Chocolate Orange Cake

If you could only eat five things for the rest of your life, what would they be? You are also allowed water. You will have unlimited access to the best quality foods on your list, but nothing else. You can have dishes (for example, ‘lasagne’ is an acceptable answer) but not meals (for example, ‘Christmas dinner’ would not be permitted). Yes, of course this is a completely arbitrary hypothetical situation and it’s not actually going to happen. Probably. But who knows? Best to be prepared, right?

I play this game with friends sometimes, and there are two very distinct ways of going about it. Firstly, there is the approach of gluttony and joy. Here is where you can name your absolute favourite foods in the spirit of excess. Caviar, profiteroles, sirloin steaks, raspberries, chocolate mousse, chips, spaghetti carbonara…

Secondly, there is the practical approach. You know, the one where you attempt to avoid scurvy and rickets and death. Kale, blueberries, brown rice, salmon, oranges, beans, spinach, yoghurt… er, what else? I don’t even know what should go in this category.


So, as you can probably guess, I’m in the first camp. The camp that has the profiteroles in it. I mean, if there has been some weird, apocalyptic, food-destroying event on earth then we will probably all die anyway, so I might as well go down eating as hedonistically as possible.

Enter: chocolate orange cake. Can anyone else sense a theme emerging? I have already featured chocolate orange brownies – well, they were chocolate orange that day – and a chocolate fudge cake, and this is basically the love-child of those two things. What can I say? I love chocolate cake. I mean, yes, I also love macarons, and crème brûlée, and entremets, and all the fancy stuff. But really, when it comes down to it, nothing quite has my heart like a big slab of moist, fudgy chocolate cake. It’s a ‘last meal on earth’ type thing. It would be on my list of five things.


Source: This is barely adapted from this post on Pastry Affair, which is a fantastic blog that I would encourage you to check out.

Notes: I couldn’t quite bring myself to use 340g of chocolate, as specified, for the frosting in this recipe, so I used 300g, which worked fine in terms of proportions. However, I had a load of frosting leftover, so below I am suggesting 2/3 of the quantity I used. The frosting, as you can see from the pictures, isn’t perfectly smooth as it’s got orange zest in it. It’s not split, though – it’s delicious. I used 70% chocolate, as is my wont, which makes a very dark, rich frosting. I think this is lovely, but would forgive you for dialling it down a notch if you’re into that sort of thing.


for the cakes

350g granulated sugar
zest of 2 large oranges
2 large eggs
120ml oil (any unflavoured oil is fine)
115g sour cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
220g plain flour
65g cocoa powder
2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
240ml buttermilk (they sell this in Sainsburys, but plain yoghurt works too)
6 tbsp orange juice

for the frosting

200g dark chocolate
75g butter
zest of 1 large orange
75g sour cream
1 tbsp orange extract (optional)
orange zest, gold leaf, and/or chocolate orange matchsticks to garnish (optional)


  1. Preheat your oven to 180C/ 160C fan/ gas 4, and grease and line two loose bottomed cake tins – I use 20cm ones. In a large mixing bowl, combine your granulated sugar and orange zest and rub it together between your fingers – you should end up with a pile of orange scented sugar. Add your eggs, oil, sour cream, and vanilla, and beat until smooth and well combined.
  2. In another bowl, sieve together your flour, cocoa powder, bicarbonate of soda, baking powder, and salt. Measure out your buttermilk in a jug. Add the flour mix and the buttermilk to the wet ingredients, alternating between the two, and mix until you have a smooth batter. Divide it evenly between your tins, and bake for 35-40 minutes, until the cakes are well risen and pass the skewer test. While they are cooling in their tins, use a knife, fork, or skewer to poke a few holes in the top of each cake and pour the orange juice over the top.
  3. Once the cakes are completely cool and out of their tins, make your frosting. Melt the butter and chocolate together in a pan on a gentle heat, stirring occasionally, until smooth. Remove the pan from the heat and add the orange zest, sour cream, and orange extract if using. Stir until smooth, and then leave to cool for half an hour to let it thicken.
  4. Place one cake on the plate you are planning to serve it on, and cover the surface with a thin layer of frosting. Pop the second cake on top, and coat the whole thing with the rest of the frosting. Decorate as desired.