Chocolate Orange Cake

Whisking Wolf
by Whisking Wolf
8 servings
1 hr 25 min
Chocolate Orange Cake

Indulge your taste buds with the smooth flavors of Chocolate Orange Cake. Infused with freshly squeezed juice and orange zest, this tender chocolate cake is topped with an unforgettable chocolate sour cream frosting.

“If today all you did was hold yourself together, I’m proud of you.” These words of support are not a mantra for my stressed-out self, they’re for the 4-layer cake in my kitchen that’s currently leaning more than the Tower of Pisa. Oddly enough, giving pep talks to imperfect cakes is something I do on a regular basis. It may sound certifiably crazy, but a lifetime of stacked cake failures has made me borderline nuts.

From lopsided layers that succumb to our planet’s gravitational pull to snowy white frosting that slides off like an avalanche in the Florida heat, multi-layer cakes are infamous for causing me multi problems. And not just nuisance problems, either. I’m talking stop-drop-and-roll troubles, like the time my niece’s unicorn birthday cake literally caught fire after the sparkly horn went up in flames from a misplaced candle. That had my fingerprints on it.

There’s no shame in admitting the obvious: if cakes were buildings my high-rises would have OSHA violations. Okay, I lied, my shoddy construction is quite shameful, which is why I’m sticking to single layer cakes from here on out. Unlike their stacked counterparts, single layer cakes never let me down—mostly because they aren’t high enough to fall down–but regardless of the reason (and in the interest of everyone’s safety), it’s one and done for me starting today.

While I can’t be trusted with the civil engineering of cake stacking, one thing I have down to a science is cake flavors. And two flavors that pair perfectly on a molecular level are chocolate and orange. The tried-and-true combo of sweet citrus and rich, chocolaty cocoa powder strikes the right balance of contrast–especially when merged together in a tender, moist cake. (Single layer, of course.) Plus, these flavors partner up again in the glossy, sour cream frosting. Try a slice soon and see for yourself how this fabulous, one-layer cake doubles down on flavor with citrus and chocolate in every bite.

Before sharing the recipe for Chocolate Orange Cake, here are a few baking tips to help you out:

Ingredient Tips

I used a total of 4 large oranges to make this recipe: 2 were zested and juiced for the cake, 1 was zested for the frosting and 1 was sliced for the garnish. Always zest oranges before juicing.

For best results be sure eggs and buttermilk are at room temperature before beginning.

If you don’t have buttermilk, you can make a sour milk substitution by stirring 1 teaspoon of fresh lemon juice into 1 cup of whole milk and letting it set for 5 minutes before use.

My chocolate sour cream frosting got its color and flavor from black cocoa powder. Try Amazon if you’re unable to find black cocoa powder in your area or feel free to substitute Dutch processed cocoa powder (like Hershey’s Special Dark) in the frosting. Note that the cake itself uses natural, unsweetened cocoa powder, do not use Dutch processed cocoa powder in the cake.

Preparation Tips

Always use the spoon and level method to measure flour. Scooping flour is a no-no. That technique overpacks flour into the measuring cup which results in a drier, denser cake than the moist, tender cake you get from properly measured flour.

The keys to orange cake success are avoiding over-measuring, overmixing and overbaking.

A 9-inch springform pan is a must for this single layer recipe. Do not substitute a standard 9-inch cake pan because it won’t be deep enough to accommodate this cake when it rises. If you do not have a springform pan, divide the batter between two 9-inch cake pans and reduce baking time to 25 minutes.

How to Store Chocolate Orange Cake

This cake will keep up to 3 days stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

Wondering if you can you freeze chocolate orange cake? Yes! This cake will keep in the freezer for 3 months. After cake has cooled completely, cover with plastic wrap then with a layer of aluminum foil and place in an airtight container in the freezer. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator before serving.

I hope you enjoy this recipe for Chocolate Orange Cake! Please leave a comment and a rating at the bottom of this blog when you try it for yourself. And, while you’re at it, sign up for my weekly Recipe Newsletter so you never miss a tempting recipe.

Finally, if you like chocolate cake then you’ll love this recipe for Chocolate Zucchini Cake. Packed with moisture-rich zucchini, this heavenly cake is frosted with a thick layer of chocolate buttercream and bakes up perfectly every time.

chocolate zucchini sheet cake with chocolate buttercream frosting. top down close up view of cake cut into 9 squares. the center square is turned on its side so you can see the moist crumb and thick frosting layer
Recipe details
  • 8  servings
  • Prep time: 30 Minutes Cook time: 55 Minutes Total time: 1 hr 25 min
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Chocolate Orange Cake
  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour unbleached
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt fine
  • 3 large eggs room temperature
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup dark brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp orange zest freshly grated
  • 3/4 cup olive oil extra virgin
  • 1/2 cup orange juice freshly squeezed
  • 1 cup buttermilk room temperature
Chocolate Sour Cream Frosting
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped dark chocolate 60 to 70% cacao
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter cut into small cubes
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup black cocoa powder
  • 1/8 tsp sea salt fine
  • 1/3 cup full fat sour cream room temperature
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract pure
  • 1 tbsp orange zest freshly grated
  • 6 orange slices
Chocolate Orange Cake
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 9-inch springform pan then set aside.
In a large bowl, sift together flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
In a separate mixing bowl, beat eggs, both sugars and orange zest with an electric mixer for 4 minutes until light and fluffy, scraping down the sides of the bowl with a spatula as needed.
Reduce mixer speed to low then gradually drizzle in olive oil. Beat until oil is evenly distributed.
Keeping mixer on low, add 1 cup of the flour mixture then beat until blended.
Next, add orange juice and buttermilk, beating until incorporated.
Finally, add remaining flour mixture and beat until just combined. Do not overmix. Note: batter will be thin.
Pour batter into prepared springform pan then bake for 55 to 60 minutes. Cake is done when a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean and the top is golden brown. Avoid overbaking.
Place pan on a wire rack and allow cake to cool for 30 minutes before releasing the springform ring then allow cake to cool completely before frosting.
Chocolate Sour Cream Frosting
Place chopped chocolate and butter cubes in a large heat-safe bowl. Set aside.
In a small saucepan, bring heavy cream to a simmer over medium heat. Note: do not allow cream to come to a boil.
Pour hot cream over chocolate and butter then allow mixture to sit undisturbed for 5 minutes.
Stir until chocolate is completely melted and evenly combined with cream.
Add sugar, black cocoa powder and salt to chocolate mixture. Whisk until combined.
Add sour cream, vanilla and orange zest. Whisk until smooth.
Allow frosting to cool for 15 minutes then whisk again and cool for 15 additional minutes.
Spread frosting on cake and garnish with fresh orange slices.
Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator up to 3 days.
Whisking Wolf
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