Blood oranges have a relatively short season, which is why The One and I try to find as many ways to use them as possible. I created this blood orange pound cake after hearing him moan one too many times, “You never bake for me anymore.” (This is true, but the reason why is because his pleas for baked goods are always followed the next day by, “Please! No more cakes and breads. That damn scale is lying again!”) So goes my life.

What I love about this cake is blood orange zest and juice are in every component: the cake, the soaking syrup, and the glaze. If you can find the Moro variety of blood orange, that’s ideal, as it has a deep red skin and juice.–David Leite

A blood orange pound cake on a wire rack with glaze and sugar syrup, three slices cut.

Blood Orange Swirl Pound Cake

5 / 6 votes
This blood orange pound cake is a fantastic seasonal dessert. The buttery, rich cake is ribboned with a marmalade layer, steeped in a blood orange syrup, and topped with a light blood orange glaze. Irresistible.
David Leite
Servings12 servings
Calories384 kcal
Prep Time1 hour
Cook Time1 hour
Total Time2 hours


  • A 9-by-5-by-3 inch loaf pan (23-by-13-by-8 cm or 8 cups)


For the blood orange pound cake

  • Baking spray, such as Baker’s Joy
  • 1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 4 to 5 blood oranges (preferably the more colorful Moro), zested and juiced
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 3 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup full-fat sour cream, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup blood orange marmalade

For the blood orange soaking syrup

  • 1/2 cup blood orange juice
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar

For the blood orange icing

  • 2 tablespoons blood orange juice, more if needed
  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar


Make the blood orange pound cake

  • Crank the oven to 350°F (175°C) and adjust the rack to the middle position. Cut a piece of parchment paper that’s approximately 9-by-16-inches (23-by-40-cm). Coat a 9-by-5-inch (23-by-13-cm) loaf pan lightly with the baking spray and fit the parchment into the pan so that it lines the bottom and sides with ample overhang.
  • In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.
  • In a small bowl, mix 3 tablespoons (18 g) zest into the sugar using your fingertips to release the oils in the zest.
  • In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or in a large bowl with a hand mixer on medium-high, beat the butter and zest-infused sugar, scraping down the bowl a few times, until it’s fluffy and pale yellow, 5 to 6 minutes.
  • Add the eggs, 1 at a time, beating after each addition until fully incorporated. Add the sour cream and vanilla and continue to beat until everything’s combined. The mixture may look curdled. That’s okay.
  • Switch to a spatula and gently fold the flour mixture into the butter mixture until no flour streaks remain.
  • Scoop about 1/2 cup of the batter into a small bowl, add the blood orange marmalade, and stir until smooth.
  • Spoon about 2/3 of the plain batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top with the spatula. Gently spoon the marmalade batter on top, spreading it to within 1/2 inch of the pan’s edge. Scrape the rest of the plain batter over the marmalade batter and smooth the top. Stick a table knife into the batter and, using the flat side, crisscross it back and forth to mix the layers together a bit.
  • Bake until the cake is domed and golden and a toothpick comes out clean, 60 to 70 minutes. If the cake begins browning too much, loosely cover the pan with foil, tented in the center so it doesn’t touch the surface of the cake.
  • Remove the cake from the oven and let it cool on a rack for 10 minutes.

Make the blood orange soaking syrup

  • While the cake is cooling, pour the 1/2 cup blood orange juice and the sugar into a small saucepan and bring to a simmer, cooking until the sugar has completely dissolved, 5 to 8 minutes. Slide the pan off the heat.
  • Grasp the overhanging edges of parchment and carefully–lift the cake from the pan. Remove the paper and place the cake on the wire rack. Place a rimmed baking sheet beneath the wire rack.
  • Use a skewer to poke holes all over the top of the cake with a skewer. Brush the cake liberally with the soaking syrup, letting it seep in after each coating before adding more. This takes some time. Don't even consider skimping and not using all the syrup. Let the cake cool completely.
    Loaf of blood orange pound cake on a wire rack with a wooden skewer.

Make the blood orange icing

  • When the cake has cooled, stir the 2 tablespoons blood orange juice into the confectioners’ sugar until smooth. Add another tablespoon of juice is the icing is too thick.

