A Fun, Festive Halloween Chocolate Orange Layer Cake

I had a certain post in mind today. Something new that I’d like to see on here as a regular monthly post, but, as it often does, life got in the way and I needed to do something else for today. That’s why…

…yesterday, I decided to make a cake. I knew right away what the flavors would be, and that it would be Halloween themed. I adore Halloween. Really, really. It’s, by far, my favorite holiday, so I was excited to finally do something geared towards All Hallow’s Eve.

This, my friends, is a chocolate orange layer cake. It has chocolate layers. It has orange layers. It has rich chocolate filling and orange buttercream frosting. It has dark chocolate ganache on top. And it was totally fun to make!! The swirls on the outside of the cake were made using leftover filling after the cake was assembled and frosted. I just used a pastry bag fitted with a writing tip to draw them all over the sides of the cake, then I poured the yummy ganache in the center of the cake and let it run over the edges.

These little fondant pumpkins turned out to be the most fun to make. Ohmigoodness, these are adorable. And unbelievably easy too. I had planned on maybe doing some little ghosties because they’re so simple, but I did these instead, on the advice of my sister. She was totally right…these are perfect!

If you want to make some, it’s not difficult at all. Just roll a piece of fondant into a ball or oval, then set it on a counter that is very lightly dusted with sugar. Gently press the very top of the pumpkin down in order to flatten the bottom and make the pumpkin less perfectly round. Next, press a small round tool (I used sculpting tools) into the top of the pumpkin to mark a place for the stem. For the “stripes” around the pumpkin, use a toothpick to gently press into the fondant, at even intervals, all the way around.

For the stem, shape a small piece of green fondant into a cone or cylinder. Put a tiny dab of water on the end and gently press it into the indentation on the pumpkin. For a more elaborate stem, elongate it by rolling it gently through your fingers. Press it to the pumpkin, as before, but shape the end so that it curls in a fun way. Since the pumpkin is so small, it will hold it’s shape easily. Last, but not least, use a black food write to draw the funny faces on.

Okay, so the pumpkins are fun, but check this out:

Is this cool or what? Rather than just do two or three layers, I thought that a bunch of thin layers would be more interesting, and a fun surprise when the cake is cut. To do this, I used one basic batter, then divided it in half. One half had chocolate added to it, while the other got orange flavor. Then I simply baked the layers in small batches until I was out of batter! I used eight-inch pans, lined with parchment, each filled with about two-thirds of a cup of batter. It only took about ten minutes for them to bake, and I was able to do two layers at a time. I wouldn’t recommend putting layers on the top and bottom racks of the oven, because they will not bake evenly.

Once all of the layers have cooled, start stacking them.

I started with orange on the bottom, then frosted the top of it with the chocolate filling (sorry for the poor quality photo). I spread the frosting to about one-inch from the edge of the cake. If you spread the filling all the way to the edge, it will probably mix with your orange frosting, so leave that one-inch ‘barrier’ in there (the orange frosting will fill it in). Next, layer a chocolate layer on top and frost it like you did the orange layer, then just repeat that process until you’ve used all of your layers.

Once you’ve got the whole cake stacked, you can frost it with the orange frosting and decorate, as desired. I used leftover chocolate filling to pipe swirls all over the sides of the cake before adding rich chocolate ganache to the top.

This cake could easily be altered to suit any holiday. It wasn’t difficult to make at all, but you do need to devote at least an hour to baking it, since so many layers to cook. It’s really completely worth the time and effort, though. And you can make the design as minimalistic or as frilly as you like. Definitely give this fun cake a try. Enjoy and happy Halloween!

Chocolate Orange Layer Cake
with Chocolate Filling and Orange Buttercream Frosting
Topped with Chocolate Ganache

Makes 1 10-layer, 8-inch round cake


1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
2 cups sugar
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 lb. sour cream

For the orange layers:
1 1/2 teaspoons finely grated orange zest
1/4 cup fresh orange juice

For the chocolate layers:
1/2 cup boiling water
1/2 cup cocoa powder

Food coloring, if desired

1/4 cup boiling water
1/4 cup cocoa powder
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, softened
3 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons milk, as needed

6 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened
5-6 cups confectioners’ sugar
1/4 cup fresh orange juice
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
2 tablespoons milk, as needed

Chocolate Ganache

Marshmallow Fondant

To make the cake: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line up to 10 8-inch round pans with parchment.

