Vegan Chocolate Orange Cake

Vegan Chocolate Orange Cake with a slice removed to see the layers

♫ Listening to: Sleeping In by Phil Good ♫

This chocolate orange cake recipe combines dark chocolate with light citrus giving a complementary flavor that will impress everyone who tastes it. It’s perfect for the winter when oranges are one of the only fruits in season.

Since it’s eggless and dairy-free, you can even leave it sitting on the counter without having to worry about getting sick. I love this dark chocolate orange cake recipe because the orange flavor is from fresh fruit instead of orange oil or orange extract (like some recipes). It makes it feel healthier to me (even if that’s just a facade).

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Vegan Orange Cake Recipe

Vegan Chocolate Cake Recipe

Vegan Orange Buttercream Frosting Recipe

Vegan Chocolate Ganache Recipe

FAQ

Substitutions

This recipe makes a two-layer 8” or 9” round cake.

Vegan Orange Cake Layer Ingredients

  • 1 ½ cups (200g) unbleached white flour
  • 1 teaspoon (6g) baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon (2-3g) baking powder
  • a pinch of salt
  • 1 cup (210g) raw, organic, or vegan sugar*
  • 1 tablespoon (10g) organic cornstarch or tapioca flour*
  • 2 organic oranges
  • ¼ cup (52g) sunflower oil
  • 1 teaspoon (4g) vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons (10g) vinegar

Vegan Orange Cake Layer Directions

prep time: 20min | bake time: 30min

Preheat the oven to 350°. If your oven heats fast and you know you’ll remember, you can wait and start heating it after you finish blending the oranges.

Blend a cup of raw sugar in the blender until it turns into powdered sugar. Transfer to a mixing bowl.

Wash and zest 2 organic oranges. Save the orange zest for later. If you don’t have a zester (I don’t), you can use a fine cheese grater. This step usually takes me 5 minutes.

making orange zest

Cut the remaining orange peel off both oranges, chop each into pieces, and toss the orange pieces into the blender. You can skip the cutting the oranges if you know for sure that your oranges are seedless, but I always cut mine to pull out any sneaky seed stowaways.

Blend oranges on high until no chunks remain. I use the juice button on my blendtec blender and if you another type of blender, you can probably just choose any high setting.

Measure out 1 cup (195g) of this pulpy orange juice you made. If you have any orange juice left after measuring a cup of it, you can toss or drink the rest.

Cut a circle of parchment paper the size of your 9” or 8" round cake pans and lay it in the bottom of the cake pan. If you don’t have parchment, you can also just coat the entire inside of one of your 9” or 8" round cake pans with oil.

Sift the dry ingredients: 1 ½ cups (200g) flour, 1 teaspoon (6g) baking soda, ½ teaspoon (2-3g) baking powder, a pinch or 2 of pink sea salt (optional), 1 cup (210g) sugar, and 1 tablespoon (10g) organic cornstarch.

Check to make sure the oven is preheated before adding the wet ingredients to the dry.

Add ¼ cup (52g) sunflower oil, 1 teaspoon (4g) vanilla extract, and the 1 cup (195g) of blended orange juice to the dry ingredients and stir until there are no dry spots. You can either add the zest to the cake batter here or you can save it if you want to the frosting to be orange flavored.

Check that your oven is compeletely preheated to 350º. If it isn’t, wait until it is before continuing.

Stir in 2 teaspoons (10g) vinegar.

Pour the cake batter into the cake pan.

Bake for 30-35 minutes, until when you insert a toothpick into the center, it comes out clean.

Remove cake from the oven, set onto a cooling rack, and use a spatula to shimmy around the edges (around the circumfrence) of the cake pan. Wait 10 minutes before flipping it over onto the cooling racks upside down.

Cool until it’s completely cooled throughout. This usually takes 2-3 hours for me.

