These gluten-free chocolate orange cupcakes are rich, moist and fluffy and the cupcakes of my dreams! Bittersweet chocolate and and tangy, sweet orange is the perfect pairing in my opinion. This easy recipe mixes up in just a few minutes.
Gluten-free flour blend – King Arthur Measure for Measure Flour is my go-to for gluten-free baking. It is widely available and works well in so many of my recipes.
Pamela’s All Purpose Artisan Blend is a similar gf flour and will work too. Cup4Cup is another option but it contains milk powder so I don’t use it as often (also very pricey).
All three of these flours are certified gluten-free. They contain binders like xanthan gum, guar gum and or inulin. If you use a blend that does not contain one of these binders, add 1/4 teaspoon xanthan gum to the recipe.
This recipe gets a triple dose of orange to be sure that the flavor comes through with the chocolate. Chocolate is a strong flavor and can block other flavors if they’re not strong enough,
My favorite way to get citrus flavor into a recipe is with the zest. The zest is the colorful outer layer of citrus peel that has all the pop of flavor without the liquid. See my quick tutorial How to Zest a Lemon that provides step-by-step instructions. Use a microplane to remove the zest which grates it fine enough to make it disappear into the cupcake.
The key to assuring that the orange zest gives up its flavor to the batter is to warm it up with the milk. This releases the oils and flavors into the milk and then into the batter.
You’ll also juice the orange and add some juice to the recipe. Finally a teaspoon of orange extract adds concentrated orange flavor.
Cocoa powder provides pure dark chocolate flavor to these cupcakes. It is not necessary to use a Dutch process cocoa powder. Hershey’s is the most easily found gluten-free cocoa powder. I used to use Ghirardelli cocoa powder but they now have a wheat warning on the package.
Normally recipes with chocolate include baking soda in addition to baking powder. Chocolate is acidic and the baking soda reacts with the chocolate to create rise. But baking soda is a strong leavening agent, and I have found that gluten-free baked goods do not hold the rise as well with baking soda. So I use only baking powder and it works well without overdoing it.
I use a dairy-free milk substitute since I am mostly dairy-free. Hemp, coconut, almond, oat, soy or rice milk are all good options. Of course if you are not dairy-free, cow’s milk will work too.
I prefer oil over butter for adding moisture to gluten-free cakes and cupcakes. Butter has slightly better flavor but I find that baked goods with butter dry out more quickly. Avocado, canola, sunflower or any other neutral flavored vegetable oil will work.
The rest of the ingredients are just the basics – eggs, sugar, salt
How Much to Fill the Cupcake Liners
When testing a cupcake recipe, I always note exactly how much batter you need for each cupcake. It can be so difficult to figure out if the recipe doesn’t tell you. You might fill them too much and run out of batter for the last one or two. Or you have lots of batter left over and have to spend 5 minutes splitting it up evenly. NO MORE of that!
This recipe uses a heaping 2 tablespoons of batter for each cupcake. This #30 scoop is just the right size and will make it a breeze! If you don’t have the right size scoop, use a 1/4 cup measuring cup and fill it halfway. Then use a silicone spatula to scrape the batter into the liners.
Gluten-Free Chocolate Orange Cupcakes
- 1 medium/large navel orange
- ½ c milk or non-dairy milk substitute
- 2 large eggs, room temperature
- ¾ c sugar
- ½ c oil, avocado, sunflower, canola or other neutral flavored vegetable oil
- 1 tsp orange extract
- ½ tsp vanilla extract, vanilla powder or vanilla bean paste
- ¼ tsp salt
- ¾ c gluten-free flour blend*
- ½ c cocoa powder
- ¾ tsp baking powder
- Preheat the oven to 350°F and add paper liners to a cupcake pan.
- This recipe does not require an electric mixer. A wire whisk and mixing bowl is all you need.
- Use a microplane to zest the orange. For a quick tutorial on zesting citrus, check out my post How to Zest a Lemon.
- Cut the orange in half and juice it into a measuring cup until it gets to ¼ cup.
- In a large mixing bowl, beat the eggs, oil, ¼ c orange juice, orange extract, vanilla and salt until uniform and well combined.
- In a small microwave-safe bowl or glass measuring cup, heat the milk and orange zest for 30 seconds.
- Sift the flour, cocoa powder and baking powder into the egg mixture and stir until mostly combined.
- Add the warm milk and zest and stir until smooth.
- Divide the batter evenly among the liners, about 2 heaping tablespoons of batter each.
- Bake 18-20 minutes or until the top is set and bounces back from a gentle tap.
- Cool the cupcakes in the pan for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool before frosting.
- Check out my full list of cupcake frosting recipes.