This is my best ever recipe for an easy chocolate orange cake.
The recipe uses fresh orange zest and orange juice to flavour the cake for a deliciously real orange taste that goes beautifully with the chocolate. For this cake, I also use cocoa powder to give it a deliciously rich chocolate flavour.
The cake tastes so similar to Terry’s chocolate oranges – I’m in love! Chocolate and orange together is one of my all-time favourite flavor combinations.
The reason why this is the best chocolate orange cake recipe (or at least, I think so) is that it uses simple ingredients, is easy to make and tastes amazing. It has a zesty citrus flavor balanced with the rich chocolate flavor, in both the sponge layer cake as well as the ganache frosting!
✏️ Making a tasty and easy recipe
I started developing this recipe based on one of my favorite chocolate cake recipes. It’s a delicious chocolate cake that uses oil to keep it soft and moist. From there, I knew I wanted a cake that used real oranges in the recipe.
I tried a few different amounts and combinations of orange zest and juice until I found the right amount of zingy citrus flavour. The sharpness of the citrus helps to balance out the sweet chocolate for one delicious cake.
This easy recipe is a step up from my easiest ever Terry’s chocolate orange cupcakes recipe, which uses orange extract instead of real oranges. It also has a sweet orange buttercream frosting instead, which you can swap in for the chocolate orange ganache in this recipe if you’d prefer.
🥘 Ingredients notes
- As with many of my baking recipes, I recommend starting with room temperature ingredients before starting to make your chocolate orange cake. This will improve the consistency and ease at which your ingredients will mix together.
- Always sieve your flour, baking powder and cocoa powder. I used to be a bit lazy and skip this part, but it really makes such a difference to get you a lump-free cake batter!
- When measuring your ingredients, I always recommend using weights rather than cups where possible for greater accuracy. This is especially important for the amount of flour.
- Using high-quality ingredients for this cake recipe really makes a difference to your cake's taste. I love using Callebaut dark chocolate for the dark chocolate orange ganache in this recipe - such a delicious and intense chocolate flavor and it melts like a dream!
🔪 Equipment notes
- I like to use digital scales for weighing my ingredients as it's easier and more accurate than other scales. I'm a fan of the KitchenAid or Salter ones.
- It’s good to use measuring spoons for your tsp and tbsp amounts, as your standard teaspoon and tablespoon that you use to eat with won't be the correct volume. Make sure you level off any heaped scoops before adding the ingredient to your mix.
- If you're planning to use a stand mixer, I would recommend using the paddle attachment to make your chocolate orange cake batter. You can also get great results using a hand mixer if you don't have a stand mixer.
- I'd also recommend that you scrape down the sides of the bowl and the bottom of the bowl to ensure a more even mix when using a stand mixer. Also, I usually use a low speed on the stand mixer for this cake batter as it's very liquid.
- You can also get great results by using a medium bowl and hand mixer or even by hand using a wooden spoon or a fork if you don’t have an electric mixer.
- For easy smooth and level tops on your cake layers, you can use cake baking belts, sometimes called cake strips.
What cake pans should I use?
For this chocolate orange cake recipe, I use two 8-inch / 20cm round cake pans of the fixed base type as this is quite a liquid cake batter.
You can also use one deep 8-inch cake tin and cut this in half to create two layers. If doing this, you will need to cook your cakes on a reduced temperature for longer.
I like to grease and line my cake pans with parchment paper, either cutting my own circle out from the roll or buying the pre-made parchment paper rounds. I do this even when I’m using non-stick cake pans. This just helps to avoid any difficultly with getting your beautiful cake out after it’s finished baking.
Once decorated and finished, it's best to place your chocolate orange cake into an extra-large airtight container. Your cake should stay moist and fresh for up to 3 days stored in the fridge, or 1- 2 days at room temperature.
If it's hot where you live (lucky you!), you may want to store your cake in the fridge rather than at room temperature.
To freeze your cake, you can wrap pieces of your frosted chocolate orange cake in cling film / plastic wrap and a layer of foil to freeze. Your cake should keep for up to 2 months in the freezer.
Be sure to write the date you froze your cake pieces and what they are on the foil so you can keep track. I always forget otherwise!
💭 Top tips for success
- When making sponge cakes with raising agents (i.e. using self-raising flour, baking powder, etc.) such as this chocolate orange cake, try to not over-mix your cake batter. The texture of your cake will be dense rather than a light and airy sponge.
- I find that the best way to mix your ingredients is to slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients. This will help to reduce the lumps in your mixture and means you'll be less likely to overbeat your cake batter.
- I always position my cake pans in the centre of the oven on the middle shelf when possible. This usually gives a more even bake and my baking temperatures specified in the recipe are based on using this part of the oven.
- Don’t open the oven mid-bake. You’ll have probably heard this advice before, but it’s such an important factor that it bears repeating. I’ve been there before and nobody likes a cake with a sinkhole!
- You’ll know your chocolate orange cake is cooked once it's risen, springy to touch and an inserted toothpick or skewer comes out clean from the center of your cake.
- After baking your orange chocolate cake sponges, the best way to cool them is to leave them in the tins for 10mins to cool on your countertop first. Then you can remove them from the pans and let them cool on a wire rack. They might fall apart if you try to get them out of the pans straight away.
- Chocolate ganache can be a bit fussy and split or become grainy. Check out this great ganache recipe guide by Recipe Tin Eats for some brilliant ganache troubleshooting help.
