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Pig Pickin’ Cake

Pig Pickin’ Cake is a classic North Carolina dessert made famous by being widely served at picnics, pig roasts and barbecues. It features a flavor combination of mandarin oranges and crushed pineapple making it a delicious dessert choice for any occasion.


Pig Pickin' Cake on a yellow cake stand

Easy Pig Pickin’ Cake Recipe

What is a Pig Pickin’ Cake? If you’ve never heard of this cake with it’s fun, whimsical name, I’m delighted to introduce this traditional Southern dessert to you. Don’t worry, there’s no actual pig in the cake. My home state of North Carolina is known for pulled pork barbecue, much like Texas is known for beef barbecue. A pig pickin’ is a communal gathering of friends and family for a picnic, pig roast or barbecue. This simple cake is a cake mix hack that’s commonly served for those sorts of events, and often it makes an appearance during the holidays as well.

step-by-step preparation images and ingredients for mandarin orange Pig Pickin' Cake

How to Make the Best Pig Pickin’ Cake Recipe

  • Ingredients you’ll need to make homemade Pig Pickin’ Cake: One box of yellow cake mix, self rising flour, one can of mandarin oranges for the cake, vanilla extract, 4 large eggs and vegetable oil.
  • For the easy cream cheese frosting you’ll need: Plain cream cheese, crushed pineapple, one box of instant vanilla pudding, toasted chopped pecans and frozen whipped topping, thawed.
  • Kitchen gadgets you’ll need: A hand mixer or a stand mixer, measuring cups and spoons, three 8 or 9 inch round cake pans, a cooling rack, an offset spatula and a large silicone spatula or spoon to scrape the frosting from the bowl. You’ll also need a sheet pan to toast the pecans.
  • Why add self rising flour? Cake mixes have continued to dwindle over the years in volume resulting in smaller cakes. The addition of flour ensures you’ll have enough batter for this Pig Pickin’ Cake.
  • To make your own self-rising flour: Add 1/2 cup all purpose flour, 1/2 tsp baking powder and 1/4 tsp salt to the cake mix. Proceed with the recipe as written.
  • This recipe starts with a cake mix. Please follow the recipe for amounts and ingredients and not the instructions on the box.
  • Cream cheese isn’t typically used for the frosting, but I find a whipped cream topping can be finicky if not stabilized with cream cheese. Plus, it’s delicious.
  • Place strips of wax paper on the cake stand or cake carrier, to keep the pedestal clean when frosting the layers. Gently pull out when you’re finished frosting and the base will remain clean.
  • I’ve known some bakers to prick holes into the cake layers and drizzle with some of the mandarin orange juice. I actually use enough mandarin oranges in my recipe that this step isn’t necessary for added moisture.
  • The frosting for this cake is generous by design. Add half of the whipped topping then assess adding more to your liking. The cake pictured was made with the full 16 oz whipped topping.
  • Allow ample time for this cake to chill thoroughly before slicing.
  • Store leftover Pig Pickin’ Cake chilled in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Sliced Pig Pickin' Cake on a cake stand

Is it Worth Toasting the Pecans?

Toasting the pecans for the frosting takes such little effort, I recommend that you take the time to do it for the most intense flavor. Simply spread them onto a baking sheet and place into the oven while the cake layers bake for 6 minutes, then cool.


More Southern Style Cake Recipes to Make

It doesn’t have to be a special occasion for me to bake a cake. Cooking and baking for my family is my happy place and I look for opportunities to do so everyday. More Southern cake recipes you may like to try:

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Pig Pickin' Cake Recipe
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5 from 3 votes

Pig Pickin Cake

Prep Time25 minutes
Cook Time25 minutes
Chill time4 hours
Total Time4 hours 50 minutes
Course: Cakes, Dessert
Cuisine: American
Keyword: mandarin-orange-cake, pig-pickin-cake, southern-pig-picking-cake
Servings: 12 servings
Calories: 551kcal


  • 1 cup roughly chopped pecans toasted
  • 1 15.25 oz box yellow or butter cake mix
  • 1/2 cup self-rising flour See Cook's note
  • 1 15 oz can mandarin oranges drain, reserve 1/2 cup juice
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • Frosting:
  • 1 8 oz block cream cheese softened
  • 1 20 oz can crushed pineapple do not drain
  • 1 3.4 oz box instant vanilla pudding
  • 1 16 oz frozen whipped topping thawed


  • Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter and flour three 8 or 9-inch round cake pans or spray with baking spray. Spread pecans on a baking sheet in a single layer. Set aside.
  • Using an electric mixer, beat together, cake mix, flour, mandarin oranges plus 1/2 cup reserved juice, oil, eggs and vanilla. Beat tor 1-2 minutes until fully combined and mandarin oranges are roughly chopped.
  • Divide batter evenly between pans. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes back clean. Cool completely in pans. (While layers are baking, toast pecans for 6 minutes, then set aside to cool.)
  • To make frosting: Using an electric mixer, cream together cream cheese and pineapple. Add dry vanilla pudding mix. Continue to whip for 1-2 minutes or, just until fully combined.
  • By hand, fold in whipped topping and toasted pecans. Frost between layers, top and sides of cake.
  • May garnish with additional mandarin oranges and whole pecans, if desired.
  • Chill for at least 6 hours, preferably overnight.
  • Store leftovers chilled.


  • Do not follow the instructions on the back of the cake mix, follow the recipe.
  • You may set aside 4 mandarin orange slices for garnishing prior to adding the remainder to the cake batter, if desired. 
  • To make your own self-rising flour: Add 1/2 cup all purpose flour, 1/2 tsp baking powder and 1/4 tsp salt. Proceed with the recipe as written.
  • The frosting for this cake is generous by design. Add half of the whipped topping then assess adding more to your liking. The cake pictured was made with the full 16 oz whipped topping. 


Serving: 1serving | Calories: 551kcal | Carbohydrates: 61g | Protein: 6g | Fat: 37g | Saturated Fat: 17g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 116mg | Sodium: 474mg | Potassium: 66mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 26g | Vitamin A: 96IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 17mg | Iron: 1mg
Tried this recipe?Mention @melissassk or tag #melissassk!


  1. hi Melissa, I noticed there is no sugar in the batter or the frosting. Is that correct? Also whipped topping isnt available in Australia. Would whipped cream be a good substitute?

    1. Yes, cake mix has sugar already in the mix. The whipped topping and instant pudding in the frosting are both sweet. You can substitute fresh whipped cream, it’s just not as stable as a whipped topping.

  2. I am making this cake but I have a larger can of oranges It would be helpful if accurate measurement of oranges minus juice I am going to wing it today because it is for my husband for fathers day tomorrow Many recipes use the can size but it is just not the best way Maybe 15oz can/??cup for recipes thanx your recipes look great want to try a bunch

    1. The recipe clearly states a 15 ounce can plus 1/2 cup of reserved juice. I don’t know what’s confusing about that, it’s about as accurate as it gets. If you “wing it” that’s your choice, of course.

  3. I am baking this cake in an electric oven for the first time as opposed to a gas oven and my question is what temperature do I set it and how long do I bake it for

  4. My mom got this recipe many years ago while traveling in the South. We love it here in New England too.

      1. 5 stars
        Wow Melissa i also live in a little place called Watha in N.C. I know this recipe of yours for the pig picking cake is the best I have ever tried to bake its great.Thanks so much.Some of the questions people ask makes me wonder if they need to be cooking lol.Jave a Blessed Day Melissa

      2. Hi James, thanks so much for visiting and for your kind comment. I’m delighted you loved this cake! (And, thanks also for the humor ☺)

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