Weeknight Cooking

Chocolate-Orange Birthday Cake

February  4, 2013

Jenny is in perpetual search for easy, weeknight recipes to attempt to feed her family. When they balk, she just eats more.

Today: Jenny finds a weeknight chocolate cake. With sprinkles, naturally.

My Chocolate-Orange Birthday Cake

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My friend’s son A is what is commonly referred to within the culinary linguistic canon as a cookie monster. I know most kids love sweets, but really this boy, who is as thin as a bookmark and otherwise quite personally restrained, can put away more desserts than any man, woman or child I have ever known. I once saw him nibble some crumbs off a table-mate’s banana muffin wrapper at school. He’s just that kid.

But when it comes to baked goods, let me just say right away that A has plenty of good taste. He prefers a garlic salt bagel to a plain, demonstrating incipient savory smarts, and he really can tell a great cake from a good one.

When his birthday rolled around earlier this month, I offered to bake him a cake, and among all the offerings I put out there, he had the good sense – and interesting brain -- to choose My Chocolate-Orange Birthday Cake. And that was before he even learned it had sprinkles!

The first thing this recipe has going for it is, of course, its author: drbabs always churns out good yummies, so I knew this would be a sure thing. I also love how she made it for herself rather than endure the cloying misery of a store-bought cake -- friends don’t prevent friends from having the perfect cake, can I get an amen?

But you all know I would not be writing this up were the cake not weeknight-friendly. I made it on a Sunday night after completing approximately 300 loads of laundry and sweeping the basement stairs so that someone could immediately trample on them again, so you know it has to be easy. Its two greatest assets are that it only takes one pan and it features things you probably have at home, unless you’ve been too depressed about the looks of oranges in the store these days to buy them.

The only thing I did not add was the espresso powder – it was a school night after all. Because this recipe features both baking powder and baking soda, you can get away with using natural cocoa if that’s all you have in your pantry. Please make sure the cake is totally cooled before frosting, which is done most easily by pouring the ganache in the center of the cake and then spreading it from there. Amanda told me not to use sprinkles. I used the exact ones features in drbabs’s photo. Amanda can sue me.

My Chocolate-Orange Birthday Cake

My Chocolate-Orange Birthday Cake by drbabs

Makes 1 9-inch cake

For the cake:

1 cup all purpose flour
2/3 cups Dutch-process cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon powdered espresso
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
4 ounces butter (1 stick), room temperature
1 cup brown sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon orange zest
1/4 cup fresh-squeezed orange juice
3/4 cups whole milk

For the ganache:

1/4 cup heavy cream
4 ounces best quality bittersweet chocolate, chopped fine
sprinkles for decorating

See the full recipe (and save and print it) here.

Craving more chocolate cake? Try:

Chocolate Dump-It Cake

Chocolate-Beet Cake

Spicy Chocolate Mousse Crepe Cake

Photos by James Ransom


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Written by: Jestei

The ratio of people to cake is too big.


Chloe August 2, 2016
How sweet is this cake?
drbabs August 2, 2016
Not super sweet ( to me, and I don't like super sweet dessert).
glammie January 29, 2016
I have everything, save for the powdered espresso. Do you suppose I could use instant decaf? I know ... fer shame. I only allow myself one good cup of coffee each day and I keep the instant on the down low for those nights when I need it but dare not have the caffeine. Thanks in advance.
drbabs January 29, 2016
You absolutely can use instant decaf. The coffee flavor adds oomph tho the chocolate. Enjoy!
Cathy C. April 16, 2013
I just made this for my Dad's almost 60th (59th) birthday, and am taking it over tomorrow for dinner. He 'didn't want anything for his birthday', but every year begs for orange chocolates for Christmas/Easter/Holidays, so I figured this was the perfect gift. I am now unfortunately tempted to eat it myself, it smells so good. I hope I can resist until tomorrow night!!! :) ps - I used 1/4c butter, and 1/2c orange juice for a more intense flavor, and used the juice from an orange and a tangelo. Also, will ganache tomorrow so that everything is mostly fresh!
phyllis February 6, 2013
I'm having two little girls, five y/o and almost three, and their parents for dinner this week-end. Both girls are almost at their birth days. I'm going to bake this for them for dessert (but really for me), because who can resist chocolate, orange and sprinkles! Thanks Jenny and drbabs!
riverdwell February 6, 2013
Is the butter the kind with salt or without?
drbabs February 6, 2013
I use I salted butter.
drbabs February 6, 2013
Oops...darn typo. I use UNsalted butter.
dymnyno February 5, 2013
Oh do I love the combo of orange and chocolate! Just in case anyone is in my neighborhood on feb 26 which is my birthday and wants to make this for me I know it will pair very very nicely with red wine if you get my drift...
MrsWheelbarrow February 5, 2013
Um. Howdy neighbor. Did I tell you it's my birthday week?
mcs3000 February 4, 2013
I'm a sucker for sprinkles.
hbusig February 4, 2013
I am having my 12 year old daughter make this for my birthday in April. Chocolate and orange is my favorite combination. I may need to give the recipe a testrun before that. Just to make sure it is good. :-)
mrslarkin February 4, 2013
Go team sprinkles!

Jestei February 4, 2013
i liked them
Kathleen B. February 4, 2013
Jestei February 4, 2013
Kitchen B. February 4, 2013
Chocolate orange is my favourite combo ever.....and that of my 5 year old son. I love Terry's chocolate orange, and I frequently make an orange version of Amanda's Chocolate dump it all cake. This rocks.

And Amanda can hardly sue you....for there's no proof of the sprinkles in the photo! No evidence, no crime!!
Jestei February 4, 2013
if you look at the original recipe post you can see the sprinkled version which is exactly what my cake looked like
BlueKaleRoad February 4, 2013
I'm glad you used the sprinkles - so festive and fun! This sounds like a fabulous cake.
Jestei February 4, 2013
I think you would enjoy it
Shalini February 4, 2013
Thanks Dr. Babs and Jenny! Lovely.
Jestei February 4, 2013
thank you!
drbabs February 4, 2013
Hey, Jenny. Thank you for making my day. XO
Jestei February 4, 2013
xx oo