I really hope you guys enjoy this chocolate Halloween cake–it’s spooky good adult fun with the flavors of chocolate and orange and a kicky ombre finish!
Think of it as a chocolate version of a creamsicle, and who doesn’t want that?! If you’d like to make some Halloween cupcakes rather than committing to making a whole cake, try my Candy Corn Cupcakes.
For a gluten-free orange chocolate experience, try my gluten-free orange chocolate truffle cake recipe.
For ease of browsing, you can find all my cake recipes in one place as well. Enjoy!
An Elegant, Adult Chocolate Halloween Cake
One year for Halloween, I envisioned dressing up as an icy, tall, slender vampire. I sort of forgot that I am neither tall nor slender, and I ended up looking like a drunk dead Italian grandmother. Scary in its own way, but so not what I was going for.
So when I envisioned a cool Halloween cake that could work for an adult party, I wanted to make sure that what I ended up with matched my vision for it as closely as possible.
What my mind’s eye saw was a tall, slender cake in varying shades of orange surrounded by black and maybe some spooky accoutrements.
It wouldn’t look like a kid’s party cake at all. It would look like an adult cake. That’s what I saw inside my head.
And this cake is what actually happened. I’d like to think I more or less nailed it in the actual sense. It’s not quite as gorgeous and elegant as I’d seen in my head, but it is pretty darned close. No drunk Italian Grandmother here. This is my vision. Yay, me.
And now it can be your vision, too!
And yay you, because it is delicious.
Chocolate Halloween Cake
The bones of this Halloween cake are pretty classic: Hershey’s perfectly chocolate cake covered with ermine frosting.
Here’s how I switched it up a bit for Halloween:
- I used a bit of black cocoa powder to achieve a very dark chocolate cake.
- I also added some espresso powder to the batter (you can’t really taste it, but it deepens the chocolate flavor),
- I added 3-4 drops of orange oil because I love chocolate and orange together,
- melted butter rather than vegetable oil for the fat,
- and a combination of buttermilk and whole milk for the liquid
I flavored the frosting with:
- Tahitian vanilla extract
- a couple of drops of orange oil and
- some chocolate bitters.
I was interested in adding a touch of chocolate flavor to the frosting without changing the color, and the bitters worked really well. The chocolate flavor is subtle, but it’s definitely there.
I have never Ombré-ed anything in my life. Not my hair, not my clothes and certainly not a cake. I tend to get stubborn when a style is trending, so if I see ombré everything everywhere, I stay away.
One problem: the stupid picture in my head was of an ombré cake. So there you go. Ombré it had to be.
How To Do Ombre Frosting
Frosting the cake is actually a breeze. Honest. Here’s how to do it:
- Make four different colors of orange frosting, from pale sherbet to intense tangerine using Wilton’s “orange.”
- Crumb coat the entire cake with the lightest color and let it set up in the fridge.
- Then, using an offset spatula, liberally dot on more of the frosting, from the lightest on top to the deepest orange down towards the bottom of the cake.
- Once all your frosting is liberally dotted on all around the cake, use a straight edged cake smoother held perpendicular to the cake, and turn it on your turntable to achieve a smooth finish while maintaining the graduated color. Since all those colors are sort of slapped on, where one meets and another starts isn’t a precise line. When you use the straight edge, it naturally makes for a very smooth transition between colors.
You may have to make several passes around the cake to get it completely smooth, and you can see in my photos that I didn’t take that time myself.
Totally your call if you want it completely smooth or just mostly smooth. You have to ask yourself, “Are you feeling lazy? Punk?” You know what my answer was, right?
Ever heard of a Kool Aid Ombre Cake? There are a couple of examples for you to see over at Family Spice. They’re pretty cool, and you could absolutely use that technique with orange Kool Aid for this Halloween cake!
Applying Ombre Frosting Video
This is not my video, but the technique is what is important. For you visual learners. this video should help you visualize how to apply your frosting to achieve an ombre effect.
NOTE: The less defined your “stripes” of frosting are, the more smooth the transition between your colors.
How to Decorate Your Chocolate Halloween Cake
If you are a Piping Wizard, you can certainly pipe whatever sort of spooky design you want on your cake.
I know my limitations, so I decided to use pre-made decorations.
They’re cut out of sheets of black food starch and soften up after sitting on the cake awhile. Here’s what I used: Wilton Spider Web Sugar Sheets.
A couple of notes about using them:
- Make sure your hands are completely dry. Wear latex gloves if your hands tend to sweat, and don’t bother trying to apply these on a humid day.
- Take your time when punching out the designs (especially the tiny spider legs), and use the point of a safety pin or the tip of a small offset spatula to help make sure the design is completely free of the sheet before trying to lift it away.
The Vegan Version of This Chocolate Cake
Here’s the vegan version of this cake. It’s all decorated for Christmas, but you can absolutely make it into a vegan Halloween cake.
