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Chocolate orange cupcakes topped with frosting and chocolate shavings.
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5 from 1 vote

Chocolate Orange Cupcakes

These chocolate orange cupcakes are soft, fluffy, perfectly moist and packed with chocolate orange flavor. Topped with a gorgeous chocolate orange buttercream frosting.
Prep Time15 mins
Cook Time20 mins
Total Time35 mins
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Diet: Vegetarian
Servings: 12
Calories: 467kcal
Author: Alison


Chocolate Orange Buttercream Frosting:

Decoration (Optional):

  • Chocolate Shavings


  • Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C) and line a cupcake tray with 12 cupcake liners.
  • Sift all purpose flour and cocoa powder into a mixing bowl and add sugar, baking soda, baking powder, salt and instant espresso powder. Mix together.
  • Prepare the homemade buttermilk by adding ½ tablespoon of lemon juice to a measuring jug and then adding room temperature milk up to the ½ cup (120ml) line. Let it sit for a minute to curdle.
  • Add buttermilk, oil, egg, orange extract and orange zest to the mixing bowl and mix it into a batter.
  • Now add hot water and whisk it in until you have a thin batter. Don't overmix.
  • Divide the batter evenly between 12 cupcake liners.
  • Bake for 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of one of the cupcakes comes out clean.
  • Let the cupcakes cool for a few minutes before removing them from the cupcake tray and transferring to a wire cooling rack to cool completely before frosting.
  • Prepare your frosting by adding softened butter to the bowl of your stand mixer. Start at slow speed, gradually increasing speed and beat the butter until it is smooth and slightly pale in color.
  • Add powdered sugar, cocoa powder, orange extract and milk and starting at slow speed gradually increase speed and let it beat for a few minutes until it's very fluffy and smooth.
  • When your cupcakes have cooled completely, pipe on the frosting and decorate with chocolate shavings (optional).


  1. Measure the flour properly. If you're using cups only (no food scale) then the best way to measure the flour is to use the spoon and level method. Spoon the flour into your measuring cup and then level off the top with a knife. Don't scoop the flour and don't pack it into the cup. If you have a food scale then the most accurate method is to simply weigh the flour on your scale. Click 'metric' below the list of ingredients to get the correct weights in grams. 
  2. Instant espresso powder - this is optional but does tend to really bring out those chocolate flavors. It doesn't make it taste like coffee at all. You can also use regular instant coffee powder.
  3. Buttermilk - you can use real buttermilk in this recipe or a homemade buttermilk substitute (lemon juice or vinegar + room temperature milk). We have tested it both ways so whatever is easiest for you.
  4. Orange extract - this really pops the orange flavor in this recipe. If you have any difficulty with getting this extract then you could replace it with orange juice but the flavor is going to be much more subtle and not nearly as good or strong.
  5. Don't over-mix the batter. This batter is mixed and then hot water is added and it's mixed again. So just be careful not to do too much mixing or it could affect the texture and rise of your cupcakes. So you just want to mix it until just mixed, add the hot water and then mix again until just mixed.
  6. Butter - the butter for the frosting should ideally be softened first. But if you forget to take it out of the fridge in time, it's not a problem since we beat the butter on its own first anyway. Just cut it into cubes and beat it for a minute or two extra if needed to get it smooth and pale in color. The butter can also be lightly salted or unsalted. We used lightly salted, so if you use unsalted, you may want to add in ⅛ teaspoon of salt or to taste.
  7. Make a layer cake: This recipe would make a two or three layer 6-inch cake. Bake for 25-30 minutes for a two layer 6-inch cake and 20 minutes for a three layer 6-inch cake.
  8. Make it dairy free: If you make homemade buttermilk using soy milk or almond milk then you can make the cupcakes dairy-free. You would also want to replace the butter in the frosting with a dairy-free butter such as Earth Balance and use dairy-free milk like soy milk or almond milk in the frosting as well.
  9. Storing and freezing: Keep these cupcakes stored at room temperature (covered) for 2-3 days or in the fridge (covered) for up to a week. Let them come to room temperature before serving. They can be frozen with or without frosting and can be frozen for up to 3 months. Thaw them in the fridge and bring to room temperature before serving.
  10. Nutritional information includes the frosting. 


Serving: 1Cupcake | Sodium: 346mg | Calcium: 49mg | Vitamin C: 1mg | Vitamin A: 526IU | Sugar: 52g | Fiber: 3g | Potassium: 202mg | Cholesterol: 58mg | Calories: 467kcal | Trans Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 9g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 3g | Saturated Fat: 11g | Fat: 24g | Protein: 4g | Carbohydrates: 66g | Iron: 2mg