Chocolate Orange Cake

While chocolate and orange might sound like an odd combo, it reminds me of being a kid. My Grandma always used to buy us chocolate oranges for the holidays, and they’re the inspiration behind this chocolate orange cake.

image of chocolate orange cake with slice in front on a plate showing how fluffy and tender the cake layers are

I wanted this cake to be just as decadent, and packed with chocolate and orange flavor.

To do that, I used one of my favorite chocolate cake recipes as a starting point. Then I tested out the best way to incorporate that bright, citrus flavor into this cake.

Packing This Orange Chocolate Cake with Citrus Flavor

This chocolate orange cake use pretty much every part of an orange! The cake batter is made with orange juice and orange zest, and the top is even decorated with orange peel spirals!

But the real secret to getting that amazing orange flavor into this cake is using an orange emulsion.

While an orange extract would also work, using an orange emulsion really steps up the flavor of this cake. Why, you ask? It has a secret ingredient. Citric acid!!

Now before you get creeped out by the sound of that, citric acid is made naturally by citrus fruits. It’s what gives them their tart, sour taste.

I find that both the cake batter and frosting have that wonderfully bright, citrus flavor when I use an orange emulsion.

Cake Flour vs. All-Purpose Flour

Now some of you might be asking, why self-rising cake flour?? Your recipes usually use all-purpose flour!

Cake flour makes baked goods that are fluffier and lighter, like angel food cake. They also give baked goods a finer crumb.

And that’s exactly what I was after with this cake. The chocolate orange frosting is pretty rich, and these light as air cake layers balance out the textures and flavors in this cake.

image of a plated slice of orange chocolate cake

Why Self-Rising Cake Flour is Your Best Friend

Now onto the self-rising part. Self-rising cake flour is pre-mixed, so salt and baking powder are already perfectly incorporated into the cake flour.

I love this because it helps you skip three steps.

Rather than getting out the ingredients, placing them a in a separate bowl, and whisking them together, you just use 3 cups of your self-rising cake flour. Viola!

Surprisingly, my neighborhood grocery store ONLY carries the self-rising type of cake flour. If you forgot to grab some at the store or can’t find any, don’t worry.

image of flour being leveled in a measuring cup

How To Make Your Own Self-Rising Cake Flour

For every cup of self-rising flour that this recipe calls for, measure out 1 cup of cake flour, then add 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder.

Or if you are more of a metrics person, here’s the same formula in grams.

You can swap 100 grams of self-rising flour with 100 grams of cake flour, plus 5 1/2 grams baking powder and 1 gram salt. 

Substitutions and Swaps – Chocolate Orange Cake

This chocolate orange cake recipe use quite a few ingredients and I know you might not have all of them on hand. Or if you have food allergies or restrictions, I’ve got you covered.

image of orange chocolate cake decorated with a chocolate drip

Below are some swaps and substitutions that you can make:

  • Self-Rising Cake Flour – To make your own self-rising cake flour, measure out 3 cups of cake flour, then add 3/4 teaspoon salt and 1 Tbsp baking powder.
  • Granulated Sugar – I do not recommend reducing the amount of sugar or changing the type of sugar, as it will change the texture of the cake layers.
  • Eggs – If you have an egg allergy you can use 4 flaxseed eggs or 1 cup of unsweetened applesauce + 1 extra Tbsp baking powder
  • Unsalted Butter – If you only have salted butter on hand you can use it in place of the unsalted butter. You can also use vegan butter in its place!
  • Orange Juice – If you don’t have orange juice you can use warm water instead.
  • Buttermilk – You can also use full fat yogurt, sour cream, whole milk, or an alternative yogurt or milk (almond, soy, oat) if you’re dairy free.
  • Orange Emulsion – If you can’t get a hold of orange emulsion, you can use orange extract or vanilla extract in its place. The orange flavor won’t be quite as strong, but it’ll still taste great.

