I love a Bundt cake. I really do. Maybe it’s because they remind me of my childhood, or my grandmother, or maybe it’s because they have the ability to be elegant and un-fussy all at once. To me, baking a bundt is so much simpler than leveling, filling, crumb coating, refrigerating, icing, and decorating a layer cake, After baking a bundt you just let it cool, turn it out, and either pour on a glaze or dust with confectioner’s sugar. Despite their simplicity, they can still have the same impact when you want to wow your guests.
When I was coming up with the idea for this cake I knew I wanted a rich chocolatey base flavor, but wanted to add a little something extra to take it to another level. At first I was thinking about cherries or fresh berries, but I started thinking about those Terry’s chocolate oranges that were popular about a decade ago and I knew what I had to do. I scoured the internet for recipes but the best I could come up with were marble cakes with swirls of chocolate and orange flavored yellow cake, and that was definitely not what I was looking for. I wanted this to be a CHOCOLATE cake with a capital C-H-O-C-O-L-A-T-E, and for it to be completely perfumed with that sweet bright orange flavor.
I ended up deciding to take some liberties with a recipe for a super moist chocolate buttermilk cake. The original called for brewed coffee to enhance the chocolate flavor, but I decided to swap the coffee for fresh orange juice and zest, and add some more chocolate for good measure. I did keep the buttermilk though, which always gives anything that goes into the oven a beautiful flavor.
My only complaint about buttermilk is that I can never find it in a pint carton. In my area it only comes in quarts, and no matter how much baking I do, I always have a ton left over. Even though it’s delicious in baking, on its own, not so much. The only person I’ve ever known who actually drank buttermilk was my great-grandmother Nana. Her real name was Opal but I only knew her as Nana. She was from Little Rock by way of England, and she loved a tall glass of buttermilk. I tried some with her once when I was a kid and decided there was something VERY wrong with Nana’s pallet. It wasn’t until later in life that I realized it’s potential to completely transform baked goods.
I used to use what I needed and let the rest hang out in the fridge, hoping I’d need it again before it went bad, but nine times out of ten I’d end up admitting defeat and tossing it a week or two later. About a year or two ago I read somewhere that buttermilk freezes well, and my life was forever changed. You must be patient though, maybe even try to think ahead, and let the buttermilk thaw on its own. Frozen buttermilk takes on a really funky texture when microwaved.
I sometimes hear that people are afraid of bundt cakes, that they’re afraid they’ll fall apart or stick to the pan. My advice is to be very thorough and liberal when you butter and flour the pan, and to let the cake cool before you try to un-mold it. I use a paper towel when I’m buttering and go over the pan twice to make sure I haven’t missed any corners or detail. Don’t be afraid of using too much butter. Embrace the butter.
For this cake I used the Nordic Ware Heritage bundt pan. You can find it here if you’re interested. As if a traditional bundt pan weren’t impressive enough, this pan adds a modern twist to the classic shape. The lines of this cake just make it impossibly stylish.
Just look at those ridges. Look at those clean lines. So fancy. It looks like a craggy mountain when sliced.
I think the golden glaze with bright little specks of orange zest looks really beautiful against this almost black super-chocolatey cake. The recipe I adapted this cake from called for a thick bittersweet chocolate and sour cream glaze, but I thought a simple powdered sugar glaze would compliment and enhance the delicate citrus flavor of the cake instead of competing.
In case I forgot to mention it, this cake is GOOOOOD. It really delivers in the chocolate department, the oil and buttermilk keep it unbelievably moist, and the orange juice and zest add a sunny sweetness that permeates the cake. The smell alone is enough to get you going when you cut into it. Going. Going.
Chocolate Orange Bundt Cake
For the Cake:
1 1/4 cups orange juice
2 Tablespoons orange zest
3/4 cup Dutch process cocoa powder
2 1/4 cups sugar
1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt
2 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
2 whole eggs
1 egg yolk
1 1/4 cups buttermilk
1 cup plus 2 Tablespoon canola oil
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups, plus 2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour, sifted
1 cup mini chocolate chips or finely chopped bittersweet chocolate
For the Glaze:
2 cups confectioners’ sugar
1/4 cup fresh orange juice
2 tablespoons orange zest
Place an oven rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F.
Liberally butter and flour a 10 to 12 cup Bundt pan and set aside.
make the cake batter:
Whisk orange juice and cocoa powder in a small saucepan and bring to a boil, whisking frequently. Remove from heat, whisk in zest, and let come to room temperature.
In the bowl of a stand mixer with a whisk attachment, mix together sugar, salt, baking soda, eggs and egg yolk on low for about 1 minute. Add the buttermilk, oil and vanilla extract and mix on low again for another minute.
Add the flour and mix on medium speed for 2 minutes. Add the cooled cocoa mixture and mix on medium speed for 3 minutes. Mix in chocolate chips on low. The batter will be very loose. Pour into the prepared cake pan and bake for 55-65, or until a cake tester or toothpick inserted in the cake comes out clean.
Let the cake cool completely in the pan and then invert onto a cooling rack.
make the orange glaze:
Add confectioner’s sugar and zest to orange juice and whisk until you can’t see any lumps. I like to do this in a glass measuring cup with a spout so you can pour the glaze easily.
Place a baking sheet under the cooling rack your cake is on. Pour the glaze over the Bundt cake, covering it completely. If you have leftover glaze, go back in for another coat. Transfer to a cake plate or platter by gently sliding the cake off the rack, use a thin spatula to help lift it if necessary. Leave at room temperature until ready to serve. The glaze will harden and form a sort of candy shell and keep the cake inside crazy moist.