Perfect Chocolate Orange Cake With 3-Ingredient Ganache

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Impress yourself and everyone else at your next special occasion with this easy chocolate orange cake for a zesty twist on a classic chocolate fudge cake. With its delicious 3-ingredient ganache, it’ll really steal the show! It’s super rich, decadent, moist and fudgy, while not too sweet. The dark chocolate and citrus flavours complement each other well, and it’s easy to make in just one bowl (well, almost).

Someone in a red and blue checked shirt placing a decorated chocolate orange layer cake on a white cake stand on a blue surface

There’s no shortage of easy chocolate desserts on Scrummy Lane already. This 6-ingredient gooey Swedish chocolate cake is legendary. Make this rather classy no-bake chocolate truffle cake in just 10 minutes. There’s even a 30-minute healthy chocolate cake, but don’t worry no-one will ever know it’s a healthier cake when they taste it! 😉

But when it comes to chocolate cake, there’s always room for one more. This chocolate orange cake is a layer cake with a zesty twist – perfect for afternoon teas, birthday parties and more.

Chocolate and orange are a match made in heaven, right? So chocolate and orange lovers – this is for you.

Why it’s a perfect chocolate orange cake

  • Great flavour. It’s super moist, rich, and fudgy with a decadent chocolate flavor. Most fudge cakes are made with oil. This one is buttery without being overly sweet.
  • You can really taste the orange with the juice and zest of 2 whole oranges (plus extra zest!) in the batter and orange ganache.
  • It’s almost (but not quite!) a one bowl chocolate orange cake recipe. The butter is melted, so all you need is a wooden spoon to stir everything together. No stand or hand mixer necessary.
  • Everyone loves it. This is perfect for birthdays and special events, or just an afternoon tea with family and friends.
  • The frosting/decoration is so easy. You need just 3 ingredients and a few minutes to make the chocolate ganache. Use half to sandwich the 2 cake layers together and the other half to spread over the top. I like to finish with a small grating of chocolate and some dried orange slices or chocolate candied orange slices if I have them. But grated chocolate and fresh orange slices works just as well.
  • It keeps for 4 to 5 days in an airtight container. Great for making ahead!
  • All in all… this is one of my ‘most tested’ recipes! I tried many different versions before landing on the final recipe. I feel like this chocolate and orange cake is the best it can be. Try it for yourself and see if you agree!

About the ingredients

Buttermilk: This helps to make the cake extra moist and delicious. My little trick is to make something very like ‘buttermilk’ by mixing orange juice with ordinary milk.

Butter: For richness and taste. The butter is melted, which means it’s just mixed into the other ingredients rather than having to be creamed with the sugar first.

Dark chocolate: Just a little – 50 grams or 1.75 ounces, for extra richness and moisture.

If you can get hold of some orange flavoured chocolate such as Terry’s Chocolate Orange, by all means use that for an extra hit of orange.

Cocoa: You can either use ordinary unsweetened cocoa powder or Dutch processed. Dutch processed is a little darker and richer in flavour. I usually use ordinary cocoa powder.

Sugar: Light brown sugar. I try to keep my cakes on the less sweet side these days, so I use just 1¼ cups or 225 grams in the batter.

Hot coffee: This is another of the ‘secret’ ingredients! You won’t taste it – it just intensifies the chocolaty flavor. Instant/Americano/Long black all work. No coffee? No worries, just use hot water.

Eggs: 2 whole large eggs (around 60 grams or 2 ounces) plus 1 extra yolk for moisture, structure and lift. Room temperature is best.

Flour, salt, baking soda: I use self-raising flour (UK/Australia) for ease. If you’re in the USA, use plain flour and 1.5 teaspoons of baking powder (not self rising flour which isn’t exactly the same). A touch of baking soda balances out the acidity of the cocoa powder.

Generally you can replace self raising flour with gluten free self raising flour in a ratio of 1:1 in a chocolate fudge cake and the cake will still taste delicious.

