Chocolate Cupcakes with Orange Buttercream

These chocolate orange cupcakes are the best combination of rich chocolate and vibrant orange flavors! The soft moist chocolate cupcake base is topped with a creamy orange buttercream frosting that tantalizes the taste buds with each bite. 

A chocolate orange cupcake in a red cupcake holder on top of a white cake stand.

Chocolate and orange are the perfect pair when it comes to winter baking! While I love these Guinness chocolate cupcakes and orange Madeira cake each on their own, the combination of the two flavors in these chocolate orange cupcakes is swoon-worthy.

The delicious chocolate cupcake base is similar to my favorite vanilla cupcakes, but with the addition of rich cocoa powder. The fluffy, moist cupcake base then gets topped with a luscious orange buttercream frosting and the result is pure decadence! 

Why You’ll Love This Recipe

  • Perfect balance of flavors: The rich chocolate and fresh orange zest are a harmonious balance of sweet citrus and indulgent chocolate, just like Terry’s Chocolate Oranges. 
  • Rich and decadent: These easy chocolate orange cupcakes use butter instead of oil for a rich cupcake base and then milk adds additional moisture for a tender crumb!
  • Any occasion: While chocolate and orange flavors are perfect for the holidays, since oranges are readily available year-round they can be enjoyed anytime! 

Chocolate Cupcakes Recipe Ingredients

  • Butter: These cupcakes use unsalted butter instead of vegetable oil for a rich taste. 
  • Granulated sugar: White granulated sugar is best to use to achieve the best chocolate orange cupcake texture. 
  • Eggs: Two large eggs that have been brought to room temperature help bind the cupcake ingredients together.
  • Extract: Either vanilla extract or orange extract can be used. Orange extract will add more orange flavour. 
  • Unsweetened cocoa powder: Unsweetened natural cocoa powder gives a smooth chocolate taste.
  • Pastry flour: This type of flour is lower in protein which gives the cupcakes a light and airy texture. 
  • Milk: With at least 2% fat.
  • Baking staples: Baking powder, baking soda and salt. 
  • Orange buttercream: Butter, icing sugar, orange juice and orange zest.
Six chocolate orange cupcakes on a blue board.

How to Make Chocolate Orange Cupcakes

Cream butter and sugar: In a large mixing bowl using an electric mixture, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes. Add eggs one at a time then extract. 

Wet ingredients in a mixing bowl.

Whisk dry ingredients: In a medium bowl sift together cocoa powder, baking powder and baking soda. Whisk in the salt.

Dry ingredients in a mixing bowl.

Combine wet and dry ingredients: Add the flour mixture alternately with the milk to the wet ingredients and beat until combined. Pour chocolate cake batter into the prepared muffin tin.

Cupcake butter in a mixing bowl and then poured into six cupcake tins.

Bake and cool: Bake at 350° for approximately 15-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the cupcakes comes out clean. Let cupcakes cool for about 10 minutes in the pan then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Baked cupcakes in a muffin tin.

Make orange buttercream: While the cupcakes cool, in the bowl of a stand mixer beat butter until light and fluffy. Add orange zest and orange juice and beat again. Add powdered sugar ½ cup at time until desired consistency is reached.

Frost: Finish by decorating the cupcakes with the orange buttercream and sprinkle orange zest on top to finish.

Frosting made in a mixing bowl and cupcakes frosted in the muffin pan.

Substitutions and Variations

  • Pastry flour: It’s easy to make your own pastry flour using all-purpose flour and cornstarch. For every cup of all-purpose flour, remove 2 Tablespoons of the flour and add 2 Tablespoons of cornstarch. 
  • More orange flavor: Add 1-2 Tablespoons of orange zest to the cupcake batter.
  • Frosting: Make chocolate buttercream frosting instead and add orange zest for a citrus flavor.
  • Cupcake filling: Fill the middle of the cupcakes with orange marmalade for additional flavor plus as a bonus it makes super moist chocolate cupcakes. 
  • Dairy free: Use an unsweetened vegan milk and dairy free butter.

Frosting and Decorating Cupcakes

The best part of making this orange chocolate cupcake recipe is getting to decorate them! First, frost the cupcakes with an offset spatula or use a piping bag and 1M piping tip to pipe the icing onto the cupcakes. 

Decorate cupcakes with sliced candied oranges, an orange peel twist, a sprinkle of orange zest or even chocolate orange slices if you would like! 

You could even decorate with a melted chocolate drizzle, chocolate chips or festive sprinkles if you would like! 