More Halloween Recipes from Pastry Chef Online
Since Halloween is indeed my favorite holiday, I’ve got a pretty nice collection of Halloween recipes you may be interested in trying.
If you have questions about this post or recipe, don’t hesitate to get in touch. You can leave a comment on the post and I will get back to you within about 24 hours.
If your question is more urgent, please shoot me an email, and I will respond within 4 hours, unless I’m asleep.
Devilish Halloween Deviled Eggs
Because Sriracha and Horseradish make everything delicious, plus they add a spicy kick that ups the Devil Level!
Candy Corn Cupcakes
Orange and yellow honey vanilla cupcakes topped with a crown of white ermine frosting and decorated with little ghosts and Halloween sprinkles.
Black and White Cookies for Halloween
Black and white cookies become orange, black and white cookies for Halloween.
Malted Milk Ball Spider Cookies
These cookies are not only really tasty, but they're super cute with their big old eyes!
Halloween Eclair Cake
All the elements of French eclairs but made in a 9x13" pan for easy serving and slicing. Decorate this guy with ganache for Halloween or for any occasion, or just drizzle it on. You're going to love this all-homemade version of eclair cake!
Black Rice Risotto with Roasted Butternut Squash
This black rice risotto with roasted butternut squash perfectly embodies the Halloween theme. It's creamy, delicious and full of phytonutrients too. And butter.
Harry Potter's Vegan Treacle Tart Ice Cream
This vegan treacle tart ice cream is creamy, delicious and easy to make. You can use store-bought date syrup or make your own. I've explained the process in the notes section. Also, feel free to sub in Lyle's Golden Syrup if you have some. You could even use a light molasses or even sorghum syrup in place of the date syrup.
A Note About Kitchen Scales
NOTE: Most of my recipes are written by weight and not volume, even the liquids.
Even though I try to provide you with volume measurements as well, I encourage you to buy a kitchen scale for ease of measuring, accuracy, and consistency.
This is the scale I use, love, and recommend. If you’re unsure, please read my post about how to use a food scale.
Don't let its small price and small size fool you. The Escali Primo is an accurate and easy-to-use food scale that I have used for years. It's easy to store, easy to use, has a tare function, and easily switches between grams and ounces/pounds for accurate measurements.
And now, without further ado, I give you my Chocolate Halloween Cake, the Chocolate Dreamsicle (it’s not a very scary name, but it is really good!)
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I really hope you love this chocolate Halloween cake, you guys! If you make it, please share a photo with me, either in the PCO Facebook Group or on instagram by tagging @onlinepastrychef and using hashtag #pcorecipe. Thanks, and enjoy!
Chocolate Halloween Cake (Chocolate Creamsicle!)
The flavors of orange and vanilla in this chocolate Halloween cake play so nicely with chocolate that combining all three yields a lovely taste experience. Sophisticated yet subtle, this chocolate Halloween cake is sure to be the hit of your adult Halloween party! The cake base is Hershey's perfectly chocolate chocolate cake with quite a number of modifications. If you'd like to use the original recipe, it's on the back of all their cans of cocoa powder. This is a great chocolate Halloween cake for adults because why should the kids have all the fun?
For the Cake
- 14 oz (2 cups) granulated sugar
- 8 oz (1 3/4 cup) all purpose flour
- 1.75 oz sifted cocoa powder
- .50 oz "black" cocoa powder such as Black Onyx
- *If you don't have black cocoa powder, use 2.25 oz regular. If you don't have a scale, use a 3/4 cup measure and fill it with mostly regular cocoa powder and just some of the black. Or just use 3/4 cup of regular.
- 1 tablespoon espresso powder
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 2 large eggs at room temperature
- 4 oz (1/2 cup) buttermilk, slightly warmed (about body temperature)
- 4 oz (1/2 cup) whole milk, slightly warmed (about body temperature)
- 4 oz (1 stick) melted butter
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 3-5 drops orange oil, to taste
- 8 oz (1 cup) boiling water)
For the Creamsicle Frosting
- 2 oz (scant 1/2 cup) all purpose flour
- 10.5 oz (1 1/2 cups) granulated sugar
- 3/8 teaspoon kosher salt, (yes, that much)
- 12 oz (1 1/2 cups) whole milk
- 12 oz (3 sticks) unsalted butter at cool room temperature
- 1 teaspoon Tahitian vanilla extract
- 2-3 drops orange oil, to taste
- Optional but lovely: several shakes of chocolate bitters, to taste
For the Cake
- Preheat oven to 350F and set a rack in the center of the oven.
- Prepare 3 6-inch cake pans by spraying with pan spray, lining the bottoms with a parchment circle and spraying again. If you don't have parchment, spray and then dust the pans with sifted cocoa powder to prevent sticking. Set aside on a jelly roll pan. You should be able to fit all three on the pan.
