My chocolate orange cake recipe is easy to follow, takes under an hour to prepare, is baked in a sheet cake pan, and, best of all, results in a delectable, rich, and moist cake you’ll want to gobble whole.
When chocolate and orange flavors combine, it's absolutely delectable! Who knew this flavor combination is so wonderful on the taste buds. Now that I know, I'm a huge fan.
No lies: this recipe is massively special for those of you who want to bake something homemade, but also don’t have three or four hours to spend craning over the kitchen counter.
- Why You'll Love Chocolate Orange Cake
- Equipment and Utensils
- What Goes Into Chocolate Orange Cake
- Chocolate Orange Buttermilk Frosting Ingredients
- How to Make Easy Chocolate Orange Cake
- Serving Suggestions
- Recipe Yield
- Frequently Asked Questions
- Expert Tips
- Storage and Shelf Life
- More Delicious Cakes
Why You'll Love Chocolate Orange Cake
Whoever decided to combine chocolate and orange flavors deserves an award, in my opinion. My family agrees: chocolate orange cake is a winner no matter where or when you serve it. And if you think it sounds too time-consuming to make or that you can only make a great chocolate orange cake with a box mix...I'm here to convince you otherwise!
Equipment and Utensils
If you’ve made a cake before, you won’t find anything too unusual in this section! Still, let’s talk a bit about what you’ll need to bake this recipe. My favorite thing about this recipe is it's baked in a sheet pan; there are no layers to deal with. Super easy, right!
- 9x13 inch cake pan: The recipe, as written, will fit into a cake pan of this size and bake properly at 30-35 minutes. If you use any other size, you’ll have to adjust the baking time.
- Zester: You’ll want to save the orange peels you use and zest (scrape) them to add to this recipe! This is the best way to get bursts of citrus flavor.
- Mixing bowls: One for dry ingredients, one for wet ingredients.
- Saucepans: For combining the butter, cocoa, and water at the beginning of the recipe, as well as for mixing the frosting.
- Electric mixer: Either a stand mixer or a hand mixer will do, but it’s a must! Are you in the market for a new hand mixer? I recommend you getting one like mine. This KitchenAid Hand Mixer is my all-time favorite!
- Whisk, spatula: The spatula is optional, but if you’ve never really baked a cake, know that you’ll always need a whisk or two lying around...even if you already have an electric mixer.
What Goes Into Chocolate Orange Cake
- Butter: Salted, for both the frosting and the cake itself.
- Water, buttermilk, freshly squeezed orange juice: Our necessary liquids. For the orange juice, you’ll want the equivalent of 1 large navel orange or so. It’s better to squeeze it yourself rather than buying a carton of OJ...then you can use the orange peel after to zest.
- Orange zest: You’ll scrape the orange peel with a zester (or a similar tool) to add to the recipe. If you’ve never done this before, I know this sounds odd, but it gives you so much more flavor, trust me.
- Orange extract: For just a bit more of that tangy citrus flavor. Remember to get pure extract meant for consumption, not an essential oil, which you shouldn’t ingest!
- Large eggs: Cold eggs are OK - no need to have eggs at room temperature.
- Sugar, salt, baking soda, all-purpose flour: Typical ingredients for making a cake.
- Unsweetened cocoa powder: This is where you’re going to get the “chocolate” part of this chocolate orange cake. Ensure you’ve got unsweetened cocoa because if it’s sweetened, the cake will taste too sugary. (Yes, there’s such a thing as too sugary!)
Chocolate Orange Buttermilk Frosting Ingredients
Butter, buttermilk, unsweetened cocoa powder, orange extract, and powdered sugar are combined until velvety smooth to create a stunningly delicious frosting!
How to Make Easy Chocolate Orange Cake
These instructions are simple and quick for busy folks who still want a fabulous sweet treat. Nonetheless, everyone in your life is going to think you’re super fancy when you make this chocolate orange cake. Surprise your loved ones with it and watch it disappear in a heartbeat...they’ll talk about it for days after. Not bad for an easy recipe!
Make the batter:
After preheating the oven to 350 degrees F and prepping your cake pan, combine your cocoa, butter, and water in a small saucepan on low heat. When the butter melts, remove the saucepan from the heat.
Use your electric mixer on low speed to combine the buttermilk, eggs, baking soda, orange juice, orange extract, and orange zest for one minute. (You’ll want your large bowl for this.) Add the cocoa/butter mixture gradually afterward, stirring it together with your whisk.
Now, in your smaller bowl, combine the sugar, flour, and salt. Add this to your buttermilk mixture. I find it easiest to add the dry ingredients about one cup at a time on low speed for a minute, then turn the mixer up to medium speed when it’s all incorporated.