Ice the blood orange pound cake

  • Pour the icing over the cake, letting it drip down the sides. Let the icing on the cake set for 30 minutes before slicing and digging in.


Serving: 1 sliceCalories: 384 kcalCarbohydrates: 52 gProtein: 4 gFat: 19 gSaturated Fat: 11 gMonounsaturated Fat: 5 gTrans Fat: 1 gCholesterol: 92 mgSodium: 126 mgFiber: 1 gSugar: 37 g

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Tried this recipe?Mention @leitesculinaria or tag #leitesculinaria!
Recipe © 2017 David Leite. Photos © 2017 David Leite. All rights reserved.

Recipe Testers’ Reviews

To say I’d make this again is an understatement. I already have! This dessert dances that line between pretty-enough-for-company and cozy-enough-for-just-me. The steps are easy, even enjoyable: rubbing fragrant zest into sugar; swirling in vanilla; marbling with gobs of marmalade-y batter. As you dutifully paint the poked, cooling loaf, prepare to be as shocked by the bloody hue of the orange syrup as you’ll be by the impertinence of your housemates, lured by the citrus-butter haze, wheedling you for a corner or crumb (stay tuned). As perfect as the blush icing is in both consistency and hue, I found the finished cake slightly too sweet and next time I’d undersweeten the syrup, cutting the sugar by half.

My rebake spurred a certain spectator who watched in horror as I soaked the crunchy top in blood orange syrup. In reparation, I halved all the quantities (eggs halve if beaten, weighed, then half the weight poured off), subbed half the flour for whole wheat pastry flour, and used the zest of a navel, not blood, orange. This heavily adjusted recipe baked in 4 cups of a jumbo muffin tin until done, about 25 minutes. Though a different dessert, maybe described as a citrus teacake, with more balanced sweetness and a lovely interplay of citrus/butter/tang of sour cream, these crisp golden edges were met with delight, showcasing the versatility of this delicious recipe.

This gorgeous pastel jewel of a blood orange pound cake is bright, rich, and bursting with a sweet, tart, buttery tang. The deeply golden cake is speckled with blood orange zest and ribboned with marmalade batter and topped with a pink glaze that’s alluring and irresistible. The scent, the flavors, the texture all beg you to taste it. The glaze crushes and melts on your tongue sweet and sharp while the cake is tightly crumbed and tender with crunchy edges. A balance of sweet decadence.

The blood orange syrup seeps into the buttery rich cake adding a layer of bright contrasting tang while the marmalade creates a bittersweet, creamy layer of intrigue. Supremely moist, beautiful and bursting with flavor, this is a decidedly craveable cake.

We have a very short window of opportunity for blood oranges in Northern Ontario so when they are available for one short, cold month, I do as much as possible with them. This blood orange pound cake is one of my favorite recipes so far—it’s moist and full of true blood orange flavor. DELICIOUS.

I used a friend’s Seville marmalade, which added just enough bitterness to give the pound cake a pleasing bite. The recipe does have a few steps. However, once you have the zest and juice ready, the rest of the cake comes together easily. There are a few steps certainly, but I think that’s what contributes to making this cake such a pleasure to eat. There is a perfect balance of flavors and the cake itself is rich and moist.

I did find that I didn’t need the full hour to bake it; I took mine out just after 50 minutes and it was cooked through with no heavy browning on top. I am actually planning to make a second one this afternoon and I’m not going to share any, this time!

This was a fun twist on your basic citrus pound cake. The color is really pretty and I like that the blood orange has a touch of bitterness to it that is a nice counterpoint to so much sweet.

I did have a hard time keeping the swirl a 1/2 inch from the edges. There was a lot of it and it was pretty loose, so I did get some caramelization on the outside where the marmalade met the pan.

Do not overbake the cake! I made the mistake of thinking the bits sticking to my tester stick was gooey cake, but it was only the swirl. As such, my pound cake was a bit overdone, but still edible. It made for a refreshing treat when the doldrums of winter are upon us. Soaking the cake took 18 minutes. The cake eventually soaked up all the syrup, but you really have to be patient.

