Chocolate Orange Cupcakes

These chocolate orange cupcakes are perfectly chocolatey, not too sweet, and topped with a dreamy bittersweet chocolate frosting.

Five chocolate orange cupcakes with swirls of chocolate frosting on top.

Patissier and food writer Fran Gage offers up this luscious chocolate orange cupcakes recipe, which makes for a swell and ever so slightly sophisticated chocolate fix for the chocoholics among us. Even at breakfast.–David Leite


To melt chocolate for the frosting as quickly and easily as possible, chop it into small pieces before you do anything else. This helps ensure it melts quickly and evenly.

If melting the chocolate on the stovetop, put it in a stainless-steel bowl. Set the bowl in a saucepan over, but not touching, barely simmering water. Heat until the chocolate melts, stirring occasionally. Do not allow any water or steam to come in contact with the chocolate, or it will become stiff and grainy.

If melting the chocolate in the microwave, place it in a microwave-safe dish and microwave on low for 1 minute. Continue to microwave if necessary, checking every 20 seconds, until the chocolate looks softened, then stir until smooth and liquid.

Chocolate Orange Cupcakes

Five chocolate orange cupcakes with swirls of chocolate frosting on top.
These chocolate orange cupcakes are perfectly chocolatey, not too sweet, and topped with a dreamy bittersweet chocolate frosting.
Fran Gage

Prep 25 mins
Cook 20 mins
Total 1 hr 15 mins
12 cupcakes
451 kcal
4.75 / 4 votes
Print RecipeBuy the Williams-Sonoma Cake cookbook

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For the chocolate orange cupcakes

  • 3 tablespoons Dutch-process cocoa powder
  • 1/4 cup hot water
  • 1 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 orange
  • 2 large eggs at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk (either low-fat or full-fat), at room temperature
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 4 tablespoons (2 oz) unsalted butter melted and cooled to room temperature

For the chocolate frosting

  • 6 ounces bittersweet chocolate
  • 2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 2 cups confectioners’ sugar


Make the chocolate orange cupcakes

  • Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C). Line a standard 12-cup muffin tin with paper liners.
  • In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Using the finest rasps on a handheld grater, grate the orange zest into the bowl.
  • In a small bowl, stir the cocoa powder into the hot water until it dissolves.
  • In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs and granulated sugar until well combined. Whisk in the buttermilk and vanilla, then whisk in the dissolved cocoa. Whisk in the melted butter and mix until well combined, then whisk in the flour mixture.
  • Using a tablespoon, divide the batter among the muffin cups, filling each cup about half full. Bake until the cupcakes are puffed and a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean, 15 to 20 minutes. Let the cupcakes cool completely in the pan on a wire rack.

Make the chocolate frosting

  • Melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl in the microwave or in a heatproof bowl placed over but not touching boiling water. Let the chocolate cool to room temperature. Meanwhile, using a stand mixer, beat the butter and confectioners’ sugar with the paddle on medium speed until creamy and smooth, about 3 minutes. Beat in the melted chocolate until combined.

Decorate the cupcakes

  • Fill a pastry bag fitted with a 1/2-inch star tip with the frosting and pipe a spiral on top of each cupcake. (Or for those of you, like some of us, who don’t have a pastry bag, simply grab a table knife and slather the frosting all over the tops of the cupcakes.)
  • Remove the cupcakes from the pan. Refrigerate the chocolate orange cupcakes until about 30 minutes before serving.

    TESTER TIP: We like to refrigerate these cupcakes to keep the frosting from slouching, although we tend to take them out of the fridge at least a half hour before devouring them. The reason is the colder a food is, the more its flavors are muted. So we like them to settle back to room temperature a little. 

Print RecipeBuy the Williams-Sonoma Cake cookbook

Want it? Click it.

Show Nutrition

Serving: 1cupcakeCalories: 451kcal (23%)Carbohydrates: 52g (17%)Protein: 4g (8%)Fat: 26g (40%)Saturated Fat: 16g (100%)Polyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 7gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 83mg (28%)Sodium: 122mg (5%)Potassium: 181mg (5%)Fiber: 2g (8%)Sugar: 39g (43%)Vitamin A: 681IU (14%)Vitamin C: 6mg (7%)Calcium: 46mg (5%)Iron: 2mg (11%)

Recipe Testers’ Reviews

These chocolate orange cakes were a huge hit–the frosting, in particular, was much applauded. It’s luxurious, sweet, and chocolatey without being overwhelming. The cake is moist and rich, and the orange flavour balances beautifully. A great recipe!

These chocolate orange cupcakes are delicious. They’re light and moist—easy to eat more than one if you’re not careful. The chocolate frosting is very chocolatey and the orange zest in the cupcakes is just enough orange to sit in the background and nicely accent the chocolate. These are easy to make and make a very pretty presentation. My family gave them 2 thumbs up.

We have a tradition for Christmas in our family that we all get a Terry’s Chocolate Orange, so when I saw this recipe, I had to try it and see if it held to that delicious flavor combo–and it didn’t disappoint! Everyone in my house thought these were delicious, especially with the moist cake and fluffy cloud-like frosting. We love the hint of citrus that cuts through the richness of the frosting.

This recipe for chocolate orange cupcakes has been on the site for a long time and has many positive reviews. I’ll add mine to the set. While there are a lot of ingredients, the recipe actually comes together very quickly. The frosting is buttery and mild.

Because there were some negative comments, I made this recipe as it was listed; however, if you’re making this recipe, I would start by adding the hot water to the cocoa powder first. You can actually mix all the wet ingredients, and the cocoa mixture, and then all the dry ingredients.

The only other thing I did was to grate the orange zest on top and mix it into the dry ingredients before the last part of step 4 of adding in the flour mixture. I did not leave the orange zest on top.

Originally published May 13, 2003


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  1. 5 stars
    Fantastic recipe! A delicious balance of chocolate with the orange. And 12 was a perfect amount as sometimes 24 is too many in this household (perish the thought!) A keeper, thank you!

    1. Thanks, Julia! I’m so glad you loved them. And gorgeous work on the frosting and decorating!

  2. 4 stars
    The cupcakes were nice, but next time, I will try to include some of the orange juice as they were not as orangey as I would have liked the,. The frosting was delicious!

    1. Pat, sorry they weren’t as orangey as you had hoped. My suggestion is not to add orange juice, which will change the consistency of the batter, but rather more orange zest.

  3. 5 stars
    These are exceptional cupcakes with a rich, chocolate flavor. I’ve made them several times and everyone loved them!

    1. Thanks so much for letting us know, Wendy. We love it when readers find a new favorite and make it again and again.

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