Substitutions and Swaps – Orange Chocolate Frosting

  • Unsalted Butter – If you only have salted butter on hand you can use it in place of the unsalted butter. You can also use vegan butter in its place!
  • Heavy Cream – Whole milk or alternative milk (soy, almond, oat) will work fine in this frosting recipe if that’s what you have on hand.
  • Orange Emulsion – If you can’t get a hold of orange emulsion, you can use orange extract or vanilla extract in its place. The orange flavor won’t be quite as strong, but it’ll still taste great.
  • Cocoa Powder – If you’re out of cocoa powder, you can use additional powdered sugar in its place.
  • Dark Chocolate – you can use milk, dark or semi-sweet chocolate to make this chocolate frosting! Just be sure it’s a good quality chocolate, so it will melt down smoothly.
image of dark chocolate orange buttercream frosting in a bowl

Tips for Making the Best Orange Chocolate Cake:

  • Don’t overmix your batter! Mix on the speed the recipe recommends until the cake flour is just combined.
  • Be sure to properly measure your flour! Either spoon it into the cup measure, then level with a knife or use a kitchen scale.
  • Make sure your ingredients are at room temperature to help them mix together better.
  • Don’t level your cake layers until they are completely cooled.
  • Use an orange emulsion to really pack this cake with citrus flavor!
  • Spread a layer of orange marmalade on top of each cake layer before adding the frosting. It makes the cake layers even more moist!
  • Use a frosting comb to create a fun pattern around your cake.
  • This recipe can also be used to make four, 6″ cake layers! They will need slightly longer to bake, and I recommend baking them at 325F for 33-36 minutes.
  • One batch of batter can be also be used to make one 9×13 inch orange chocolate sheet cake. Bake it at 325F for 40-50 minutes.
  • Make this orange chocolate cake vegan or dairy free! Use your favorite type of dairy free milk to replace the buttermilk and heavy cream, vegan butter sticks in place of the butter, and flax seed eggs.

Making These Cake Layers in Advance and Storage Tips:

  • Make your cake layers in advance and freeze them. It breaks the process up and make it more approachable.
  • Make your frosting ahead of time too, or save any leftover frosting! It can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a month, or in the freezer for up to 3 months. Be sure to give it a good stir once it thaws to get the consistency nice and smooth again.
  • A frosted cake can last in the fridge for up to a week, or in the freezer for up to a month. The ganache locks in all the moisture, keeping the cake fresh and delicious!
  • If you cut into the cake and have leftovers, use any remaining ganache to cover the cut section to keep it moist and store in the fridge for up to a week.
image of chocolate orange cake made with chocolate orange buttercream frosting

Let Me Know What You Think

If you try this chocolate orange cake recipe, please tag me @chelsweets, and use the #chelsweets, so I can see your beautiful creations!!

Also leave a comment below, and a rating to let me know your thoughts.

Other Recipes You Might Like:

Yield: 24

Chocolate Orange Cake

image of chocolate orange cake made with chocolate orange buttercream frosting

This chocolate orange cake is packed with citrus flavor! It's made with tender chocolate orange cake layers that are filled with a decadent orange chocolate frosting.

Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 33 minutes
Additional Time 45 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 48 minutes

Ingredients

Orange Chocolate Cake

Chocolate Orange Buttercream Frosting

  • 1 1/2 cups (or 3 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature (339 grams)
  • 1 tsp orange emulsion or orange extract (5 grams)
  • 2 Tbsp fresh orange zest - about 1 large orange (18 grams)
  • 1/2 tsp salt (3 grams)
  • 3 cup powdered sugar (375 grams)
  • 1 cup dark cocoa powder (100 grams)
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream (115 grams)
  • 2 cups melted milk or dark chocolate, cooled (330 grams)

Optional Filling & Garnish

Instructions

Chocolate Orange Cake Layers

  1. Begin by preheating the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit or 165 degrees Celsius.
  2. Line three 8-inch pans with parchment rounds and spray with non-stick baking spray.
  3. Add 1 cup unsalted butter and 2 1/2 cups of sugar into the bowl of a stand mixer and mix on high for 1 minute with a whisk attachment or a hand mixer. The mixture should become light in color.
  4. Add in 4 large eggs, two at a time. Mix on medium high until they're fully incorporated.
  5. In a separate bowl, combine the 1 cup orange juice, 1 cup of buttermilk, 1 cup of black cocoa, 2 Tbsp of fresh orange zest, and 2 tsp orange emulsion or extract. Whisk until no clumps remain.
  6. Next, mix 1 cup of self-rising cake flour into the butter/egg mixture on a low speed. Scrape the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula to make sure the flour gets fully mixed in.
  7. Pour in half of the orange juice/cocoa mixture and gently pulse the mixture at first to incorporate the liquid (if you don't, you'll end up splattering the cocoa mixture all over you kitchen!). Then mix on low until incorporated.
  8. Repeat with another cup of cake flour followed by the remaining orange juice/cocoa mixture, scraping the sides of the bowl as needed.
  9. Add in the 3rd cup of self-rising cake flour and mix on low until the flour is just incorporated. Scrape the sides as needed. You want to be careful not to overmix the batter or else you'll end up with dense cake layers!
  10. Pour the batter evenly between the prepared cake pans. I like to use a kitchen scale to ensure each pan has exactly the same amount of batter.
  11. Bake for 32-35 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.
  12. Allow the layers to cool in the pans for about 10 minutes, then run an offset spatula around the edge of the pans to help separate the layers from the pans.
  13. Once the layers are fully cooled, carefully flip the pans and remove the layers from the pans.
  14. Use a serrated knife to level the tops of the layers, then set aside.

