Chocolate Cupcakes with Chocolate-Orange Buttercream

You know those chocolate oranges? I used to get them at Christmas ever year. They are some of my favorite things in the entire world, and I can’t buy them for myself unless I plan to share with other people, because I will eat a whole orange in a day. There is something about the combination of orange and chocolate that just GETS IT RIGHT. Chocolate really is a wonder ingredient: great on its own, but fantastic in combination with literally almost anything else: citrus, berries, caramel, nuts, salt, toffee, cheese…oh chocolate. I love you.

This is seriously one of my all-time favorite recipes. I gave up dessert for Lent (I know, who am I, and what have I done with the real Sweets?), but I made these cupcakes for an event one recent Sunday and froze the leftovers. After this coming Sunday (happy Easter to those who celebrate!) I’ll be savoring every sweet, sweet, bite. The cake bakes up moist and dense, the frosting is smooth and fluffy and rich, and… wait, let me show you:

Chocolate Cake with Chocolate-Orange Buttercream

I don’t need to say anything else, really.

This recipe makes 1 two-layer cake or about 20-24 cupcakes. If you go the cupcake route, you will probably have a TON of leftover frosting, so feel free to frost generously. And then lick the bowl, of course.

Lavender-Scented Chocolate (Cup)Cake(s) with Chocolate-Orange Buttercream
this recipe comes from the March 2004 Bon Appétit, by way of Epicurious, and I didn’t change a danged thing

For the Cake:

4 oz. (1/4 lb.) bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 c. unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. coarse kosher salt
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 c. whole milk, room temperature
1/2 c. plain whole-milk yogurt (I used thick Greek yogurt, because that’s what I had in the fridge), room temperature
1 1/2 c. (packed) brown sugar
3/4 c. (1 1/2 sticks or 12 tbsp.) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 teaspoons dried lavender blossoms (yep, I still have so much lavender), finely ground in spice mill or coffee grinder (this is optional, but it does add a really nice light flavor)
4 large eggs, room temperature

For the Buttercream Frosting

8 oz. (1/2 lb.) bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
1/2 c. unsweetened cocoa powder
7 tbsps. (or more) water
1 1/2 c. (3 sticks or 3/4 lb.) unsalted butter, room temperature
4 c. powdered sugar, divided
1 tbsp. grated orange peel
2 tsps. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. coarse kosher salt
1 tbsp. Grand Marnier or other orange liqueur (optional)

Make the cake:

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. If making a layer cake, line the bottom of two 9″ round cake pans with parchment paper, then lightly spray with cooking spray. If making cupcakes, line muffin tins with paper liners.

Melt 4 oz. bittersweet or semisweet chocolate in a double boiler (or as I do, in the microwave, because I’m impatient) and stir until smooth. Allow chocolate to cool until lukewarm but still pourable.

Sift the flour, 1/2 c. cocoa powder, baking powder, salt, and baking soda over a piece of waxed paper; set aside.

Whisk together milk and yogurt; set aside.

Beat butter, brown sugar, and lavender (if using) together in the bowl of an electric mixer at medium speed until smooth, light, and fluffy, about 3 minutes.  Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the sifted dry ingredients and the milk/yogurt mixture to the batter alternately in three additions. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula, then mix again on medium speed for 30 seconds until fully combined.

Divide batter evenly between cake pans, or, if making cupcakes, fill each cup nearly to the top. Bake the cakes in preheated oven, about 30 minutes for layer cakes and 20-25 minutes for cupcakes, until a tester inserted in the center of a cake comes out nearly clean (being careful not to overbake). Allow cakes to cool at room temperature for 10 minutes, then invert onto a wire rack and let cool completely.

Chocolate Cake with Chocolate-Orange Buttercream

For the buttercream frosting:

Melt 8 oz. semisweet or bittersweet chocolate over low heat in a double boiler or microwave and stir until smooth. Set aside at room temperature to cool until lukewarm but still pourable. Whisk together seven tablespoons of water and 1/2 c. cocoa powder in a small saucepan over low heat. Continue to whisk until mixture is thick and smooth, adding more water a spoonful at a time if necessary. Allow cocoa mixture to cool to lukewarm.

Beat butter, grated orange peel, and 1/3 c. confectioner’s in the bowl of an electric mixer at medium-high speed until smooth, light, and fluffy.  Add melted chocolate, salt, and vanilla extract and beat on medium speed for 2 minutes. Beat in the cocoa mixture. Gradually beat in the remaining 3 2/3 c. confectioner’s sugar until completely combined. Beat in Grand Marnier, if using.

If making a layer cake, spread a generous cup of buttercream evenly on top of one cake layer. Top with the second cake layer, and spread remaining frosting over top and sides of assembled cake.  If making cupcakes, fill a pastry bag fitted with a large star tip with buttercream and pipe generous swirls atop each cupcake. Just before serving, garnish with strips of orange zest.

Chocolate Cake with Chocolate-Orange Buttercream


If you’re not serving the cake the same day you make it, refrigerate, covered, for up to two days. Allow to sit at room temperature for 30 minutes before serving.



What better lingerie to pair with totally decadent cupcakes than the totally decadent “Amelie” collection from Miss Mandalay?

Amelie Miss Mandalay Paprika/Black

“Amelie” by Miss Mandalay in Paprika/Black (£46). Available in sizes 28 – 38 E-GG (UK cup sizes). Matching brief (£28) and thong (£30) in sizes XS-XL.

I am still so, so sad that my budget didn’t allow me to snatch up the black/navy version while H-cups were still in stock, because sadly this sassy new version only runs up to a GG. Still, it feels churlish to complain, because Miss Mandalay makes some of the loveliest D+ bras out there. This UK-based indie full-bust brand revels in bold colors and thoughtful details, in this case gleaming satin and elegant black stretch lace. I got to try this bra on at Journelle in almost-the-right-size, and it is PHENOMENAL: a narrow, upfront, centered shape with a totally luxurious feel. I have loved this brand for years now, and I think they just keep going from strength to strength. If you’re a fan too, be sure to check out Kiss Me Deadly’s most recent collections, which will feature suspender belts designed to go with Miss Mandalay lingerie. A great chance for D+ ladies to have a full Kiss Me Deadly ensemble!

5 Comments on Chocolate Cupcakes with Chocolate-Orange Buttercream

  1. Laura
    April 17, 2014 at 8:07 pm (9 years ago)

    I. Am. DROOLING. Whenever I get to visit NY, I need you to make me cupcakes.

    • Sweets
      April 17, 2014 at 8:10 pm (9 years ago)

      I am totally in favor of this plan.

    • Sweets
      April 18, 2014 at 8:26 am (9 years ago)

      Thank you Heidi, you too!


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