An easy alternative to plain chocolate, this chocolate orange frosting is ready in minutes and made with fresh orange zest, rich cocoa, and butter. It's a great buttercream to jazz up a plain cake, but especially good as a topping for chocolate orange cake!

If you want more orange, check out our cranberry orange shortbread cookies, whip up a batch of orange curd (a perfect pairing!), or make a beautiful and bright blood orange margarita.

Close up of chocolate frosting after whipping in a bowl.
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Chocolate orange frosting ingredients with labels.

Ingredient Notes and Substitutions

  • Powdered sugar: also called icing and confectioner's sugar. This shouldn't be switched out for other types of sugar.
  • Orange: if you can get an unwaxed organic orange, that's ideal, because you're using just the zest here. Wash it well in warm water before using regardless to avoid any waxy taste.
  • Cocoa: any kind of cocoa powder can be used (make sure it's pure cocoa, not hot chocolate drink mix). Dutch process will add a stronger chocolate taste and natural will be a little lighter.
  • Make it dairy-free: use a good plant-based butter and milk. We recommend Miyoko's or another stick/block type.


Chocolate orange buttercream steps 1 to 4, adding butter, whipped, cocoa added, and fully mixed.

Step 1: add the butter and orange zest to a mixing bowl.

Step 2: mix until light and fluffy, a couple of minutes.

Step 3: add the sugar and cocoa.

Step 4: mix on low speed to combine, then beat in the milk a tablespoon at a time to reach your desired consistency. Mix in the vanilla and it's ready to use.

Top Tips

  • Sub other orange types: Navel is easiest because it has a nice thick peel, but you could use an orange like Cara Cara or blood orange. Even clementines and mandarins will work if you're careful!
  • Don't add the pith: you want only zest, the orange bit of the skin, and no pith (the white part). The pith is bitter and will add an unpleasant note to the frosting.
  • Mix very well: it's a little harder to test because of the added cocoa, but you usually want to mix until you can't feel the sugar anymore when rubbing some frosting between your fingers. A couple minutes should be fine.

How to Store

Storage: keep in a sealed container in the fridge for up to a week.

Freezing: transfer the frosting to an airtight container and freeze for up to three months. Thaw in the fridge overnight and give it a quick mix again before using.


What is the difference between chocolate ganache and frosting?

A ganache is made with melted chocolate, cream, and any added flavourings. It's usually thicker than frosting and used for fillings and truffles (but can be whipped!) while frosting is good for piping. Frosting is usually made with butter and powdered sugar.

Which is better, ganache or frosting?

Frosting is sweeter than ganache, so it's ideal for topping a cake if you have a sweet tooth, or if the cake isn't very sweet. Ganache is very rich so it should be used pretty sparingly for icing cakes.

Can I add orange zest to buttercream?

If you want to make an orange buttercream, zest is the best option for a bright citrus flavour. Extract can often have a slightly fake taste but zest is easy and tastes great!

If you make this Chocolate Orange Frosting recipe or any other frosting recipes on the Baked Collective, please take a moment to rate the recipe and leave a comment below. It’s such a help to others who want to try the recipe. For more baking, follow along on Instagram, TikTok, and YouTube.

Close up of chocolate frosting after whipping in a bowl.
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5 from 1 vote

Chocolate Orange Frosting

An easy alternative to plain chocolate, this chocolate orange frosting is ready in minutes and made with fresh orange zest and rich cocoa.
Prep Time5 minutes
Total Time5 minutes
Author: Kelly Neil
Yield: 2 cups


  • Measuring cups and spoons or a digital kitchen scale
  • electric hand or stand mixer
  • Large mixing bowl


  • 1 cup salted butter room temperature
  • 1 medium Navel orange
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • ¾ cup cocoa powder
  • 5 tablespoons whole milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla


  • Place the butter in a mixing bowl. Zest half of the orange directly into the bowl (about 1 tablespoon). Use a mixer on high speed to beat until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.
    1 cup salted butter, 1 medium Navel orange
  • Sift the powdered sugar and cocoa into the bowl. Mix on low speed to combine. Add the milk, 1 tablespoon at a time, until you reach your desired consistency. You may not need all of the milk. Add the vanilla and give the frosting a final mix.
    3 cups powdered sugar, ¾ cup cocoa powder, 5 tablespoons whole milk, 1 teaspoon vanilla


If you don't have an orange, you can use orange extract in a pinch.
This recipe makes enough to frost one 8-inch double layer cake.
You can make this recipe ahead and freeze it for later. When ready to use, thaw at room temperature.


Serving: 2tablespoons | Calories: 209kcal | Carbohydrates: 27g | Protein: 1g | Fat: 12g | Saturated Fat: 8g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.5g | Monounsaturated Fat: 3g | Trans Fat: 0.5g | Cholesterol: 32mg | Sodium: 96mg | Potassium: 88mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 23g | Vitamin A: 389IU | Vitamin C: 5mg | Calcium: 18mg | Iron: 1mg

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