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Easy Chocolate Orange Layer Cake Recipe (so moist!)

Get ready for a flavor explosion with this chocolate orange cake recipe! Each bite combines decadent chocolate infused with orange. The cake’s rich and moist layers are perfectly complemented by a smooth, fudgy chocolate orange frosting. It’s a citrusy twist on a classic that will have everyone asking for seconds!

the inside of a sliced chocolate orange cake.

This orange chocolate cake recipe is a twist on my viral chocolate cake. It’s the perfect treat for any occasion, especially when you’re in the mood for something uniquely delicious!

I’ve taken my famous Moist Chocolate Cake and infused it with natural orange flavor. The result? A layer cake that’s rich in chocolate flavor with a zesty citrus kick. Each of the three cake layers are so moist, and covered in luscious chocolate orange fudge frosting.

For an extra special touch, I garnish it with candied orange slices. The flavor combination is out of this world! This cake is a showstopper, perfect for impressing guests or indulging on a cozy night in!

If you love this, be sure to check out my brownies and orange pie. And for a simpler treat, my chocolate sheet cake is always a hit. 

Why You’ll Love This Recipe


  • Moist chocolate layers that melt in your mouth
  • Bright citrus flavor from fresh orange zest, a delight for orange lovers
  • Decadent fudge frosting, rich and smooth
  • Simple, easy-to-follow recipe, great for any baker
  • Ideal for special occasions, making any event extra special
  • A great recipe that’s sure to become a favorite in your collection

Ingredient Notes

  • Flour: The base of our cake, providing structure. All-purpose flour works best here.
  • Sugars: A mix of granulated sugar and brown sugar for depth of flavor and moisture.
  • Unsweetened Cocoa Powder: Essential for that rich chocolatey taste.
  • Leavening Agents: Both baking soda and baking powder are used to ensure a perfectly risen cake.
  • Salt: Just a pinch to balance the flavors.
  • Buttermilk: Adds tenderness to the cake. If you don’t have buttermilk, a quick substitute can be made with milk and a little lemon juice or vinegar.
  • Fresh Orange Juice & Zest: For that vibrant citrus flavor. The zest adds an extra punch! You can also used bottled orange juice.
  • Vegetable Oil: Keeps the cake incredibly moist. You can use canola or sunflower oil too.
  • Large Eggs: They bind the ingredients together and add richness.
  • Vanilla Extract: A must for that classic cake flavor.

For the Frosting:

  • Unsalted Butter: The base of our frosting. Make sure it’s softened to room temperature.
  • Powdered Sugar: Sweetens and thickens the frosting.
  • More Cocoa Powder: For double the chocolate goodness.
  • Heavy Cream: Adds creaminess to the frosting.
  • Chocolate Chips: Melt into the frosting for extra decadence.
  • Honey: A hint of natural sweetness.
  • Salt & Orange Zest: For a balance of flavor and a burst of citrus.

Be sure to check out the recipe card for the full ingredient list below

a slice of chocolate orange cake with fudge frosting on a plate.

Step by Step Instructions

Cake Instructions:

  1. Preheat your oven to 350°F (175°C). Grease and line 3 8-inch cake pans.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, granulated sugar, brown sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.
  3. In a separate bowl, combine buttermilk, orange juice, oil, eggs, vanilla extract, and orange zest.
  4. Mix wet ingredients into dry ingredients until just combined, avoiding overmixing.
  5. Divide batter equally between prepared pans. Tap pans to remove air bubbles. Bake for 25-30 minutes.
  6. Remove from oven, cool in pans for 10 minutes, then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.

Fudge Frosting:

  1. Melt chocolate chips, honey, and heavy cream together; let it cool slightly.
  2. Beat butter in the bowl of a stand mixer until smooth, then mix in powdered sugar, cocoa powder, and salt.
  3. Add melted chocolate mixture, vanilla extract, and orange zest to frosting; beat until creamy.

Assembly

  1. Place one cake layer on a serving plate and spread frosting.
  2. Add second cake layer, apply frosting, then top with the final layer.
  3. Frost the top and edges of the cake. Garnish with top of the cake with chocolate shavings and candied orange slices.

Tip: Ensure all your ingredients, especially eggs and buttermilk, are at room temperature for best results.

slice of chocolate orange cake on a dessert plate.

