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Chocolate Orange Cake

This Chocolate Orange Cake is a moist, chocolatey layer cake with the tang of fresh orange flavor and a delicious, fluffy buttercream. It’s easy to make, using basic ingredients and tastes incredible!

Chocolate orange cake on white cake stand with orange slices decoratively placed on top.
Chocolate and orange is a classic much loved flavor!

Why you will love this recipe!

Chocolate and orange is a classic flavor that is adored by many. Orange complements chocolate so well. The citrusy tang adds such brightness to the intense richness of chocolate and this cake is an excellent example of that!

Finely grated orange zest in both the cake and the frosting provides an amazing orange tang courtesy of all the fragrant oils in the orange skin. But the natural orange flavor is doubled up with freshly squeezed orange juice for extra zing!

A really good cake is not just about the flavor; a cake has to be moist and this one certainly is! This cake recipe uses both butter and oil for a very good reason. Lots of cake recipes rely on butter for taste and flavor. 

However adding oil to cake batter (like in my Cannoli Cake) creates a lighter and more even texture than just butter. Plus butter solidifies when cooled, whereas oil remains liquid which means the cake will be more tender even when chilled. This Chocolate Orange cake is so flavorful, that compromising a little buttery flavor by adding oil isn’t a problem.

While plain chocolate cakes are popular, how do you make chocolate flavored cake better? As well as this chocolate orange cake recipe, I have a few wonderful variations. Try my Chocolate Caramel Cake, Mocha Cake or this decadent Torta Caprese that combines chocolate and almonds.

This orange chocolate cake recipe is, in my opinion, one of the BEST chocolate cake variations. It’s soft and moist with a zing of freshly squeezed orange juice and richness of chocolate. The chocolate orange buttercream is creamy and the ideal combination of the two main flavors. If you’re a choc-orange fan then this is the cake for you! 

Ingredients

Ingredients to make the recipe prepared on a wooden board.
  • Unsalted Butter – Be sure to have the butter at room temperature so that it will combine well. Use salted butter if that’s all you have. However, omit added salt.
  • Light Flavored Oil – My preference is light olive oil but you can use sunflower or canola oil. 
  • Oranges – You’ll need two large oranges for this Chocolate Orange Cake. If the oranges are small, you may need more. Finely zest the oranges before juicing. I prefer fresh oranges rather than orange extract but at a pinch use a few drops of pure orange oil in place of the zest.
  • Eggs – The most important thing is to have the eggs at room temperature. I do like free range eggs but use whatever you have.
  • Granulated White Sugar – I like to use superfine because it dissolves so easily but use regular if that’s all you have.
  • All Purpose Plain Flour – Regular wheat flour is what you need for this recipe. A little baking powder and baking side will be added to leaven the cake.
  • Unsweetened Cocoa Powder – Natural cocoa powder is what I have used in the Chocolate Orange Cake as opposed to used Dutch processed cocoa. It will work with the baking soda as well as the buttermilk to create a perfectly risen cake. Be sure to use quality cocoa powder.
  • Baking Powder – Be sure to use fresh baking powder. If you haven’t used it in over a year, buy a fresh container.
  • Baking Soda – Also known as bicarbonate of soda. Don’t mix it up with baking powder which is different.
  • Salt – Just a little salt enhances the chocolate flavor. 
  • Buttermilk – If you don’t want to (or can’t) purchase buttermilk, substitute ¾ of whole milk to which you’ve added 2 teaspoons of lemon juice or white vinegar. Just let it sit for 10 minutes and you have homemade buttermilk!
  • Powdered Sugar – You can’t have frosting without sugar and in this case it’s simple powdered sugar. If it’s lumpy, be sure to sieve it.

Instructions

Before preparing the cake batter, preheat the oven to 340ºF/170ºC.  Butter two 8 inch round cake pans (20 cm), line the bases and flour the sides. Tap out any excess flour.

If necessary, sieve or whisk any of the dry ingredients that have clumps.

Two step process images showing how to make this cake.
  1. Place all the cake ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer. Beat slowly to incorporate for 30 seconds. Scrape the sides of the bowl then beat on medium high for 3 minutes until light and creamy.
  2. Divide evenly among the two prepared cake pans and bake for 30-35 minutes in the preheated oven. 

Cool in the pans for 10 minutes, then cool completely on a wire rack.

Use a stand mixer or hand held electric mixer to prepare the chocolate orange buttercream and have ready a serving plate that easily fits the cake.

Four step process shots showing how to make buttercream and frost the cake.
  1. Beat the butter until creamy.  Add the orange zest and beat again
  2. Add the powdered sugar, cocoa powder and water. Beat to combine on low speed then increase speed and beat until light and fluffy.
  3. Level the tops of the cakes by cutting the domed top with a serrated knife.
  4. On the serving plate, sandwich the two cakes together with the frosting. Then completely cover the top and side with the remaining frosting and decorate as you like.