Vegan Chocolate Cake Layer Ingredients

  • 1 ¼ cups (162g) unbleached white flour
  • 1 teaspoon (6g) baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon (2-3g) baking powder
  • ¾ cup (158g) organic, vegan, or raw sugar*
  • ⅓ cup (24g) unsweetened cocoa powder
  • ⅓ cup (68g) sunflower oil
  • 1 teaspoon (4g) vanilla extract
  • 1 cup (240g) nondairy milk
  • ½ tablespoon (7-8g) apple cider vinegar (or substitute white vinegar)

Vegan Chocolate Cake Layer Directions

prep time: 10min | bake time: 30min

Preheat the oven to 350°.

Cut a circle of parchment paper the size of your 9” or 8" round cake pans and lay it in the bottom of the cake pan. If you don’t have parchment, you can also just coat the entire inside of one of your 9” or 8" round cake pans with any vegetable oil (see Substitutions section below for a list of oils).

Combine ½ tablespoon (7-8g) vinegar and 1 cup (240g) nondairy milk and let sit.

Sift together 1 ¼ cups (162g) flour, 1 teaspoon (6g) baking soda, ½ teaspoon (2-3g) baking powder (I used the non-aluminum kind), ¾ cup (158g) sugar, and ⅓ cup (24g) cocoa powder into another bowl.

Whisk thoroughly until everything is the same color.

Add ⅓ cup (68g) oil and 1 teaspoon (4g) vanilla to the bowl of dry ingredients.

Check the oven to make sure it’s at 350º before doing the next step. If it isn’t, wait for it to come to temperature before you add the vegan buttermilk.

Add the vegan buttermilk to the dry ingredients and mix. Stop mixing when you can no longer see any dry ingredients. It’s ok if it looks lumpy, you just don’t want any dry ingredients remaining.

Pour the cake batter into the cake pan. Use a silicone spatula to get every last bit out of the bowl.

Bake for 30-35 minutes, until when you insert a toothpick into the center of one, it comes out clean. Set cake pan on cooling rack to cool in pan.

Vegan Orange Buttercream Frosting Ingredients

  • 1 cup (176g) vegan butter or margarine (I like the organic whipped earth balance)*
  • ¾ cup (144g) organic palm shortening*
  • orange zest (from 2 oranges)
  • 1 tablespoon (12g) vanilla extract
  • 4 cups (480g) organic powdered sugar*
  • 1 tablespoon nondairy milk (if needed, for consistency)
  • orange vegan food coloring

Vegan Orange Buttercream Frosting Directions

prep time: 30min

Leave the ingredients sitting out before using them. Best results come from using room temperature ingredients.

Whisk ¾ cup (144g) spectrum sustainable organic palm shortening , 1 cup (176g) vegan butter or margarine, and 1 tablespoon (12g) vanilla for a minimum of 1 minute using a stand mixer or a handheld electric mixer. Make sure you use real vanilla extract, because imitation vanilla is often made from beaver butts. (I can’t make this shit up.)

Sift in 4 cups (480g) of powdered sugar, 1 cup at a time, mixing for at least minute between each addition.

Add orange zest and continue mixing for at least a minute. If you prefer a smoother frosting to decorate your orange chocolate cake with, then instead of adding the zest to the frosting, you can sprinkle it between the 2 cake layers.

Transfer half of the frosting to another bowl.

Add orange vegan food coloring to the frosting that’s left, and continue to mix for 2 more minutes. I used wilton orange gel color but you can use any vegan food coloring you have.

Fill one piping bag with white frosting and another with orange frosting.

Vegan Chocolate Ganache Ingredients

  • ¾ cup (6oz/170g) vegan chocolate chips
  • ⅓ cup (3oz/75g) nondairy milk

Vegan Chocolate Ganache Directions

prep time: 5 minutes | wait time: 30 minutes

Heat ⅓ cup (3oz/75g) nondairy milk on the stove until it starts to simmer. This only takes about 3 minutes if you have a gas stove.

