Fudgy and Moist Chocolate Orange Cake Recipe

This chocolate orange cake recipe with fudgy chocolate layers and chocolate orange ganache was created for the reddit 52 week baking challenge: week 21 – birthday party! It’s a celebration of the 100th uglyducklingbakery blog post!

a chocolate orange cake decorated with candied orange and the number 100.

It’s been a fun journey so far. I’ve learned so much about all things blogging. My photography is improving. My cake decorating is getting better. A view posts have gotten a bunch of attention – like my purple cow bread, all the birthday cakes for my 50th birthday this month, and the fig bacon jam angel hair pasta that my kiddo dreamed up.

Two slices of chocolate orange cake with a candied orange wedge.

This milestone brings you a fudgy and moist chocolate orange cake (Sorry, do you hate that word? Blame google.). Because celebrations call for cake. And chocolate and orange are a glorious combination of flavors.

This cake is a variation of my fudgy triple layer chocolate cake with ganache icing, which is pure chocolate heaven. That cake is an adaptation of the Epicurious double chocolate layer cake. In addition to my prior adaptations, this chocolate orange cake recipe subs Grand Marnier for the vanilla extract in the cake, uses an orange sugar syrup to soak the cake layers, and then adds more orange zest to the chocolate ganache icing. I’ve made it here as a two-layer cake, but feel free to go sky high.

two cake pans floured with cocoa.

Tips and tricks for this chocolate orange cake recipe

  • I melt the chocolate for both the cake layers and the icing in a double boiler because I feel I have more control that way. Don’t wash it in between.
  • It’s a liquidly cake batter that bakes for a long-ish time at a low-ish temperature. As a result, the layers bake tops so perfectly flat that they make even my decorating skills look decent.
  • The fudgy layers of this cake can be a bit fragile, so be careful when you remove them from the pans. In the image below, (Panel #1) make sure to bake the layers until the edges have started to pull away from the pan and let cool. Run a thin knife or spatula around to release. To remove from the pan, put a rack over the pan (Panel #2) and flip over (Panel #3). Gently tap on the pan to get the layer to release. Remove the parchment paper (Panels #4-6). To flip back over to decorate, support the cake layer with the length of your hand and gently flip the cake back over to right-side-up and place on the cake stand or whatever you are using to decorate.
  • Because the cake is somewhat fragile, I would not recommend brushing the layers with the orange sugar syrup until they are on the cake stand.
  • I am a messy decorator, so I often use the bottom from a 9″ tart pan placed over a piece of parchment paper on the cake stand to protect the stand from all sorts of drips.
Six panels showing how to remove chocolate cake layers from the pan.

FAQs about this chocolate orange cake recipe

Do I have to weigh out my ingredients?

No. But there is so much variation in how people measure that you are much more likely to get a reliable result if you weigh your ingredients.

Can I freeze this moist chocolate orange cake?

Absolutely, especially if you decorate the cake simply. After a cake has been in the refrigerator overnight, I cut the cake into family sized portions. I double-wrap each piece in plastic wrap and then place it in a plastic bag with as much air removed as possible. When you want to eat a piece, remove it from the refrigerator, unwrap it and put it on a plate, and let it come to room temperature before serving. We actually think the original chocolate cake tastes even better after being frozen and defrosted than it does baked fresh. This one freezes beautifully too.

What do I do with extra icing?

If you’re like me and you like only a thin layer of frosting on cakes, you might end up with a small amount of extra icing. You can freeze frostings and have a variety for a batch of cupcakes. Or use extra frosting for cake balls or cake pops the next time you have a cake failure. Because they happen to all of us. This ganache icing will last in the freezer for 3-6 months.

Oooh, cupcakes. Could I make chocolate orange cupcakes instead of a chocolate orange layer cake?

Yes. A recipe for two 9″ round layers should make 24 cupcakes. You’ll want to reduce the cooking time and skip the orange sugar syrup.

What do I do if a cake layer falls apart?

Now you have an excuse to make cake pops or cake balls!

What can I substitute for the alcohol?

There is minimal alcohol in this recipe, but if you want to avoid the Grand Marnier and vanilla or orange extract (which are also alcohol-based), you can make your own non-alcoholic extracts.

a chocolate orange cake decorated with candied orange and the number 100.

Chocolate orange cake with chocolate orange ganache icing

Servings 12
Calories 717kcal
Author uglyducklingbakery


Double chocolate orange cake layers

  • butter for greasing cake pans
  • 1 ⅔ cups (208g) bleached, all purpose flour
  • 1 cup (96g) unsweetened cocoa powder plus extra for "flouring" the pans
  • 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups (400g) granulated sugar
  • 2 ounces semisweet chocolate, melted and cooled
  • 1 cup coffee, cooled
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • ½ cup neutral vegetable oil (e.g. canola)
  • 1 teaspoon Grand Marnier or other orange liqueur

Orange sugar syrup

  • ½ cup orange juice
  • ½ cup granulated sugar

Chocolate orange ganache icing

  • 1 pound semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, melted and cooled
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons corn syrup
  • zest of one large or two medium oranges
  • 4 tablespoons (2 oz) unsalted butter, cut into cubes and softened


  • candied orange slices, candied orange peel, sprinkles, etc for decoration as desired


