This recipe for vegan chocolate orange cake is eggless and dairy free yet creates a beautifully soft and fluffy texture with melt-in-your-mouth chocolate orange frosting.
With simple ingredients and easy techniques, this chocolate orange cake is loaded with fresh orange zest and juice and doesn’t rely on any artificial flavoring!
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Is Chocolate Orange Cake Vegan?
Unless otherwise specified, chocolate orange cake is not likely vegan. Traditional cake recipes usually contain eggs and/or dairy.
Luckily, this cake is super easy to make vegan. It doesn’t even need any dairy or egg substitution, making this recipe simple to bake without any fancy ingredients!
Aside from the cake itself, chocolate orange frosting is also typically not vegan. For this recipe we use a vegan butter substitute (or vegan margarine) to get a richly creamy, melt-in-your-mouth vegan chocolate orange frosting.
Ingredients to Make Eggless Chocolate Orange Cake
This cake’s ingredients are very common and easy to find at your local store. You’ll need:
- All-purpose flour: All-purpose flour is light and creates a deliciously moist and soft crumb texture.
- Cocoa powder: We can’t make a chocolate cake without the chocolate! Cocoa powder is a simple way to add deliciously rich chocolate flavor.
- Baking powder and soda: Baking soda and baking powder work to leaven cake, creating a lighter texture.
- Salt: Some salt goes a long way to enhance flavors in this chocolate orange cake!
- Oil: Oil creates a rich and moist cake. You can use any liquid oil you like (I use avocado oil since it has a neutral flavor).
- Vanilla extract: Vanilla extract enhances flavor and is a great addition to any chocolate cake recipe!
- Orange zest: Instead of orange extract to provide flavor in this cake, use fresh orange zest and juice. The orange’s zest is packed with flavor! Only grate off the very outer layer of the orange (the bright orange portion; avoid the white pith underneath as it’s bitter).
- Orange juice: Since we need fresh oranges for zest (about 3 large oranges) it only makes sense to juice these oranges as the main liquid. Cakes are often made with milk, but we want that delicious orange flavor. This is the perfect way to enhance orange flavor while easily keeping the cake vegan!
Dairy Free Chocolate-Orange Frosting
For the frosting you’ll need:
- Powdered sugar: Powdered sugar is also called icing sugar and for good reason – it’s the main ingredient in icing/ frosting recipes!
- Vegan butter/ margarine: To make this frosting ultra creamy, rich and melt-in-your-mouth delicious, use vegan butter (margarine works too). This melts, then firms again in the fridge for easy mixing and spreading.
- Cocoa powder: You’ll need an extra 2 tablespoon cocoa powder for the frosting to make a richly chocolatey frosting.
- Orange zest: Three oranges should make enough zest for the cake, but don’t skip out on that delicious fresh orange flavor in the frosting. You’ll need a fourth orange if you want to make frosting (and really, what’s a cake without frosting?)!
- Orange juice: That fourth orange can be juiced for the cake, if needed, but save a tablespoon to add flavor and some liquid in the frosting.
- Vanilla extract: A splash of vanilla is always a great idea when using cocoa powder since it truly brings out the chocolate flavors!
How to Make Vegan Orange and Chocolate Cake
Despite having seven steps, this recipe is extremely easy to make! The “hardest” part is zesting and juicing the oranges; I don’t have a good tool for juicing citrus, so it took some time with a fork but worked perfectly!
Step 1: Preheat Oven and Prep Baking Pan
Get started by preheating the oven and prepping your baking pan.
Use an 8-inch round cake pan and grease it well. Use either a cooking spray, oil or vegan margarine/ butter to coat the edges and bottom really well.
I highly recommend cutting a circular piece of parchment paper to line the bottom of the baking pan, then topping this with cooking spray or butter. This just makes it so much easier to get the cake out of the pan in one piece.
Step 2: Zest and Juice Oranges
Set aside the greased cake pan and get started with zesting and juicing the fresh oranges.
In total, you’ll need about 4 large oranges for this recipe. If the oranges are smaller, you may need 5.
To zest the oranges, wash them then grab either a micro plane grater or a box grater. Use the small side of the box grater (or micro plane) to lightly scrape off the orange peel’s very outer layer.
Grate off just the brightly orange portion of peel. Don’t go any further down into the white pith of the peel since this is bitter and doesn’t contain fresh orange flavor!
After you’ve zested the oranges, cut in half and juice. Use an orange juicer if you have one, but if you’re like me and don’t have one handy, use a fork to extract all the orange juice.
Step 3: Sift Dry Ingredients
In a sieve (sifter) place the all-purpose flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and baking soda. Sift together, removing any clumps from the cocoa powder.
Next, whisk the sugar into the flour mixture until well combined.
Step 4: Whisk in Wet Ingredients
Create a well (hole) in the center of the flour-sugar mixture and add in the vanilla extract, oil, orange zest and orange juice.
Whisk these wet ingredients into the dry ingredients until everything is well combined (no large clumps of flour/ dry ingredients anywhere). At this point, stop whisking. You don’t want to overmix since it could impact the fluffiness of your cake.
Step 5: Bake and Cool
Pour the cake batter into your greased baking pan. Carefully spread the batter as flat as possible.
