These simple chocolate orange cupcakes are made with real oranges and rich cocoa powder. Fabulous on their own or with decadent chocolate orange frosting.
Orange and chocolate is one of my all-time favorite flavor combinations. I mean chocolate goes with a lot of things, but chocolate and orange is particularly good! So I had to whip up a batch of these tasty little chocolate and orange cupcakes. They are pretty as a picture and not to big, so you can easily eat more than one 😀
For a lighter version you can eat them as they are or for a more decent option top with lashings of luscious orange chocolate frosting. Either way these tasty little chocolate orange zest cupcakes are hard to stop at just one!
How to zest an orange
The simplest way to zest an orange is with a microplane grater. This a very sharp, long handheld grater you run along the surface of the orange. Microplane graters or zesters are extremely sharp and you need to be careful when using them.
If you need to zest an orange without a zester you can use the fine side of a box grater then finely chop the grated peel. If you don't have a grater or a zester you can thinly slice the skin off the surface of the orange and then chop as fine as you can, but you won't get the same flavor out of the zest.
The key thing with any method is to try to only remove the top orange-colored section of the skin. The pith of the orange (the white layer under the skin) can be very bitter, so try to avoid this as much as possible.
Fresh oranges: The fresh orange taste is achieved by using both the orange zest and orange juice. This gives a wonderful orangey flavor without orange extract. You will need about three medium oranges for the cupcakes, plus two more for the chocolate orange icing and one more for decoration, so six in total. I use navel oranges but use whatever sort you can get.
Natural cocoa powder: natural cocoa powder is best for this recipe as it won't compete too much with the orange flavor, but you could use Dutch-processed if that's all you have.
Brown sugar: also called light brown sugar, helps to give these cupcakes some extra caramel notes and keep them soft and delicious. You could use dark brown sugar for some extra caramel notes. If using cups to measure the brown sugar make sure it's packed down firmly.
Plain flour: is best in this recipe. You can also use all-purpose flour. It's important to use flour that does not have any rising agents as we will be adding our own in the right amounts to help the cupcakes rise.
Baking powder: is a common ingredient in cakes and baking, used to help the cake rise. For the best results use fresh baking powder and not one that's been sitting around the cupboard for a while.
Baking soda: also known as bicarbonate soda or bicarb. This is NOT the same as baking powder and you can not substitute this.
Vegetable oil: adds some much-needed fats to this cake and helps keep the crumb nice a fine. You can try substituting with similar oils such as peanut or canola. The oil helps give the cupcakes a lovely fine texture.
Unsalted butter: adds fats and most importantly taste to these cupcakes.
Eggs: I use large eggs in this recipe, approx. 55 gms each with shells before cracking.
Icing sugar (for frosting): also known as powdered sugar, it's needed for the optional chocolate orange frosting.
How to make Chocolate Orange Cupcakes
See the full recipe card at the end of the post for ingredient amounts and instructions.
To make the cupcakes
Preheat your oven to 340°F (170°C/150°C fan-forced). Line your muffin tins with patty pans/cupcake liners or grease well with butter.
Sift the plain flour, baking powder and baking soda into a mixing bowl. Add the brown sugar and whisk together the dry ingredients. Zest and juice the oranges for the cupcake mix.
Put the butter into a heat-proof bowl and melt in the microwave. Sift in the cocoa powder and mix well. The heat of the butter will help 'bloom' the cocoa powder and add extra flavor. Add the orange juice, vegetable oil, eggs and vanilla and mix well.
Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix until Just combined i.e. you can't see any unmixed flour.
Hot tip: Do not over mix or you will end up with flat rubbery cupcakes!
Divide the mix between the cupcakes. A sweep-style ice cream scoop works well for this! Bake for twenty minutes, or until the top springs back when lightly pressed and a skewer inserted comes out clean. Allow to cool completely before frosting if desired.
