These Chocolate Orange Cupcakes taste just like Terry’s Chocolate Oranges in cupcake form! The chocolate orange cupcake is moist and fluffy and has a delicious balance of chocolate and orange flavor. The chocolate orange buttercream is decadent and smooth — It’s flavor and texture heaven!

Chocolate and orange, orange and cranberry — the holiday flavor combinations are making me swoon! I love turning on my oven during the holidays because holiday recipes have such delicious flavors! For some more delicious holiday flavors, be sure to try my chocolate orange cookies, orange cranberry cake, and cranberry apple cider recipes!

A Chocolate Orange Cupcake with a fresh orange slice on top of the frosting.

Why This Recipe Works

  • Delicious orange flavor. This chocolate orange cupcake recipe is the best thanks to using fresh orange juice and orange zest in the cupcake and in the frosting! This means the orange flavor is beautifully weaved through both elements and is more prominent thanks to the freshness of the oranges and the added zest.
  • Extra moist cupcake. The trick to getting a moist cake crumb is to use oil! Using oil in cake is key because oil is a liquid at room temperature — this means that when the cake is baked (not over baked!) the crumb will retain that moisture from the oil.
  • Balance of chocolate and orange flavor. Because both elements of this cupcake have chocolate and orange, the flavor balance is perfect. If we had done just an orange buttercream with a chocolate cupcake, the flavors wouldn’t have been well incorporated or developed to really bring you a true Terry’s chocolate orange flavor.

Ingredient Notes

Chocolate Orange Cupcake ingredients in glass bowls on a gray textured background.
  • Cocoa Powder: This recipe calls for unsweetened cocoa powder. This is different than Dutch-processed cocoa powder which has a neutral flavor and less acidity than unsweetened cocoa powder.
  • Oil: Vegetable oil is key in cake making. It gives us an increased moist texture once baked. This is due to oil being a liquid at room temperature. When using butter in cakes, it becomes a solid at room temperature so it doesn’t provide as much moisture as oil.
  • Oranges: Using fresh oranges is key in getting a natural orange flavor. No artificial orange flavoring in this recipe!
  • Milk: Milk has a few roles in this recipe. First, it adds protein, flavor and color. But more importantly, it makes the cupcake batter more wet which is how the baking powder and baking soda begins to react and do their jobs to help the cupcakes rise.
Chocolate Orange Frosting ingredients in glass bowls: butter, orange juice and zest, vanilla, cocoa powder, and powdered sugar.
  • Orange Juice: Using fresh orange juice in the chocolate orange buttercream recipe brings a delicious and natural orange flavor while providing the liquid necessary for the right frosting consistency.
  • Orange Zest: This is my secret to getting the perfect orange flavor notes in the buttercream! The zest adds a delicious punchy orange flavor.
  • Powdered Sugar: Sift the powdered sugar prior to adding it to the buttercream in order to get a smoother consistency.
  • Cocoa Powder: Sift the cocoa powder before adding it to the buttercream to get a smoother texture.

Step-by-Step Instructions

  1. Make the chocolate orange cupcake batter. Mix the sugar and oil for 1 minute in the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment. Add the vanilla, eggs, milk, orange zest, and orange juice. Mix until combined. 
  2. Whisk the dry ingredients in a separate bowl until combined. 
  1. Pour the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients and mix until just combined, don’t over mix.
  1. Scoop the batter into a cupcake tin (lined with cupcake liners) about ½ way full. I like to use a large size 20, 3 tablespoon size cookie scoop.
  2. Bake at 350°F for 12-15 mins or until a toothpick inserted comes out with a few moist crumbs. (Mine baked 13 minutes. Don’t over bake, otherwise the cupcakes will be dry). Remove from the oven and let them sit in the pan for 5 minutes before turning out on a wire rack to cool completely.
  1. Make the chocolate orange buttercream. In a stand mixer bowl Beat the butter on medium speed until light in color and smooth, about 1-2 minutes. Add the sifted cocoa powder and powdered sugar ½ cup at a time, and mix until smooth. Add the vanilla, orange juice, and orange zest. Add more orange juice (or milk) until desired consistency is reached. If it’s too thin, add a bit more powdered sugar. 
  2. Frost and decorate. Place the frosting in a Piping the buttercream unto the cooled cupcakes and top with a fresh orange slice if desired.
Chocolate frosting topped Chocolate Orange Cupcakes with a fresh orange slice stuck into the frosting, on a white background.

Recipe Tips

Using fresh oranges brings a more natural orange flavor to the chocolate orange cupcake and buttercream frosting.

Sift the powdered sugar and cocoa powder prior to adding into the buttercream frosting to ensure a smoother texture.

Don’t over mix the cupcake batter once you add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients. Over mixing at this point will cause the batter to seize and the resulting cupcakes to be tough.

The butter for the buttercream should be cold but not solid. I usually take the butter out about 30 minutes before I need to use it.

Make Ahead, Storing, and Freezing

Store leftover cupcakes covered in the fridge for 4 days. These cupcakes can stay covered at room temperature for 2 days.

You can store buttercream in the fridge for a week or two prior to using it. Store in an airtight container. When ready to use, bring to room temperature and whip it up again in a stand mixer to get the texture light and fluffy again.

Freeze buttercream in an airtight container for up to 3 months. When ready to use, remove from the freezer and store in the fridge overnight. Bring the buttercream to room temperature and whip up prior to using.

