I’m back at it again with the chocolate and orange, because it’s one of my favorite combos and I just can’t get enough. These cupcakes are moist and fluffy and topped with an amazing chocolate orange buttercream frosting made with vegan butter! Swap the eggs out for flax eggs in the cupcakes, and you’ll have delicious, can’t-tell-they’re-vegan vegan cupcakes!
The cupcakes are made with oil instead of butter, and you’ll hand mix the batter. No stand mixer or beaters required for the batter. And no alternating ingredients. Just simple mixing. The buttercream comes together easily (with a hand mixer!) and is one of my favorite non-dairy treats – that’s because it tastes just like regular, indulgent, and totally delicious buttercream!
Some of the ingredients I like for these cupcakes, along with possible substitutes:
Coconut sugar is a low GI, unrefined sugar. It tastes nothing like coconut, and it’s better for us than regular cane sugar – it’s my favorite, go-to sweetener for baked goods! If you don’t have this on hand, feel free to replace it with any kind of cane sugar (raw, white, or brown).
Raw cane sugar is just an unrefined version of the white sugar we all know and love. It’s less processed and usually organic. Again, this can be replaced with more coconut sugar or another kind of cane sugar.
Coconut oil adds much needed moisture to these cupcakes. You can replace it with your favorite oil – I recommend avocado or olive oil.
Eggs can be replaced with flax eggs. For three flax eggs, mix 3 Tbsp flaxseed meal with 9 Tbsp of warm water; allow to thicken for 5 minutes.
Oat milk has become my absolute favorite plant-based milk. It’s creamy and sweet, and I’ve been loving it in everything. Of course, you can use whatever plant milk you’d like.
Orange zest, extract, and juice all add to the wonderful orange flavor we love in these chocolate cupcakes. Don’t skimp!
Dutch process cocoa powder is richer in flavor and darker in color than regular (natural) cocoa. I like it for the frosting here because it helps balance the sweetness of all that powdered sugar and creates a beautiful color. Feel free to use natural cocoa powder in its place OR, for a richer frosting, replace some of the powdered sugar with more cocoa powder.
Vegetable shortening helps thicken the vegan buttercream, stiffening it a bit to allow for melt-free piping. You can use more vegan butter in its place, but your frosting may be a little melty after piping.
Chocolate Orange Cupcakes
- 1 3/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
- 3/4 cup natural (regular) cocoa powder
- 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 cup coconut sugar
- 1/2 cup unrefined (raw) cane sugar
- 3 large eggs, room temp (or 3 flax eggs if vegan - see note)
- 2/3 cup coconut oil, liquid
- 1/2 cup orange juice
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 tsp orange extract
- 1 cup oat milk, hot
- Zest from 3 medium oranges
Chocolate Orange Buttercream
- 1 cup vegan butter (2 sticks), softened
- 1/4 cup vegetable shortening
- Zest from 3 medium oranges
- 3/4 tsp orange extract
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 7 cups powdered sugar
- 1 cup Dutch process cocoa powder
- 6-8 Tbsp orange juice
For the Cupcakes
- Preheat your oven to 350°F and line a regular cupcake pan with paper liners. Bring your eggs to room temperature by placing them in a glass of warm water for around 10 minutes.
- In a large bowl, sift the flour and cocoa powder. Whisk in the baking powder, baking soda, and salt, whisking until ingredients are uniform in color; set aside.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the sugars and eggs. Whisk in the liquid coconut oil, orange juice, and vanilla and orange extracts. Add the liquid ingredients to the dry and gently mix together.
- Finally, add the hot oat milk and fresh orange zest and stir until totally combined - the batter will be very thin.
- Fill the cupcake liners 3/4 full (you should have about 18 cupcakes). Bake at 350°F for 13-15 minutes or until the cupcakes spring back when lightly tapped. Alternatively, you can insert a toothpick into the middle of a cupcake - you'll know they're down when there are a few crumbs on the toothpick.
- Allow cupcakes to cool in the pan for five minutes, and then gently transfer them to a cooling rack to cool completely.
Prepare the Frosting
- In a large bowl, beat together the vegan butter and vegetable shortening until smooth. Beat in the orange zest, and the orange and vanilla extracts.
- Sift in 1 cup of the powdered sugar and the cocoa powder and beat until well combined.
- Beat in the remaining powdered sugar and the orange juice, alternating between the two. For example, beat in another 3 cups of powdered sugar, then beat in 3 Tbsp of orange juice, add the rest of the powdered sugar, and then add orange juice until the frosting reaches a thick and stiff consistency that's still easily spreadable.
- Add frosting to a piping bag (or gallon plastic bag) fitted with your choice of piping tip - I used a Wilton 1M tip. I like to place the piping bag, with the tip, into an empty glass, folding the excess bag over the edge of the glass. Then you can easily fill the bag with frosting.
- Pipe the frosting onto the cupcakes, starting from the outside edge and going toward the middle as you work your way up. Keep the pressure steady and the bag upright as you pipe.
- Top cupcakes with your choice of toppings. I chose a spoonful of melted chocolate (thinned with olive oil*), orange zest, and a chocolate ball.
- Store leftovers in an airtight container at room temperature for maximum freshness.
- This frosting recipe makes enough to pipe 18 regular cupcakes with some frosting leftover.
- For a chocolate drizzle, melt ~1/4 cup of chocolate chips and then stir in olive oil, a small splash at a time, until the chocolate is thin enough to drizzle - you want it to stream continuously off of a spoon.
- For vegan cupcakes, use 3 flax eggs: (mix 3 Tbsp flaxseed meal + 9 Tbsp warm water, allow to thicken for five minutes)