To make the chocolate orange frosting and decorate
Zest and juice the oranges for the frosting. Add the butter to a large bowl or stand mixer. Sift in the icing sugar. Mix with electric hand beaters or stand mixer on low until just combined.
Sift in the cocoa powder and mix on low until just combined. Add the orange juice, zest and vanilla. Mix on medium until pale colored.
Use a knife or spatula to spread on the cupcakes or transfer to a piping bag and pipe on. I used a Wilton 2D tip to get this lovely swirl look.
Decorate with some extra orange zest or orange sprinkles.
How to serve
To serve pop onto a plate and enjoy!
How to store
These cupcakes will store in a covered container in a cool place for up to three days.
If you want to freeze the cupcakes I recommend wrapping them up in clingfilm before frosting and putting them in an airtight container in the freezer for up to three months. The chocolate orange frosting can be frozen in an airtight container in the freezer, however I find I get better results when making up the frosting fresh before frosting.
You can freeze after decorating by putting them on a tray in the freezer until frozen solid, then wrapping carefully in clingfilm. They will take up a lot of room this way and can be quite fragile. Make sure you remove the clingfilm before defrosting or it will stick to the frosting as it defrosts and ruin your beautiful piping work!
Have you made this recipe? Tell me how it went in the comments below and tag me on instagram so I can see your delicious creations! @keep_calm_and_eat_icecream
Looking for more fresh orange dessert recipes?
Why not try making
Chocolate orange cupcakes
- 14 Muffin/cupcake pans
- 14 Patty pans/cupcake liners
- Handheld electric beaters or stand mixer (for chocolate orange frosting)
- Piping bag and piping tip (I used a Wilton 2B tip)
I highly recommend measuring by weight and mls instead of cups. You will get better, more consistent results!
For the cupcakes
- ¾ cup (115gms) plain flour
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- ⅔ cup (150gms) tightly packed brown sugar
- ⅔ of a stick (⅓ cup/75gms) unsalted butter
- ⅓ cup (35gms) natural cocoa powder
- ¼ cup (65mls) vegetable oil
- 2 large eggs
- 3 small oranges, zested
- ½ cup orange juice
For the chocolate orange frosting
- (200gms) unsalted butter at room temperature
- 2 & ½ cups (400gms) icing sugar
- ½ cup (50gms) natural cocoa powder
- 2 oranges zested
- ¼ cup (65mls) orange juice
- ½ teaspoon vanilla
To make the cupcakes
- Pre-heat your oven to 340°F (170°C/150°C fan-forced). Line your muffin tins with patty pan or grease well with butter.
- Sift the plain flour, baking powder and baking soda into a mixing bowl. Zest and juice the oranges.
- Put the butter into a heat proof bowl and melt in the microwave. Sift in the cocoa powder and mix well.
- Add the vegetable oil, orange zest and juice, eggs and vanilla and mix well.
- Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix until Just combined i.e. you can't see any unmixed flour, Do not over mix or your will end up with flat rubbery cupcakes!
- Divide the mix between the cupcakes. Bake for twenty minutes, or untill the top springs back when lightly pressed and a skewer inserted comes out clean.
- Allow to cool complety befor frosting if desired.
To make the chocolate orange frosting.
- Zest and juice the oranges.
- Add the butter to a large bowl or stand mixer. Sift in the icing sugar. Mix with electric hand beaters or stand mixer on low until just combined.
- Sift in the cocoa powder and mix on low until just combined. Add the orange juice, zest and vanilla. Mix on medium until pale coloured.
- Use a knife or spatula to spread on the cupcakes or transfer to a piping bag and pipe on. Decorate with some extra orange zest or orange sprinkles.
- I highly recommend measuring by weight and mls instead of cups. You will get better, more consistent results!
- You can make these cupcakes plain or with chocolate orange frosting as you prefer.
- I used a Wilton 2D tip to get this lovely swirl look for the frosting
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