Recipe: Tequila Sunrise Layer Cake!

I’ve popped Tequila Sunrise Cake on the reader “Next Entry” poll over on my Patreon page for a couple of months now, and it just cannot seem to win. It always gets second place, forever hovering at the edge of becoming a reality. I felt bad for this lonely little confection and decided to make it anyway.

The Tequila Sunrise is certainly one of the prettiest cocktails, and in my opinion it’s also incredibly tasty. My cake interpretation features an orange chiffon cake brushed with tequila, an orange Italian buttercream, and a pomegranate curd filling. For those who didn’t know, grenadine is traditionally made with pomegranate.

This cake is super, super moist and fresh with the taste of citrus. Because it’s a chiffon cake with a soft filling, I wouldn’t recommend this recipe for tiered cakes. However, it’s quite wonderful as a one-tier. The pastel gradient effect is really lovely and makes it striking even without a garnish. I opted to garnish this cake with macarons because I had them around. If you want to make some macaron shells, check out my recipe! Just fill them with leftover pomegranate curd and you’re all set.


ORANGE CHIFFON CAKE (adapted from Taste of Home)
4 egg yolks
200g (1 cup) sugar
1/2 tsp salt
120ml (1/2 cup) orange juice
80ml (1/3 cup) vegetable oil
Zest of 1 orange
1/2 tsp. orange oil
170g (1 1/2 cups) all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
5 egg whites
1/2 tsp. cream of tartar

1. Preheat your oven to 175°C/350°F. Line the bottoms of 3 6″ cake pans with parchment, but do not grease them.
2. Combine the egg yolks and 1/2 the sugar in a bowl and beat until lightened in color. Add the orange zest, orange oil, vegetable oil and orange juice and mix to combine. sift together the flour, salt and baking soda and add to the yolk mixture. Beat until just combined.
2. In a separate bowl and with clean beaters, combine the cream of tartar and egg whites and beat until foamy. Continue to beat, adding the remaining sugar a little at a time as you do so. Beat until you achieve medium peaks. Carefully fold the egg white into the orange batter, taking care not to deflate it. Split the batter between the 3 pans and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove the cakes from the oven and cool them upside down on a cooling rack (still in the pan). Once the cakes have cooled completely, run a knife along the sides to loosen the cake from the edges and then depan.

150ml (1/3) cup fresh squeezed orange juice
Zest of 1/2 orange
120ml (1/4 cup) tequila
150g (3/4 cup) sugar

1. Combine the orange juice, zest and sugar in a microwave safe bowl and microwave for 1-2 minutes to heat it. Stir until the sugar has dissolved. If the sugar is not dissolving fast enough, it’s fine to heat it a bit longer. Finally, stir in the tequila.

150ml (1 cup) fresh squeezed orange juice
Zest of 1 lemon
4 egg whites (save the yolks to use in the curd!)
1 tbsp. lemon juice
1/2 tsp. orange flavoring oil
125g (1 1/3 cups) sugar
120ml (1/2 cup) water
500g (2 1/4 cups) butter, cubed and cool but softened slightly

1. Place the egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer and allow to come to room temperature. In a saucepan, boil the orange juice until it has reduced to less than 1/4 cup in volume. Set aside and allow to cool.
2. In a clean saucepan, combine the sugar with the water and bring to a boil. Place a candy thermometer into the sugar and continue to cook it until it reaches 240°F. Avoid stirring the sugar.
3. When the sugar reaches about 200°F, begin beating the egg whites on medium speed. If possible, try to time things so the egg whites have just reached peak stage when the sugar comes to the final temperature. With the mixer running, drizzle the hot syrup into your egg whites in a thin stream. Avoid hitting the beaters directly. Now beat the egg whites until they have reached room temperature (or are at least slightly warm rather than hot).
4. Add the butter bit by bit, beating well between each addition. Add the lemon juice, orange juice and orange oil.

NOTE: If you add the butter when the whites are still too warm, the icing will melt. If this happens, put your icing in the fridge for 15 minutes and attempt to whip it together again. Most problems with Italian buttercream can be solved by cooling the cream and continuing to beat it together.