If you’re using plain/all-purpose gluten free flour, add 1 teaspoon of baking powder per cup of flour, so 1.5 teaspoons for this recipe. If your flour doesn’t contain xanthan gum or another ‘elasticity’ replacement, add a quarter teaspoon of xanthan gum as well.

Let me know how you get on if you try it!

Whole oranges (3): You’ll use the zest of all 3 (Most in the cake batter and the rest in the ganache) and the fresh orange juice of 2. We want to make sure we can taste the orange in this orange chocolate cake!

For the ganache: A whole large bar of dark chocolate (200 grams or 7 ounces), ¾ cup of heavy/double or pouring cream (not thickened cream) and some orange zest.

What kind of cream to get can be a bit confusing as there are usually several types of cream to choose from in supermarkets. They can also be called different things in different countries! I usually go for simple pouring or whisking cream. Double cream also works. I generally avoid ‘thickened cream’ as the ganache will potentially set too hard.

In the USA, go for heavy or whipping cream. In the UK, double or whipping cream will work. Avoid light cream or half and half. It might be OK, but better to be on the safe side.

How to make a chocolate orange cake

If like me you only ‘do’ simple desserts, this is definitely one for you to try. You’ll impress yourself and everyone who tastes it!

Step 1: Start by making the ‘buttermilk’ by pouring the juice of 2 oranges into a cup and topping up with milk. It will curdle and look terrible, but that’s OK – it’ll add to the moisture and deliciousness of the cake.

A measuring cup of buttermilk made from milk and orange juice from above on a blue background and with the words orange juice plus milk equals buttermilk on it

Step 2: Melt the butter and chocolate together in the microwave in 30-second bursts. I find 1.5 to 2 minutes is about right.

Step 3: When it’s melted or almost melted, pour in the buttermilk and warm everything a little more – 30 seconds should be enough. Stir together until you have a smooth mixture.

2 labelled images showing chocolate and butter together in a big bowl, then after melted and with buttermilk added

Step 4: Stir in the cocoa and sugar.

Step 5: Pour in the hot coffee. Stir. Let the mixture cool for a short while.

Step 6: Add the eggs (lightly whisked). You need 2 whole eggs plus a yolk. To get just the yolk, hold the whole egg in one hand and let the whites drip through your fingers into a bowl.

Step 7: Folding in the flour, salt, baking soda and orange zest finishes off the cake batter. It’ll be really runny. That’s fine!

Pro tip: Sift in the flour to help avoid lumps! If you don’t have a sieve, sprinkle it over little by little and mix until you can’t see any more white bits.

collage of 4 images showing how to make the batter for a chocolate orange layer cake with labels on the images - images show hot coffee, adding the sugar, cocoa, hot coffee to the batter, stirring in the eggs and adding the flour, soda and orange zest

Step 8: Pour half of the batter into each lined cake pan. It will be runnier than shown in the image below (this photo is from an earlier version of the recipe).

Step 9: Bake for around 25 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre of the cakes comes out clean or with just a few sticky crumbs on it. Be careful not to overbake, though. I find it can go from still runny in the middle to perfectly baked in around only 5 minutes.

Step 10: Let cool completely. Then spread half of the ganache over one of the cakes. Put the other one on top. Spread the other half over the top.

collage of 4 images showing cake batter in tins ready for baking, one of the baked cakes, spreading on the ganache and decorated with orange slices

How to make the ganache

I don’t know about you, but I’m not a fan of frostings or icings that have lots of ingredients or take a lot of time to make.

After my cake’s baked, I’m impatient to finish it off and get on with the very serious business of eating it!

If this is you too, you’re in luck because you only need 3 ingredients to make the very rich and yummy chocolate orange ganache. Imagine the cake covered with chocolate truffle and you get the idea.

All you need to make it is good quality dark chocolate (use orange flavoured if you can find it), double, heavy or pouring cream (all of these work) and orange zest.

