Frances Dee’s Orange Cake

Frances Dee and Joel McCrea

Frances Dee was an actress during the golden era of Hollywood. Her first major role was starring opposite Maurice Chevalier in the 1930 Playboy in Paris. Before that, her roles were uncredited bit roles. She also starred in Little Women with Katharine Hepburn, Of Human Bondage and Payment on Demand with Bette Davis, I Walked With a Zombie, and Becky Sharp with Miriam Hopkins. Also, Frances Dee met her husband, fellow actor Joel McCrea, on the set of the 1933 film Silver Cord. They acted together in Wells Fargo and Four Faces West. They stayed together until his death on their 57th wedding anniversary.


This is Frances Dee’s recipe for Orange Cake. This is very similar to the Famous Lemon Jell-O Cake that made its rounds during the 1950s. The major difference is that this orange cake is baked in a bundt pan versus a 13 x 9 pan and has a sauce versus a glaze. It is super easy to make as all it takes is mixing together a box cake, a box of orange gelatin, orange juice, eggs, and oil. It is topped off with a simple sauce of sugar, orange juice, and orange zest. The cake comes out with the texture of a pound cake. The batter of the cake will not fill up a standard bundt cake which is fine. I just wanted to mention it so you will not think something is wrong!


We do need to talk about the sauce which is essentially an orange-flavored simple syrup. I actually almost missed it as the recipe for it was on the next page. The main cake recipe NEVER mentions it. The orange sauce recipe itself only says to “pour over the cake”. Like….what? That can mean different things. Some bundt cake recipes will have you poke a warm cake with a toothpick and then pour syrup over to soak into those holes. The problem is that this makes a lot of syrup for a small bundt cake. Most full-size bundt cake recipes usually do about a 1/2 cup of syrup. This recipe does 3/4 cup. So maybe it is just poured over the cake when it cools to give a nice sticky and glossy look to it but it still has the problem of the amount of sauce that will be wasted. Or is it supposed to be served alongside the cake? I really don’t know but I think all three of those serving suggestions could work. My cake had already cooled by the time I found the orange sauce so I poured a little over the cooled cake and saved the rest for anyone who wanted a little extra sweetness. That is also what I reflect in the recipe below as well as cutting down the amount of sauce made. If more sauce is desired just use equal parts orange juice and sugar in the amount you want.


Despite the drama with the syrup, this turned out to be a quite good cake.

Looking for more recipes using a boxed cake mix? Check out this links below:
The “Famous” Lemon Jell-O Cake
Poke Cake
Harvey Wallbanger Cake
Better Than Sex Cake
Dump Cake

Frances Dee's Orange Cake

  • Servings: 12
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

An easy orange cake make with a box cake mix and a box of gelatin!

source: Cookbook of the Stars (1970s)


  • 1 box white or yellow cake mix
  • 1 3oz box orange gelatin
  • 3/4 cup orange juice
  • 2/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 4 eggs

For sauce

  • 2 teaspoons grated orange peel
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/3cup orange juice


  1. Preheat oven to 325 degree and well grease a bundt or tube pan.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, mix together the cake mix, gelatin, orange juice, vegetable oil and eggs.
  3. Pour into the bundt cake pan and bake for 1 hour.
  4. Let cool and remove from the pan.
  5. In a saucepan, stir together the orange peel, sugar and orange juice, Heat over medium high heat until it starts to boil. Turn down the heat to low and let simmer for 5 minutes stirring occasionally.
  6. Carefully pour over the cooled bundt cake.

Notes: The original measurements for the orange sauce called for 2 tablespoons of orange zest, 3/4 cup orange juice and 3/4 cup sugar in case you want to make the full recipe.


10 thoughts on “Frances Dee’s Orange Cake

  1. Jane says:

    Where did you find the recipe? I’m a docent at the Joel McCrea/Frances Dee ranch and it would be fun to have the recipe available to visitors!


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