If you’re a fan of Terry’s chocolate oranges, you’ll love this cupcake recipe! Combining moist chocolate cake with a luxurious whipped ganache, this dessert is rich and decadent, with bright notes of orange zest in every bite.
There’s something about an orange’s zesty citrus flavor that pairs perfectly with the smooth, rich taste of dark chocolate. It’s such an underrated combination that makes for some of the BEST cupcakes!
- Easy and MOIST Chocolate Orange Cupcakes - This batter comes together in minutes, without the need for an electric mixer. The cupcakes stays moist thanks to a combination of oil and fresh orange juice (or water).
- Rich, Subtly Sweet Frosting - Rather than using a buttercream that's heavy on the powdered sugar, this recipe uses whipped chocolate ganache as a frosting. It makes for a cupcake that’s not overly sweet, letting the complex flavors of dark chocolate and orange zest shine through.
- Simple Ingredients - Fresh oranges provide all the flavor you’ll need for this recipe - no orange extract, oil, or concentrate required. Better yet, all of the ingredients in these cupcakes should be available at your local grocery store.
- Year-Round Favorite - The chocolate and orange flavor combination makes these cupcakes particularly festive for Christmas time, but this is also a dessert that can be served throughout the rest of the year!
Ingredients for This Chocolate Orange Cupcake Recipe
Remember when I said the ingredients for this recipe are simple? Well, let’s take a look at them!
Here are a few things to keep in mind as you gather supplies:
- Don’t try to substitute the heavy cream with anything lighter (like half-n-half). We need heavy cream to make a thick chocolate ganache that will whip properly and give us a thick, fluffy frosting.
- For dark chocolate orange cupcakes, I like to use bittersweet chocolate chips (around 60-70% cacao) in the ganache. That said, you can use semisweet if you’d prefer a sweeter, milkier flavor. Use the good stuff! Ghirardelli, Guittard, and Trader Joe’s all make good-quality chocolate chips.
- You can make this recipe with traditional all-purpose flour, or use a gluten-free all-purpose blend to make gluten-free chocolate orange cupcakes. My favorite brands are Bob’s Red Mill 1-to-1 Baking Flour, King Arthur Measure for Measure Flour, and Cup 4 Cup Multipurpose Flour.
- Don’t use alkalized or Dutch process cocoa; this recipe relies on the acidity of natural cocoa powder interacting with baking soda to help the cupcakes rise. Splurge on good cocoa if you can, since it makes a big difference in flavor. Again, I like Ghirardelli, which is usually easy to find in stores.
- Oil (versus butter) works best to product moist chocolate cupcakes. You can use any kind of neutral-flavored cooking oil, including avocado, canola, olive, or vegetable oil.
- Make sure your eggs are at room temperature; an easy trick is to submerge them in a glass of warm water for 5-10 minutes.
- Two large navel oranges should give you enough juice and zest for this recipe. You can also substitute the orange juice with water if needed. Whether you use juice or water, it should be at room temperature.
Let’s make some cupcakes! If you’ve made my chocolate espresso cupcakes (another all-time favorite), you’ll see that the steps here are very similar.
First, make the chocolate orange ganache:
Add heavy cream to a medium, microwave-safe bowl. Microwave for 60-90 seconds, or just long enough for the cream to start simmering. Add orange zest and chocolate chips, making sure they’re submerged, and let the mixture sit for 5 minutes before stirring until smooth.
Set the ganache aside to cool at room temperature while you make the cupcakes, giving it a good stir every 15(ish) minutes.
Next, make the chocolate orange cupcakes:
Preheat your oven to 350ºF, and line a 12-cup muffin pan with paper liners.
In another medium mixing bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt.
In a large bowl, combine granulated sugar, oil, eggs, orange juice (or water), orange zest, and vanilla extract. Whisk together until smooth.
Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, folding them in just until incorporated so that you don’t see any dry clumps of flour or cocoa powder. It does not need to be perfectly smooth.
Finally, whip the ganache and frost the cupcakes!
By the time the cupcakes have cooled completely, the ganache should have thickened significantly and should no longer be warm. At this point, use an electric mixer to whip the ganache at medium to medium-high speed, beating just long enough for it to turn slightly paler in color and thicken enough to hold its shape.
Garnish Options for Chocolate and Orange Cupcakes
For the cupcakes in these photos, I mixed together 1 ½ tablespoons of sparkling sugar with ½ teaspoon of orange zest to make a sweet, crunchy garnish that really amplifies the citrus vibes happening here.
