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 make for a swell and ever so slightly sophisticated chocolate fix for the chocoholics among us. Even at breakfast.–David Leite

How do I melt my chocolate properly?

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

  • Quick Glance
  • (3)
  • 25 M
  • 1 H, 15 M
  • Makes 12 cupcakes
4.7/5 - 3 reviews
Print RecipeBuy the Williams-Sonoma Cake cookbook

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  • For the chocolate orange cupcakes
  • For the chocolate frosting


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. Originally published May 13, 2003.

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.

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.


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  1. 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. 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. 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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