Substitutions and Variations

  • Gluten-Free – Easily make this recipe gluten-free by substituting the regular flour with a gluten-free blend.
  • Buttermilk Substitute – If you don’t have buttermilk, mix equal parts of milk and yogurt (or sour cream), or add a tablespoon of lemon juice to whole milk and let it sit for 5 minutes.
  • Citrus Varieties – For a twist, use blood orange juice and zest for a richer, more vibrant flavor. You can also experiment with mandarin oranges and tangerines!
  • Orange Buttercream Frosting – Swap the fudge frosting for orange buttercream for a contrasting citrus touch.
  • Orange Extract – Add a teaspoon of orange extract to enhance the orange flavor in the cake or frosting.
  • Dark Chocolate Ganache – Instead of chocolate frosting, try covering the cake with a rich dark chocolate ganache.
  • Olive Oil Substitute – Replace the vegetable oil with an equal amount of olive oil for a different taste. It imparts a unique, slightly fruity flavor to the cake.

How to Store

Room Temperature Storage: Store the frosted cake in an airtight container at room temperature. It stays fresh for up to 3 days.

Freezing Frosted Cake: To freeze the entire frosted cake, first chill it in the fridge so the frosting hardens. Then, wrap it in plastic wrap and store in an airtight container. It can be frozen for up to 1 month.

Freezing Individual Cake Layers: Wrap each unfrosted cake layer in plastic wrap and then aluminum foil. Store them in the freezer for up to 3 months. Thaw at room temperature before frosting and assembling.


expert Tips

  • Weigh Your Ingredients: For precision and perfect results, always weigh out your ingredients rather than measuring by volume.
  • Test Cake Doneness: Insert a wooden skewer into the center of the cake layer. If it comes out with a few crumbs, it’s done.
  • Use High-Quality Ingredients: Opt for the best quality cocoa powder and chocolate chips you can find for a richer chocolate flavor.
  • Cooling the Cake Layers: Allow the cake layers to cool completely on a cooling rack before frosting. This prevents the frosting from melting.
  • Room Temperature Ingredients: Bring eggs, buttermilk, and butter to room temperature before mixing. This ensures a smoother, more consistent cake batter.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I use natural cocoa powder instead of Dutch-processed cocoa powder?

Yes, you can use natural cocoa powder in this recipe. While Dutch-processed cocoa powder is often recommended for its smoother flavor, natural cocoa powder will still give you delicious chocolate notes in your cake. Just ensure it’s fresh for the best taste.

What kind of oranges should I use for the best flavor?

For the best results, use fresh naval oranges. The zest and juice from fresh oranges provide a vibrant, natural citrus flavor that complements the chocolate beautifully. Bottled orange juice can also be used. If you use bottled, make sure that it is pulp free and does not contain added sugar. Blood oranges can also be used for a deeper, slightly different citrus note.

Can this cake be made in advance?

Absolutely! You can bake the cake layers a day or two in advance. Wrap them in plastic wrap and store at room temperature. The frosting can also be prepared ahead and refrigerated. Just bring it to room temperature before frosting the cake.

How do I ensure my cake layers are even?

For even cake layers, use a kitchen scale to divide the batter equally between the pans. This ensures uniform baking and professional-looking results.

Is there a difference in flavor when using butter vs. oil?

Yes, there is a subtle difference. Butter adds richness and a slight depth to the flavor profile, while oil keeps the cake more moist. For this chocolate orange cake, vegetable oil is recommended to enhance the moistness, making every bite deliciously tender.

a slice of moist chocolate orange layer cake on a plate.

If you make this recipe, take a photo and tag #bakedambrosia on Instagram and Facebook so that I can see your creations and feature them on Instagram! To stay up to date with the latest recipes, follow Baked Ambrosia on PinterestFacebookInstagram, and Youtube. ♡

the inside of a sliced chocolate orange cake.