You won’t believe how easy it is to make in 3 easy steps:

Step 1: Melt the chocolate in the microwave in 30-second bursts for around 1 to 1.5 minutes. Then add the cream and heat again until the chocolate is fully or very nearly melted.

Step 2: Mix really well until smooth. Then stir in the zest of an orange (you’ll have reserved this from when you made the cake batter so it’s all ready to go). Add a sneaky half teaspoon of salt as well if you like.

Step 3: Cover the bowl and chill in the fridge for 2 to 2.5 hours or until a soft spreading consistency. You don’t want it to be either running off the cake or too solid to spread. If it’s too runny pop back in the fridge for another half an hour. If it’s too hard, melt it in the microwave for just 5 to 10 seconds until a little softer again.

For future reference, this 3-ingredient mixture also makes a delicious chocolate sauce if you use it immediately after mixing in the cream! Let it set a little more and you can roll it into the most delicious chocolate orange truffles! Just saying…

How to decorate your cake

If you like, decorate your orange chocolate cake with any or all of the following:

  • a bit of grated dark chocolate
  • regular fresh orange slices (remove before storing, though, as they’ll spoil before the cake does)
  • small bits of orange peel (I use a vegetable peeler)

As you can see from the photos, I usually start by sprinkling some grated chocolate over my chocolate orange cake. Then I lay 4 to 5 dried orange slices on one half of the cake. Then I sprinkle over a few small bits of orange peel. Easy but classy, don’t you think?

A finished chocolate orange cake decorated with orange slices on a white cake stand and on a blue background with a grey wall and ingredients behind

How to serve it

Honestly? This perfect orange chocolate cake is moist, fudgy and chocolaty enough to be served by itself. It doesn’t ‘need’ anything else at all.

Like most fudge cakes, it’s excellent served either cold or warm. I prefer it cold. The texture is really fudgy and the ganache tastes exactly like chocolate truffles. However, to warm individual slices, start with just 20 seconds in the microwave. Top with cream, ice cream or even custard, or serve it as it is.

Start with smaller slices than you might think. It’s not overly sweet but it is quite rich and dense, and even more so when you factor in the ganache.

Am I making you hungry yet? 😉

More things to know (FAQs)

How can I avoid lumpy batter?

I usually sift the flour into the batter to reduce the chance of lumps. Stir until the flour is all combined and you can’t see any white bits. Then stop mixing – you don’t want to overmix and risk getting tough cake. It may still look like there are some lumps, but that’s OK. You won’t see or taste them when the cake is baked.

If you don’t have a sieve, just sprinkle the flour over and stir in little by little.

What kind of chocolate do you use?

I usually go for a supermarket own brand (so not too expensive) dark chocolate with about 45 to 55% cocoa solids. Nice and dark, but not too bitter to eat on its own.

How long does it take for the ganache to set?

I find that in general it takes 2 to 2.5 hours for the ganache to set to the desired consistency. This may vary however depending on the exact type of chocolate and cream you use.

I recommend checking after around 2 hours. You’re looking for a spreading consistency, a little similar to Nutella or peanut butter. If it’s still too runny leave it for a while longer. If on the other hand it’s set too much, just microwave for 5 to 10 seconds until slightly softened again.

Can I make one big chocolate orange cake instead of a layer cake?

If you like, you can pour all the batter into a lined rectangular 9 x 13 inch baking pan and make a sheet cake instead of a layer cake. Make the same amount of ganache and spread it all over the top and sides in one thick layer. Mmm!

The cooking temperature will be the same (160C or 320F) but the cooking time might be slightly different depending on the type of pan. Check at 20 minutes and every 5 minutes after to see if it’s done.

Does the cake need to be refrigerated?

No, it doesn’t. If you have leftovers (a big ‘if’), store it in an airtight container (a traditional round cake tin is perfect) in a cool place for 4 to 5 days.

If the weather is especially hot, keep it in the fridge. Cover loosely with aluminium foil and store in an airtight container. It will keep well for up to a week like this.