300ml (1 1/3 cup) pomegranate juice, unsweetened
4 egg yolks
2-4 tbsp sugar (to taste)
15g (2 tbsp well-sifted/loosened) cornstarch
4 tbsp butter

1. In a saucepan, boil the pomegranate juice until its volume has reduced by 2/3 to 1/2. Allow to cool.
2. Combine the juice, yolks, sugar and cornstarch in a microwave safe bowl and whisk until smooth. Microwave 1 minute at a time, whisking vigorously between each addition, until the curd has thickened. If you have an immersion blender, it’s actually ideal for this!
3. Once the mixture has thickened, microwave it for an additional 30-60 seconds to cook out any starchy taste. Add the butter to the hot curd and mix to combine. Strain the curd through a sieve to eliminate any lumps, then place plastic wrap directly on top of it to avoid a skin forming. Chill completely in the fridge.

3 layers orange chiffon cake (recipe below)
Tequila syrup (recipe below)
Orange buttercream (recipe below)
Pomegranate curd (recipe below)
Orange and red food coloring

Piping bags
Turntable (optional, but extremely helpful)
1. If necessary, trim the tops of your cake layers to make them flat. Place one cake layer on your cake plate and use a pastry brush to lightly cover the top with tequila syrup. Fill some orange buttercream into a piping bag and pipe a ring around the edge of the cake to form a sort of dam for your filling. Spoon pomegranate curd into the center to sit level with the dam. Place the next cake layer on top and repeat the process. Top with the final cake layer. Brush the final layer with tequila syrup as well. (You will likely have leftover pomegranate curd and most definitely have leftover tequila syrup. But hey, who’s complaining?)

2. Crumb coat your cake. Ise some buttercream to thinly coat the entire cake in order to lock in any crumbs. Put the cake in the fridge to set the icing.
3. While the cake chills, color your remaining buttercream. First, dye all your buttercream light orange. Split off about half the buttercream and divide it into two bowls. Color one bowl with a drop of red food coloring to darken it, then dye the final bowl with a few drops of red to achieve a darker color. Fill all three icing colors into pastry bags.

4. Remove the firmed up cake from the fridge. Snip the ends off of your piping bags and use them to pipe on the icing. Do a few rows of the darkest color at the bottom, then a few of the medium color, and finally cover the whole rest of the cake with the light orange.
5. At this point you can smooth your cake with a spatula or you can choose to do a “rustic” finish like I did. For this finish, spin the cake on a turntable and gradually drag the tip of a spatula up the sides as the cake turns. If you are doing a smooth finish, be sure to smooth the icing in a horizontal direction rather than vertical so that the colors aren’t muddled too much.


IN THIS ENTRY (affiliate links):


  1. Marvelle says:

    Is two tablespoon of cornstarch correct for the curd recipe? After one minute in the microwave it was a thick paste and after the second minute it became a giant lump of unusable dough.

    I didn’t have enough pomegranate juice to try again, so I forewent the tequila syrup and just made an orange chiffon cake.

    • Katharina
      Katharina says:

      Oh no! That’s definitely an odd result.

      There are a number of factors at play here.

      1) The corn starch could have been packed too tightly, which sometimes happens in the starch container. I added a clarification to sift the starch just because your comment made me realize this could be an issue.
      2) If your juice had a higher sugar content than the one I used to develop the recipe, it could have resulted in a thicker reduction. My juice was still very much liquid even after the reduction, not syrupy at all.
      3) Even if the curd is too thick at first, adding the butter should definitely have loosened it up a lot. Did you get to that stage? What was the result?
      4) It’s also possible your microwave is a lot more powerful than mine and that it continued to boil off large amounts of liquid. It actually takes nearly 3 full minutes for mine to even cook through, so if yours was already a paste after 1 minute I can see how this would totally mess up the result. This was another thing I hadn’t considered! I changed the recipe to 30 second increments.

      Thank you for the feedback! You made me ponder a few possibilities for potential problems that I hadn’t thought of.

Leave a Reply