Chocolate Orange Cake Recipe

Angelina Papanikolaou
Get ready for a flavor explosion with this chocolate orange cake recipe! Each bite combines decadent chocolate infused with orange. The cake's rich and moist layers are perfectly complemented by a smooth, fudgy chocolate orange frosting. It's a citrusy twist on a classic that will have everyone asking for seconds!
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 1 hour
Course Dessert
Servings 12 servings
Calories 951 kcal

Equipment

  • 3 8-inch round cake pans
  • parchment paper
  • Mixing bowls
  • Stand mixer or hand held mixer

Ingredients 

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup cocoa powder
  • 2 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 1/4 cups buttermilk room temperature
  • 3/4 cup orange juice freshly squeezed, or bottled
  • 2/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 3 eggs room temperature
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract
  • zest from 1 orange

Chocolate Fudge Frosting

  • 2 cups chocolate chips
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 2 cups unsalted butter room temperature
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp orange zest
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • candied oranges for decorating (optional)
  • chocolate shavings for decorating (optional)

Instructions 

  • Preheat your oven to 350°F (175°C). Grease 3 8-inch round cake pans, and line the bottoms with parchment paper.
  • In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, granulated sugar, brown sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.
    2 cups all-purpose flour, 1 1/3 cups granulated sugar, 1 cup brown sugar, 1 cup cocoa powder, 2 1/2 tsp baking soda, 2 tsp baking powder, 1 tsp salt
  • In another bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, orange juice, oil, eggs, vanilla extract, and orange zest.
    1 1/4 cups buttermilk, 3/4 cup orange juice, 2/3 cup vegetable oil, 3 eggs, 1 tbsp vanilla extract, zest from 1 orange
  • Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix until combined. Make sure there are no pockets of flour but avoid overmixing.
  • Divide the batter equally between the prepared cake pans. Tap the pans on the countertop to remove any air bubbles. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with a few crumbs.
  • Remove the cakes from the oven and allow them to cool in the pans for 10 minutes before removing from pans and transferring them to wire racks to cool completely.

Orange Fudge Frosting

  • In a microwave-safe bowl or using a double boiler, melt the chocolate chips, honey, and heavy cream. Cool slightly.
    2 cups chocolate chips, 1/4 cup honey, 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • In a large mixing bowl or bowl of stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, beat the butter until smooth and creamy.
    2 cups unsalted butter
  • Add in the powdered sugar, cocoa powder, and salt. Beat to combine.
    2 cups powdered sugar, 1 cup cocoa powder, 1/2 tsp salt
  • Add the melted chocolate mixture, orange zest, and vanilla to the frosting mixture and beat until smooth and creamy.
    1 tbsp orange zest, 1 tsp vanilla extract

Assemble Cake

  • Place one cake layer on a serving platter. Spread a generous amount of frosting on top. Place the second cake layer on top of the frosting and spread a layer of frosting. Add the final cake layer and frost the top and sides of the cake with the remaining chocolate frosting.
  • Optional, you can decorate with candied (or fresh) orange slices and chocolate shavings.
    candied oranges, chocolate shavings

Notes

Gluten-Free – Easily make this recipe gluten-free by substituting the regular flour with a gluten-free blend.
Buttermilk Substitute – If you don’t have buttermilk, mix equal parts of milk and yogurt (or sour cream), or add a tablespoon of lemon juice to whole milk and let it sit for 5 minutes.
Room Temperature Storage: Store the frosted cake in an airtight container at room temperature. It stays fresh for up to 3 days.
Freezing Frosted Cake: To freeze the entire frosted cake, first chill it in the fridge so the frosting hardens. Then, wrap it in plastic wrap and store in an airtight container. It can be frozen for up to 1 month.
Freezing Individual Cake Layers: Wrap each unfrosted cake layer in plastic wrap and then aluminum foil. Store them in the freezer for up to 3 months. Thaw at room temperature before frosting and assembling.
How to Prepare Ahead of Time: You can prepare the cake layers a day ahead. Once cooled, wrap the unfrosted layers in plastic wrap to maintain their moisture. Store the cake layers in the refrigerator for up to 3 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months. Prepare the frosting on the day of assembly.

Nutrition

Serving: 1sliceCalories: 951kcalCarbohydrates: 113gProtein: 8gFat: 57gSaturated Fat: 30gPolyunsaturated Fat: 9gMonounsaturated Fat: 12gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 131mgSodium: 646mgPotassium: 452mgFiber: 6gSugar: 86gVitamin A: 1152IUVitamin C: 8mgCalcium: 148mgIron: 3mg
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was and tag @bakedambrosia on Instagram

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