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These chocolate orange cupcakes are the most perfect combination of two delicious flavors. The cupcakes are soft, fluffy, full of natural orange flavor and topped with a decadent fudgy chocolate orange buttercream.
These are seriously the BEST chocolate orange cupcakes ever. I mean honestly, it is hard to put into words how decadent and delicious they are. Everyone who has tried these has absolutely swooned over them and said they taste like a Terry's Chocolate Orange in cupcake form!
Just like my chocolate orange cake, this recipe can be made using regular dairy ingredients or dairy free ingredients and is perfect for so many occasions. The cupcakes are so delicious and moist, and the creamy buttercream is out of this world!
Why You'll Love These Chocolate Orange Cupcakes
- These cupcakes are made with oil instead of butter, which makes them extra fluffy and moist.
- This recipe uses 1 egg and 2 egg whites. The egg whites make the cake have a perfectly light texture.
- Both the cupcake batter and the chocolate orange buttercream get their orange flavor naturally from zest and juice, so there are no fancy ingredients required!
- The chocolate orange buttercream is rich, fudgy, and super chocolatey, but it still packs a ton of orange flavor!
- These orange cupcakes are perfect for Christmas or for the holiday season, but oranges are often available year round so they are also great for spring and summer time!
- Orange zest: this recipe calls for 3 ½ tablespoons of orange zest, which is roughly two oranges. If you don't have enough orange zest, you can also use a little bit of orange extract.
- Orange juice: the juice from the oranges that were zested works great, or you can use store-bought orange juice (which often is more concentrated, so it will add a little more flavor).
- Milk: you can use any kind of milk here; either regular dairy milk or unsweetened vegan milk.
- Vegetable oil: you can use any neutral vegetable oil in this recipe, but I find canola oil or sunflower oil work best.
- Flour: these cupcakes use all-purpose flour, and properly measuring your flour is absolutely crucial here, in order to get perfectly fluffy cupcake texture!
- Cocoa powder: use unsweetened cocoa powder for this recipe.
- Sugar: the cupcakes are made using granulated (white sugar), and I don't recommend using brown sugar or any other sugars, as it will significantly affect the cupcake's texture.
- Butter: for the chocolate orange buttercream, you can use softened regular butter or dairy free butter.
- Vegetable shortening: vegetable shortening mixed with butter helps provide a firmer buttercream, especially if you're using vegan butter. If you don't have vegetable shortening, you can substitute this with butter.
Step By Step Instructions
Note: Full ingredient measurements and instructions can be found in the recipe card at the bottom of this page.
STEP ONE: Preheat the oven and prepare 15 cupcake tins with liners. Whisk together flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder, and cocoa powder and set aside.
STEP TWO: You can use a handheld mixer, standing mixer, or just a whisk and a bowl to make the cupcakes! In a large bowl, whisk the oil and sugar together. Add in the egg, egg whites, vanilla extract, orange zest and orange juice and mix together. Whisk in the milk.
STEP THREE: Pour the dry ingredients into the bowl with the wet ingredients and mix until just combined.
STEP FOUR: Pour the batter into the cupcake liners, filling them ⅔ of the way full. Bake at 350°F for 15 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle of the cupcakes comes out clean.
STEP FIVE: While the cupcakes are cooling, make the buttercream. Use a mixer to beat the butter and shortening together. Add in the zest and orange juice.
STEP SIX: Add in a pinch of salt, then add powdered sugar. Mix in the cocoa powder (this can get a little messy, so use a big bowl!). If the mixture is too thick, add milk ½ tablespoon at a time until desired consistency is reached. If it's too thin, add in more powdered sugar.
STEP SEVEN: Frost the cupcakes once they've cooled completely, then decorate as desired.
Decorating the Cupcakes
Feel free to get creative with decorating these! I use a piping bag and the Wilton 1M piping tip to frost the cupcakes. I put a TON of buttercream on mine, but you can add as much or as little as you'd like.
