A Celebratory Cake That’s Sweet Music To Your Mouth

In his final column, the author not only takes the cake, but bakes it.

Fall, 2022 / No. 50
Brian Francis

I know it’s a cliché to say that all good things must come to an end. So, I’ll modify that phrase and say that all good things made with saturated fat and sorbitan monostearate must come to an end. 

For my final Taddle Creek column, I can’t think of a better way to sail off into those fluffy Cool Whip clouds than by combining two of my favourite things: cake and country music. Now look, I realize I may not seem like your average country and western fan. But believe me—nothing melts my margarine more than some skillfully placed rhinestones, a few rows of fringe, and bleached hair piled so high it hits the chandelier as you tush-push past. 

So it’s only fitting my parting gift to you is the delicious down-home goodness of Barbara Mandrell’s Pig Out Cake. This cake is also sometimes referred to as Pig Pickin’ Cake, which sounds like it’s made with pork. Or that you eat it with your fingers. For any millennials reading this, Barbara Mandrell is an American country singer whose hits include “I Was Country When Country Wasn’t Cool” and “Sleeping Single in a Double Bed.” She also had a television variety show in the eighties, alongside her sisters, Irlene and Louise. Clearly, Barbara was a triple threat: singer, musician, and baker extraordinaire.

I got this recipe from my copy of National Mfg. Co. 1901–2001 Centennial Cookbook. Although most of the recipes seem to be American, there’s also a Swift Current, Saskatchewan, contingent. Those recipes are marked with a maple leaf icon and include such staples as Tourtiere Saskatchewan Style and Oreo Salad. I was curious about what the National Manufacturing Company actually makes. Can you even think of a less specific company name? It’s like something you’d see in a Looney Tunes episode.

As to why Barbara Mandrell’s Pig Out Cake bears her name, I have absolutely no idea. It could be that the recipe was once featured in the pages of TV Guide. Back in the day, numerous A-List celebrities would submit their favourite recipes (via their publicists, no doubt) so that common people could eat just like them. Who could say no to Tom Selleck’s Beefy Lasagna? Or Loni Anderson’s Weeknight Taco Bake? In any case, I can only guess that Barbara considers having this cake named after her more fulfilling than winning her two Grammy Awards. Make no mistake. This cake is sweet music to your mouth. And you’ll be hollering “Sooey!” as soon as you dig in.  

What makes Barbara Mandrell’s Pig Out Cake so tasty is the hit of citrus from the (canned) mandarin oranges and the (canned) crushed pineapple in the frosting. The Cool Whip lends an air of sophistication as well. And I’m always charmed by cake recipes that list “1 box cake mix” in their ingredients. I know it may seem redundant, but I think of powdered cake mix as the rich soil from which Mother Nature’s bounty blooms.

One important note: If you make this cake (and you should), try to make it a few days ahead of time. The longer it sits in the fridge, the better it tastes. I think it’s the juices from the mandarin oranges seeping into the cake. Or the hydrogenated coconut and palm kernel oil from the Cool Whip. You’ll see what I mean by Day 3. If you can last that long. Just like yours truly, this cake only improves with age. 

I hope you enjoy Barbara Mandrell’s Pig Out Cake as much as I’ve enjoyed bringing you these recipes over the past four years. I’ve had a lot of fun, put on a few pounds, and consumed so many preservatives, I’ll look fifty when I’m ninety. Until next time, pardner.

Barbara Mandrell’s Pig Out Cake

1 box yellow cake mix
½ cup vegetable oil
4 eggs
2 284-millilitre cans mandarin oranges, drained (but save the juice)

1 540-millilitre can crushed pineapple with juice
1 102-gram package instant vanilla pudding
½ 1-litre container Cool Whip


1. Add enough water to the mandarin orange liquid required for the cake mix. 

2. Add the oil and eggs. 

3. Mix well according to package directions and fold in the mandarin oranges. 

4. Bake in a nine-inch-by-thirteen-inch cake pan at 325 degrees Fahrenheit for thirty-five minutes.

5. Mix ingredients for frosting and spread over cooled cake. Store in the refrigerator overnight or longer. But not too much longer. Not like a year or anything.