Tips for Success and FAQ’s

A two layer chocolate cake on white stand with two slices on two white plates.

Always preheat your oven properly. It should be one of the first things you do when you begin baking. Learn to understand your oven and how long it takes to come to the correct temperature.

I recommend that you line the bases of the 8 inch cake pans with parchment paper. After all, the last thing you want is making this super tasty cake only to have it stuck in the pan.

You’ll need to have the ingredients at a cool room temperature. This is important because when the fats and other ingredients are beaten together they make an emulsion. The emulsion traps and creates tiny pockets of air which expand in the hot oven making a light textured cake.

Having the butter at a cool room temperature is also important when preparing the frosting. Trying to beat cold, hard butter is difficult and it won’t cream correctly. If you haven’t taken it out of the fridge in advance, cut the butter into thin slices so that it quickly reaches room temperature. Butter that is melted or extremely soft won’t hold air either.

I can’t stress enough that measuring the flour correctly is very important. If you have scales, use those to measure the flour. If not, stir the flour to loosen and fluff it up. Then spoon the flour into cups without packing it down and level off with a butter knife.

Cocoa powder has a tendency to clump. If it has, be sure to sieve or whisk it to make it lump free! Actually, all dried ingredients like flour, baking powder and baking soda can be lumpy. In that’s the case, sieve or whisk those.

If the buttercream is too thick, adjust with a little more orange juice. If it’s too thin, add a little more powdered sugar.

To make frosting easier, refrigerate the unfrosted cakes overnight. If you don’t have time it’s not critical but it will make your life easier. The cakes will be more firm, you’ll be able to trim the tops and frost a lot more easily.

If you’ve stored the Chocolate Orange Cake in the fridge, bring it to room temperature for an hour before serving. The flavors are much more pronounced than if the cake was completely chilled.

Why does my cake fall flat after rising?

There could be a few reasons why this would happen. If this happens during cooking, check the oven temperature with an oven thermometer. Incorrect temperature causes a sudden rise and then the cake falls back on itself.  Also, if you’ve opened the oven and the cake gets a sudden rush of cold air when it’s not set, it may fall.
If the cake falls after removing from the oven, it means the cake wasn’t properly cooked. Check that the cake is cooked through by inserting a skewer or a thin knife into the center. If it comes out clean, it’s done.

How to decorate Chocolate Orange Cake?

There are endless possibilities to decorate this cake. Use orange chocolate, chocolate flakes, orange slices or zest and your imagination. If you have leftover buttercream, pipe it in decorative swirls and top with fine shreds of orange zest or a quarter of a thin slice of orange. I like to use orange chocolates and candied orange slices. To twist the orange slices as in the photos, make a slit from the edge to the middle of the slice then twist and press into the frosting.

Can this cake be frozen?

Yes! Wrap unfrosted cake layers well in plastic wrap, then slip into zip lock bags and freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw in the fridge overnight then frost as in the recipe. 
To freeze frosted cake, place the cake in the freezer for 1-2 hours until the frosting is hard. Then wrap it in two layers of plastic wrap and return to the freezer for up to 3 months. Thaw in the fridge overnight.
Leftover slices of cake can also be frozen. Wrap well in two layers of plastic wrap, pop into an airtight container and freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw in the fridge overnight.

Storage

To store, place the frosted Chocolate Orange Cake in a sealed container and refrigerate for up to 3 days. If your house is cool, the cake may be stored at room temperature.

Serving Suggestions

Close up of slice of two layer chocolate cake on white plate with gold fork.

This Chocolate Orange Cake is ideal served as part of a delicious celebration meal. Start with Bruschetta with Mozzarella followed by Italian Chicken Cutlets and a fresh Mediterranean Cucumber Salad and complete the meal with slices of this decadent cake and a dollop of Mascarpone Cream

More Recipes Like This

Tosca Cake – this cake has a tasty almond, baked-on topping.

Date Nut Bread – a quick, moist bread full of dates and nuts.

Lemon Yogurt Cake – an Italian favorite.

German Plum Cake – a tender coffee cake topped with plums and streusel.

brown frosted cake on white cake stand with orange slices decoratively placed on top.