Add ¾ cup (6oz/170g) vegan chocolate chips and remove from heat, cover the pot, and swirl it around.

Wait for 5 minutes before uncovering and whisking the chocolate ganache until smooth and melted.

Cool the ganache for 15-30 minutes before decorating cake.

Decorating the Vegan Chocolate Orange Cake

assembly and crumb coat time: 10 minutes | ombre frosting layer: 10 minutes | ganache drip: 3 minutes | sprinnkles and piping time: 5 minutes

Cut the tops of the round cakes to make them flat (optional, as needed).

Fill the 2 cake layers with orange frosting. If you didn’t use your orange zest yet, this is where you’ll add it. After you spread frosting onto the bottom cake layer, sprinkle the zest over the top of the frosting before setting your second cake layer on top.

Assembling the vegan chocolate orange cake

Use either color frosting to complete a thin crumb layer of frosting. I used a bit of both.

Chill the crumb layer in the fridge or freezer for 5-20 minutes until it feels firm when you touch it (that’s NOT what she said).

vegan chocolate orange cake crumb layer of frosting

Spread the final coat of white and orange frosting around the cake in any design you prefer. The top doesn’t have to be perfect since it will be covered with ganache. I tried to make mine look like a white to orange ombré.

Spin the orange chocolate cake while smoothing out the frosting with an offset spatula or a bench scraper/chopper (if you have either tool).

Chill the cake while you make the ganache.

Spoon ganache around the perimeter of the cake at one-inch intervals to get the perfect size drips to start falling down the sides of your cake. To see pictures of how I do this, check out my grasshopper cake post.

Fill the top of the cake once you have all the drips on the sides. Use an offset spatula to smooth out the ganache on the top. You can also tap the entire cake on the counter to get the spatula lines to settle.

Chill the cake while you gather your decorations.

Remove the cake from the fridge.

Pipe remaining frosting on top of the cake and around the perimeter of the cake as you choose.

Decorate with whatever you have. Here is a list of my vegan sprinkles.

Chill again before transporting to ensure the frosting doesn’t smear.

top view of vegan chocolate orange cake with chocolate ganache and orange sprinkles

slice of vegan chocolate orange cake

I’ve also decorated with candied oranges and orange slices, and that looks pretty too. Or you can do what my friend Josipa did and decorate it to look like a fox!

Vegan chocolate orange fox cake

Tips and FAQ

Tip: Use room temperature ingredients

Whenever you make cakes, if you have time to leave the ingredients out on the counter for a bit before you start the recipe, your results will be better.

Can I make this recipe with less sugar?

Definitely! The chocolate cake part of this recipe calls for ¾ cup sugar, and you can reduce that to ½ cup. The orange cake part of this recipe calls for 1 cup of sugar. You can reduce that to 23 cup. You’re of course also welcome to just experiment and see how you like the results. If you reduce the amount of sugar in the recipe, you don’t have to make any other changes to the other measurements. If you want to reduce the sugar in the frosting recipe, replace the 4 cups of powdered sugar with 3 cups of powdered sugar, and omit the nondairy milk so it stays thick enough to decorate with.

Can I make this orange chocolate cake gluten free?

Yep. Just use a gluten-free flour blend in place of the all-purpose flour.

Can I make just the orange cake as a loaf cake?

Sure! Follow the directions for the orange cake recipe and pour the cake batter into an oiled loaf pan. Start the timer at 45 minutes. If the toothpick doesn’t come out dry after the initial baking time, bake it for 5 additional minutes, and keep checking it and baking for another 5 minutes until the toothpick comes out clean. If you do this, you can probably make a half batch of the frosting recipe (or skip it altogether). If you skip the frosting, add the orange rind to the batter. If you like the orange chocolate combo, just top the loaf cake with the chocolate ganache.

Can I make this cake recipe into cupcakes?