Tips for Perfecting This Recipe
- As with many recipes, it’s SO important to measure your flour correctly when making these cupcakes. For best results, use a kitchen scale. If you don’t have one, fluff your flour with a spoon, scoop it into your measuring cup, and level it off with a knife to get the most accurate measurement.
- Don’t over-whip the chocolate ganache. Ganache whips fairly quickly, and can turn grainy if you overdo it. Less is more!
- Though the cupcakes can be made in advance, the ganache should be piped as soon as it’s whipped. If making the cupcakes ahead, store them in an airtight container at room temperature until you’re ready to frost them.
Because these cupcakes have a chocolate ganache frosting, they’re best stored in the refrigerator. Store them within an airtight container for up to 5 days. The ganache will get firm once chilled, so let the cupcakes come to room temperature before serving.
Yes! The cupcake batter is naturally dairy-free, so you'll just need to make a few small variations to the whipped ganache. Use full-fat coconut milk or coconut cream instead of heavy cream, and make sure that the chocolate chips you use are dairy-free.
A microplane grater makes easy work of zesting oranges and other citrus. I highly recommend investing in one!
More Sweet Chocolate Pairings!
Chocolate pairs well with so many other amazing flavors. Here a few of my favorite combinations!
Chocolate Orange Cupcakes
A combination of moist chocolate cake and silky chocolate ganache (infused with the juice and zest of fresh navel oranges) make the best chocolate orange cupcakes!
- Prep Time: 30 minutes
- Cooling Time: 1 hour
- Cook Time: 15 minutes
- Total Time: 1 hour 45 minutes
- Yield: 12 cupcakes 1x
- Category: cakes and cupcakes
- Method: oven
- Cuisine: American
Chocolate Orange Ganache Frosting
- 1 ⅜ cup (321 grams) heavy cream
- 1 ¾ cups plus 2 teaspoons (305 grams) bittersweet/semisweet chocolate chips
- 1 tablespoon orange zest
Chocolate Orange Cupcakes
- ⅔ cup (80 grams) all-purpose flour
- ⅔ cup (67 grams) natural, unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch)
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ⅜ teaspoon salt
- ⅞ cup plus 1 tablespoon (184 grams) granulated sugar
- 6 tablespoons (85 grams) neutral-flavored cooking oil
- 2 large eggs, room temperature
- ½ cup (113 grams) freshly-squeezed orange juice (or water), room temperature
- 2 teaspoons orange zest
- 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 ½ tablespoon sparkling sugar
- ½ teaspoon orange zest
Chocolate Orange Ganache
- Add heavy cream to a medium, microwave-safe bowl. Microwave for 60-90 seconds, just long enough for the cream to start simmering. Add orange zest and chocolate chips, making sure they’re submerged. Let sit for 5 minutes before stirring until smooth.
- Set ganache aside to cool at room temperature while making the cupcakes, stirring approximately every 15 minutes. It should thicken significantly as it cools.
Chocolate Orange Cupcakes
- Preheat oven to 350ºF. Line a 12-cup muffin pan with paper liners.
- In a medium bowl, combine flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt, whisking together evenly.
- In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the granulated sugar, oil, eggs, orange juice (or water), orange zest, and vanilla extract until smooth.
- Add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients, folding in just until incorporated. You shouldn't see any dry clumps of flour or cocoa powder, but it doesn't need to be perfectly smooth.
- Transfer batter to the prepared muffin pan, filling each cup about ⅔ full. Bake for 15-17 minutes, until a toothpick or cake tester inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out clean. Cool for 10-15 minutes before moving to a wire cooling rack to cool to room temperature.
Ganache (Continued) and Garnish
- Using an electric mixer on medium to medium-high speed, whip the cooled ganache just until paler in color and thick enough to hold its shape. Pipe ganache onto cooled cupcakes.
- Combine sparkling sugar and orange zest in a small bowl to make garnish. Sprinkle onto frosted cupcakes.
Ingredients Notes and Substitutions
- For the best flavor, use high-quality chocolate chips and cocoa powder, such as Ghirardelli or Guittard.
- To quickly bring eggs to room temperature, submerge in a glass filled with warm water for 5-10 minutes.
- Two large navel oranges should provide enough juice and zest for this recipe.
- For a gluten-free variation, substitute gluten-free all-purpose flour. Use a blend that contains a binding agent like xanthan gum or guar gum.
- For a dairy-free variation, substitute the heavy cream with full fat coconut milk (or cream) and use dairy-free chocolate chips.
Storage and Shelf Life
- Store frosted cupcakes in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Bring to room temperature before serving.
- The cupcakes in the photos above were piped with an Ateco #827 large open star tip.