In a small bowl, combine the boiling water and cocoa powder; set aside to cool.

In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt; set aside.

In a large bowl, or the bowl of a standing mixer, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, until combined, scraping the sides of the bowl, as needed. Stir in the vanilla. Sprinkle 1/3 of the flour mixture into the bowl and beat until just combined. Add half of the sour cream, mix until combined, then scrape the bowl. Repeat with the remaining flour mixture and sour cream, mixing until everything is combined.

Divide the batter in half evenly. To one half, gently stir in the cooled cocoa mixture until combined. To the other half, stir in the orange zest and juice until combined. Add orange and/or black food coloring to the different batters, if desired. Place about 2/3 cup of batter into each pan, alternating between the 2 flavors, until you have an equal amount of chocolate layers versus orange layers. Bake up to 3 layers at a time for 10 minutes. Cool completely before stacking and decorating.

To make the filling: In a small bowl or measuring cup, combine the boiling water and cocoa; set aside to cool. In a large bowl, cream together the butter and about a third of the confectioners’ sugar. Stir in the cocoa and mix thoroughly before beating in another third of the confectioners’ sugar. Next stir in the vanilla and the remaining sugar, beating until well mixed and light and fluffy. Add more milk, as needed, if the frosting is too thick. Add coloring as desired.

To make the frosting: In a large bowl, cream together the butter and 2 cups of the confectioners’ sugar. Stir in the zest and juice, and mix thoroughly before beating in another 2 more cups of the confectioners’ sugar. Next stir in the vanilla and the remaining sugar, beating until well mixed and light and fluffy. Add the milk, as needed. Add coloring as desired.

Assemble the cake: Stack the cake layers, starting with orange on the bottom. Frost the top of the layer with the chocolate filling. Spread the frosting to about one-inch from the edge of the cake. Next, layer a chocolate layer on top and frost it like you did the orange layer. Repeat that process until you’ve used all of your layers.

Frost the outside of the cake with the orange buttercream. If desired, use leftover chocolate filling to pipe swirls onto the outside of the cake (I did only the sides).

Pour the (room temperature) ganache slowly on the center of the cake, allowing it to spread toward the edges. Do not pour too much ganache on at once, or it will completely cover the cake, rather than drizzling over the sides. As the ganache begins to reach the edges of the cake, use a small spatula, if necessary, to help the ganache begin to drizzle down the sides.

Garnish with fondant pumpkins or other decorations, if desired.

Recipe by Darla


Leave a comment


  1. Xiaolu @ 6 Bittersweets says

    Wow this is really stunning and such a great idea for Halloween. I commend you on putting so much effort into one cake! I may just be missing it, but directions on the chocolate ganache decorations would be really helpful. Discovered your blog recently and have been loving all the posts :).

  2. Sugarbear says

    @Xiaolu @ 6 Bittersweets, thanks for the head's up! 🙂 I've got the directions in there now!

    Thank you so much for the kind words!! Have a fantastic day!

  3. Gracie says

    I LOVE this! I do believe I will try this for my sons birthday cake! I'm doing a three tiered cake for him and this would be perfect for the bottom of the cake. It will be so pretty when it is cut!

  4. bttrflybabydoll says

    Oh Dear Goodness! That is BEAUTIFUL! I want your talent!

    You inspire me soooo much! Incredibly gorgeous! I'm not sure if I can put any more exclamation marks into one post! LOL

  5. lostpastremembered says

    Amazing cake.. it was such a pleasure to come across it on Foodgawker.. both the cake and the photos are really fine.>> KUDOS!

  6. louis says

    Hi!! i love this cake!! it is so beautiful and amazing, and it sounds delicious! I was just wondering, what did you use the chocolate filling for? i can't see it in the picture amongst all the other chocolatey goodness!

  7. Avanika [YumsiliciousBakes] says

    The cake is gorgeous! LOVE the colors. But I have the same question as the commenter above, where did you put the filling??

  8. Sugarbear says

    Thank you everyone for the kind comments! I had a lot of fun making this!!

    @louis, @Avanika – There is a layer of the chocolate filling between each layer of cake. There isn't a lot (mostly because too much frosting with all of those layers would have been a disaster in the high humidity where I live), but you'll notice that the chocolate cake layers look thicker than the orange, part of that is the chocolate filling, which is the same color as the chocolate cake).

    Thanks for the question!

  9. Elizabeth says

    Wow, now that is a gorgeous and super fun cake! You did an amazing job on the swirls and the overall appeal of this cake. I would LOVE something like this to feed the kids on Halloween, what fun!