You now have your batter! Pour it into your cake pan and bake for 30 to 35 minutes. Use a wooden toothpick to poke the center of the cake - if it comes out clean, it’s done! Set the cake on a cooling rack and let’s make the frosting.
Make the frosting:
Combine your cocoa, butter, and buttermilk in a medium saucepan over low heat. Stir with a whisk until the mixture is well-combined and the butter has melted. After you remove it from the heat, add the confectioner’s sugar and orange extract, whisk it together and pour it over your cake while the cake and frosting are still warm. Enjoy this cake while it's still warm!
In my house, I generally serve the orange chocolate cake with whipped cream, fresh orange slices, or ice cream. You can also top the frosted cake with chopped pecans if desired. Honestly, it’s chocolate plus oranges, two amazing flavors...I’m sure you’ll know instinctively just what to put on this cake!
When baked in a 9 x 13 cake pan, this recipe makes 12 square serving pieces.
Frequently Asked Questions
Yes, yes, and yes!! I was not a believer until I tried this flavor combination myself! The orange flavor is very subtle (not overpowering at all), and it really brings out the deep chocolate flavor.
If you don’t have a zester specifically designed for this, you can use a grater with small holes, or a paring knife. Scrape them on the peel of the orange. You essentially want to gather small bits and strips of the orange peel to add to the recipe for flavor.
Don’t have a juicer or a sieve? No worries. To easily juice an orange, just:
1. Roll it on the counter to break down the cell walls of the fruit.
2. Heat it in the microwave for 5-10 seconds.
3. Cut the orange into eight slices.
4. Squeeze the juice from these slices.
While you’ll have sticky hands, I guarantee you won’t notice a difference in taste or anything like that!
Always fill measuring spoons and cups to the top and level off any extra with the back of a knife. Don’t pack the ingredient into the cup/spoon, unless the recipe states to do so. That’s my most important tip if you don’t already have a kitchen scale. Don't overbake the cake! Be sure to check the cake 5-10 minutes before it's supposed to be done by sticking a toothpick in the middle of the cake. If the toothpick comes out clean, the cake is ready to come out of the oven. If not quite ready, bake for a few more minutes and keep checking for doneness.
Storage and Shelf Life
You may be wondering, how do I store the cake? Once baked, frosted, and cooled, this cake can be stored covered on the countertop for up to 3 days. It will get moister the next day! You can store the cake itself, without the frosting, in the freezer for up to three months if necessary. Be sure to use plastic wrap! You can store the frosting separately in the fridge for two weeks, so long as you use an airtight container.
More Delicious Cakes
Chocolate Orange Cake
- 9x13-inch cake pan
- sauce pans
- mixing bowls
- Electric mixer
- measuring cup(s)
- measuring spoons
- spatula (optional but good for scraping batter out of bowl)
- 1 cup butter (2 sticks)
- ⅓ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- ¾ cup water
- ¼ cup fresh squeezed orange juice (usually about 1 large navel orange. Save the orange so you can use it for the zest)
- ½ cup buttermilk
- 2 large eggs
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon orange extract
- 1 tablespoon orange zest
- 2 cups sugar
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 cup butter (2 sticks)
- ¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- ⅓ cup ⅓ cup buttermilk
- 1 (16-ounce package) confectioner’s sugar (about 3 and ½ cups)
- ½-1 teaspoon orange extract (I like to use 1 teaspoon for more orange flavor)
- Preheat oven to 350F and grease a 9x13-inch pan.
- In a small sauce pan over low heat, combine the butter, cocoa, and water. Stir with a whisk until the butter is melted. Remove from heat. Rinse whisk and dry it off.
- In a large bowl, with an electric mixer, mix the buttermilk, eggs, baking soda, orange juice, orange extract, and orange zest. Mix on low speed for 1 minute.
- To the bowl, gradually add the warm butter and cocoa mixture; stirring constantly with a whisk.
- In a medium bowl, combine the sugar, flour, and salt. Then add the flour mixture to the large bowl containing the buttermilk mixture. TIP: add 1 cup flour mixture at a time to the liquid mixture; and mix on low speed 1 minute between each increment. When all the flour mixture is incorporated, mix for one minute on medium speed.
- Pour batter into prepared cake pan and bake for 30-35 minutes or until a wooden toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean (no gooey batter attached).
- Place cake pan on cooling rack then start preparing the frosting.
- In a medium saucepan over low heat, combine butter, cocoa, buttermilk. Stir with a whisk until the butter is melted and mixture is well combined. Remove from heat.
- Add the confectioner’s sugar and orange extract. Stir with whisk until well blended. Pour over the cake while it is still warm. Garnish with orange zest, if desired.
- Roll it on the counter to break down the cell walls of the fruit.
- Heat it in the microwave for 5-10 seconds.
- Cut the orange into eight slices.
- Squeeze the juice from these slices.