chocolate orange cupcakes

I used to bake hundreds of cupcakes. I started buying cupcake cases in packs of 500 so that they would last me a little while, but for all of those hundreds I have baked, I have barely blogged about the different flavours I have made and loved. This week, I made some chocolate orange cupcakes for a birthday celebration, and gave the recipe a lot of thought.

All of the recipes in my books and on the web just didn't quite do it for me. Some were too chocolatey (hard, I know, but children were going to be eating these, so I didn't want to make them too rich), some not chocolatey enough. Some used dark chocolate orange, but I wanted to convey the flavour of my all time favourite orange chocolate - Terry's chocolate orange. In England, these are a staple stocking filler, and I loved that as a child, Christmas morning was the only day of the year when our parents would let us eat chocolate before breakfast. (Confession time: As an adult, I have eaten chocolate for breakfast more times than I care to admit - especially after my daughter was born. Sometimes, it felt like a necessary and well earned reward to munch on a square of brownie before the sun rose, while congratulating myself on sustaining another life through my very own milk, while seeing every hour of the night.) I have tried a variety of different chocolate orange bars, but none of them hit the spot quite like Terry's, so I was keen to include this flavour in the cupcakes, along with the freshness of some orange zest. Here's what I came up with:

Chocolate Orange Cupcakes
ingredients for the cake (makes approx. 16 depending on the size of cupcake cases you use)

85g Terry's chocolate orange (half a choc orange)
70g unsalted butter at room temperature
210g caster sugar
100g light brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract (use the best quality stuff, rather than vanilla essence)
finely grated zest of 1 orange
255g plain flour
50g cocoa
2 tsp baking powser
240ml whole milk

for the icing (enough to frost 18 cupcakes if you're piping the icing. If you're just spreading the icing on, it'll go much further.)
600g icing (confectioner's) sugar
100g unsalted butter at room temperature
250g full fat Philadelphia
85g Terry's milk chocolate orange (other half of your Terry's chocolate orange)
60-80g cocoa, sifted
finely grated zest of 1 orange

1) Preheat your oven to 190C / gas mark 5 / 375F and line a muffin tin with cases.
2) Beat the butter in a mixing bowl (or the bowl of a free standing mixer) to soften it.
3) Add the caster sugar and light brown sugar to the butter and cream together until fluffy.
3) Beat in the eggs, one at a time.
4) Stir in the vanilla extract and orange zest.
5) Gradually sift in the flour, cocoa powder and baking powder, alternating with adding a little of the milk, until everything has combined into a beautiful shiny batter.
6) Cut up half the chocolate orange into chunks and add these to the mixture, stirring to combine.
7) Divide the mixture between the cake cases using a dessertspoon. A generous dollop on a dessertspoon should be plenty - you want the cases to be two thirds full. If you add more, there won't be much space for frosting!
8) Bake in a preheated oven for 15 - 18 mins. Check after 15 minutes and if they look baked but you can hear a gentle crackling sound coming from the cakes, give them another 3 - 5 mins. If you're unsure if they're baked, insert a skewer or cocktail stick into the centre of one of the cupcakes. If it comes away clean, they're baked.
9) Remove from the muffin tray as soon as possible, and leave to cool on a wire rack.

method for the frosting
1) Melt the chocolate orange in a bowl over simmering water, or in the microwave, and leave to cool.
2) Sieve the icing sugar into your mixing bowl, along with the butter, and beat together until you have a crumbly texture. (You're not looking for the butter and sugar to fully combine in the way that you get with buttercream, as there is too much sugar for this to happen.)
3) Add the cream cheese, orange zest and sifted cocoa powder, and beat until the frosting is smooth.
4) Check that the melted chocolate has cooled, then beat into the frosting. (It's essential that you give the chocolate time to cool. If you add it as soon as it has melted, the frosting will probably separate.)
5) Insert a star shaped nozzle into a piping bag, then fill with the frosting. Before piping, squeeze the piping bag over a bowl to get rid of any air pockets, then pipe onto your cooled cakes.


Notes on making frosting
+ I have found it much easier to get the perfect consistency of frosting since buying a freestanding mixer - the motor is so powerful and the blade is so efficient that it mixes brilliantly. If you don't have a freestanding mixer, you can still get a lovely consistency, it just requires a bit more patience, and just add the ingredients more gradually to allow plenty of time for everything to combine.

+ The temperature of the butter is very important. I never put my butter in the fridge, as it takes too long to bring it to room temperature (we don't have a microwave). If you try to make frosting with butter that has just come out of the fridge, it will be very difficult to get everything to combine properly, because of the hard consistency of the butter.

+ Sieving the icing sugar and cocoa is essential to avoid lumpy frosting.

+ Using full fat Philadelphia is also essential in avoiding lumpy frosting. I have tried a number of supermarket own brands, as well as low fat cream cheese, and none of them have worked as well as Philadelphia. Although it's a bit more expensive, I would say it's worth it for the texture it creates!!

+ If possible, take your Philadelphia / full fat cream cheese out of the fridge half an hour or so before making the frosting, so that it is not too cold when you add it to the other ingredients.


  1. chocolate orange is the best combination of fruit and chocolate, much better than cherry chocolate. Someone must invent chocolate orange and alcohol :D


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