  10. souperior says

    Just totally, utterly stunning!

    (and I agree – Hallowe'en is the best festival there is, particularly for cooks 🙂

  11. kim says

    I followed your recipe exactly and my orange came out very pale – more like a peach. I have no clue how come your orange is so orange. Tastes great though! For added decoration, I used the vines from dried tomato plants for the stems and leaves of the little pumpkins.

  12. Elle@KitchenGifts says

    Oh, my! I came here via a post on Baking Bites and am I ever glad i did.

    That cake is a work of art! I would never attempt it myself, but kudos to you.

  13. Sweet And Crumby says

    I have just revived myself from passing out in utter amazement. That might just be the most outrageously beautiful cake I have ever seen. I don't know how you got those swirls so perfect!

  14. chayacomfycook says

    This is truly an outstanding cake. You write like it is easy to do. You need patience for a cake like this as well as creativity.

  15. Sugarbear says

    @bakeforfun – If you're using my marshmallow fondant that's linked above, you'll only need about 1/5 of the entire recipe, if that. It's a small amount, but the fondant keeps beautifully in an air tight container or zip top bag for at least 3 weeks, so you can certainly save the rest. I keep mine in a cool, dry cabinet, so it's out of the light. The fondant recipe can also be cut in half, so you'll have a lot less left over. Hope this helps! Happy Halloween!

  16. saphyress says

    OH MY GOD that is cool! Love that it looks so cool but looks easy to do too! I'm telling everyone I want this as my birthday cake next year (my bday was yesterday)

  17. Alvina says

    It's more complicated than I like my cooking/baking to be but I REALLLLLY want to eat this. It looks amazing, inside and out! And I love orange and chocolate! :]

  18. Liz Robertson says

    wowee. great instructions and someday i will try this. BUT: how do you get the slices to look so perfect without crushing the cake or smearing the frosting? Was it chilled?

  19. karynees says

    Absolutely beautiful cake. May try for T.giving this year. Love the cake stand too. Any info on where to get one?

    Discovered your blog on cakewrecks.com (don't worry, your cake was a "Sunday Sweet"!) and have SO enjoyed reading all of your creations.

    Bake on girl!!

  20. Sugarbear says

    Everyone, thank you so much! I had such a fun time making this cake, and I am so honored that it made it onto Cake Wrecks!! 🙂

    @Liz – The cake was chilled when I sliced it. It's very warm and humid where I live, so most of my treats have to be chilled at all times. Fortunately, i happen to prefer my cake cold! 🙂 I also used a very, very sharp knife, trying to achieve that perfect slice!!

    @karynees – Thank you!! I got my cake stand at Homegoods (similar to TJ Maxx), in Maine. But I've gotten most of my cake stands there. If you have a Homegoods where you live, definitely check them out! They always have at least a small selection of cake stands spread throughout the kitchen department.

  21. Allison says

    I also found you via CakeWrecks.com and will be back often. Really sweet stuff!
    I plan to try this cake for Thanksgiving but I think I'll sub pumpkin for the orange(even tho orange/chocolate is my fav flav combo). I may try my hand at some leaves scattered with some plain pumpkins for the top decorations! Can't wait!

  22. Muria says

    Looks amazing! I'm also here via cakewrecks. How hard do you think it would be to substitute out other flavors? I'm thinking either cherry or raspberry would be fabulous with the chocolate, but there really isn't a cherry equivalent for orange zest.

    I learned a long time ago that trying to alter chocolate recipes to a different flavor doesn't work. Though I'd be tempted to try something like pumpkin for the orange, and spice flavored cake with raisins and nuts for the chocolate (though I'm not sure what would happen with the frosting flavors… maybe pumpkin spice and cream cheese?).

    Thanks for the inspiration!

  23. Anonymous says

    SO PRETTY!!!! I really want to make it but I'd feel like I would be copying you.:( Maybe I could make it for Thanksgiving and change orange to pumpkin and everything goes with chocolate! Maybe. Sorta. Kinda

  24. Anonymous says

    Just sayin' I'm the same person as number 46 (that's a lot o' comments) and that I was thinking in my head that this would be the PERFECT cake for my mom's birthday but it had already passed. Her birthday is on the 9th and just to explain, I got here from Cake Wrecks and they didn't post your cake on Sunday sweets until the 31st. Oh well, I guess there's always next year.

