. When I first moved to Arcadia, I remember seeing signs everywhere this time of year saying “giving away lemons!” or “free grapefruits!” I remember thinking, “This, right here, is my kind of place.” Then I started planting citrus trees in my yard and taking advantage of the 60-year-old tangelo tree that came with the house. It produces the most beautiful fruit this time of year.

There’s truly an abundance of citrus right now, and I embrace it! I make a project out of harvesting the uber-jucy, tangy-and-yet-deliciously-sweet fruits and use the juice and zest in as much as I can. The juice goes into cocktails, smoothies, mimosas, or THIS CITRUS CAKE!

Sometimes I even batch cocktails with the juice, gin, and thyme like my friend Blake used to make and share with people close by. But I always, always bake with the fruit. My brain immediately thinks of lemon blueberry scones and orange almond tea cake and lime pies and my hands get to work bringing to life the flavors in my mind that will celebrate the season. I also always, always give away the fruit because I have way more than I need. Now is when I’m gifting small bags of tangelos and limes to friends or sharing mason jars of freshly squeezed juice for their mornings and mimosas.

So here’s an idea of how you can share all the citrus you’ve got in your life with your friends and family. Throw some of those lemons or limes or oranges or grapefruits into a bag, along with a box of Wild Rye Baking Vanilla cake mix and the Classic Vanilla frosting mix, and share this recipe for Wild Rye’s Dreamy Citrus Cake with them. OR make the recipe yourself and share the cake with your neighbors.

Don't live in AZ? Well this is still the time to get the best citrus in your grocery store. Look for fruit that is heavy for its size (which equals juiciness) and go to town on the recipe!

Wild Rye Dreamy Citrus Cake

This cake is what my winter in Arizona dreams are made of. Not too sweet, not too tart, and full of sunshine for the soul. I take the time to brown the butter. It's way easier than you might think, and it adds great nuttiness and depth to this cake. It also makes your home smell insanely amazing, but if you're busy or a lil nervous about this step, you can skip it and just add melted butter or even melted coconut oil (okay yum). Use whatever citrus you have. I have made this with a combination of lemon and grapefruit. Just grapefruit. Tangelo. Orange. Literally, whatever your heart desires or you have on hand.



1 box Wild Rye Vanilla Cake Mix - classic or gluten-free 1 cup buttermilk*

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, melted and browned*

3 eggs*

2T citrus zest

cup citrus juice



  1. box Wild Rye Classic Vanilla Frosting Mix 2 sticks butter, softened*
  2. T citrus juice 1 T milk, any


*Check out the box for plant-based alternatives

Cake Instructions:

  1. Brown your butter (you will hear your butter tell you when it's brown)! On the stovetop, in a small sauce pot, melt the butter over medium heat. When the butter first melts, it will bubble and pop loudly and foam will develop. When you see this, swirl the pan to lightly coat the sides and bottom. (Watch carefully to see that it does not burn.) As the milk solids caramelize, the foam will subside and the loud bubbling will change to a subtle popping, then to a whisper, and turn to a deep nut-brown. Your butter is ready to go! Just let it cool and don't forget to add all those browed bits into your batter! That's where the wondrous flavor lives.
  2. Preheat oven to 350F.
  3. Prepare a 13x9 baking pan with nonstick cooking spray and line the bottom with parchment paper.
  4. In a large bowl, whisk together buttermilk, eggs, citrus zest, citrus juice, and cooled browned butter until well combined.
  5. Add your Wild Rye Vanilla Cake mix and whisk until your batter is smooth.
  6. Pour batter into the prepared baking pan and bake for 35-40 minutes. *Use the trusty toothpick method printed on the box to know when the cake is baked!


Frosting & Decorating Instructions:

  1. In a stand mixer or with a hand mixer, whip 2 sticks of butter until soft and fluffy.
  2. Add in the Classic Vanilla Frosting Mix, 2 tablespoons citrus juice, and 1 tablespoon milk, and mix until your frosting comes together! Then set aside.
  3. Once your cake is cooled completely, remove it from the pan and peel the parchment off the bottom. Then place it on your serving platter, which oftentimes for me is as simple as a cutting board. But you do you, friend.
  4. Dollop frosting on your cake and smooth across the top. I like to swirl and swoop the frosting without worrying too much about it being perfect. In this case, imperfection is what I’m going for.
  5. Once your cake top is frosted to your liking, decorate with sliced citrus, citrus zest, or keep it plain.

6. Slice and enjoy!

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