Indeed. This recipe will make around 12 orange cupcakes and 12 chocolate cupcakes. Just follow the same directions but scoop them into cupcake pans lined with paper liners. Bake them for 18 minutes and then do the toothpick test. If the toothpick doesn’t come out clean, bake for another 5 minutes.

How do I store this cake?

I usually make my cakes in advance since they often take a whole day or more to make and decorate. Here’s a little cheat sheet for cakes that are fully covered in buttercream frosting.

  • 1 day in advance: you can store the (uncut) cake in the fridge or on the counter uncovered, because the frosting acts as a barrier to protect the cake from drying out
  • up to 1 week in advance: you can store the (uncut) cake in the fridge uncovered or in a cake carrier
  • up to 3 months in advance: freeze the (uncut) cake uncovered until it hardens to the touch and then wrap it completely in cling wrap to keep it from drying out or taking on any weird freezer smells. Move it from the freezer to the fridge a day before you want to serve it, but don’t remove the cling wrap until 15 minutes before you’re ready to serve it.
  • leftover cake: I store my cut cake in a cake dome on the counter for up to a week. You can also keep it in any tupperware that is large enough to fit it, either on the counter or in the fridge for up to 1 week. If you don’t plan to eat the leftover cake within a week, you can cut it into individual slices and wrap those slices in cling wrap before placing them in a freezer ziplock bag and storing them in the freezer for up to 3 months. Or just bring it to my house. I’ll teach you how I eat a 12-serving cake in 5 days or less.

Substitutions

  • I recommend using safflower, sunflower, or coconut oil for baking cakes because those oils are made for high heat, which helps you avoid transfats. However, you can use any other oil such as vegetable oil, canola oil, grapeseed oil, etc. People even make cakes with olive oil, but I don’t recommend it.
  • If you don’t have apple cider vinegar, you can replace it with lemon juice, lime juice, or white vinegar. You just need some sort of acid to interact with the alkalinity of the baking soda to make the cake rise.
  • If you don’t have access to spectrum sustainable organic palm shortening (or any vegan shortening), you can replace it with additional vegan butter or margarine. My favorite is the organic whipped Earth Balance, but if you avoid soy, you can buy the soy-free Earth Balance. If you do this, your frosting will be less stable at room temperature, so you should keep it in the fridge instead of on the counter, if your house is warm.
  • If you don’t have the full amount of nondairy milk that this recipe requires, you can substitute any amount with water, nondairy creamer, or coconut water. You can also mix and match different nondairy milks. I do this a lot when my macadamia milk only has a little bit left at the bottom and I use it up, and then I open a new container of almond, oat, or soymilk.
  • If you prefer to use whole grain flours, you can replace the white flour in this recipe with cake flour, wheat flour, spelt flour, or whole wheat pastry flour. It will taste healthier some of these flours though. If you use cake flour, you can omit the cornstarch.
  • For the sugar in the cake recipe, you can use any number of sugars, as long as they’re vegan: brown sugar, sucanat, coconut sugar, raw sugar, organic sugar, or demurara. If you’re not sure if your sugar is vegan, you can contact the company and ask, but basically, just avoid conventional white sugar or granulated sugar, and you should be ok.
  • If you don’t have cornstarch or tapioca flour, you can omit that ingredient.

If you like this cake, you might also like my grasshopper cake.

I wrote this recipe in 2018 and updated it in 2022. Here’s are the old pictures from before the update.

vegan chocolate orange cake

Vegan chocolate orange cake

Vegan chocolate orange cake sliced

You can also skip the ganache and use the buttercream to decorate your cake like a cute kitty cat.

Vegan chocolate orange cat cake

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* I use mostly organic ingredients when I cook, but I realize that not everyone has the disposable income to purchase all organic ingredients. Therefore, I only specify organic on the ingredients that really matter - when buying the organic version is the only way to ensure that the item is vegan.

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