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Chocolate Orange Cupcakes

Chocolate Orange Cupcakes

It’s been a while since I baked a batch of cupcakes, but I started to get the itch for some of the miniature cakes this weekend and pulled out my trusty cupcake pan. Some freshly picked oranges – plucked from the tree before the orange-loving squirrels could get to them – were my inspiration to make some orange and chocolate cupcakes.

I used a simple cake recipe that I come back to time and again. I’ve heard it called wacky cake and eggless cake before, but it’s just a good one in my book no matter what name it goes by. The cake uses no eggs and no butter (it’s vegan, actually), and it can be mixed up in just one bowl. Typically, it gets its leavening from a combination of baking soda and vinegar added to the batter and is moistened with vegetable oil. Since orange juice is acidic, I left out the vinegar and introduced a good amount of orange juice to the cake. The resulting cupcakes rose beautifully and had a great texture: soft, but not crumbly, and moist.

Using cocoa powder in the cupcakes gives them a really good, strong chocolate flavor. The orange juice, if used alone, contributes a surprisingly mild flavor that doesn’t stand up to the chocolate that well. I remedied this by adding in the zest of one orange to the cake batter to boost the citrus flavor of the cake and by topping the cupcakes with a zesty orange frosting. The frosting was quite bold and, in the end, everything came together perfectly.

These are tasty and easy to make – especially since you don’t have to wait for butter to soften before you can start mixing. Try to use freshly squeezed orange juice for the best flavor. You’ll need to have fresh oranges on hand for their zest, so you might as well make the most of the fruit in this recipe.

Chocolate Orange Cupcakes
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1 cup sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup orange juice
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp orange zest

Preheat oven to 350F. Line a 12-cup muffin tin with paper liners.
In a large bowl, sift together flour, cocoa power, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
In a medium bowl, whisk together orange juice, vegetable oil, vanilla and orange zest. Pour into dry ingredients and stir until just combined and no streaks of flour remain.
Distribute batter evenly into prepared muffin cups.
Bake for 15-18 minutes, until a tester inserted into the center comes out clean.
Cool cupcakes on a wire rack before frosting

Zesty Orange Frosting
3 tbsp butter, room temperature
2-3 tsp orange zest
1/4 cup milk
2 cups confectioners’ sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

In a medium bowl, cream together butter and orange zest.
Beat in milk, confectioners’ sugar and vanilla extract until smooth. Add more confectioners’ sugar if you desire a thicker frosting; consistency should be thick but still somewhat runny.
Spread onto cooled cupcakes.

Makes 12.

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  • RecipeGirl
    May 12, 2008

    Love that oozy frosting come off the edge there!

  • Sally
    May 12, 2008

    Looks lovely. I need an orange! I’ve made a cake like this before, it was called chocolate snack cake, silly name.

  • Melissa
    May 12, 2008

    You know, I’m not usually much of a chocolate fan (I’m a traitor to my ovaries, I know), but these sound awesome! I’ll have to put them on my list!

  • commonplaceiris
    May 13, 2008

    Chocolate+orange is one of my favourite combinations. Unfortunately my husband thinks it’s weird so I’ll probably wait for company or a potluck to make these but definitely want to give them a try soon.

  • Patricia Scarpin
    May 14, 2008

    I absolutely love chocolate and orange together, Nic. YUM!

  • redrosettes
    May 28, 2008

    hi. just wanna clarify, for your zesty orange frosting, you only need 3 tablespoons of butter?


  • Yukari
    May 30, 2008

    Thank you so much for this recipe! My baking capers rarely come out good, but it was a success this time! I baked these cupcakes for the graduating seniors at school and they loved it! ^^

  • Jim
    November 10, 2008

    Chocolate and orange do seem like a strange combination but there was once a popular chocolate bar, made in Holland, that combined chocolate with orange. The brand was Van Houten. During the 1930s when the only way American families had orange juice at breakfast was from freshly squeezed oranges, moms found lots of ways to make use of the peels. One way was to put grated orange zest into chocolate icings. It made the icings “less sweet” for those complainers who said “the icing is too sweet.” One chocolate icing recipe in a 1930s cookbook specifies “zest and pulp of one orange” along with an egg white and melted unsweetened chocolate. The concluding sentence is “For an orange icing, omit the chocolate.” Smart moms made a yellow cake batter and baked a small cake for the family dessert and a few cupcakes for the next day’s lunch boxes. A part of the icing was left orange for the cupcakes and some melted chocolate went into the icing for the cake. Try it! For another taste treat, put orange zest into your next batch of chocolate chip cookies and omit the vanilla.

  • jammer
    January 20, 2009

    we need some more like this
    made 1 for my custonmers in my resaurant
    was great

  • asian recipes
    February 20, 2009

    Is that possible to substitute the orange juice with other fruits favor? just wonder if i can make various type of favor…

  • Jocelyne
    March 17, 2009

    I just made these and they turned out more like a brownie. The cupcakes fell away from the papers and were sturdy and dense. I would suggest using more sugar with the frosting, or maybe less milk, It seemed like it needed to be thicker. The frosting was falling into the papers down the sides, which was a bit messy. I would say if I made this again, I would make it in a big pan as a brownie/cake and then the frosting would be put on top. I also had to bake them way longer than the recipe stated.

    The flavors were good though and although they were a bit sloppy with the papers falling off and the frosting going down the sides, they were really tasty.

    Thanks for the recipe. I’m gonna try it as a brownie/cake next time.

  • Dana
    April 24, 2009

    looks like delicious. i want to eat that cupcakes.

  • Israel education
    May 28, 2009

    You know, I’m not usually much of a chocolate fan (I’m a traitor to my ovaries, I know), but these sound awesome! I’ll have to put them on my list!

  • Vegan Straight Edge
    June 8, 2009

    I don’t even know what to say. These sound SO good right now, maybe because I’m starving. Orange Chocolate is absolutely one of my favorite flavor combos, so I am DEFINITELY trying this recipe. Thanks for sharing this one!

  • Donna
    March 19, 2011

    hi I tried out this cupcake yesterday and it turned out to be very delicious with the right hint of orange in every bite. But I would like to point out that the cake turned out to be very crumbly. why is that? would appreciate to hear from you.. thanx

  • vie
    September 26, 2011

    I’ve just tried this yesterday and i luv it! Easy to make and rich in taste.

  • ania
    October 12, 2011

    That was my debut with cupcakes. Perfect recipe!!!!!!!!. No need of frosting as they are nicely sweet and a taste is amazing. Easy to make:-)

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