Chocolate Orange Cake Recipe

A moist, chocolatey two layer cake with the tang of fresh orange flavor and a delicious, fluffy buttercream.
5 from 39 votes
Print Pin Review
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 35 minutes
Cooling Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
Total Time: 2 hours 35 minutes
Servings:12 slices
Author: Marcellina

Ingredients

  • 2 ¼ cups (290 grams) all purpose plain flour
  • 1⅔ cups (340 grams) granulated white sugar can be increased to 2 cups if you prefer more sweet
  • ¾ cup (53 grams)unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • Pinch salt
  • 3 ounces (85 grams) unsalted butter at room temperature
  • cup (40 mls) light flavored oil
  • 3 eggs at room temperature
  • ¾ cup (90 mls) buttermilk at cool room temperature
  • ½ cup (60 mls) fresh orange juice
  • 2 tablespoons finely grated orange zest

Chocolate Orange Buttercream

  • 1 cup (230 grams) unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
  • 4 ½ cups (540 grams) powdered sugar
  • cup (66 grams) unsweetened cocoa powder Dutch processed is best
  • 4 tablespoons orange juice
  • Candied orange slices and orange chocolate to decorate

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 340ºF/170ºC. Butter two 8 inch (20cm) round cake pans, line the bases and flour the sides. Tap out any excess flour.
  • In the bowl of a stand mixer, place the flour, granulated white sugar, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Whisk to combine and break up any lumps. If the cocoa is particularly lumpy, pass it through a sieve beforehand.
  • Add the remaining ingredients to the bowl.
  • Turn the mixer on to a low speed to just combine all the ingredients.
  • Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl.
  • Turn the mixer on medium speed and beat for 3 minutes or until light in color and creamy.
  • Divide evenly among the two prepared cake pans and bake for 30-35 minutes in the preheated oven. The cakes will be ready when slightly risen, just coming away from the sides and a skewer inserted comes out clean.
  • Cool in the pans for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack. Use a second wire rack to flip each cake so that the top is the right way up and allow to cool completely before frosting.

Chocolate Orange Buttercream

  • Beat the butter until creamy then add the orange zest and beat until fluffy and light – about 2 minutes.
  • Sieve the powdered sugar and cocoa and add to the creamed butter along with the orange juice.
  • Beat on low speed for 30 seconds, then increase to high speed and beat for 1-2 minutes or until fluffy.

Assemble the Chocolate Orange Cake

  • Once the cakes have cooled completely, use a serrated knife to level the cakes if they have domed on top.
  • Place the first cake on a serving plate the right side up.
  • Spread about a generous cup of the frosting on top of the cake, spreading it evenly and pushing it so that it just goes over the edge.
  • Place the second cake upside down on the frosting so that the top is perfectly flat.
  • Use a long metal spatula to spread the remaining frosting evenly all over the cake. You can smooth the frosting or give it a textured look like I have.
  • Decorate the top with alternate candied orange slices and chocolate orange wedges or your choice of topping. To twist the orange slices as in the photos, make a slit from the edge to the middle of the slice then twist and press into the frosting.
  • Serve immediately or cover and store in the fridge for up to 3 days. For best taste and texture, allow the cake to come to room temperature for an hour before serving.

Notes

Tips for Success
  • Always preheat your oven properly.
  • Line the bases of the cake pans with parchment paper.
  • Have ingredients at a cool room temperature.
  • Measure the flour correctly is very important. See the information above for details.
  • Sieve or whisk dry ingredients if necessary.
  • If the buttercream is too thick, adjust with a little more orange juice. If it’s too thin, add a little more powdered sugar.
  • Cool the cake completely before frosting.
  • Bring Chocolate Orange Cake to room temperature for an hour before serving.
Remember that fresh squeezed orange juice makes all the difference to the flavor!
For more Tips and FAQ’s see the post above.
Tried this recipe? Give it a star rating and leave a comment below!

Nutritional Estimate Per Serving

Calories: 559kcal | Carbohydrates: 72g | Protein: 7g | Fat: 31g | Saturated Fat: 15g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 3g | Monounsaturated Fat: 10g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 98mg | Sodium: 84mg | Potassium: 324mg | Fiber: 5g | Sugar: 46g | Vitamin A: 771IU | Vitamin C: 10mg | Calcium: 79mg | Iron: 3mg

Nutritional Disclaimer

Nutritional information is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. For accurate results, it is recommended that the nutritional information be calculated based on the ingredients and brands you use.

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11 Comments

  1. Hi Marcellina, I’m just querying the measurements of the buttermilk and the orange juice before I make it. Shouldn’t the 3/4 cup be 175ml and 1/2 cup 125ml for Aust. measurements?

    1. With a large US readership, I use US measurements for all my recipes. This will still work if you use Australia metric cups or metric measurements. If it’s something that will make a difference like baking powder, I will specify.

  2. 5 stars
    Always a tasty combination of flavours. This is perfect for dessert and even special occasions. I have a few chocolate lovers in the family.

  3. 5 stars
    Chocolate and orange are some of my favorites. I love how they pair so great in this cake!

  4. This is so interesting! I always make chocolate moist cake but did not think of adding oranges in it.:) I would love to try this and share it with my family. Thank you!:)

  5. 5 stars
    I made this for a family gathering recently and we really, really liked it! Fabulous recipe, can’t wait to make again.

  6. This looks wonderful, Marcellina. And I don’t even have much of a sweet tooth. Totally agree, orange and chocolate were meant for each other.