Expert Baking Tips

  • Fresh oranges: For the best orange buttercream frosting, use fresh orange juice.
  • Measure flour properly: To avoid dense, dry cupcakes use the spoon and level method to measure flour or even better use a scale. Do not scoop the flour with a measuring cup.
  • Avoid over mixing the batter: For the best fluffy cupcakes, mix your cupcake batter until just combined.
  • Sift dry ingredients: For a smoother texture, sift your flour, cocoa powder and powdered sugar to ensure there are no lumps. 
  • Don’t overfill cupcake lines: To avoid the batter spilling over only fill the cupcake liners ⅔ full. 
A chocolate cupcake with a red cupcake holder on a white cake stand and a blue cupcake in the back.

FAQs

What are the best types of oranges to use?

I prefer navel oranges for these chocolate and orange cupcakes. Any orange will work though, including mandarin oranges. Blood oranges will give your icing color a different hue.  

How to zest an orange?

The best way is to use a microplane but a box grater or vegetable peeler will also work. Just be sure to not grate the white pith on the orange as it can bitter tasting. 

How to store leftover cupcakes?

After your cupcakes are frosted, they can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for 3-4 days. Leftover frosting can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator. You can even make the orange buttercream in advance if you would like! Just soften to room temperature before frosting cupcakes.

Can chocolate and orange cupcakes be frozen?

Unfrosted cupcakes can be frozen for up to two months. Once cool, place in a ziploc freezer safe bag. Thaw at room temperature. Freeze leftover buttercream in an airtight container for two months. Thaw in the refrigerator then re-whip to achieve a fluffy frosting again. 

A chocolate orange cupcake in a blue cupcake liner on a white cake stand.

More Dessert Recipes You’ll Love

A chocolate orange cupcake on a white cake stand.

Chocolate Cupcakes with Orange Buttercream

Erika Marucci
These chocolate orange cupcakes are the best combination of rich chocolate and vibrant orange flavors! The soft moist chocolate cupcake base is topped with a creamy orange buttercream frosting that tantalizes the taste buds with each bite. 
5 from 3 votes
Prep Time 25 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 45 minutes
Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Servings 12 cupcakes
Calories 492 kcal

Ingredients
 
 

For the Cupcakes

  • cups Butter – unsalted and at room temperature
  • 1 cup Granulated sugar
  • 2 large Eggs – room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon Vanilla extract or orange extract
  • ½ cup Unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1⅔ cups Pastry flour
  • 1 cup Milk – 2% fat
  • teaspoon Baking Powder
  • ¼ teaspoon Baking Soda
  • ¼ teaspoon Salt

For the Orange Buttercream

  • 1 cup Butter – room temperature
  • cups Powdered sugar
  • teaspoons Orange zest
  • ½ tablespoon Orange juice
  • ½-1 tablespoon Milk – if buttercream is too thick

Instructions
 

For the cupcakes

  • Pre-heat the oven to 350F (180C). Place cupcakes holders in a 12 medium sized muffin tin.
  • In a large bowl cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes. Add eggs one at a time beating well in between each addition. Beat in the vanilla extract or orange extract for a zesty flavor.
  • In a medium bowl sift together cocoa powder, baking powder and baking soda. Whisk in the salt.
  • Add the flour mixture alternately with the milk to the wet mixture and beat just until combined. Pour the batter into the prepared muffin tin.
  • Bake for approximately 15-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the cupcakes comes out clean or with a few crumbs. Let the cupcakes cool for about 10 minutes in the muffin tin then transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely.
  • Finish by decorating them with the orange buttercream and sprinkle orange zest on top to finish.

For the Buttercream

  • In the bowl of a stand mixer beat the butter until light and fluffy. Add orange zest and orange juice and beat again.
  • Add powdered sugar ½ a cup at a time. If the buttercream is too thin add more powdered sugar, if too thick add ½ tablespoon of milk.

Notes

After your cupcakes are frosted, they can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for 3-4 days. Leftover frosting can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator. The frosting can be made in advance. Just soften to room temperature before frosting cupcakes.
Unfrosted cupcakes can be frozen for up to two months. Once cool, place in a ziploc freezer safe bag. Thaw at room temperature.
Freeze leftover buttercream in an airtight container for two months. Thaw in the refrigerator then re-whip to achieve a fluffy frosting again. 

Nutrition

Calories: 492kcalCarbohydrates: 61gProtein: 5gFat: 28gSaturated Fat: 17gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 7gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 101mgSodium: 355mgPotassium: 174mgFiber: 3gSugar: 46gVitamin A: 885IUVitamin C: 1mgCalcium: 76mgIron: 1mg
Keyword buttercream frosting, chocolate cupcakes, chocolate orange cupcakes, chocolate orange frosting, cupcakes
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

2 Comments

    1. Hi Susie you could substitute it with all purpose flour or you can make your own pastry flour with all purpose flour. For every cup of flour remove 2 tablespoons and substitute with 2 tablespoons of corn starch, be sure to sift it to remove any lumps. Hope this helps! 😊

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