Can you freeze a chocolate orange cake?

Yes. absolutely. If you’d like to freeze the whole cake, freeze the 2 layers separately. Wrap well in several layers of plastic wrap and/or foil for up to 6 months. I’d make the ganache fresh when you want to serve the cake.

If you’re freezing leftovers, simply store in airtight plastic or glass containers for up to 6 months. Around 2 hours should be enough time for it to defrost or let it defrost slowly in the fridge overnight.

Why are chocolate and orange a good combination?

These two flavors pair very well together. The taste of orange is bright and refreshing which is a perfect contrast to the richness and bitterness of chocolate and especially dark chocolate.

A slice of chocolate orange cake on a pale grey plate with 2 slices of dried orange on the side and a fork - all on a blue background with more orange slices in the corner

Love the sound of this layer cake but rather make something even simpler? Try this simple and moist ricotta orange cake. Just want chocolate? This 6-ingredient gooey Swedish chocolate cake is the one for you!

More easy cakes (great for entertaining!)

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A finished chocolate orange cake decorated with orange slices on a white cake stand and on a blue background with a grey wall and ingredients behind
4.55 from 20 votes

Perfect Chocolate Orange Cake With 3-Ingredient Ganache

A rich, decadent, moist, fudgy and very easy to make chocolate orange cake sandwiched together with a creamy 3-ingredient orange ganache. It's the perfect crowd pleasing chocolate fudge cake for any occasion.
Prep: 20 minutes
Cook: 25 minutes
Total: 45 minutes
Servings: 8 to 10

Ingredients 
 

For the cake layers

  • 165 grams unsalted butter, ⅔ cup + a teaspoon/1.5 sticks
  • 50 grams dark chocolate, 1.75 ounces
  • 2 oranges, juice (½ cup) and zest
  • 125 ml milk, ½ cup
  • 75 grams cocoa, ¾ cup
  • 225 grams brown sugar, 1¼ cups
  • 250 ml hot coffee, 1 cup (instant/Americano/long black)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 240 grams self-raising flour, 1½ cups (US: Use all purpose flour + 1.5 teaspoons baking powder)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda

For the orange ganache

  • 200 grams dark chocolate, 7 ounces
  • 170 ml cream, ¾ cup (double, heavy or pouring cream (NOT thickened)
  • 1 orange, zest only

To decorate (optional)

  • thin shavings of orange peel (use a vegetable peeler), a little grated dark chocolate
  • thin orange slices, either fresh or dried if you have them/can find them

Instructions 

For the cake layers

  • Preheat the oven to 180C/355F (160C/320F fan oven). Line the bottom and sides of two 8-inch cake tins with baking paper (I use loose-bottomed ones).
  • Pour the orange juice into a measuring cup or jug. Top up with the milk so you have a full cup of liquid. Set aside. The liquid will curdle and turn to a kind of buttermilk.
    2 oranges, 125 ml milk
  • In a large bowl, heat the chocolate and butter together in the microwave in 30-second bursts until melted or almost melted (1.5 to 2 minutes).
    50 grams dark chocolate, 165 grams unsalted butter
  • Add the 'buttermilk' you just made to the bowl of chocolate/butter and heat again for 30 seconds. Stir everything together until smooth.
    2 oranges, 125 ml milk
  • Stir in the cocoa and sugar. Then pour in the hot coffee and stir again.
    75 grams cocoa, 225 grams brown sugar, 250 ml hot coffee
  • Whisk the eggs and egg yolk together lightly. Stir into the chocolate mixture until well combined.
    2 large eggs, 1 large egg yolk
  • Finally, sift in the flour, salt, baking soda, and the zest of 2 oranges. Stir just until no white bits are visible any more.
    240 grams self-raising flour, 1 teaspoon salt, ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • Divide the mixture between the two cake pans. Bake for about twenty-five minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean or with just a few sticky crumbs on.
  • Let the cakes rest for 10 minutes in the pan. Then let cool completely on a wire cooling rack.