- In a large bowl, thoroughly whisk together the sugar, flour, cocoa powders, espresso powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
- In another bowl, thoroughly whisk together the eggs, buttermilk, milk, melted butter, vanilla extract and orange oil. You want the milks warm so the melted butter doesn't seize up into little hard butter pebbles.
- Pour the wet mixture into the dry mixture and whisk well for about 3 minutes. While your whisking, heat up your one cup of water to a boil.
- Pour in the boiling water and whisk thoroughly so the water is completely and evenly incorporated. Make sure the scrape the sides of the bowl while you're mixing. The batter will be fairly thin--much thinner than with the creaming method.
- Divide the batter evenly among the three prepared pans and bake for 20 minutes.
- Carefully turn the pan from front to back and bake an additional 10-15 minutes or until the cakes spring back when touched and an instant read thermometer registers 200F.
- Remove to a rack to cool in the pans for 15 minutes.
- Run a slim knife around the insides of each pan and then turn out onto cooling racks.
- For super moist cake, wrap each layer tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate until cool. Otherwise, just let them sit out until cool. Refrigerating them once cool will make them easier to stack and frost. Frost and decorate as desired.
For the Ermine Frosting
- In a heavy bottomed sauce pan, combine the flour, sugar, salt and milk. Cook over medium to medium-high heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture comes to a boil.
- Turn the heat down to low or medium low and maintain a very slow boil, stirring frequently, for a minute or two.
- Strain through a fine mesh strainer into a metal bowl. Stir for a few moments and then press plastic wrap onto the surface of the pudding and refrigerate until cool.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the butter on medium and then high speed until light and fluffy, scraping the bowl as necessary.
- Add a large spoonful of the pudding at a time and whip until incorporated before adding the next spoonful. Continue adding the pudding and whipping in between until it is all incorporated.
- Add the flavorings and beat well. Taste and adjust as necessary.
- Color all the frosting a pale orange. Remove about 1/2 of the frosting to a bowl and then color the remaining frosting a slightly more intense orange. Remove a third of that frosting to another bowl and color the remainder a bit darker. Remove half of the frosting that's left and color the last bit the most vibrant orange ever.
To Frost and Decorate
- Fill and crumb coat your cake with all but about 1/2-3/4 cups of the palest frosting. Place in the freezer, uncovered, for about 15-20 minutes to firm up the crumb coat.
- Frost the top and an inch or so down the sides of the cake with the remaining pale orange frosting. You don't have to be precise here at all.
- Using a small offset spatula, apply the rest of the frostings from palest to most vibrant down the sides of the cake in rough bands of color.
- Using a medium offset spatula, smooth the top of the cake completely, allowing the excess frosting to extend over the edges. Don't worry about the sides yet. Just get the top as smooth as you can get it.
- Hold a straight edge longer than the cake is tall perpendicular parallel to the sides of the cake and rotate your cake stand (or whatever the cake happens to be sitting on) allowing the straight edge to pick up excess frosting and smooth out the sides of your cake. Scrape off the excess and make more passes until the sides of the cake are as smooth and lovely as you want them. You'll have a "wall" of frosting that extends up past the smooth top of the cake. Holding your offset spatula parallel to the top of the cake, sweep the wall inward in sections. wiping the blade of your spatula between each pass and proceeding around the cake until the wall of frosting is gone and your cake is completely finished.
- Decorate with strategically places Halloween Decorations. Store in the fridge and cut the cake cold, but serve at room temperature.
Don't expect your cake slices to stand up nice and pretty. Lay them on their sides. Since the cake is very rich and moist, it wouldn't be the worst thing ever to cut each slice in half allowing each serving to be only 1 1/2 layers tall.
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Nutrition InformationYield 12
Amount Per Serving Calories 634Saturated Fat 20gCholesterol 113mgSodium 667mgCarbohydrates 81gFiber 2gSugar 60gProtein 6g
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What Others Are Saying...
Angie | Big Bear's Wife says
This is insane and I LOVE IT! The Orange with the chocolate is perfect and the spider webs are amazing! I wish I could try this because I bet those flavors are beyond good!!
Jennifer Field says
Those Wilton stick on guys are so cool! At first I was just going to put One Wee Spider on it, and then I thought, “It’s Halloween! Live a little!” =D So glad you like the cake, Angie–I am so happy with how it turned out!
movita beaucoup says
LOVE. Also, 6 inch cakes are ideal because they are basically single serving size. Like, just one person could eat it. By herself.
Jennifer Field says
I have no idea what you’re talking about. Ha! =)
This is so beautiful and I love the subtle hint of orange flavor you have added to the chocolate (or it seems to be, right?) I think the frosting is perfect!!! Fun and luscious!! Now I want to bake a layer cake….
Jennifer Field says
Yes, orange is pretty subtle in both the cake and the icing. It was pretty delicious, Jamie! You should totally bake a layer cake in between all the breakfasts and jams and dishes and such. 😉