This blood orange pound cake was a pretty simple loaf cake recipe to put together, with a few extra steps that bump up the flavor, texture, and appearance. Pouring syrup on cake is always a good idea, and I did not expect to love the pretty pink glaze as much as I did. It makes an attractive cake fit for springtime or Valentine’s Day. The cake disappeared from the office break room well before lunchtime. (All except for that one little piece…no one ever wants to take the last piece.) Overall I found it delightfully moist, buttery, and with a nice tartness from the citrus to offset the sweet.

My only improvement would be to flip the cake over and add some syrup from the bottom, since most of it was concentrated near the top half of the loaf. It might serve well with tea or fruit, but I found it great on its own. Despite the slightly drier bottom, the cake overall was still quite moist, and it held together when you ate it, rather than breaking into a pile of crumbs in your hand. I also liked that it wasn’t overly dense—just slightly denser than a regular butter or layer cake.

Loving blood oranges, I couldn’t resist making this pound cake, and it didn’t disappoint. It is oh so very moist, with tons of wonderful flavor. I appreciate the way that the marmalade batter that’s swirled into the cake batter bakes up and makes it beautiful to look at when sliced on the plate. A very impressive result for not much work.

Pound cakes fascinate me because they provide so much bang for the buck: quick on the put-together while long on the delivery of richness and sweet-tooth satisfaction. The starring role of the blood orange in this version intrigued me for its dramatic flair.

The recipe itself is written very well, with amusing descriptors and a friendly tone that encourages the cook. I loved the feeling of having the recipe writer right there in the kitchen with me, anticipating each step with encouraging and casual conversation written into each recipe step.

That said, the pink/red color that results from the use of the blood orange juice in both the syrup and the icing was a bit incongruent (I look at the loaf and think pink grapefruit or strawberry) and to my mind, the recipe would actually be better off made with some good Valencia or Navel oranges instead. I was unable to find blood orange marmalade and so used “regular” orange marmalade, which did not necessarily stand out as a swirl inside the loaf using the proportions listed in the recipe. I think if twice as much marmalade was used, the swirl would be more pronounced and add to the loaf’s visuals as expected.

The flavor and intent of the recipe is solid and rich, and I definitely plan to try this again with regular oranges and double the marmalade in the filling. The promise of a big pay off is there!

Oh so pretty. The deep pink glaze makes this cake irresistible. An incredibly moist and delicious cake, this pairs perfectly with an afternoon latte. We loved the layering of the orange flavor throughout the cake. The zing of the marmalade and the sweetness of the glaze and syrup made each bite delightful.

I liked the method of mixing the sugar with the zest. I found all the zest was incorporated and I wasn’t leaving any behind in the bowl.

It took 60 minutes to bake cake. I did not need to cover it.

The cake is still perfect and moist 2 days later.

About David Leite

I count myself lucky to have received three James Beard Awards for my writing as well as for Leite’s Culinaria. My work has also appeared in The New York Times, Martha Stewart Living, Saveur, Bon Appétit, Gourmet, Food & Wine, Yankee, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post, and more.

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Recipe Rating


  1. 5 stars
    Lovely and beautiful! I found Blood Orange Marmalade on Amazon, @SarahBeth’s, and really loved the look and flavor of this cake. It is so (damn) delicious!! Love it, LOVE it. Growing up in SoCal and now living in Oregon for 35 years it is a breath of fresh, lively, and outstanding flavor! Thank you David and Renee for addicting me to Crack, aka Blood Orange Pound Cake! Yummmmmmm!

    1. Thanks, Sheila! We’re delighted that you love this as much as we do. Love the color of your cakes — you must have some stunning and very juicy blood oranges available to you.

  2. 5 stars
    This was so good! The recipe is excellent. I recently discovered blood oranges and have been experimenting with them a lot. Thanks a lot 🙂

    1. You’re so very welcome, Sunanda! They are magnificent, aren’t they?! They come in varying types, but I especially love the ones that are a deep crimson color throughout and are barely acidic and with this intense and inexplicable flavor, as opposed to blood oranges with just some streaks of red throughout. Happy experimenting! My latest fix is sliced with red Belgian endive and almonds and a simple viniagrette. A little goat cheese can be nice. Curious to hear where your affinity lies…