For the ganache

  • Meanwhile, to make the ganache, heat the chocolate in a medium jug or bowl in the microwave in 30-second bursts until almost melted (1.5 to 2 minutes).
    200 grams dark chocolate
  • Pour in the cream and heat again for 30 seconds. Add the remaining zest (1 orange) and stir until smooth.
    170 ml cream, 1 orange
  • Cover and let cool in the fridge until set but still easy to spread – like peanut butter (around 2 to 2.5 hours). Use half of the ganache to sandwich the two cakes together, then spread the rest over the top.
  • To decorate (optional), grate a little extra chocolate over the top of one side of the cake and sprinkle over thin shavings of orange peel (use a vegetable peeler). If you like, also place 4 to 5 overlapping orange slices on top.
    thin shavings of orange peel (use a vegetable peeler), a little grated dark chocolate, thin orange slices, either fresh or dried if you have them/can find them

Notes

Australian/UK or US cup measurements? I usually use an Australian/UK measuring cup for this recipe (250ml). A US cup is slightly smaller (240ml) but it will not make a difference to the recipe if you’re using this as everything will be in proportion. The amount of baking powder/eggs etc. does not need to change. 
Melting the chocolate and butter: I usually do this in the microwave in 30-second bursts. If you don’t have a microwave, just melt in a bowl over a pan of boiling water (but don’t let the bowl touch the water).
Getting the batter smooth: I don’t usually bother sifting flour, but I do for this recipe to help avoid white lumps of flour being visible in the finished cake. If you don’t have a sieve, just sprinkle the flour over little by little and mix it in gradually. Stir until you can’t see any more white bits.
Getting the ganache right: I find that the ganache needs roughly 2 to 2.5 hours in the fridge to set to the right consistency. You want it to be easy to spread, but you don’t want it to slide off the cake. Aim for the consistency of peanut butter or Nutella. If it’s too hard, no problem – just microwave for 5 to 10 seconds and stir well until it’s soft enough to spread again.
You can get it to set faster by popping it in the freezer for half an hour to an hour instead. Try not to leave it for too long, but if it is then too hard just follow instructions as above to make it softer again.
Storage and freezing: This cake keeps really well in an airtight container such as a cake tin for 4 to 5 days. If the weather is warm, pop it in the fridge and it should last for around a week (again, in an airtight container).
Freeze any leftovers in sealed containers for up to 6 months. You can also freeze the cake layers without the ganache. Just wrap each one really well in several layers of plastic/cling wrap and/or aluminium foil and freeze for up to 6 months.
Missing the old recipe? Please note that there was an earlier (quite different) version of this recipe that I published a few years ago. While initially very happy with it, after feedback from readers over time I felt that the results could be inconsistent so I decided to work on the cake some more. After extensive testing and tweaking (and way too much chocolate cake eating!) it’s now more of a chocolate fudge cake than it was before. I think it’s vastly improved but if you’re missing the old version do feel free to contact me and I’ll happily send it to you 😉 

Nutrition

Calories: 703kcal, Carbohydrates: 76g, Protein: 11g, Fat: 42g, Saturated Fat: 25g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g, Monounsaturated Fat: 12g, Trans Fat: 1g, Cholesterol: 141mg, Sodium: 410mg, Potassium: 583mg, Fiber: 8g, Sugar: 41g, Vitamin A: 1082IU, Vitamin C: 26mg, Calcium: 128mg, Iron: 6mg
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About Helen Schofield

Don't expect to find anything fussy or complicated here. Just QUICK, EASY & (mostly!) HEALTHY recipes from the Mediterranean and beyond. ENJOY!

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66 Comments

  1. This tasted great and was easy to make but i find it didn’t rise much at all – each cake turned out to be about 1 inch thick and the picture makes it look a lot thicker – maybe my pan was too big??? But it is great – thank you!