To freeze completed decorated cupcakes, freeze the cupcakes on a cookie sheet until completely set (about 20-30 minutes). Make sure the buttercream is solid. Remove from the freezer and wrap individually in plastic wrap twice and store in the freezer. Cupcakes will last up to 2 months in the freezer. Remove from the freezer and store in the fridge overnight. Remove from the fridge the next morning and remove the plastic wrap. Let come to room temperature before enjoying.

Store baked cupcakes in the freezer for up to 3 months. Wrap individually in plastic wrap once completely cooled and store in an airtight container or Ziplock bag.

If freezing baked cupcakes or decorated cupcakes longer than 1 week, wrap in an additional layer of aluminum foil.

Chocolate Orange Cupcakes on a white marble topped cake stand against a black background.

FAQs

What kind of oranges can I use?

I would recommend navel oranges as they are bigger than mandarin oranges so they’ll provide more juice and zest for this recipe.

Do chocolate and orange go together?

I’ll let you be the judge, but they are a perfect flavor match in my opinion! Chocolate orange is a perfectly festive flavor combination. Maybe part of the reason these two flavors pair so well together is because they are quite opposite — chocolate is decadent, sweet and rich whereas oranges are zesty, tart and tangy! You’ll find that opposite flavors have a tendency to complement each other and balance each other out.

Can I use orange juice concentrate instead of fresh orange juice?

I would recommend using fresh orange juice since orange juice concentrate has a higher sugar content. Plus, using fresh orange juice brings a more natural orange flavor to the cupcake and buttercream.

A bite taken out of a fresh orange topped chocolate orange cupcake.

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A chocolate frosting topped chocolate orange cupcake on a white plate, with a fresh slice of an orange as a topper.
Print Review
5 from 1 vote

Chocolate Orange Cupcakes

Soft, moist, and fluffy chocolate orange cupcakes are infused with fresh orange juice and orange zest in both the cupcake AND the frosting! Such a perfect cupcake for the winter season.
Prep Time: 20 mins
Cook Time: 15 mins
Total Time: 35 mins
Servings: 15 cupcakes

Ingredients
 

Chocolate Orange Cupcakes

  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil - or canola oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 tablespoons orange zest - will need about 2 oranges
  • 2 tablespoons orange juice

Chocolate Orange Buttercream

  • 1 cup unsalted butter - softened to room temperature but still slightly cold
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 3 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons orange juice - (will need 1-2 oranges)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons orange zest

Instructions
 

Chocolate Orange Cupcakes

  • Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a cupcake pan with cupcake liners, set aside. 
  • In a medium bowl whisk the flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, salt. 
  • In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment mix the sugar and oil for 1 minute or until well combined. Add the vanilla, eggs, milk, orange zest, and orange juice. Mix until combined. 
  • Pour the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients and mix until just combined, don’t overmix.
  • Scoop the batter into the cupcake tin about ½ way full. I like to use a large size 20, 3 tablespoon size cookie scoop.
  • Bake for 12-15 mins or until a toothpick inserted comes out with a few moist crumbs. (Mine baked 13 minutes. Don't over bake, otherwise the cupcakes will be dry). Remove from the oven and let them sit in the pan for 5 minutes before turning out on a wire rack to cool completely. 

Chocolate Orange Buttercream

  • In a stand mixer bowl beat the butter on medium speed until smooth, about 1-2 minutes. Add the cocoa powder and the powdered sugar ½ cup at a time, and mix until smooth. Add the vanilla, orange juice, and orange zest. Add more orange juice (or milk) until desired consistency is reached. If it’s too thin, add a bit more powdered sugar. 

Assembly

  • Place the frosting in a piping bag and pipe onto the cooled cupcakes. Top with a fresh orange slice if desired. Store leftover cupcakes covered in the fridge for 4 days. These cupcakes can stay covered at room temperature for 2 days.

Notes

Using fresh oranges brings a more natural orange flavor to the chocolate orange cupcake and buttercream frosting.
Sift the powdered sugar and cocoa powder prior to adding into the buttercream frosting to ensure a smoother texture.
Don’t over mix the cupcake batter once you add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients. Over mixing at this point will cause the batter to seize and the resulting cupcakes to be tough.
The butter for the buttercream should be cold but not solid. I usually take the butter out about 30 minutes before I need to use it.
Make Ahead, Storing, and Freezing: Store leftover cupcakes covered in the fridge for 4 days. These cupcakes can stay covered at room temperature for 2 days.
Store buttercream in the fridge in an airtight container for a week or two prior to using it. When ready to use, bring to room temperature and whip it up again in a stand mixer to get the texture light and fluffy again.
Freeze buttercream in an airtight container for up to 3 months. When ready to use, remove from the freezer and store in the fridge overnight. Bring the buttercream to room temperature and whip up prior to using.
Store baked cupcakes in the freezer for up to 3 months. Wrap individually in plastic wrap once completely cooled and store in an airtight container or Ziplock bag.
If freezing baked cupcakes or decorated cupcakes longer than 1 week, wrap in an additional layer of aluminum foil.

Nutrition

Calories: 332kcal (17%)Carbohydrates: 53g (18%)Protein: 3g (6%)Fat: 14g (22%)Saturated Fat: 9g (45%)Polyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 4gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 55mg (18%)Sodium: 91mg (4%)Potassium: 153mg (4%)Fiber: 2g (8%)Sugar: 42g (47%)Vitamin A: 438IU (9%)Vitamin C: 4mg (5%)Calcium: 34mg (3%)Iron: 1mg (6%)
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
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