  25. jaspjedi4hire says

    Love this. I tried it out. First time ever making my own frosting the cake came out so moist. I dodn't think I got enough orange coloring in my cake but tasty all the same.

  26. Sugarbear says

    I think that pumpkin would be delicious in place of the orange cake! You could simply start out with a great pumpkin spice recipe in place of the orange, and divide it and add chocolate to half (like I did with this recipe). And I think I would probably prefer a cream cheese frosting. I'd love to hear how it turns out!

  27. Erika says

    Lovely cake. Chocolate and orange is my mom's favorite flavor combination, so I are making this for her xxth birthday tomorrow. I'm too lazy to make all those layers, though. I baked it in four pans and I'll split them tomorrow for an eight layer cake. Mama never gets a full hour to herself with an 8 month old and a four year old! Thanks for the inspiration. I think it will be a hit.

  28. Dawn says

    I'm in the process of making this cake and I just have 1 question: how did you get the cake batter to lie in a smooth layer? I ended up using frosting to even out the layers!

  29. Sugarbear says

    @Dawn – I used a small rubber spatula to smooth the batter in the pans before baking it. Also, when I make cakes, I tend to turn the bottom side of the cake up when frosting it, so that I have a smooth surface to frost. On normal layers, I also use a knife to cut the tops so the layers are level (these layers are too thin for that). Sometimes, you have to do what you did and just use the frosting as a leveler, but in most cases with thicker layers especially, you can usually level with a knife.

  30. Anonymous says

    What other flavors work for this for the holiday time? I'm early in the baking game, but totally love to take on things like this!

  31. Sugarbear says

    @Anon. – I think that another good holiday combination for this could be chocolate and pumpkin; they would be tasty together. Or you could just do a single flavor…you can always use food coloring to achieve the visual appeal.

  32. Anonymous says

    Beautiful !! I'm thinking about making a chocolate/strawberry cake for my daughter's birthday. Do you think strawberry puree would work in place of the orange juice in the cake and buttercream recipes? Also, just curious as to why you choose to bake the layers separately instead of splitting larger layers.

  33. Anonymous says

    This looks amazing! I'm going to make it (sans pumpkins on top) as a pie alternative for Thanksgiving. Thanks for posting this fantastic recipe!

  34. Anonymous says

    I made this for Thanksgiving and it turned out great! I subbed orange extract for zest. However, I was hoping to do a variation on this and do dark chocolate and raspberry for the cakes instead. I know there's dark chocolate cocoa powder, so that half of the batter should be pretty much the same, but what would you recommend adding for the raspberry half? I was thinking raspberry puree.

  35. tinatse says

    hi! I really love the idea and want to make this cake for my mother's birthday. But in here confectionar's sugar is very expensive do you have any idea to reduce it?? thank you . I love your recipes 😀

  36. Darla says

    @Anon. – I definitely think a fruit puree would work great in place of the orange zest/juice. You may need to add a dash of fruit extract to boost the fruity flavor.

    @tinatse – You can certainly make your own confectioners' sugar by mixing 1 cup granulated sugar with 1 tablespoon of corn starch. Just be aware that this can give a grainier texture. I have, in the past, processed granulated sugar in a food processor to make it super fine before adding the corn starch to the sugar. I've found that this is a better method for getting a smoother result.

    Hope this helps!

  37. Ciara S. says

    You sincerely inspired me with this cake..but i obviously lack your patience! I wanted to go for a christmas-themed version so i made a yellow butter cake and flavored it with the powdered eggnog mix (my father in law is allergic to milk and i was able to keep the recipe milk free!)

    Then tinted half of it green and half red for the layers, covered the cake in Gingerbread flavored fondont (made with the new gingerbread men marshmellows!) and decorated it with little cut outs of trees, gingerbread men and snowmen. it was a HUGE hit, especially your fondont recipe!!

    Thanks for the idea and the kudos it earned me! 😀

  38. Anonymous says

    This is absolutely amazing! I'm totally copying you for X-mas with mint green layers and red velvet layers for a chocolate mint cake.

    One question though, did you let the ganache cool before pouring it? Seems like if its hot it would melt the frosting underneath and smear the colors together. I'm planning to use a white chocolate ganache to fit the theme so I don't want it to be dyed.

    Thanks again for the inspiration and recipes!!

  39. Darla says

    @Anon. – I did let the ganache cool before pouring it. It still pours beautifully after cooling, and the longer it sits, the firmer it gets.

