Recipe Review

I Tried the South’s Most Beloved “Pig Pickin’ Cake” and It’s the Smartest Box Mix Hack

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Pig pickin' cake
Credit: Kiersten Hickman

It may be cold out right now, but sunny summer days are just around the corner… and we’re already dreaming about it. Beach picnics, backyard barbecues and, of course, sipping a cold beverage and digging into a fruity summer dessert around a bonfire while listening to the crickets and watching fireflies. Can you picture it? Because I can, and to give myself a mere taste of sweet summer days, this week I had the chance to make a Pig Pickin’ Cake; a classic, refreshing Southern dessert that is ideal for these kinds of ethereal summer nights.

Before you get confused, let me clear something up; no, this cake does not in any way have anything to do with a pig. No bacon or ham here! The Pig Pickin’ Cake got its name because of when it was enjoyed; typically sliced up and served while guests waited for a whole hog to roast for their barbecue. Served with classic sides like macaroni salad, potato salad, and coleslaw, these “pig pickin’” dinners are a Southern Sunday tradition, and this cake is the typical go-to dessert.

So of course, I had to give it a try — because how could I say no?

Get the recipe: Pig Pickin’ Cake

Credit: Kiersten Hickman

How to Make Pig Pickin’ Cake

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Whisk together a box of yellow cake mix, 4 eggs, 1 (11 oz.) can of mandarin oranges with the juices, and 1/4 cup of vegetable oil.

Grease three 8-inch round cake pans. Pour an even amount of batter in each pan, smoothing the top out with a spatula.

Bake in the oven for 25 to 30 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Take the cake layers out and let them cool in the pans for a few minutes before removing to a rack to completely cool.

Once cooled, whisk together a container of frozen whipped topping (like Cool Whip or similar), 1 box of vanilla instant pudding mix, and 1 (15 oz.) can of drained crushed pineapple.

Place the first layer of the cake on your desired dish for serving. Spread a layer of your whipped pineapple topping, then place the second layer and repeat. Once the last layer is added, cover the outside of the cake with a thin layer of the pineapple topping. Don’t add too much or it will get gloopy!

Decorate the top with fresh slices of mandarin oranges, then serve.

My Honest Review

For starters, this cake was light and airy, which I absolutely loved. The whipped topping in place of the frosting was a pleasant change to the usual heavy buttercream, or even canned frosting, and I’m honestly a big fan.

I also really enjoyed the use of fruit in this cake. The mix of the oranges and the pineapple had me dreaming of sunny summer days with every bite. Again, I’m a big fan, I wasn’t complaining. I love a light dessert that isn’t overly sweet, and this cake is just that.

However, my only issue with this cake was how messy it got. The topping is clearly whipped cream and not a frosting, so it didn’t sit on the cake super well. I found giving it a super thin layer worked better for this cake. If I were to make it a second time, I would honestly skip adding any of the topping to the sides and simply layer it in the middle and add it on the top. I think even adding less pineapple to give this topping even thicker, pillowy peaks would really make this cake shine bright.

All in all, this cake certainly lives up to the name, and has me wondering how I can host my own “pig pickin’” dinner in a place like New York City. Even so, if I can’t roast a whole hog in the park, I do think this dessert is the perfect light, fruity sweet treat for summer cookouts and picnics alike. But maybe don’t leave it out too long — that topping will certainly melt!

Credit: Kiersten Hickman

3 Tips for Making Pig Pickin’ Cake

Keep the topping cold: This topping can get really soupy fast. For the best results, keep it as cold as possible. I highly recommend giving it that initial mix and letting it sit in the fridge to cool and stiffen before spreading it on the cake. It will make spreading much easier!

Skip frosting the sides if you have to: I admit, I kind of like this “deconstructed cake” look where the sides of a layer cake aren’t frosted. Especially with a light, pillowy topping such as this one. Feel free to skip it and simply layer the middle and the top with your pineapple whip.

Two layers work as well: I know that this cake says to use three layers, but honestly? I only had two cake pans at home! And guess what; it still tasted just as delicious, and baked perfectly fine in that same time frame. So if you only have two cake pans like me, don’t sweat it; it will still look and taste delicious.

Get the recipe: Pig Pickin’ Cake