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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
Dessert
American
12 cupcakes
451 kcal

Ingredients 

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

Directions 

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.