Chocolate Orange Buttercream Frosting

  1. While the cake layers bake and cool, make the chocolate orange buttercream frosting.
  2. Beat 1 1/2 cups of unsalted butter on a medium speed for 30 seconds with a paddle or whisk attachment until smooth. 
  3. Mix in 1 tsp orange emulsion or extract, 2 Tbsp fresh orange zest and 1/2 tsp salt on a low speed.
  4. Slowly add in 3 cup powdered sugar on at a time.
  5. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl as need with a rubber spatula.
  6. Add 1/2 cup of heavy cream half through adding in the powdered sugar to make it easier to mix.
  7. Mix in 1 cup dark cocoa powder on a low speed.
  8. Pour in 2 cups of cooled, melted chocolate.
  9. Beat on low until the ingredients are fully incorporated and the desired consistency is reached.
  10. If the frosting is too thick, add an extra Tbsp of heavy cream. If it's too thin, add in another 1/4 cup of powdered sugar. Repeat until the frosting is the right consistency.
  11. Stir by hand with a rubber spatula to get the frosting SUPER smooth. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside.

Assembling This Orange Chocolate Cake:

  1. If possible, chill your cake layers in the freezer for 20 minutes before assembling the cake. It makes them cold to the touch, which minimizes crumbing and makes them so much easier to frost and stack them.
  2. Spread about 1 Tbsp of orange chocolate frosting onto a greaseproof cake board or plate, then place your first cake layer on top of frosting smear. This helps the layer stay in place as you assemble the cake.
  3. Spread 1/4 cup of orange marmalade directly onto the cake layer, being careful not pull up too many crumbs.
  4. Spread an even layer of orange chocolate frosting on top of marmalade with a large offset spatula.
  5. Repeat with the remaining cake layers, being sure to flip the top cake layer upside down (cut side down). This makes it easier to get sharp edges on your cake!
  6. Cover the cake in a thin coat of chocolate orange frosting. Smooth using a bench scraper, then chill the cake in the fridge (10 minutes) or freezer (5 minutes) until the frosting is firm to the touch.
  7. Add a second, thicker layer of orange chocolate frosting to the cake, and smooth using a bench scraper or icing comb. I chose to use an icing comb to give the sides of the cake a bit of texture.
  8. Decorate as desired! I chose add a partial chocolate ganache drip, and used some candied orange slices, orange spirals, and orange zest to decorate the top of the cake.

Notes

Make your cake layers in advance and freeze them! It breaks the process up and make it more approachable.

Make your frosting ahead of time too, or save any leftover frosting! It can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a month, or in the freezer for up to 3 months. Be sure to give it a good stir once it thaws to get the consistency nice and smooth again.

A frosted cake can last in the fridge for up to a week, or in the freezer for up to a month. The buttercream locks in all the moisture, keeping the cake fresh and delicious!

If you cut into the cake and have leftovers, use any remaining frosting to cover the cut section to keep it moist and store in the fridge for up to a week.

Nutrition Information

Yield

24

Serving Size

1

Amount Per Serving Calories 361Total Fat 14gSaturated Fat 7gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 5gCholesterol 68mgSodium 129mgCarbohydrates 56gFiber 2gSugar 47gProtein 4g

8 thoughts on “Chocolate Orange Cake

  1. This looks absolutely amazing … reminds me of a visit to France! I can’t wait for the perfect occasion to make this beautiiful cake (with the candied orange peels and marmalade, of course). Thank you, Chelsweets.com!

  2. I’m excited to try this because I think the flavors would pair well, I did have a question about if orange blossom water would work in place of the orange emulsion?

  3. what happens if I leave out the coco powder and dont want it chocolate. can this recipe be the base of just a orange cake? should I add more flour if I remove the coco powder?

  4. Just put the cake in the oven and I am looking through the ingredients to make the buttercream. Can 1cup cocoa and two cups of melter chocolate be correct? Please respond. Curious in Colorado

Let me know what you think!