Chocolate Orange Cake (and other Christmas cake ideas)

Dec 18

Dark chocolate cake layers with a hint of orange zest, covered with a chocolate orange ganache.

I’m sorry it’s taken me ALL week to get this recipe on here! The last few days were a bit crazy with work travel, family in town, and getting demos ready for an appearance on Fox 13’s The Place, a local lifestyle show here in Salt Lake City. I always love going on the show and making cake with Brooke and Brittany. For the show last week, we talked about some of my favorite cake flavors for Christmas, as well as several different cake decorating ideas for the holidays.

This Chocolate Orange Cake was one of the cakes we talked about and tasted on the show. My goal was to make the cake taste exactly like the chocolate orange candy I used to get in my stocking as a child. It’s a flavor combination that will always make me think of Christmas and I think I really made it work in cake form.
Other Christmas cake flavors we talked about included my Browned Butter Spice Cake with Eggnog Frosting, Chocolate Peppermint, White Chocolate Cranberry and Gingerbread Latte – all of which you can find here on my blog. Hopefully a little something for everyone.

During the show, we also talked about a few simple and cute Christmas cake decorating ideas, like this peppermint explosion cake, using crushed candy canes, small candy canes and large candy canes. So easy! So festive!

Another easy, but kind of messy decorating idea, are these green trees, made with green melting candy, shredded wheat cereal, ice cream cones, and silver sprinkles. Just melt the green chocolates and mix them with the shredded wheat. As the chocolate cools a little, you can start molding the mixture onto the ice cream cones. (This is where it gets messy). After you get the trees formed, just sprinkle with the silver sprinkles and let set completely.

The white trees above are super easy, as well. Dip your ice cream cones into white chocolate or smear with frosting and then roll in sprinkles or sanding sugar.
And for these cute trees below, I just drew triangles on parchment paper, placed a cake pop stick on each triangle, covered them with green melting candy and added a few mixed sprinkles.

Flaked coconut also makes a great snowy ground cover!

All the finish products!

Chocolate Orange Cake

Yield One 3-layer, 8-inch cake

Chocolate orange cake layers with chocolate orange buttercream.


For the Cake

  • 1 3/4 cups, plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups, minus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cups good cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • zest of two large oranges
  • 1 cup buttermilk, room temperature and shaken
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 3 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup hot coffee or hot water 

For the Frosting

  • 2 cups unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 10 oz. good quality dark chocolate chips or pieces
  • 3 cups powdered sugar, sifted
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons orange emulsion
  • pinch of salt


For the Cake

  1. Preheat the oven to 360 degrees F. Spray three 8-inch round cake pans (you can also use four 6-inch pans) with nonstick spray. Line the bottom of each pan with parchment paper and spray the pans again.
  2. Combine the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and mix on low speed until combined. Add the zest and mix until combined.
  3. In another bowl, combine the buttermilk, oil, eggs, coffee or water and vanilla.
  4. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry, scraping the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula.
  5. Pour the batter into the prepared pans and bake for about 16-18 minutes.
  6. Cool in the pans for 10 minutes, then turn them out onto a cooling rack and cool completely.
  7. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill until ready to use. You're still going to want to level your cake layers to ensure a completely even surface for frosting and stacking. 

For the Frosting

  1. In a microwave safe bowl, heat the chocolate chips for one minute. Stir the chocolate and continue to heat in 30 second intervals until completely melted. Set aside and let cool for a few minutes.
  2. While the chocolate is cooling, beat the butter on medium speed for 2 minutes in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.
  3. Turn the mixer to low and gradually add the melted chocolate. Once all the chocolate is added, scrape down the sides of the bowl and turn the mixer on medium-high speed to beat the mixture for about 2-3 minutes.
  4. With the mixer on low speed, gradually add the powdered sugar, salt, and orange emulsion. Beat for another couple minutes until smooth and silky.
  5. Before frosting your cake, give the frosting a good stir with a wooden spoon to push out any air bubbles.  

3 thoughts on “Chocolate Orange Cake (and other Christmas cake ideas)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. Looks yummy, but I’d love to see a white orange cake….don’t see it on the website, unless I’m missing it! Keep it up, Courtney!

  2. Best Cake Ever!! I made this cake for my birthday. Yes, I made my own cake. But I love to bake and these are my favorite flavors and it did not disappoint. The cake was super moist with just the right amount of citrus flavor. I used dark chocolate cocoa for the buttercream and I could have eaten the entire bowl! It was amazing! Thank you for this recipe, it will be saved and made time and time again I’m sure!