Pop this pan into your preheated oven and bake! The cake is done when a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean (no wet, raw looking batter sticking to the toothpick).
Once out of the oven, allow the cake to cool in the pan for a few minutes before carefully transferring onto a cooking rack. It’s helpful to lightly run a knife along the edge of the cake pan to make sure the edges aren’t sticking. Then, place the cooling rack across the top of the cake and flip quickly upside down so the cake can fall onto the cooling rack.
If you used parchment paper, carefully peel it off and allow the cake to cool completely before frosting!
Step 6: Make Frosting
While the cake is baking and cooling, prep the frosting.
Sift together icing sugar and cocoa powder, then stir in melted vegan butter (or margarine), vanilla extract, orange zest and orange juice.
Mix until the frosting is very smooth. It may seem quite runny for a frosting and that’s okay. Cover the frosting either with plastic wrap or transfer to a container with a tight-fitting lid then place into the fridge to chill.
The frosting will harden and thicken as the vegan butter chills in the fridge. Your result is a delicious, rich frosting that’s quite easy to work with!
Step 7: Frost Cake and Decorate!
After your frosting has chilled and firmed, and the cake is cool, frost the cake!
This recipe makes a single cake and enough frosting for a thick layer across the top.
If you’d like to make a double layer cake like in my photos, make two separate cakes and double the frosting recipe (makes enough to lightly coat a double layer cake).
In these photos I’ve topped the cake with some orange slices and grated dark chocolate! While the orange slices are pretty, they release juice into the frosting. I recommend removing them before storing the cake (don’t leave fresh orange slices on the top if you’re planning to store the cake on the counter for a few days).
How to Refrigerate and Freeze Leftover Cake
Store the cake covered on the counter for up to 4 days. If you need to store it longer than that, it’s okay for up to a week and a half in the fridge.
This cake also freezes well. If freezing, it’s best to freeze the cake and frosting separately. However, if the cake is already frosted, you can freeze frosted slices.
To freeze, simply place the cake, or slices of cake, into a freezer-safe airtight container. It will last in the freezer for up to 4 months.
I hope you enjoy this delicious flavor combination of chocolate orange cake. The cake and frosting are truly spectacular!
If you make this recipe, please rate and comment below to help others benefit from your experience!
Vegan Chocolate Orange Cake
- 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
- ½ cup cocoa powder
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 cup sugar (granulated white sugar)
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ½ cup oil (I used avocado oil; must be liquid oil)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 cup orange juice (fresh squeezed ideal; about 3 large oranges)
- 3 tablespoons orange zest (about 3 large oranges)
- Preheat oven to 350 °F.
- Grease an 8-inch round cake pan. Ideally, cut a piece of parchment paper to cover the bottom of the pan (then grease the parchment paper to prevent sticking).
- Prep the orange zest and juice. You’ll need about 1 fresh orange per tablespoon of zest. Use the small grating side of a box grater or a handheld micro plane to zest the orange. Only grate the bright orange portion of the peel and not any of the white pith underneath.3 tablespoons orange zest
- Juice the oranges after they're zested. If the oranges are large and juicy you should have enough, but may need an extra orange (or store-bought orange juice) to get enough.1 cup orange juice
- Measure the flour by gently scooping the flour into the measuring cup until it's over filled. Then, use a flat edge, like the back of a knife, to scrape off excess so you have a perfectly measured amount. Measure the cocoa powder the same way.
- In a large bowl sift together all-purpose flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and baking powder.1 ½ cups all-purpose flour, ½ cup cocoa powder, ½ teaspoon baking soda, 1 teaspoon baking powder
- Then, whisk in sugar and salt.1 cup sugar, ¼ teaspoon salt
- Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in oil, vanilla extract, orange juice and orange zest.½ cup oil, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, 1 cup orange juice, 3 tablespoons orange zest
- Whisk the cake batter together until just mixed (no noticeable large clumps of dry flour).
- Pour batter into the greased cake tin. Tap the pan on your counter a couple times to get the batter flattened, then put the cake into the oven for 30-35 minutes.
- A toothpick inserted into the center of the cake should come out clean when the cake is done.
- Allow the cake to cool in the pan for 5 minutes before carefully running a knife around the edge of the cake pan to loosen the cake from the edges. Carefully turn the cake out onto a cooling rack and allow to cool completely before frosting it.
- After placing the cake into your oven, start preparing frosting. It needs to set in your fridge before using.
- Begin by melting vegan butter or margarine in a medium sized bowl then sift in icing sugar and cocoa powder.¾ cup icing sugar, ¼ cup vegan butter, 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
- Next, stir in orange zest (extra from making the cake or use a 4th orange), orange juice and vanilla extract. Stir until the mixture looks smooth.½ tablespoon orange zest, 1 tablespoon orange juice, ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
- Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or transfer to a container with an airtight lid. Allow frosting to chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes or until the cake is completely cool (frosting will harden as the butter chills).
- Spread frosting across chilled cake.
- The frosted cake can sit in an airtight container on the counter up to 4 days; after this point, store in the fridge or freeze extra slices.
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About Nicole Stevens
Nicole is a vegan Registered Dietitian (RD) and founder of Lettuce Veg Out.
She helps people thrive on a vegan diet with balanced recipes and easy-to-understand nutrition science.