Chocolate Orange Layer Cake

I know January can be exciting because its the start of the new year, which means lots of resolutions, reflections, goals and planning, and that’s pretty cool, but one of my favorite things about the month is all of the leftover Christmas candy I get to slowly work my way through. One of my absolute favorite types of Christmas candy is a chocolate orange. If you’ve never had one before, it’s basically a ball of chocolate that breaks apart into slices when you whack it on the counter. What’s not to love about that?

I remember finding a chocolate orange in my Christmas stocking when I was little, and I’ve been a fan ever since then. That’s where I got the inspiration for this Chocolate Orange Layer Cake. Just like a classic chocolate orange, this cake has layers of chocolate orange cake paired with an orange cream cheese frosting. It’s rich and sweet, but also slightly tangy.

You’ll add both orange zest and a little bit of freshly squeezed orange juice to the chocolate cake batter to give it that subtle orange flavor. More orange zest is added to the cream cheese based frosting to add a little more of a punch. Since you’ll be using both orange zest and juice, I recommend having 2-3 large oranges to work with.

You’ll first start by mixing together all of the dry ingredients in one bowl while the butter, sugar, and orange zest blend together in a stand mixer. Add the eggs, followed by the buttermilk, and be sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl in between each addition. Then alternate between adding the dry ingredients and the coffee. With the mixer still on low, add in the orange juice and mix just until combined.

As the cake bakes, you’ll want to begin working on that tangy frosting. Blend together the butter, cream cheese, and orange zest and then slowly add the powdered sugar, mixing it until it is light and fluffy. You can cover and chill the frosting until you are ready to use it.

Once your cake layers have cooled, it’s time to start frosting. Level out each layer and alternate every cake layer with frosting. Apply a crumb coat, or thin layer of frosting around the cake, and let it chill. This will help to trap all of those chocolate crumbs so that they don’t get trapped in the final layer of frosting.

Once the crumb coat is somewhat firm to the touch, carefully coat the sides and top of the cake with the remaining frosting. I used the back of a spoon to create a swirly design with the frosting, but you can also use a spatula to get a smooth finish.

And there you go, your very own cake version of a chocolate orange!

Chocolate Orange Layer Cake

Author: Marisa Guerra

Chocolate Orange Layer Cake

  • 2 ½ cups flour
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ¾ cup cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ¾ cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 tbsp orange zest
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 cup freshly brewed hot coffee
  • ½ cup freshly squeezed orange juice
  1. Preheat oven to 350º F.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, cocoa powder, and salt and set aside.
  3. In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine the butter, sugar, and orange zest until light and fluffy.
  4. Add eggs one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl with your spatula as needed.
  5. With the mixer on low, add the buttermilk.
  6. Beginning and ending with the flour mixture, alternate between adding the flour mixture and the coffee to the batter. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed.
  7. With the mixer still on low, add the orange juice to the batter and mix just until combined.
  8. Coat three 7-inch cake pans with cooking spray or butter and cocoa powder and line the bottom of each with parchment. Evenly divide the batter into the pans.
  9. Bake for 30-35 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  10. Cool for 10-15 minutes on a cooling rack before gently running a knife along the edge of each pan, topping the cake with another cooling rack and turning each cake out. Let cakes cool completely before frosting.

Cream Cheese Frosting

  • ¾ cup butter, softened
  • 12 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 2 tsp orange zest
  • 4 cups confectioners sugar, sifted
  1. Cream together the butter, cream cheese, and orange zest on medium-high speed for 2-3 minutes until smooth.
  2. With the mixer on low, slowly add in spoonfuls of confectioners sugar.
  3. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and mix until light and fluffy.
  4. Chill frosting until needed.

Cake Assembly

  1. Once your cake layers have cooled, carefully cut the tops off with a serrated knife so that each layer is level.
  2. Place one layer, top side down, on a cake board and spread with frosting. Repeat this step with the next two layers.
  3. Apply a crumb coat, or a thin layer of frosting, around the cake and chill for 30-35 minutes.
  4. Frost the sides and top of the cake with the remaining frosting, using the back of a spoon to create swirls. Chill until ready to serve.
  5. Enjoy!