  40. Darla says

    @Anon. – I did let the ganache cool before pouring it. It still pours beautifully after cooling, and the longer it sits, the firmer it gets.

  41. says

    This cake looks amazing! I wanted to try this with lemon instead of orange, but I was wondering, do you think it would be too tart with 1/4 cup of lemon juice in the batter and icing? It’s for a friend’s birthday, and I’d HATE for it to be too tart. Please help!

    • says

      Hi Gwendolyn (love your name!!), Thank so much! I think it’d be delicious as lemon, but I wouldn’t use a whole 1/4 cup of lemon juice. You’re right, it would be too tart. Instead, I would use 2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest (rather than orange) and only 1 to 2 tablespoons lemon juice, to taste. I have a lemon cupcake recipe that i only add zest to, but no juice, so I don’t think you’ll need a whole lot of juice. I hope this works out for you! I’d love to hear how it turns out!!

      • says

        Thanks! I will definitely let you know. I’ll be tinting the lemon parts a teal color, and attempting to make some marshmallow fondant bunnies. I’ve never made/used fondant before, but it should be fun!

  42. Amanda says

    I am making this cake right now! For my sons birthday and its looking good! I had to add orange coloring to make brite orange Thankyou so much for this beautiful cake idea!!!

  43. Vickie Hefner says

    If I Ice the cakes with buttercream 1st and make my chocolate ganashe do I need to freeze or refridgerate cake before I drizzle chocolate over cake how long do I need to cool Chocolate and how long before serving time do I need to make it

    • says

      Hi Vickie, No, you don’t need to chill the cakes or anything before adding the ganache. Allow the ganache to cool completely to room temperature before using it, then just pour some in the center of the cake, slowly, allowing it to edge towards the sides of the cake. Don’t pour too much, or the ganache will completely cover the sides of the cake. You can make and add the ganache at any point…it doesn’t have to wait to go on. The longer you have it on the cake, the firmer it will be upon serving. I would serve the cake within 24 hours of making it, but it will keep for several days in the refrigerator. I hope this is helpful. 🙂

  44. Sian says

    making this cake today 😀 but changing it into a marble cake to see if it works. was wondring how you did the ganache on top? did you pipe the swirls on?

    • says

      Hi Sian, For the ganache, I poured room temperature ganache slowly on the center of the cake, allowing it to spread toward the edges. Don’t pour too much ganache on at once, or it will completely cover the cake, rather than drizzling over the sides. As the ganache begins to reach the edges of the cake, use a small spatula, if necessary, to help the ganache begin to drizzle down the sides.

      I used leftover chocolate filling to pipe the swirls onto the sides of the cake. I hope this is helpful! 🙂

  45. Genie says

    I think you steamed your pumpkins to get them to shine so much, but when did you draw the faces on? before or after you steamed them? And did you just put them on a fork and steam them over the stove then trasfer them to the cake? Or do you need to let them cool afterwards?
    Thanks, this cake looks so good, I will have to make one for my friends birthday this Halloween.

    • says

      I didn’t steam them, the shine is just a result of the humidity where I lived at the time. You could steam them if you wanted to, though. Either way, the faces have to be drawn on first.

  46. Kat says

    I was asked to make a Halloween cake and after seeing this, nothing else even compares. You did an amazing job with this cake!

    I was wondering what the marshmallow fondant recipe is, the link on this page doesn’t go anywhere. The pumpkins are the part that looks difficult. Did you use food coloring or gel in the fondant?

    Thank you for posting so many fantastic recipes with pictures.

  47. Phoebe says

    Hi Darla,
    I’ve tried before to get a ganache icing to set half-drizzled down the sides, but it often all runs off leaving the top of the cake thin. Would you recommend pouring the ganache on, encouragin it down the sides and then sticking it in the fridge to set half-way?


  48. Michelle says

    Hi Darla,

    Long time fan of your site! LOVE this cake but I have a question. If I want to make it for someone who does not like chocolate can I leave the cake batter as is and it will still just taste sweet like a white cake mix?


  49. says

    So I made this cake… it was so yummy. Unfortuanatly the middle of all my layers was much thicker than the edges so as I started to stack my layers it got more and more ugly. The top layer was cracking because it was so hummped. Even frosting it couldn’t cover up all my mistakes. It was the uglyest cake ever. Turns out leveling layers is a big step that wasn’t mentioned. I cried. Now that I know better I would love to try making it again.