Chocolate & Orange cupcakes

Chocolate & Orange cupcakes

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I created this recipe  for a friend’s birthday. She loved the flavour pairing of chocolate and orange, so I put these flavours into cute cupcake form and I’m glad to announce she was very pleased with the results. Word spread and now another friend has requested these cupcakes for their birthday too so, I figured it was a good excuse to take lots of foodie photographs and share the recipe on my blog. 


These dainty cupcakes are utterly irresistible. The perfume from the orange is sooo pungent it will be a battle even getting the  cupcake batter to the oven. I can’t describe how aromatic the orange zest was, it seemed to stain every corner of my kitchen with it’s citrusy perfume, evoking the sense of much needed springtime with the fresh, bittersweet smell of orange. 


I used dark chocolate and cocoa for the sponge as I wanted the cake to edge on the rich and dark side not the typical, commercial sickly sweet chocolate orange flavour that I don’t think does justice to this traditional but supreme flavour combination. The cupcake sponge is made in the same way as a brownies meaning these cupcakes are extra moist. 


Hidden within the sponge is a seducing and silky whipped chocolate ganache. The rich dark truffle like centre pairs perfectly against the sweet satiny frosting spiked with the tart orange zest. 

photo-3 redone

I find cupcakes are really therapeutic treats to bake. They are so simple as they require such basic ingredients that a batch can be knocked up so quickly. At the same time their ease allows for light-hearted experimentation something I’m addicted to doing. I couldn’t help but fiddle around with the left over oranges once I’d removed the zest and in doing so I made these beautiful, glass like candied oranges to top the cupcakes. 


So if your after a little bit of relaxation or perhaps you need a gift for a friend these are the perfect goodies to make. 

(This recipe makes 12 cupcakes)


whipped ganache

  • 100ml double cream
  • 50g dark chocolate (finely chopped)


  • 100g dark chocolate (broken into squares)
  • 150g butter
  • 150g dark brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 50ml milk
  • 175g self-raising flour
  • heaped tbsp cocoa powder
  • pinch of salt
  • zest of an orange


  • 150g soft butter
  • 300g icing sugar (sifted)
  • 50ml double cream
  • zest of an orange


1. First make the ganache. Pour the cream into a pan and let it come to a simmer, you don’t want to scald the cream and let it boil. Once a simmer is reached take the cream off the heat and add the chocolate. Swirl the pan briefly before leaving for 10 minutes whilst the chocolate melts. Give the mixture a final stir to make sure everything has melded together and then leave to cool to room temperature.

2. Preheat the oven to 180 or 170 degrees for fan assisted ovens and then line a deep cupcake tin with cases. For the sponges place the chocolate and butter into a heatproof bowl over a bain-marie and let them melt. Make sure the water doesn’t boil too much and begin to touch the sides of the bowl as this could burn the chocolate. When melted take the chocolate liquid off the heat and stir in the sugar, then leave to cool briefly. In a separate bowl beat together the egg and milk before whisking them into the chocolate liquid, make sure the chocolate has cooled enough so that the egg won’t cook. Next sift in the flour, cocoa and salt and combine the ingredients with a balloon whisk until everything is incorporated. Lastly stir through the orange zest making sure it’s evenly distributed throughout the batter.

3. Divide the batter amongst the cases and bake in the oven for 22-25 minutes. The cakes will be cracked on top like a brownie, springy to the touch and if you insert a skewer into the cupcakes it should come out almost clean with a few crumbs attached. Leave the cupcakes to cool in the tin for 5 minutes before placing onto a wire rack to cool completely.

4. To make the frosting place the soft butter in a food mixer (if you don’t have a food mixer electric hand beaters will do just fine) and beat on high speed for 2 minutes until pale and fluffy. Scrape round the sides of the bowl and add half the sifted icing sugar. Start the mixer on slow speed and gradually increase it back to high and leave it to beat for 3 minutes. Again scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the remaining half of the icing sugar as well as the cream, leave to beat again on high speed for another 3 minutes. Now the frosting should be practically white in colour,  light and mousse like in texture. Finally add the orange zest and allow the mixture to beat for one last minute. With a spatula briefly stir the frosting by hand to make sure there are no bits of butter etc that haven’t been mixed into the batter. Place the frosting into a large piping bag with a piping nozzle of your choice.

5. The ganache should now be at room temperature. The ganache won’t whip properly if warm still or too cold if you placed it in the fridge. Transfer the ganache to a bowl and then using electric beaters gently whip the ganache until it turns mousse like and a turns a paler colour. Be careful not to over whip the ganache as it will go stiff and grainy, once you reach a smooth, mousse like consistency stop beating. Place the ganache into a piping bag and snip a small hole off the end of the bag about 1/2cm in diameter.

6. Using a chop stick or cupcake corer create a hole in the centre of your cupcake. Pipe the whipped ganache into the core and then pipe  frosting on top of the sponge. Decorate however you wish. These cupcakes are best stored in an airtight container and eaten within 2 days. To learn how I made caramelised orange slices see below.

caramelised oranges

  • orange
  • caster sugar

7. Preheat the oven 160 degrees or 150 degrees for fan assisted ovens. Slice the orange into 1cm thick rounds and then cut each circle of orange in half so that you half two moon shapes. Line a roasting tray with greaseproof paper and then scatter over a thin layer of sugar. Lay the oranges on top and then scatter over another thin layer of sugar to coat the oranges. Bake the oranges for 35 minutes. Take the oranges out of the oven and turn them over, before returning to the oven pour over 80ml of water. Put the tray back in the oven and bake for a further 25-30 minutes. The oranges should be slightly darker, caramelised and almost all the water will have evaporated. Once baked place the caramelised oranges on a wire rack to cool completely before using them to decorate your cupcakes.


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