Holiday Favorite Flavors: Chocolate Orange Cake

Chocolate Orange Cake – Dark chocolate cake layers with a hint of orange zest, covered with a chocolate orange buttercream.

Chocolate Orange Cake 

Oh, this cake was due for an update! I first came up with this recipe years ago when I went to Fox 13’s The Place, a local lifestyle show here in Salt Lake City. It was a super simple recipe back then, and still is today, but one that is totally going to win you over.


Christmastime Chocolate Orange 

My goal was to make the cake taste exactly like the chocolate orange I used to get in my Christmas stocking as a child. It’s a flavor combination that will always make me think of Christmastime. And I think you’ll really like it in cake form!

The Best Chocolate Cake

I used my go-to chocolate cake recipe and added some orange zest for a hint of flavor in the cake.

Remember: it’s super important to use room-temperature wet ingredients to get the best rise out of your cake layers.

How to Make Buttercream Frosting

It’s the buttercream, however, that I think really steals the show. To add flavor to the buttercream, I used orange emulsion by Lorann. Emulsions are a lot like extracts but are water-based. Extracts are alcohol-based. I typically lean toward emulsions because I like the flavoring better, but an extract will work too. Just sub it 1-for-1 in the recipe.

To get a light and fluffy homemade buttercream frosting for this cake, I have a detailed post: HOW TO MAKE THE BEST BUTTERCREAM to give you in-depth instructions for making your buttercream unreal! Here’s a quick overview.

    • Sift your powdered sugar
    • Use slightly cold butter and mix on its own for 2 to 3 minutes
    • Use heavy whipping cream
    • Beat for 5 minutes
    • Stir by hand

I don’t think this cake needs a lot of added decorations, but love how a little rosemary and dried oranges give the brown some contrast.

Excited for you to whip this one up!

For more Christmas cake recipes, check out this post: 10 Cakes Perfect for the Holidays.

For my cookbook and cake tools, make sure to check out

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Chocolate Orange Cake

5 from 28 votes
Dark chocolate cake layers and buttercream with a hint of orange.


For the cake

  • 2 cups (240g) all purpose flour
  • 1 3/4 cup (350g) granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup (88g) good quality cocoa powder
  • 2 tsp (8g) baking soda
  • 3/4 tsp (3g) baking powder
  • 1 tsp (5.6) kosher salt
  • zest of two large oranges
  • 1 cup (240g) buttermilk room temperature and shaken
  • 1/2 cup (109g) vegetable oil
  • 3 large eggs room temperature
  • 1 tsp (4.2g) pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup (236g) hot water or hot coffee

For the frosting

  • 2 cups (452g) unsalted butter slightly chilled
  • 10 ounces (187g) good quality dark chocolate chips
  • 1/4 cup (57.7g) heavy whipping cream
  • 5 cups (625g) powdered sugar, measured and then sifted
  • 2 1/2 tsp (8.4g) orange emulsion
  • pinch of salt
  • *This buttercream recipe makes enough to fill and cover your cake. If you want to add additional piping, you’ll want to make an extra ½ batch.


For the cake

  • Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Spray three 8-inch or four 6-inch round cake pans with nonstick spray. Line the bottom of each pan with parchment paper and spray the pans again.
  • 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.
  • In another bowl, combine the buttermilk, oil, eggs, coffee or water and vanilla.
  • With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry, scraping the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula.
  • Pour the batter evenly into the prepared pans and bake for about 23 t0 28 minutes.
  • Cool in the pans for 10 minutes, then turn them out onto a cooling rack and cool completely.
  • 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 Buttercream

  • In a microwave safe bowl, heat the heavy whipping cream for about one minute. Pour the heated cream over the chocolate chips and stir until the chocolate chips are melted. Set aside.
  • In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter on medium-high speed for 2 minutes.
  • Turn the mixer to low and gradually add the powdered sugar, orange emulsion and pinch of salt.
  • With the mixer on low speed, add the chocolate ganache. Beat for another 3 to 5 minutes on medium-high.
  • Before frosting your cake, give the frosting a good stir with a wooden spoon to push out any air bubbles. 
Cuisine Cake
Course Dessert
Keyword chocolate buttercream, Chocolate Cake, Chocolate Orange Cake, Orange

Courtney Rich

I’m a self-taught baker, obsessed with cake.

I long ago ditched box mixes in pursuit of melt-in-your-mouth, to-die-for flavor combinations, fillings and textures. I believe cake must be decadent, life-changing and worthy of celebration! And I believe anyone should be able to bake that kind of cake – and I’m here to teach you just that!

Get my free cake decorating guide
Everything you need to know about decorating a cake like a pro!

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Recipe Rating


  1. Hi Courtney! I love chocolate orange goodies. And I love dark chocolate so I’m imagining how wonderful this cake must be. I’d like to try making it but from where I am it’s difficult to source orange emulsion. What can I use instead?

  2. Hi Courtney! I’ve never heard of an orange emulsion before but I see you say that orange extract will do as a replacement. I have some on hand already, but how much should I use? Since I’m not sure what an orange emulsion is I don’t know how much stronger or weaker the extract would be?

  3. I am so excited to try this! I’m planning to make it this week and am wondering if you’ve ever tried just melting down actual chocolate oranges for the frosting instead of using the emulsion and the chocolate? Do you think it would work or is the emulsion a better flavor?

  4. Hi! The cake turned out SO good, but I’m getting frosting together and am not sure whether to go with the 10 oz of dark chocolate or 187 g! Maybe we’ll go with less to be safe?

  5. 5 stars
    The cake didn’t have the pop i was looking for but… cocoa powder was older and the oranges were mild in taste so the fault most likely isn’t with the recipe. It was easy and the consistency was wonderful. I made an orange simple syrup which helped with the flavor. The buttercream……….the best I have ever made! The tips and tricks really are worth following. Thank you for sharing.

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