    1. Hi Amy… hmmmmm. The cakes should definitely each be how they look in the photos – at least 2 or 3 inches thick. The cake pans should be 8 inches in diameter, and I used self-rising flour and baking powder. Is this how you made the cakes?? 🙂

  2. Hi Helen – I’m a first-timer on your blog & I must admit all your recipes look amazing!
    I was wondering whether you’ve tried adding orange zest to the cake as opposed to the ganache? Or do you think this would be flavour-overload?

    Kind Regards
    Safiyyah

    1. Hello Safiyyah and welcome! This is one of my favourite cakes and I really do hope you enjoy it. Do you mean to sprinkle orange zest on top of the ganache, or to miss the ganache out altogether? I think you do need something to sandwich the cake together, even if you just use a little bit, but I don’t see why you couldn’t add some more zest to the top. Have I understood what you mean correctly? Anyway, I say adapt to your heart’s content. It’s your cake and if you want to add more zest then go for it! 🙂

  3. Love this cake recipe!! Done it twice already and it was amazing but third time I added little water to the cocoa coffee mix and they cake turned out dry 🙁 Is there any tried amount for adding water? Like 1 cup or so.

    1. Hi Nadine! So happy you like this recipe as much as we do! It’s a coincidence though that you mention being a bit disappointed the last time you made it, because exactly the same happened to me. I’ve been making it for ages with great results, and then just recently I made it and it turned out slightly more on the dry side – just at the edges, really. In my case, I don’t think it had anything to do with the liquid (I just mix the cocoa and coffee until it’s a pouring consistency) – I think I slightly over-baked. So maybe check the cake after 20 minutes and then every couple of minutes after that?
      I am however going to re-test this recipe to see if I need to make any few tweaks. I’ll update the recipe if I crack the code! 🙂

    1. Hi Kelly! You’ve made my day! Thanks so much for popping back and letting me know 🙂

  4. Chocolate and orange is my favorite flavor combo! I can’t wait to try this out.

  5. This looks like such a delicious cake!! The simple cakes are always the best and I agree with the let down of biting into a “beautifully decorated” cake and finding it tastes horrible!! I can totally sink my teeth into a few of these pieces! 😉
    You are DEFINITELY not a prima donna! I feel the SAME way about coffee… I often send back my latte or cappuccino if it’s not made properly 😀 Or bring my own coffee going on trips :p

    1. Thank you for saying we’re not prima donnas, Dini!!! And glad you like the cake – oooh, now I want to make another one!

  6. Ha!!!! I am a primadonna too 🙂 Cakes always look so good and then they are just…blah. Yucky. No bueno. This looks so simple yet delightfully good!!!! I love the combo of orange and chocolate…it makes me happy 🙂

  7. Totalement d’accord avec toi Helen! La plus part de fois ces types des gâteaux ne sont pas bon, la plus part de fois sont trop sucrés! J’en suis persuadée que le tienne est très bien et j’adore l’idée de mettre des zestes d’orange, l’association est parfaite! Ce gâteau mérite bien un tasse de café, du vrai!

    1. Merci beaucoup, Eva! Je suis totalement d’accord que le gateau merite un tres grand tasse de cafe! 🙂

  8. This looks fantastic Helen. And I can’t believe they called him a prima donna for asking about coffee. I guess that sort of indicates the answer no? 🙂

  9. Now listen missy. Mr Scrummy is of sane mind to have sent that email off to the B&B, if you ask me! I DO THAT!!! 😉

    I totally agree with you about most cakes being too dry, sweet, crumbly – or the worst is when chocolate cake does not TASTE of chocolate cake. 🙂

    Your 6 ingredient chocolate cake is one of my go to quick bakes, no fail every time. So it goes without saying that this makes my list too 🙂 Sharing!

    1. Phew … glad it’s not just us that wants to make sure our B&B experiences are perfect. He really did get called a prima donna by the B&B owner. Needless to say, we stayed somewhere else!)
      Really happy you like the cake and hope it does get added to the dinner party dessert rotation. I really did enjoy this cake, so I hope you like it! 🙂