I also drizzled melted chocolate over the buttercream (because more chocolate is always a good idea in my opinion 😉 ). If you'd like to make the chocolate drizzle, here's how to do it:
Place half a cup of chocolate chips in a microwave-safe bowl with 1 ½ teaspoons of coconut oil (or another oil). Microwave for 15-30 seconds, stir it up, then microwave another 15 seconds or until melted. Use a small spoon to drizzle the chocolate over the frosted cupcakes.
These chocolate orange cupcakes also look really pretty just with buttercream but here are a few more suggestions for if you want to amp them up a little!
- Sprinkle extra orange zest over the buttercream
- Sprinkles! You could use black, orange, silver, or any other sprinkles you'd like!
- If you are not making these dairy free, you can decorate the cupcakes with Terry's chocolate orange slices
- Decorate with sliced candied oranges
- Decorate with an an orange peel twist. Here is a simple tutorial for how to make one!
How to Zest an Orange
Since this recipe doesn't require orange extract, these cupcakes get most of their orange flavor from orange zest. You need 3 ½ tablespoons of zest total for the cupcakes and buttercream, but the amount of zest you can get from one orange varies greatly!
Two large oranges yielded enough zest for me, but if you only have smaller oranges you may need to use more. You can use a microplane zester, a box grater, or even a vegetable peeler.
Here is a helpful tutorial on how to zest citrus fruits. The most important rule in zesting is to avoid the white parts under the skin (they can be quite bitter!).
If you run out of oranges or don't have enough zest, you can add in some orange extract.
I used to avoid recipes that only used egg whites because I didn't want to waste the yolks, but once I realized how much fluffier and lighter they make cupcakes, I was sold.
Egg yolks add more fat to the cupcakes, which gives them a heavier texture. Trust me, the end result of using egg whites is so worth it!
The cupcake batter can actually be made using just a large bowl and a whisk, but to make the buttercream, you will need either a handheld mixer or a standing mixer.
I recommend using navel oranges if you have them, but really any kind of orange will work, even mandarin oranges!
- I will keep saying this forever because it is THE most common mistake people make when baking: you need to measure your flour properly. I highly recommend a kitchen scale. They cost less than $15 and will make a world of difference. If you don't have one, be sure to use the fluff, scoop, and level method. DO NOT just scoop your flour right out of the bag using a measuring cup. Please. You will end up with dry cupcakes.
- It is also very important to measure your cocoa powder properly. Measure it using the same method above!
- Mixing the cupcake batter until it's "just combined" means that as soon as you stop seeing flecks of flour/cocoa powder, stop mixing. Avoiding over-mixing is one of the keys to the light and fluffy texture of these cupcakes. If you over-mix cupcake batter, cupcakes can end up having a dense, almost chewy texture.
- Only fill the cupcake liners to ⅔ full! If you fill them to the top, the batter will spill over.
Storage and Freezing Instructions
The frosted cupcakes should be stored at room temperature in an air tight container (I use a cupcake carrier) for up to 3-4 days, but are best when fresh!
The chocolate orange buttercream can be made a couple days in advance, then stored covered in an air tight container in the fridge. When you're ready to frost the cupcakes, let the buttercream soften at room temperature and use a mixer to re-whip it. You can also add in a splash of milk to soften it further.
The unfrosted cupcakes can also be frozen for up to 2 months. Place them in a freezer safe ziploc bag, then thaw at room temperature.
Leftover buttercream can be frozen in an airtight container for around 2 months. When ready to use, just thaw it in the fridge and re-whip it.
More Recipes You'll Love
If you make this recipe, let me know how it went in the comments below, I’d love to hear from you! You can also tag me on Instagram or Facebook so I can check it out!
