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Last Updated on July 12, 2021 by Chenée Lewis
It’s no secret that I love the combination of chocolate and orange! Whether it’s in my chocolate orange shortbread cookies, my no-bake cannoli pie, my orange chocolate chip mini muffins, or just a Terry’s Chocolate Orange, I’m always looking for an excuse to combine these flavors! So it was just a matter of time until I made this chocolate orange cake recipe! And I’m so glad I did! This chocolate cake with orange is everything I love in a chocolate cake — a moist, tender crumb with fudgy chocolate flavor and a light, fluffy chocolate frosting, PLUS tons of amazing orange flavor to balance out the chocolate flavor so well!
Can I add orange zest to a chocolate cake?
Yes! We’re making this chocolate orange cake with orange zest AND orange juice to give it a bright, juicy orange flavor in addition to a deep chocolate flavor. And on top of that, we’re making a fluffy chocolate buttercream frosting with even more zest and juice. The frosting pairs so perfectly with this cake! I made this cake for my mom’s birthday this year and it was a BIG hit with everyone! Best of all, it’s as simple to make as any other chocolate cake! Just add some orange zest and juice! If you’re a fan of (or just curious about) the combination of chocolate and orange, you’ve GOT to try this cake!
- orange zest and juice – this is where our bold orange flavor comes in! I like to use a microplane zester to get the zest (the top layer of the rind) before juicing the oranges.
- granulated sugar – pressing the sugar and zest together in our first step brings out even more of that orange flavor in this chocolate orange cake!
- all-purpose flour – be sure you are measuring your flour correctly, or do what I do and use a kitchen scale.
- unsweetened cocoa powder – this is what gives the cake that rich chocolatey flavor. Cocoa powder is another ingredient that, like flour, is best measured by weight using a kitchen scale.
- espresso powder – a touch of espresso powder adds a depth to the chocolate flavor that makes this chocolate orange cake even more delicious!
- baking powder and baking soda – these leaveners give our chocolate orange cake a nice light texture.
- salt – brings out all these amazing flavors!
- vegetable oil – I typically use canola oil, but you can use any light-flavored oil for this chocolate orange cake.
- eggs – your eggs should be room temperature to make sure your cake mixes up nice and light.
- buttermilk – your buttermilk should also be room temperature to ensure the right texture for your cake. I like to use full-fat buttermilk, but if that’s not available, low-fat buttermilk works too. See below for a tip for a buttermilk substitute if you don’t have buttermilk!
- pure vanilla extract – I recommend using a high-quality pure vanilla extract. Or better yet, check out my post on how to make vanilla extract at home with just 2 ingredients!
Then, for the lovely chocolate orange frosting for this cake, you’ll need:
- salted butter – your butter should be room temperature. See below for a tip to get it to room temperature quickly! Also, if you prefer to use unsalted, just add in a few pinches of salt to your frosting to taste.
- powdered sugar – measure your powdered sugar by weight using a kitchen scale for the best accuracy, or use the spoon-and-level method.
- unsweetened cocoa powder – this will add even more delicious chocolate flavor to the frosting for this chocolate orange cake!
- pure vanilla extract – I like the way a bit of vanilla rounds out the flavors in this frosting.
- orange zest and juice – more of that delicious orange flavor!
You won’t need a mixer for the cake batter, but I do recommend using a stand mixer or hand mixer to whip up the frosting. Other than that, you’ll need two 8-inch cake pans, parchment paper, and your zester, and you’re ready to make this chocolate orange cake recipe!
Tips and F.A.Q.
If you don’t have buttermilk, feel free to use whole milk, replacing a tablespoon of the milk with vinegar. This will create the acidic effect of buttermilk to help your cake come out even more moist and tender.
For eggs, just submerge them in a bowl of lukewarm water for about 15 minutes.
For buttermilk, just place it in a microwave-safe mug and heat for 5 seconds at a time, stirring in between. Keep going until your buttermilk is room temperature.
And for butter, heat your three sticks of butter, wrapped, on a microwave-safe plate for 25 seconds, rotating each every 4 seconds.
The exact calorie count for this chocolate orange cake recipe will depend on the amount of frosting you use — the frosting recipe I’ve included will yield extra frosting (for decorations if needed). But my estimation is that one slice is about 651 calories. You can see the recipe card below for the full nutrition information, and view my nutrition disclaimer for more details on how I calculate nutrition facts.
You can, yes! I like to make this cake with orange zest for a bright, fresh orange flavor, but in a pinch orange extract is a great option! Just replace the orange zest in this recipe with 1½ tbsp of orange extract, and make the rest of your chocolate orange cake as usual!
More Cakes You’ll Love
Chocolate Orange Cake Recipe – Moist Chocolate Cake with Orange Zest and JuicePrint Pin Recipe Rate Recipe
Equipment you may need
- microplane grater/zester
- 3 tbsp (18 g) orange zest - packed
- 1 ¾ cup (350 g) granulated sugar
- 2 cup (250 g) all-purpose flour
- ¾ cup (75 g) unsweetened cocoa powder
- ½ tsp (1 g) espresso powder
- 1 ½ tsp (6 g) baking powder
- ½ tsp (2 g) baking soda
- ¾ tsp (5 g) salt
- ⅔ cup (158 ml) vegetable oil
- 2 large eggs - room temperature
- 1 cup (237 ml) full-fat buttermilk - room temperature
- 2 tsp (10 ml) pure vanilla extract
- 1 cup (237 ml) orange juice - freshly squeezed
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Line two 8-inch round cake pans with parchment paper and spray with baking spray.
- In a large bowl, whisk together sugar, zest, flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cocoa powder and salt. Press with a rubber spatula for 1 minute to release lemon oils.
- Stir in vegetable oil until dry ingredients are well coated, followed by eggs and vanilla.
- Stir in buttermilk until well combined. Batter should be thick.
- Heat orange juice in microwave for 45 seconds on high, or until hot. Immediately stir into batter and whisk until just smooth.
- Add batter evenly to prepared cake pans and bake in preheated oven for 35 minutes, or until a toothpick entered into the center of the cakes comes out smooth.
- Cool cake layers slightly in cake pans, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely before adding frosting.
Chocolate Orange Buttercream Frosting
- Cream together butter, zest, and cocoa powder in a large bowl using an electric mixer. Add vanilla and mix to combine.
- Gradually mix in powdered sugar and mix until thick and fluffy. Add orange juice and mix well. Spread over cooled cake.
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