Chocolate orange cake layers

  • Preheat the oven to 300°F.
  • Lightly butter two 9" cake pans, line the bottoms with parchment paper, and butter the paper. Use unsweetened cocoa powder to "flour" the pans and set aside.
    1 cup (96g) unsweetened cocoa powder, butter for greasing cake pans
  • Sift the flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into a medium bowl.
    1 2/3 cups (208g) bleached, all purpose flour, 1 cup (96g) unsweetened cocoa powder, 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon baking soda, 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • In a bowl of a stand mixer or large bowl if using a hand mixer, beat the eggs on medium speed until pale yellow (~5 minutes).
    2 eggs
  • Add the sugar and beat for a couple of minutes.
    2 cups (400g) granulated sugar
  • Add the cooled chocolate and mix, then add coffee, buttermilk, oil, and orange liqueur.
    2 ounces semisweet chocolate, melted and cooled, 1 cup coffee, cooled, 1 cup buttermilk, 1/2 cup neutral vegetable oil (e.g. canola), 1 teaspoon Grand Marnier or other orange liqueur
  • Add the dry ingredients and combine on low speed for 1 minute or by hand until just combined.
  • Divide equally into the prepared pans. Before putting them in the oven, thwack them gingerly on the countertop once or twice to remove any air bubbles.
  • Bake for about 60 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean and the edges are just starting to pull away from the side of the pan.
  • Cool cake layers in the pan. You may need to run a spatula or knife around the edge of the cake pans to get the layers to release from the pan (see above for helpful tips).

Orange sugar syrup

  • Combine the orange juice and sugar in a small pot. Bring to a boil and boil for a few minutes until it has reduced by half. Let cool.
    1/2 cup orange juice, 1/2 cup granulated sugar

Chocolate orange ganache icing

  • Melt the chocolate in a double boiler and cool.
    1 pound semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, melted and cooled
  • Combine the cream, sugar, and corn syrup in a small pan and heat just until the sugar has dissolved. Remove from heat, add the orange zest, stir and cool.
    1 cup heavy cream, 2 tablespoons granulated sugar, 2 tablespoons corn syrup, zest of one large or two medium oranges
  • When the chocolate and cream mixture have cooled to touch, put them into the bowl of your stand mixer or a mixing bowl and beat on medium speed. (I often am impatient and don't want to wait, but f you try to mix everything before they're cool, the icing is too thin to frost the cake. I promise you.)
  • Add the butter and beat to get a smooth, spreadable consistency.
    4 tablespoons (2 oz) unsalted butter, cut into cubes and softened


  • Carefully remove the first cake layer from its pan (as shown above) and place it right side up on the cake stand or plate.
  • Use a pastry brush or spoon to brush or drip the orange sugar syrup over the top of the first cake layer. Let the syrup soak into the cake for a minute or two.
  • Use about 1/2-3/4 cup of icing to spread an even ganache layer over the first cake layer.
  • Carefully place the second cake layer on top and repeat with the orange sugar syrup.
  • Use the remaining ganache (or reserve some for future cake pops!) to frost the top and sides of the cake.
  • Decorate with candied orange slices, candied orange peel, sprinkles, or leave it plain. Baker's choice!
    candied orange slices, candied orange peel, sprinkles, etc for decoration


Calories: 717kcal | Carbohydrates: 89g | Protein: 8g | Fat: 39g | Saturated Fat: 19g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 6g | Monounsaturated Fat: 11g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 69mg | Sodium: 244mg | Potassium: 454mg | Fiber: 6g | Sugar: 64g | Vitamin A: 523IU | Vitamin C: 5mg | Calcium: 111mg | Iron: 5mg

What’s next?

If you make this fudgy and moist chocolate & orange cake recipe, please leave a comment or rating here. Or share a pic with me on Instagram. Please also let me know if there is a recipe or an ingredient you’d like to see more of in my next 100 posts!

Check out the uglyducklingbakery cake archives!

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Previous challenges:
Week 1: New Year new recipe – blueberry galette
Week 2: seasonal – Smitten Kitchen’s grapefruit pound cake
Week 3: Great British Bake Off – Kate’s sticky toffee apple caramel cake
Week 4: Australia – sausage rolls
Week 5: bite sized – cookies
Week 6: Chinese New Year – mushroom bao
Week 7: new tool – baguette baker
Week 8: chocolate – chocolate peanut butter bonbons
Week 9: timed bake – under 1 hour! chocolate chip scones
Week 10: allergy/diet restriction – macarons
Week 11: quick breads – kale and cheese quick bread
Week 12: signature bake – purple cow bread
Week 13: enriched breads (kale and cheese babka fail)
Week 14: childhood favorite –fudgy triple layer chocolate cake with chocolate ganache frosting
Week 15: decorating challenge – purple velvet cake
Week 16: crispy crunchy – bacon cheddar popcorn
Week 17: p52 of your favorite cookbook, or your favorite blog – chocolate peanut butter drip cake
Week 18: pâte à choux – bacon cheese puffs
Week 19: veggies turned sweet – red velvet beet waffles
Week 20: plating – chocolate chip cookie (butter challenge)

Next week: Scandinavian… (?!)

slices of chocolate orange cake overlooking a wooded backyard.

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