Chocolate Orange Cupcakes
- Handheld or Standing Mixer
Chocolate Orange Cupcakes
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- ⅓ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- ⅓ cup canola oil
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 egg
- 2 egg whites
- ½ cup milk (regular or vegan)
- 2 tablespoon orange zest (around 2 medium oranges)
- 2 tablespoon orange juice
Chocolate Orange Buttercream
- ¾ cup butter (regular or vegan), softened
- ¼ cup + 2 tbsp vegetable shortening
- ¾ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- 2½-2¾ cup powdered sugar SEE NOTES
- ¾ teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1½ tablespoon orange zest
- ½ tablespoon orange juice
- ½-1 tablespoon milk (regular or vegan), if needed* SEE NOTES
Chocolate Drizzle (optional)
- ½ cup chocolate chips
- 1½ teaspoon coconut oil (or other oil)
Chocolate Orange Cupcakes
- Preheat the oven to 350°F and line a cupcake/muffin tin with 12 liners. Line a second one with 3 more and set aside.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa powder, salt, baking powder, and baking soda and set aside.
- Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, mixing until they are just combined.
- Pour the batter into the cupcake liners, filling ⅔ full (NOT to the top, or the batter will spill over!).
- Bake for 12-15 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Leave them in the pan for 5 minutes then transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely.
Chocolate Orange Buttercream
- In the bowl of a standing mixer or handheld mixer, beat butter and vegetable shortening together. Add in the orange zest and orange juice.
- Add in the powdered sugar, ½ cup at a time. Start with 2½ cups, then add in the cocoa powder. If the buttercream is too thin, you can add in more powdered sugar. If it's too thick, add in ½ tablespoon of milk or orange juice until desired consistency is reached.
- Decorate the cooled cupcakes however you'd like! I added a chocolate drizzle over the buttercream, sprinkled them with orange zest, then added a slice of orange. To make the chocolate drizzle, melt ½ cup of semisweet or dark chocolate chips with 1½ teaspoon of coconut oil (or other oil) in the microwave for 30 seconds, stirring after 15 seconds.
The calorie information provided for this recipe is an estimate. The accuracy of the calories listed is not guaranteed.
Hi, so I don’t have any vegetable shortening and you say to use butter instead so does that mean I need to do 1/4 cup of butter and then also 3/4 cup butter like in the recipe?
Hi Sienna! Correct - You can use an extra 1/4 cup butter (substitute shortening to butter at 1:1 ratio). Enjoy!
This is such a fantastic recipe! I made just the cake part since I was in the mood for something a little less sweet. These came out PERFECT. Moist, perfectly fluffy, nice and chocolatey with an undertone of orange. I followed the recipe exactly except all I had were tangerines on hand and it worked great. Will definitely use this again
Hi Audrey! Yay, I'm so so happy to hear that you loved the cupcakes!! Thanks so much for taking the time to come back and leave a review 😀
Could i use vegetable oil or sour cream instead of the shortening?
Hi Lola, the buttercream would not work with vegetable oil and sour cream. You can use more butter or a vegan butter/margarine if you want to replace the shortening.
These are amazing!! And I found super easy to make. Made them for a bridal shower and they were gone so fast!! So light and fluffy, my go-to recipe from now on.
Hi Alanna! I'm so happy to hear that you loved the cupcakes and that they were a hit at the bridal shower! Thank you so much for taking the time to leave a review 🙂
I love that these are naturally orange flavored. The texture is unreal and the frosting is perfect! Thank you so much for this recipe!
Hi Loren! I'm happy to hear that you loved the cupcakes! Thanks for stopping by to leave a review!
Yummiest chocolate cupcakes EVER!!!
Hi Marlene! I'm so happy that you loved the cupcakes 🙂 Thanks for trying them out!
These cupcakes are so soft full of flavor and easy to make. The chocolate orange combo is definitely a must try. Do it !
Hi Anna! I'm happy to hear that you liked the recipe and found it easy to follow 🙂 Thanks so much for stopping by!
SO GOOD! The chocolate orange buttercream is amazingggg. Will definitely keep making these!
Hi Jillian! I'm so happy to hear that you loved the recipe! Thanks so much for taking the time to leave a review 🙂
This recipe looks AMAZING!
What kind of cocoa powder do you use? Natural or alkalized?
Hi Kathryn! I used alkalized but you can totally use natural! I hope you love the recipe - thanks so much for stopping by! 🙂