If you’ve got any specific questions on making a delicious and simple chocolate orange cake, please feel free to leave a comment below and I’ll try my best to help out!
🎂 Decorating ideas
There are so many different ways you can decorate your chocolate orange cake. This might depend on what style you’re after and how much time you’ve got. Whichever method you choose, your chocolate orange cake will look beautiful proudly displayed on a cake stand and ready to feed your loved ones!
I load up my delicious chocolate orange cake with the ganache frosting between the layers of sponge and on top. You can smooth the ganache or make pretty patterns using an offset spatula or a knife and spoon.
You can also use your ganache around the sides of the cake but this is optional, especially if you don’t like too much sweetness with your cakes.
I usually love using orange peel, either candied or fresh to decorate this chocolate orange cake. Simply scatter a few pieces on top and you’ve got a simple yet decadent cake!
Another way I like to decorate this cake is to top it with pieces of Terry’s chocolate orange. This adds even more chocolatey goodness to your cake and is one of the quickest ways to decorate it. When doing this, I usually pipe big swirls of frosting on the cake in a ring around the edges, and then push the chocolate orange slices into each swirl or between them.
And finally, for a fully elegant look, you can add fresh slices of orange or blood orange to the top of your cake.
♻️ Alternatives and substitutions
For the chocolate orange ganache, I usually use dark chocolate, but if you prefer a less intense chocolate flavor, you can swap the dark chocolate for milk chocolate instead. To do this, you’ll instead need 450g milk chocolate and 175ml heavy cream.
I love the pure orange flavor of this chocolate cake, but if you’re a big vanilla fan you can also stir in 1tsp of vanilla extract to the cake batter before baking.
Can I substitute orange zest and juice for orange extract?
Yes, you can. Simply swap 2 orange’s zest and juice for 2 tsp of orange extract in the cake batter, and the 1 ½ orange’s zest for 1 tsp of orange extract in the chocolate orange frosting.
Self-raising flour option:
I usually use plain (all-purpose) flour in this chocolate orange cake recipe, but alternatively you can swap plain flour for self-raising flour of the same quantity (200g for a 2 layer 8-inch cake) and reduce the baking powder by 2 tsp.
For a gluten-free alternative, you can swap the plain / all-purpose flour in this recipe for a gluten-free plain flour blend of the same quantity.
The other ingredients in this chocolate orange cake recipe should be gluten-free, but please be sure to check the label on your ingredients just in case!
A top tip when baking a gluten-free cake is to beat your cake batter thoroughly and leaving it to stand for 30mins before pouring it into your prepared cake pans and baking them.
🧁 Other goodies
So, I definitely recommend that you whipup a deliciously soft and chocolate orange cake with dark chocolate orange ganache! But as an avid home baker, I’m sure you’re asking yourself “what next?”.
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Chocolate Orange Cake
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Chocolate Orange Cake:
- 140 ml (⅔ cups) vegetable oil (or other neutral oil e.g. sunflower or canola)
- 2 eggs
- 200 ml (¾ cups) milk (semi-skimmed or whole)
- 325 g (1 ⅔ cups) caster sugar
- 85 g (1 cups) cocoa powder
- 200 g (1 ⅔ cups) plain / all-purpose flour (see notes for self-raising flour swap)
- 3 ½ tsp baking powder
- 2 orange’s zest
- 100 ml (½ cups) fresh orange juice (juice of roughly 2 oranges)
Chocolate Orange Ganache:
- 300 g (1 ¾ cups) dark chocolate
- 325 ml (1 ⅓ cups) heavy cream
- 1 tbsp butter
- 1 ½ orange’s zest (finely zested)
Chocolate Orange Cake:
- Preheat oven: 180°C / 160°C (fan) / Gas Mark 4 / 350°F
- In a mixing bowl, beat the eggs, oil, sugar and milk together until fully combined.
- In a separate bowl, sieve in the cocoa powder, flour and baking powder, then add in the orange zest and whisk them together.
- Gradually pour the wet ingredients into the dry, stirring together as you pour until just combined. There may be a few small lumps left, but that’s ok.
- In a microwave safe bowl, heat the orange juice in the microwave for 30-60secs, then slowly add this into the cake batter, mixing as you pour until the liquid has only just combined.
- Divide the mixture evenly between the two greased and lined cake pans and bake for 25-30mins until risen, springy to the touch and a skewer comes out clean. Allow the cakes to cool in the tins for 10mins before moving to a wire rack to cool further.
Chocolate Orange Ganache:
- Whilst the cakes cool, start making the ganache. In a heatproof bowl, heat the cream over a double boiler or in the microwave (30 secs at a time) until almost boiling.
- Pour your hot cream over the chocolate and butter, letting this sit for 5mins before adding your orange zest and stirring until smooth.
- Let your ganache set for 30-45mins at room temperature, until it reaches a spreadable consistency more solid than liquid.
Assembly and Decoration:
- Once your cakes have cooled and your ganache has set, turn one sponge upside-down on a plate or cake stand and spread half your ganache over it until you have an even layer.
- Place your other sponge on top (right side up) and spread the remaining ganache over the top, smoothing until even.
- Decorate your cake with fresh orange slices, candied peel, zest or a chocolate drizzle, and enjoy!
- You can swap the plain / all-purpose flour in this recipe for the same amount of self-raising flour and reduce the baking powder by 2 tsp.
* The nutrition information provided is an estimate based on an online nutritional calculator and actual values may vary.