Spiced Chocolate Orange Cake With Almonds & Cranberries {Dairy Free}

If you're not keen on traditional Christmas cake, try this Spiced Chocolate Orange Cake with Almonds & Cranberries. It can easily be made dairy free by substituting milk for a dairy-free alternative. The texture is dense and fudgy, studded with crunchy nuts and sour cranberries. It’s iced with a super-simple rich dark chocolate and orange ganache made without butter or cream.

Spiced Chocolate Orange Cake (1).jpg

The dried fruit in this recipe can easily be changed depending on your preferences - leave out the raisins or swap for something else if you like. Some chopped walnuts would work well instead of almonds. Also tailor the spices to your own tastes but don’t over-spice as the orange we be over powered.

The flavour of this cake improves greatly after 1 or 2 days - so definitely make it in advance. It lasts well for 4-5 days in an airtight container. Use some flaked almonds, cranberries and orange zest to decorate the cake if you like. I like to do this because it lets people know whats inside the cake.

Spiced Chocolate Orange Cake With Almonds & Cranberries {Dairy Free}

  • Prep time: 25 minutes

  • Baking time: 45-60 minutes

  • Makes: Around 24 slices


For the cake:

  • 75g cocoa powder

  • 150ml boiling water

  • 150ml whole milk (or dairy-free milk) at room temperature or slightly warmed

  • 150ml vegetable oil

  • 3 medium eggs at room temperature

  • 325g caster sugar

  • 1 tsp of vanilla extract

  • Finely grated zest and juice of 2 oranges

  • Splash of orange or almond liqueur (optional)

  • ½ tsp ground ginger

  • ½ tsp mixed spice

  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon

  • ½ tsp salt

  • 275g plain flour

  • 1 tsp baking powder

  • 75g raisins

  • 75g cranberries (reserve a few for decorating)

  • 100g flaked almonds (reserve a few for decorating)

For the ganache:

  • Juice of 1 orange (reserve zest to decorate)

  • Around 50ml whole milk (or dairy-free milk)

  • 150g dark chocolate, broken into small pieces


To make the cake:

  1. Preheat the oven to 170 C / 150 fan / gas 3 ½.

  2. Line two 20 cm round baking tin with baking paper and brush all over with a little oil to prevent sticking.

  3. Whisk together the boiling water and cocoa powder in a large mixing bowl until smooth. Add the milk, a little at a time mixing between each addition, until smooth.

  4. Add the oil and eggs and whisk again until well combined. Now add the sugar, vanilla, orange juice & zest, liqueur if using, spices and salt. Whisk again until everything is very well combined.

  5. Mix the flour and baking powder together and sieve over the bowl into the mixture. Using a spatula, fold it into the mixture.

  6. Finally add the raisins, cranberries and almonds and gently fold them into the mixture to distribute them evenly.

  7. Pour the mixture equally into the prepared tins using the rubber spatular to scrape out every last bit of the batter.

  8. Bake for around 45-60 minutes until a skewer just comes out clean - be very careful not to over bake.

  9. Remove tins from the oven and place on a heatproof surface. Run a clean rubber spatular around the edge of the cake in each tin and then leave to cool completely.

  10. Remove cakes from the tins and peel greaseproof paper from the bottom of each cake. Use a sharp serrated knife to level each cake off a little if they are not flat on top.

To make the ganache and decorate:

  1. Firstly take the orange and make some long thin pieces of orange zest using a zester, peeler or canelle knife and put to one side to decorate the cake later on. Alternatively just make some fine zest to sprinkle over the cake, or just skip this part if you don’t want to decorate with any zest.

  2. Juice the orange into a measuring jug. Pour enough milk into the measuring jug so the total amount of liquid is 100ml - how much milk you will need will depend on how much juice you get from your orange.

  3. Put the milk, orange juice and chocolate into a pan over a very low heat. Stir continuously until the chocolate has melted and all the ingredients are well combined. Keep the heat low and keep on stirring - you will get there! (If you think it has split, add a splash of boiling water from the kettle and that should sort it out, but it shouldn’t do).

  4. Let the ganache cool in the pan until it is ready to spread. It should still be spreadable without being too solid. It it’s too warm and liquid it will run right off the cake.

  5. Put one cake on your cake stand top side up. Spread around one third of the ganache over the top of the first cake up to the edges, allowing the ganache to drip a little over the edges very slightly.

  6. Put the second cake on top of the ganache layer upside down - this will give a smoother top to your finished cake. Scrape the remaining two-thirds of the ganache over the top of the second cake and spread it to the edges with a pallet knife, smoothing the top as you go. Allow the ganache to drip over the edges of the cake.

  7. Decorate the top of your cake with cranberries and flaked almonds (make little flowers if you like as in the picture) and the reserved orange zest. The cake will improve flavour-wise if left for 1-2 days before eating. It keeps well for 4-5 days.